What is bellydance?

Kharmine

New member
Boy, are you wired, Cathy! Must be good java 'cause they're good questions,

Um, hm.

1. If I understand the concept of anarchy right I don't know of any society that even got close to a successful model of it. First, I believe it assumes that people are basically good enough (or just smart enough) to govern themselves and run things without any kind of official governing authority.

:lol::lol::lol:

OK, maybe a small group of like-minded persons can do this. For lack of a better example, I'm gonna use that of a commune run by the members. When it starts to get bigger and admit more diverse people it invariably starts falling apart until it is decided that chores need to be assigned in some way, and rules for the smooth functioning of the group have to be decided on. Eventually when someone gets to be a problem, decisions have to be made on what to do with that individual.

Because not everyone wants the responsibility, or is not good at assuming it, control eventually falls into the hands of a few. That's the first step out of anarchy, as far as I can tell, and the reason why it doesn't seem to take hold in any large society.

2. A market is created whenever there is a desire for something and someone to meet that desire who will ask something in exchange for meeting that desire. That goes back pretty far, and I couldn't possibly guess at what period the idea of selling one's art for a living came to be.

3. All I know is that when art has the potential to stir people's emotions and change thinking, it becomes a Force To Be Reckoned With by people who want to have at least some control over others. I can't think of any government that doesn't want to control its people, so I can't think of any government that hasn't tried to control art, one way or another.

Culture is a different matter. I don't know if the original so-called Easter Island natives had a government, but they did have a culture. From what I've read, the people were way into creating those statues because their culture taught them doing so would bring them power and good fortune.

People being competitive by nature, those statues got bigger and bigger and their creation took more and more of folks' time until there was no more hunting and gathering and fishing, just a frenzied period of sculpting of humungous ugly heads. Which, apparently, helped to slide their civilization into near-extinction. (OK, this is a simplification, but it's close.)

Was all that obsessive creation art? It certainly had a claim on the people's emotions and thoughts. Maybe this was an instance when some government control would have been a good idea!

Anyway, does that explain my contention about the subversiveness of art?
 

belly_dancer

New member
Culture is a different matter. I don't know if the original so-called Easter Island natives had a government, but they did have a culture. From what I've read, the people were way into creating those statues because their culture taught them doing so would bring them power and good fortune.

People being competitive by nature, those statues got bigger and bigger and their creation took more and more of folks' time until there was no more hunting and gathering and fishing, just a frenzied period of sculpting of humungous ugly heads. Which, apparently, helped to slide their civilization into near-extinction. (OK, this is a simplification, but it's close.)
TOTALLY off SUBJECT!!!!
hey Kharmine.... would really likie to know/study more...... where did you read this???? I had always heard that their "end of civilization" had to do w/ the battles btwn the "long ears" & the "short ears" long after the heads were made........
 

Kharmine

New member
TOTALLY off SUBJECT!!!!
hey Kharmine.... would really likie to know/study more...... where did you read this???? I had always heard that their "end of civilization" had to do w/ the battles btwn the "long ears" & the "short ears" long after the heads were made........
I'll have to look it up, BD, as it was some time ago. :think: I think there's been a slew of theories as to what happened to that civilization. I reallly doubt any one thing was the culprit. War, bad weather, disease, enslavement by Europeans, all played a part.

I do remember something called the "Birdman Cult" about a strange competition in which the winner and his clan would be given control over the island resources and eventually it led to so much pillaging that crops were destroyed and the soil eroded.

The theory I mentioned suggested that the hundreds of statues took up so much time and effort to produce that more important things, like farming, got left behind. But I have to track down who came up with that one.

We did get off track, didn't we? Did we ever talk about how belly dancers are controlled now in Egypt as an example of how governments try to control the arts?
 

belly_dancer

New member
I'll have to look it up, BD, as it was some time ago. :think: I think there's been a slew of theories as to what happened to that civilization. I reallly doubt any one thing was the culprit. War, bad weather, disease, enslavement by Europeans, all played a part.

I do remember something called the "Birdman Cult" about a strange competition in which the winner and his clan would be given control over the island resources and eventually it led to so much pillaging that crops were destroyed and the soil eroded.

The theory I mentioned suggested that the hundreds of statues took up so much time and effort to produce that more important things, like farming, got left behind. But I have to track down who came up with that one.

We did get off track, didn't we? Did we ever talk about how belly dancers are controlled now in Egypt as an example of how governments try to control the arts?
did you ever read Thor Hederdahl's (probably butchered that name!!!)
book abt Easter Island... written in 50's or 60's??? (fascinating.... he wrote several books... one partly had to do w/Egypt...)
meanwhile back to our regularly scheduled programming.....
what DOES happen to belly dancers in Epypt.... currently.... remember they did generate the MOST revenue (due to how much they were taxed!!!) is this still true????(+ the whole thing about how the stomach must remained covered/etc...)but what is true TODAY>>>>> know there are some dancers IN EGYPT TODAY on this forum.... please enlighten us!!!
 

Kharmine

New member
"Aku Aku," I think is the book you're referring to, BD -- I'm working on getting a copy. I just got a copy of "Kon Tiki."

What I've heard about Egypt is that today's government bans belly dancers from performing floorwork and has limits on what can be worn. There are dancers who have worn bicycle shorts with their outfits, which sounds pretty ugly. Their national dance performing troupe seems to be on the conservative side, too.

Better informed folks will shortly chime in here soon, I hope!
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
1. If I understand the concept of anarchy right I don't know of any society that even got close to a successful model of it. First, I believe it assumes that people are basically good enough (or just smart enough) to govern themselves and run things without any kind of official governing authority.?
My husband says that the reason anarchists never get very far is because they can never convince anyone to run for office;)
 

Nat242

New member
TOTALLY off SUBJECT!!!!
hey Kharmine.... would really likie to know/study more...... where did you read this???? I had always heard that their "end of civilization" had to do w/ the battles btwn the "long ears" & the "short ears" long after the heads were made........
Hi - If you're interested in Easter Island check out 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond, it's a fantastic book about why some societies fail and others survive, and he looks at Easter Island in detail.

Jared Diamond concludes his investigation into the causes of economic and social collapse on Easter Island by stating, “(there are) just two main sets of factors behind Easter’s collapse: human environmental impacts, especially deforestation and destruction of bird populations; and the political, social, and religious factors behind the impacts” (2005: p118).

Kharmine - it's highly likely that Easter Island had forms of government and a complex economic system. This is due to the massive resource demands of the heads - known as the moai and ahu - took to build. The stone used was quarried from one area of the island, rope and timber harvested from another area, best fishing and food gathering done in another area. In order to organise the amount of labour and resources required for this sort of engineering and artistic feat, some sort of government and economic system is highly likely to have been in place.

Can you tell I just finished an assignment where I used Easter Island as a case study?? :lol:

Back to topic now...
 

cathy

New member
Hi Kharmine,

You wrote:

3. All I know is that when art has the potential to stir people's emotions and change thinking, it becomes a Force To Be Reckoned With by people who want to have at least some control over others. I can't think of any government that doesn't want to control its people, so I can't think of any government that hasn't tried to control art, one way or another.

OK, I agree that governments want to control their people, and therefore art.

My emotions are stirred and my thinking has been changed by my ME dance.

Would you say ME dance is subversive here in the US or in the West in general? If so how?

Would you say that our government takes specific steps to control how ME dance is expressed, moreso than other dance forms? I realize there is the issue of how tax dollars are distributed, and "cabaret laws" about where it can be performed.....is there more to it than that?

Thanks, Cathy
 

Brea

New member
Thor Heyerdahl's books are looked upon with a great deal of suspicion these days...later anthropologists talked to locals and they were told 'well of course we told him that, it seemed to make him so happy'. :D The dangers of anthropology.

Regarding ME dance: I run mostly into trouble with other dancers who find it blasphemous that I think of this as a sexual dance. I do not think of it as a stripping kind of thing, but the sexuality is definitely there. I have other problems with the rest of society's view (like, 'I could bellydance! I have the belly for it!' particularly when I encourage men to try it out). However, I wish that bellydancers could embrace this for what it is, and why I see it as unique: a bold and beautiful expression of something everyone does but we are all so repressed about- lovemaking. It's the greatest tale in the world; I'm surprised that no other art form has told it so well or for such a long time..and I'm also surprised that dancers want to yank that out of it...for me, that's like destroying the dance itself.

There's a way to be subversive with ME dance. ;)

-Brea
 

Kharmine

New member
Brea, oh yeah, there's always the amused locals who happily give the nice foreigners misinformation! But I haven't heard that Heyerdahl's work was actually discredited, in terms that meant he used shoddy or dishonest scientific methods. He was a real scientist and he used the best methods at his disposal in those days. Just goes to show, you have to keep everything in context, even when reading someone's scientific conclusions...

Nat242, that's neat that you had Easter Island as a case study! I think what Diamond (I like his book "Guns, Germs and Steel") said sort of goes along with the theory that one reason the civilization ran into deep trouble was because of all the time, resources and effort that had to be consumed in order to create those giant statues. There wasn't enough population left over to do the other tasks of keeping a society fed. Maybe we could consider that a warning for our times...

As to the subversiveness of belly dance in the West -- I think a lot of its popularity among Westerners from the beginning was precisely because it was uninhibited, a novelty in socially restrained and repressed societies. I don't think it was coincidence that it became especially popular in the U.S. at a time when women were pressured to wear girdles, defer to men and stay second-class citizens.

Belly dance definitely presents a threat to those who think women should not demonstrate their independence and ownership of their own bodies, to those who equate public enjoyment of sensuality (let alone sexuality) with outright obscenity.

So, IMHO, belly dance becomes a subversive act when it defies attempts not only to ban it or water it down, but also to degrade or marginalize it, to pen it up within the category of erotic dance and titlillation for its own sake.

Of course, when belly dancing becomes associated solely in people's minds with the hoochie coochie -- then, yeah, it becomes something institutions tend to ignore when it comes to consideration as a legit art form. Go figure.

OK, now I think I've pontificated enough on these subjects -- time for me to get off the soap box and encourage others to jump in here! These are just my opinions, folks.
 

Brea

New member
Hi Kharmine,

I'm an anthro minor, history major...his work was often cited as an example of what can happen if things are not done well, or just the dangers of learning things from other cultures. It also could be from living in Hawai'i the last four years- there are a lot of challenges from the native people there about many things that researchers have claimed about Pacific culture.

I will look around and see if I can find a link to what my professors were talking about.

-Brea


To begin with, until I find something more scholarly, the argument between the two people on this page is what I was referring to:
Tiki Central Forums - Topic: New Theory+Facts about Easter Island/Rapa Nui?(img +txt heavy)

Ah, here's something more proper:

Within the genre of migrationist theories of Polynesian culture history, we must also mention the highly influential writings of Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian zoologist and adventurer who captured the world’s attention in 1947 with his daring 1947 Kon Tiki raft voyage from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. World War II had already focused much attention on the Pacific Islands, and Heyerdahl now claimed to have a theory that explained the Polynesians as deriving from successive migrations, not from Asia, but from the Americas. The full theory was published in a massive volume (Heyerdahl 1952) a few years after the Kon Tiki voyage, and Heyerdahl funded his own archaeological expedition to Easter Island and other Eastern Polynesian islands in 1955-56, in an effort to prove his origins theory. The Heyerdahl theory has not survived the test of modern archaeological research, but he must be credited with helping to spur a reinvigoration of Polynesian archaeology in the period immediately following World War II.

which is from this link:

History of Polynesian Archaeology
 
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Aniseteph

New member
I'm trying to picture the UK government trying to ban belly dance for being subversive... :lol: Not likely... anything that gives us exercise and keeps us from getting depressed, thereby saving the health system money, is going to be just fine with them.

:think: maybe belly dance classes should be provided on the NHS?
 

Kharmine

New member
Brea, thanks for the link!

Sometimes people forget that those before us worked in a different context, with far different equipment, knowledge, experience and opportunities.

Heyerdahl really only proved a possibility -- "primitive" people could have traveled more or less the way he did from Peru to those islands.

All of today's advantages and advances in research that Heyerdahl didn't have then can only claim that such an event did not happen, not that it was ever impossible.

That's good enough for me to respect and honor what he did, and I wouldn't get into arguments over him even if I had the academic chops to do so! :D
 

cathy

New member
I don't know which is more shocking/heretical/subversive--the idea that this dance is not about enticing men (which I agree with) or the idea that it IS about sex (which I disagree that it has to be about).

Cathy
 

Brea

New member
To Cathy-

I think it IS about sex, but not the way it's been portrayed. Not the sultan/harem thing. I don't understand why it can't be, or what is wrong with it being that.

-Brea
 

cathy

New member
It CAN be about sex and there is nothing wrong with thinking about, seeing or portraying it that way. I just don't agree that it is innate in the form itself. It's a choice, a perspective. I believe that we don't have to be making a statement about sexuality per se in claiming our autonomy and bodies. Maybe that's the most radical and subversive idea of all and how the two points of view are connected. I am more than my body and using my body (including torso, hips & breasts) to express myself is about more than sexuality. Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Sexuality

I am more than my body and using my body (including torso, hips & breasts) to express myself is about more than sexuality. Cathy


Dear Cathy,
So is sex a LOT more than your body and using your body. The entire purpose and draw of this dance since its very inception has been that voyeuristic chance to see the female, body and soul. In the context in which the dance was brought into the world, that had everything to do with female sexuality as a holistic thing... not just as a superficially sexy thing, but as a sexual, sensual, all inclusive thing. Sex is not something that can be separated out from the person, but is there in all that we do. It is a thread that runs through every single thing that is alive. This dance is full of sexual innuendo and meaning. It is lush and rich with it when it is well done. And the message is not sleazy, but incredibly sexy and healthy.
I think I will stop here as I do not want a repeat of our other conversation which deteriorated rapidly!!
Regards,
A'isha
 

cathy

New member
Dear Cathy,
So is sex a LOT more than your body and using your body. The entire purpose and draw of this dance since its very inception has been that voyeuristic chance to see the female, body and soul. In the context in which the dance was brought into the world, that had everything to do with female sexuality as a holistic thing... not just as a superficially sexy thing, but as a sexual, sensual, all inclusive thing. Sex is not something that can be separated out from the person, but is there in all that we do. It is a thread that runs through every single thing that is alive. This dance is full of sexual innuendo and meaning. It is lush and rich with it when it is well done. And the message is not sleazy, but incredibly sexy and healthy.
I think I will stop here as I do not want a repeat of our other conversation which deteriorated rapidly!!
Regards,
A'isha
Dear A'isha,

I agree that sex is not something that can be separated out from the person and is there in all that we do, and that it is complex and healthy. But I don't agree that this dance is *necessarily* or *innately* more about sexual innuendo and meaning than any other dance or human activity.

I agree that our differences of opinion on this subject have already been made clear and don't need to be rehashed. I brought it up to respond to Brea. Regards, Cathy
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Re: Thor Heyerdahl

There are scientists who make their careers out of bashing the work and conclusions of other scientists, and there are fashions in science just as there are in literature and clothing. What was discredited in one era is discovered to have valuable grains of truth in another era. Scientists like to believe we are dispassionate, wise in the ways of research and scientific method, and ruled by a desire to know the truth, but it is awfully hard not to be attached to personal pet theories and antipathies that get in the way of knowledge.

I suppose something similar can be said for belly dancers and the search for the origins, essence, and meaning of the dance.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance

Re: Thor Heyerdahl

There are scientists who make their careers out of bashing the work and conclusions of other scientists, and there are fashions in science just as there are in literature and clothing. What was discredited in one era is discovered to have valuable grains of truth in another era. Scientists like to believe we are dispassionate, wise in the ways of research and scientific method, and ruled by a desire to know the truth, but it is awfully hard not to be attached to personal pet theories and antipathies that get in the way of knowledge.

I suppose something similar can be said for belly dancers and the search for the origins, essence, and meaning of the dance.



Dear Shanazel,
For me the litmus test is this: Ask natives from countries of origin. They know exactly what the dance is about- sex is the main answer. Some people hate to even think the Arabs might actually understand what their own dance is about, but there it is. I do not come to that conclusion of my own accord, though I probably would have eventually. I have asked literally hundreds of Arabs and a few Turks. The answer generally sounds something like this. "Belly dance is a sexy, flirty dance". there is often some further discussion about it, but it comes down to just that in the end.
Throughout written history ( and probably before),there have been countless cultures who have taken it upon themselves to decide the value and meaning of elements and concepts in other peoples' cultures. They often do this without taking the time to even ask the people. They also feel free to negate what the natives might volunteer and put their own meanings in place of actual meaning. When we try to negate what the people themselves think, we are not doing the dance a favor, but doing the people a disservice. Do we honestly think they are too dumb to understand what is incredibly obvious even to most people outside the culture? Usually dancers are the only ones who deny this sexual connection. I think in trying to clean up the image of the dance, sometimes we go too far the other way.
I am not saying that anyone here is doing this. I am not pointing fingers. I am pointing out a tendency that is inherent in ethnocentric behavior and in colonialist thinking. This dance is what it is, regardless of how we might try to clean it up and dress it demurely. Ask a Turk or an Arab.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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