Vital elements of bellydance (was Gothic Belly dance)

Moon

New member
Dear A'isha, I have a question. From what I've read in your posts so far and from a few of the articles on your website, I think you are a talented and well respected Egyptian style dancer, also well respected by native Egyptians. This probably means you can dance with the essence that makes Egyptian style Egyptian style. But I'm so curious how you've learned that, cause I think you're American? (sorry if I'm wrong, and sorry you probably explained this before but I can't really remember) I wonder, did you learn the Egyptian essence from Egyptian teachers, or from living with them? Is it also possible to learn it from a non-Egyptian teacher that teaches Egyptian style?
Sorry if I misunderstood you, but sometimes I have the idea you think only Egyptians will fully understand the Egyptian essence (however foreigners can learn and come close, ofcourse) so I wonder, do you consider yourself as someone who fully understands the essence? If so, did you learn it at dance lessons or in another way?
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Dear A'isha,

Was my explanation of why I think what I do is belly dance specific enough? I was a little confused when you asked for specifics in one post, then in the last post said we can only talk about dance in generalities.

This is the point I've been trying to make all along. It is possible to incorporate the essence of middle eastern dance into AmCab (for example) and create a hybrid that is still belly dance. Belly dance can be so completely fused with another dance form or fantasy that it is no longer recognizable as one thing or the other, and at that point, the essence of belly dance is submerged in the essence of the fusion. For me (and I know people will disagree and that is fine), what is called Goth belly dance is so deep into the Goth experience that the essence is pure Goth expressed with movements that this particular fusion has in common with belly dance. And as you've said before, movement does not form the soul of a dance, essence does. If I got the honor of naming this Goth fusion, I'd call it Goth Oriental, but nobody asked me. Alas.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth, etc

Dear Moon,
I am not Egyptian, but I think, having begun my dance classes by learning the dance from Arabs, my perspective is different than many westerners. The first thing I understood about the dance. long before I got the movement was that "Arabness", I guess you could say, is an important element in Egyptian bellyd ance. I have also studied many other dances, but this is the dance at which I excell, for whatever reason. I have gone on to study with many of the American great Egyptian dancers, a few Europeans, and with some of the Egyptians and also I have learned the dance from my Egyptian friends. But just as important as the movements has been the feeling and spirit of the dance.
I believe that sometimes it is possible for a person outside one culture to become really attuned to another culture. I also believe that belly dance is just like ballet or any other art form. For example, most people who study Russian ballet will not become expert Russian ballerinas, and nobody questions that, but in belly dance, we make the assumption that anyone can belly dance. ( This, I think is one of the reasons why we got so little respect outlide our own dance genre.) There will be some people, however, who can somehow absorb the thing that makes Russian ballet Russian, even if they are not Russian themselves. There are other people who will not become Russian ballerians, but will go on to utilize ballet techniues in some other wonderful dance form.
I have been told that I have that "Egyptian" quality. Personally, though I am considered an ""expert" by many who have seen me dance or taken classes from me, I feel that it is a thing that I will have to work toward perfecting for the rest of my dance life. I want to move as well as Sohair and Randa and emote like Mouna!!

Dear Shanazel,
I thought your explanation was quite good,and thank you!
Where do you draw the line as to what is "belly dance" and what is not? What I see is that everyone seems to draw their own line in this debate. My line offends the most people, but that does not mean it has no validity or is any different from the lines that the rest of the dancers draw. Sharon sees things that she does not think are Tribal. My line is drawn along ethnic lines. You have a line that you are drawing, too, but I am not clear as to where it is. I have even heard of people saying that such and such is "not Gothic". I wonder where each of the people who are in this particular debate draw their own lines.

I think that "essence" is a cultural overall effect and is not incorporated by the smallness or bigness, or other things that involve movement. Movement is just one of the ways in which it is manifested. I am asking this question with all due respect, because I believe that you can and do see the difference. When you watch a video of Jillina and Mouna Said back to back, do you not sense a real and deep difference in what they are doing that goes beyond movement? For me, in order for something to be "belly dance' it must be inside that essence, because movement is not really in the end what dance is about. Movement is only a small part of the dance. It is one tool for the oeverall expression and meaning of the wholistic dance.This concept,I think, is what is being lost in America, at least. I can not speak for other countries.

Regards,
A'isha
 
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Salome

Administrator
Whooo it was getting hot in here! Thanks Sharon for bringing the balance back.

Aisha had asked earlier something to the effect of what makes a person think the style they do is Belly dance/Oriental dance...

At one point I did label what I was doing under the umbrella term, Belly dance. And then I left Belly dance behind in favor of Oriental dance, for reasons I've already talked about... But my journey in labeling what I was doing didn't end there :)

My costuming is Oriental dance costuming. My music is Turkish and Arab Oriental dance music. My movement repertoire is the fundamental movement groups of Oriental dance. I share the same purpose as the authentic Oriental dance styles do. However I do draw on Amarabic music, the expression of the fundamental movements often differs from the authentic styles and the essence is definitely colored by my western upbringing, aesthetics and sense of performance. In my opinion I am doing an American style of Oriental dance. The east and west are both present and in my mind using the label American style Oriental dance provides clarity. Or at least begins by building a path of clarity for those not versed…

I do use these terms in my advertising and in discussion with the general public. Because my picture in costume accompanies printed advertising the general public is able to put the picture and label (that they've likely not heard before) together. Actually I just started my classes and my class posters advertised "Oriental dance taught in the American style..." and I have had a wonderful turn out, especially for my fundamentals class where 99% are first timers. When I’m in person obviously I have the chance to explain what that means etc.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Dear Shanazel,
I thought your explanation was quite good,and thank you!
Where do you draw the line as to what is "belly dance" and what is not?

When you watch a video of Jillina and Mouna Said back to back, do you not sense a real and deep difference in what they are doing that goes beyond movement?
Regards,
A'isha

Ooh, I hate it when I write something brilliant that gets lost in cyberspace. Nothing else lives up to the memory of those first words, but I guess this is God's way of telling me to keep it shorter. So here I go again:

A'isha, I am not very good at drawing lines. I see too many shades of grey to make anything as nice and crips as a line. If when I am watching a dance, my first thought is, "Oh, Goth," or "Oh, ballet," or "What the hell is that?", then I don't call what I am watching bellydance. If I think, "Ah, belly dance," then I am willing to give the matter due consideration, even if the dance combines elements that are not, shall we say, classic belly dance.
Jillina and Mouna: Jillina strikes me as being polished, glitzed, and produced for the masses: every theatre goer's fantasy of a belly dancer. Mouna strikes me as sublime in a way that I think of as earthy. I react to Mouna with my heart. I react to Jillina with my intellect.

Please, Jillina fans, don't take me to task- I am not bashing her. These are my reactions to two very different dancers who I have only seen on film, and I am not trying to convince anyone to accept my point of view.

Hi, Salome. Where have you been?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth, etc.

Dear Shanazel,
When you draw your line and say, this or that is or is not belly dance, what do you base it on other than just your immediate response? What criteria are or are not present in what you see as bellydance and what you see as not belly dance?
This is a quesrion I would like to post to all members of this debate. I am thinking of doing a paper on this subejct and would like to do something like
" A comparison among dancers of different styles and how they define what is belly dance", or some such title. (This is just an acorn of an idea at present, but I think it wouldmake an interesting paper.)

I see the same things as you when I watch Jillina and Mouna, but I also see such a difference in their total approach to the dance and music that one is apples and one is oranges to me. They are not doing dances that even seem related when I watch them. I have seen them both in person as well as on video, and that may make some difference... I don't know.

Again, thanks for responding. Your answers are always well thought out.


Dear Salome,
Hello and thanks for your response on this, too. If you are interested in answering the above questions, I would love it. If people feel better answering me privately for any reason, that is accpetable, though I might want to publish your name if I write a paper. ( I hate the "unnamed sourced" thing)
As you well know, I completely respect not only your dance, but your vision and cultural savvy in clearly labeling your dance form! ( And I love the name you gave it and have begun using it to describe American dance!)

Regards,
A'isha
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Dear A'isha,

I don't see a crisp, firm line. I see shades, and tints and tones. I don't perceive dance or the world at large in a precise, analytical way: this much vertical movement plus this much inner emotion minus this deviation in music equals this degree of belly danceness. You constantly urge all of us on to more precise, exacting explanations of the criteria that spell belly dance to us. This is an interesting challenge to a point, but it seems no matter how clearly I express myself, I am not going to reach the mathematical precision that you are seeking.

However, a sincere question deserves consideration, so give me a couple of days to think about it. The prospect of this exercise in logic brings to mind a line I read in the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe: Nothing is less real than realism... details are confusing... it is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.

I'm not sure I can get to the real meaning of dance by picking it apart, but for you, my dear, I will try.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth etc

Dear Shanazel,
I do not really see a black and white line, either, but I have tried to define for myself and for others what it is about the dance that makes me feel the way I do and that makes the dance what it is. I agree that dance is not something that is an exact science, but that like anything else, there are guidelines that make certain things what they are. It's sort of like skating ( about which I know practically nothing except that I think its beautiful). One of my students was a professional skater and she did not like Surya Bonalee from France, who I thought was strong and wonderful. She said that what I was admiring about Surya was not her skating, but her gymnastic ability, and her parlor tricks, which is not really what skating is all about. I then compared her to Kristy Yamaguchi and a couple of the Russian skaters, and I began to see her point. I began to see that Surya had something these women did not have, and
they in turn had things that she did not as a skater, because in actuality though they were all skating, they were really not doing the same thing at the heart of the it, even though they were all wearing skates. (BTW, the woman who told me this is Black, so it was not a matter of racial issues.)

I don't think I am seeking mathematical precision. I do want to know what it is that leads people to think what they believe about belly dance. For some reason, I have mostly met with resistance when I ask people about this. I think especially if we teach the dance, we need to be able to define it for our studnets on the terms upon which we teach it. I LOVE the O'Keefe analogy and love her as an artist. She saw into the sexual/spiritual aspects of flowers and drew out their vibrancy and their soul as well as defining them clearly by shape and movement. She made people really LOOK at flwoers, and many were of course, appalled. Her flowers, in spite of what she said, are the reality of flowers. She got there by studying flowers minutely and by coming to specific understandings about them, and her own realtionship to them, I would say. She also understood that they were all flowers, but that each one had its own specific flower definition that made it what is was. I think this shows in her paintings and I hope it shows in my work that I have that same intimate understanding of what I am doing! ( My big question about O'Keefe is what in hell did she ever see in Steiglitz???)

I eagerly await your reply and hope that you will let me copy it out of here and perhaps use it in an article about this diverse image of the dance.

Regards,
A'isha
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
What did O'Keefe see in Steiglitz? He had influence and a well-known art gallery, and she was a struggling female artist who was tired of teaching. How's that for cynical? I would've dumped his sorry bottom after he showed the nude pictures without permission.

Okay, if you are willing to accept my shades and tints of dance, I'll go for it. You flatter me by seeking my opinion- I know I am not now and have never been in your class as a dancer or teacher.

I'm getting ready for the trial from hell right now, and it is swallowing all my time, so I take belly dance forum breaks to keep myself sane. (Lord, what kind of masochist works for attorneys?) I'll use some breaks to think about and try to define essence.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth, etc.

Dear Shanazel,
I am looking forward to your replies and I hope you survive court! Aere you a lawyer or paralegal or judge or jury member, gaurdian ad litum, etc?
Regards,
A'isha
 

Salome

Administrator
AishaAzar said:
When you draw your line and say, this or that is or is not belly dance, what do you base it on other than just your immediate response? What criteria are or are not present in what you see as bellydance and what you see as not belly dance?
For me the following elements need to be present in order to fall within the boundaries of what I define as Oriental dance:

*movement - the movement used should be the fundamental movement groups of Oriental dance. The odd/infrequent arabesque, flamenco turn, jazz kick etc. OK. But once the fundamental movement groups get a heavy handed mix of posturing and movements from one or many other genre's it has moved to far from base camp.

*movement expression - the movements should be expressed in accordance with the music, the purpose, and the essence. While there is a high level of personal freedom in how you express the movements in response to the music I still think there are some parameters. Maybe a bad example, but for example if you were to roll across the floor, technically you are creating a circle and circles are one of the fundamental movement groups. But expressing a circular movement in this way isn't particularly true to the essence of the dance in any of it's manifestations. It's moving into an area of free expressionism. Slides and lifts, also fundamental movement groups, are often used percussively and rightly so. However when the entirety of the movement expression is based on a technique of percussive, sharp, pop's and locks the dancer is taking the expression into a different arena than that of Oriental dance.

*purpose - the dancer should be giving the music a physical body, and responding to it emotionally, in her/his unique way as it filters through her/him. People who get on stage and are vulgar, or who steam roll over the music, or who don't give of themselves really fall short of the purpose, what they are up there to do. An artist who put's him/herself on stage to perform should have something to say, something to share and in Oriental dance I see that as the music coming through her/him physically and bringing forth her heart and soul in the process.

*essence - the dancer should be true to the spirit of this dance in one of its manifestations. The Lebanese style dancer should embody the spirit of the dance as it is done in Lebanon, same for Turkish and Egyptian style. I think the American style dancer has the same duty. We have a fairly long history of Oriental dance performance in this country and there is an essence to this style too.

*music should be Arab, Turkish or a true interpretation of either/or. Alternative music changes everything in my eyes. Because so much of all these points are directly related to the music. The fundamental movements are 'designed' to speak the physical language of Arab and Turkish music. As is the expression, the purpose, the essence... This is one point that I don't see a lot of wiggle room in.

*costuming should be Oriental dance costuming. I don't have a 'must be a glittery two piece' agenda. There is a massive amount of room for personal tastes and fashion. But for me it needs to fall somewhere in the field of Oriental dance costuming. No feather headdresses, choli's, sari's etc.

If someone asked me this question 15 years ago I probably would have said - costume and movement make it Oriental dance. But those intangible qualities have revealed themselves as being just as important criteria, to me, as the physical ones.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth, etc.

Dear Salome,
If I do an article, can I use your post and perhaps ask you a few more questions in the form of interview? I think this is a good example of what I am looking for.

If I do an article, Toha of the new Habibi emailed me, expressing interest in having me submit works a couple of months ago and it would probably be submitted to her first. I may also want some photos of some of the people who are part of the interview.

I am still forming this concept and am not sure exaclty where it will lead, other than I am looking for people who have their understanding of belly dance and exactly what it is and is not, and where they draw lines, how and why. Right now I am looking at the article as a sort of comparison and contrast as to what people think the dance is and is not.
I may eventually do something use different dancers' point of view and people off the street or something like that.

I am considering this as disclosure for anyone else here who might be interested in contributing to the article, though I may not be able to use all replies, depending on how many people respond here and in other places.

Also, should this particular post and Salome's and Shanazel's stay here or be moved to someplace else under something like "What belly dance is or isn't: Your opinion"? I think we are still pretty muchh on the mark but I am not sure what other contributors here might think since we are sort of wandering away from Goth....

Regards,
A'isha
 

Obsidia

New member
For me the following elements need to be present in order to fall within the boundaries of what I define as Oriental dance:

*movement - the movement used should be the fundamental movement groups of Oriental dance. The odd/infrequent arabesque, flamenco turn, jazz kick etc. OK. But once the fundamental movement groups get a heavy handed mix of posturing and movements from one or many other genre's it has moved to far from base camp.

*movement expression - the movements should be expressed in accordance with the music, the purpose, and the essence. While there is a high level of personal freedom in how you express the movements in response to the music I still think there are some parameters. Maybe a bad example, but for example if you were to roll across the floor, technically you are creating a circle and circles are one of the fundamental movement groups. But expressing a circular movement in this way isn't particularly true to the essence of the dance in any of it's manifestations. It's moving into an area of free expressionism. Slides and lifts, also fundamental movement groups, are often used percussively and rightly so. However when the entirety of the movement expression is based on a technique of percussive, sharp, pop's and locks the dancer is taking the expression into a different arena than that of Oriental dance.

*purpose - the dancer should be giving the music a physical body, and responding to it emotionally, in her/his unique way as it filters through her/him. People who get on stage and are vulgar, or who steam roll over the music, or who don't give of themselves really fall short of the purpose, what they are up there to do. An artist who put's him/herself on stage to perform should have something to say, something to share and in Oriental dance I see that as the music coming through her/him physically and bringing forth her heart and soul in the process.

*essence - the dancer should be true to the spirit of this dance in one of its manifestations. The Lebanese style dancer should embody the spirit of the dance as it is done in Lebanon, same for Turkish and Egyptian style. I think the American style dancer has the same duty. We have a fairly long history of Oriental dance performance in this country and there is an essence to this style too.

*music should be Arab, Turkish or a true interpretation of either/or. Alternative music changes everything in my eyes. Because so much of all these points are directly related to the music. The fundamental movements are 'designed' to speak the physical language of Arab and Turkish music. As is the expression, the purpose, the essence... This is one point that I don't see a lot of wiggle room in.

*costuming should be Oriental dance costuming. I don't have a 'must be a glittery two piece' agenda. There is a massive amount of room for personal tastes and fashion. But for me it needs to fall somewhere in the field of Oriental dance costuming. No feather headdresses, choli's, sari's etc.

If someone asked me this question 15 years ago I probably would have said - costume and movement make it Oriental dance. But those intangible qualities have revealed themselves as being just as important criteria, to me, as the physical ones.
For me personally, Salome has hit the nail on the head as to ALL genres of bellydance. You merely swap the style of dance/costuming/music for other styles. (Although for true ATS, you'd have to add a category regarding the pure improvisation).

Gothic Bellydancers "should" dance by the same guidelines, whether they are Cabaret or Tribal trained. (I say SHOULD because it's my personal opinion).

I dance by these guidelines..And whether a set I perform in inspired by music, costuming, history etc, i reamin steadfast to keeping my performances BELLYDANCE while still being Gothic.

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases. ~ Carl Gustav Jung
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Dear Shanazel,
I am looking forward to your replies and I hope you survive court! Aere you a lawyer or paralegal or judge or jury member, gaurdian ad litum, etc?
Regards,
A'isha
Certified Legal Assistant, which is profession-speak for paralegal who has taken the paralegal equivalent of the bar exam, two days of exams that I hope never to have to repeat. :p
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth, etc.

Dear Obsidia,
If you are interested, I would like to have your thougthts included if I do the article. In that case, you say that Goth should follow certain guidlines in order for it to be Goth. What are those guidelines? At what point would you say something is no longer Goth? At what point would dance no longer be belly dance, either from your personal point of view or from a generally Gothic point of view? How does Gothic Industrial dance vary from Goth dance, and are there other off-shoots from Goth that we should be aware of? What about Gothic culture and belly dance make them amenable to fusing?

Dear Shanazel,
Have a good "Day in Court". Personally, I think assistants in many fields are a lot like nurses. They do a whole bunch of the work so someone else can get the glory!! My husband's cardiologist's physician's assistant is the smartest man in the whole office, nearly as I can tell.

Dear Salome,
In you opinion, does American Oriental mean the same as "belly dance", or is there a difference?

Regards,
A'isha
 

Obsidia

New member
A'isha

I'd be happy to give you my view...Give me a few days to sort out my thoughts and I'll get back to you.

(Soccer season is killing me!)

Namaste
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Goth etc

Dear Obsidia,
Thank you. I think your part of the interview will add a lot to the article.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
can we spin this off into a new thread? It's a really good topic that will get lost in the aftermath of the "goth wars" so to speak.
 
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