What is bellydance?

Sara

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?
Lol- aye :lol::lol: I'd give you rep but I'm still spreading it.

If I didn't agree with Aisha before (which I can't remember if I did or didn't) I do now. When I went to Corfu, all the Greek guys said it was a 'sexy dance' and the lads I work with and meet through dancing have all said that n all. At first when I started I thought it wont, but then when you get more into it you can see how sexual it really is. But not in a cheap tacky way, but an expressive way. I think...(Aww I'm only little, lol, well 18, my great gram tried giving me the sex talk the other day. She's 84! :redface: I was like, Gram, it's alright, we don't need to do this...)
 
Last edited:

cathy

New member
Dear Shanazel,

Good point about scientists and their search for truth. Isn't that one way science progresses though--through disputing/disproving the ideas of others?

Dear A'isha,

I agree that whenever one culture adopts or appropriates a form from another, colonialist attitudes are a risk (or a given?). In my view, we should consider how colonialist attitudes were at work at the time this dance was first staged in the countries of origin--by the paying, mostly colonial audience, in the Western-style nightclubs set up mostly for their amusement. I would argue that the colonialist attitudes started then and played a big part in providing the sexy flirtatious perception of this dance both here and there. Sexualization and objectification with The Other and their mysterious, shocking, fascinating torso movements.

Cathy
 
Last edited:

Salome

Administrator
So I have spent a fair amount of time looking about, etc. I see a lot of threads criticizing peoples' style as "Thats NOT bellydance", and others praising, "She's an amazing bellydancer.." but to the untrained or inexperienced eye, they look much the same.

There are so many fusion styles, etc, out there that people are picking up, and some get criticized (and I do it, too) but others dont. So I thought I would throw this out there for debate.

What is belly-dance, by basic and expanded definition?
This is a great topic... I'll drop my two cents in on it. There is not a generic form of Belly dance. I think realizing that is the first stepping stone to having a clearer idea of what is and is not belly dance...

As I see it, there are essentially 6 building blocks, that when put together, make 'fill in the style here' belly dance what it is: movement, movement expression, music, costume, purpose and spirit.

You may use the movement, music and costume but not actualize the expression of the movement, purpose and spirit and you've done missed the boat.

When you are missing one or more of the key building blocks that comprise a style of belly dance, it may be great dance it may be poor dance, but it is lacking the ingredients that make it belly dance.
 

Kharmine

New member
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.
Absolutely! What I think many people forget is that there can be many sides to a conclusion, because there are many ways to develop one.

Morocco has personal proof that at least some of the moves we use in "belly dancing" (a term she despises) are part of a Middle Eastern tradition to help women in childbirth. Others have scoffed at her report because it's not what they were told by other people, or they never saw it for themselves.

Two different conclusions don't necessarily have to cancel each out because the experiences of the researchers involved are different. There are different sources, times, places, experiences that are going to affect conclusions.

We can't always presume, without more research and an open mind, that ours are the definitive facts until we have done as much research as possible, cast a wide net and listened with an open mind. IMHO, conclusions should be presented pending further discovery.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Shanazel,

Good point about scientists and their search for truth. Isn't that one way science progresses though--through disputing/disproving the ideas of others?

Dear A'isha,

I agree that whenever one culture adopts or appropriates a form from another, colonialist attitudes are a risk (or a given?). In my view, we should consider how colonialist attitudes were at work at the time this dance was first staged in the countries of origin--by the paying, mostly colonial audience, in the Western-style nightclubs set up mostly for their amusement. I would argue that the colonialist attitudes started then and played a big part in providing the sexy flirtatious perception of this dance both here and there. Sexualization and objectification with The Other and their mysterious, shocking, fascinating torso movements.

Cathy

Dear Cathy,
I believe, and this is my opinion, that the physical building blocks of the dance and general essence and feeling were there before any interference by the colonials. In fact, the dances that scandalized those westerners are the same ones from which belly dance gets its physical basis, and some of its general feeling and those dances were there before the colonials from the west. Many people again like to credit the West for belly dance being what it is, but I disagree. Like,once again, the Third World culture just too ( put you own adjective here) to come up with something like this by themselves. Sex sells and it has everywhere and forever!! If the only customers were Middle Easterners/ North Africans, the dance would still be the same. It was developed by Middle Easterners in Middle Eastern/North African context, and has that specific personality. What little the west might have contributed, and I believe it was very little, has not affected the sexuality of the dance. Consider the times; post-Victorian, but still very straight laced for the most part. I think the sexuality of the dance was not in any way enhanced by contact with the West, but certain presentations and mechanics were.
Regards,
A'isha
 
Last edited:

Brea

New member
In this, I wholeheartedly agree with A'isha. Every person from the Middle East I've known or worked with has said the same (one of whom had been a bellydancer when she was younger). I think that the problem stems from the Western idea that sexual=dirty. There is a lot of foolishness about that kind of thing out there. I love that bellydance is the full expression of sexuality and sensuality. There isn't enough of that kind of thing out there, and that's what really draws me to the dance: it tells the oldest story of all.

Regarding Heyerdahl: there are of course many opinions, his being currently discredited, much like Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. Mead was a great anthropologist, however. Ten years from now the story may be different, but that is how it currently stands. And it is true that the mistakes of others are how we learn and make progress in science...this includes the possible mistakes made by people who discredit others.

-Brea
 

Kharmine

New member
... Regarding Heyerdahl: there are of course many opinions, his being currently discredited, much like Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. Mead was a great anthropologist, however. Ten years from now the story may be different, but that is how it currently stands. And it is true that the mistakes of others are how we learn and make progress in science...this includes the possible mistakes made by people who discredit others.

-Brea
Personally, I think "discredited" is a difficult term, and it's been used to imply that the person and his/her work is lacking in honest and competent scholarship. In neither Heyerdahl's nor Mead's cases do I believe that to be true -- some of their conclusions may have been found to be "unproven" in the end, or even mistaken but they were neither frauds nor incompetents.

In anthropology, as well as other fields, you can't rely on a small number of people to give you correct info. You have to cast a wide net, so to speak, look at as wide a variety of sources as you can, and then figure that some amount of what you get will be unreliable or inconclusive.

You also have to figure in other possible factors when you're trying to verify someone else's conclusions. Or risk being "discredited" yourself.

For instance, one of Margaret Mead's fiercest critics, Derek Freeman, apparently ignored the fact that the same women he talked to that Mead interviewed for "Coming of Age in Samoa" were, by the time he got to them, decades older, and more conservative. They had converted to Christianity, and Samoan culture was far different from what it was when Margaret Mead was interviewing the young people.

A reasonable person might have guessed that these now old grannies were going to be a tad less frank talking to a foreign man about their wild young days. Might even lie about all that sex they told Mead about back in their day. But Freeman just jumped on these late denials and used it as "proof" that Mead had been lied to when she first talked to those young girls.

No surprise, today Freeman's conclusions are generally discredited, not just disproven. He was accused of poor methodology, the same thing he accused Mead of. The apparent consensus of many anthropologists today is we may never know for sure if Mead was right. But she seems to have been acting on the best methods of her time. Freeman wasn't.

People give researchers misinformation for many reason. Poll takers and survey givers know that a fair amount of folks will give what they think is supposed to be the "right" answer -- something the researcher wants to hear, or the person thinks will reflect best on him or her. Sometimes, they just like messin' with other people's heads.

And, yep, interview these same folks at a different time under different circumstances and these same people may flat-out deny they said any such thing. They may even believe it.

That's why real research can't depend on a small amount of personal testimony, and can't ignore other factors that may have a bearing on that testimony, whether it changes or not.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
People give researchers misinformation for many reason. Poll takers and survey givers know that a fair amount of folks will give what they think is supposed to be the "right" answer -- something the researcher wants to hear, or the person thinks will reflect best on him or her. Sometimes, they just like messin' with other people's heads.

Having two teenaged children and having been host to scores of their friends, I laugh everytime I read reports based on survey answers supplied by high school students. Do researchers really think all these kids are answering these nosy questions honestly? Some kids are honest enough, others say what they think they are expected to say, still others just make stuff up and laugh like hyenas afterwards.

And when I think of all the tourists I have told about jackalopes with a perfectly straight face... Someone, somewhere is telling friends that jackalope bucks are nocturnal and rarely seen, but that the does come out in the day and look like common jack rabbits. And of course, each jackalope buck has a herd of as many as twenty or thirty does, so the males are far less numerous than the females. The only thing that I can't explain (but that tourists never ask) is why a jackalope has deer antlers instead of antelope horns:think:.

Piltdown Man Lives!
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Having two teenaged children and having been host to scores of their friends, I laugh everytime I read reports based on survey answers supplied by high school students. Do researchers really think all these kids are answering these nosy questions honestly? Some kids are honest enough, others say what they think they are expected to say, still others just make stuff up and laugh like hyenas afterwards.

And when I think of all the tourists I have told about jackalopes with a perfectly straight face... Someone, somewhere is telling friends that jackalope bucks are nocturnal and rarely seen, but that the does come out in the day and look like common jack rabbits. And of course, each jackalope buck has a herd of as many as twenty or thirty does, so the males are far less numerous than the females. The only thing that I can't explain (but that tourists never ask) is why a jackalope has deer antlers instead of antelope horns:think:.

Piltdown Man Lives!



Dear Shanazel,
This is true, and in dealing with Middle Easterners/ North Africans, ( most of my experience is with Arabs) it is so important to remember that until they know you well, they are likely to be agreeable about anything you say because you are a "Guest" with a capital G or an Outsider with a capital O, and they do not want to cause you any discomfort. The other reason is that there is sometimes this kind of .... I don't know.... shyness maybe?, when dealing with people outside their own cultures. Many Arabs feel instinctively that they will be misunderstood and judged culturally. Unfortunately, they are often correct.They will say that belly dance is a sexy dance, but if you disagree, they will many times change direction simply not to insult you. However, once they know you well and like you, they will tell you the truth about things, about their feelings, about the way it is within their culture. So, the mixed messages have often led people to believe that Arabs are not trustworthy, which is not the case at all. They are just trying to keep a high comfort level in situations where they do not know the person well.
Another thing is that Arabs have a reputation for being volatile and easy to incite to riot, etc. I had a very interesting lesson in Arab communications when I went to stay with one of my teachers very early in my dance life. I noticed with some alarm that in normal conversation things could reach almost a shouting level, as one person would talk, the next would talk louder, the next would talk louder, maybe several people would talk at once..... then a moment silence and it would start all over, I have noticed this kind of communication pattern among Arabs who know each other well fairly often since then. It is sometimes intense, but it has never led to violence. It is just a different communication rhythm than we see among westerners, I think. I am used to it now, but it was a lesson to be learned.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Brea

New member
To Kharmine:

Oh yes, I agree with you! That's what I meant by how science progresses, the endless argument: is this worthwhile, is it not. The Mead question I was referring to was not that, but that 'Samoa' was not a proper term to use (as there are more and different parts of Samoa and she should have been more specific in titling. Of course that is a small point, but again, I did most of my college education in Hawai'i, and you wouldn't believe how nit picky they get). I think I am trying to say that we should always be objective with any kind of research and not simply accept it wholeheartedly, which I think you are saying as well.

-Brea
 

Kharmine

New member
To Kharmine:

Oh yes, I agree with you! That's what I meant by how science progresses, the endless argument: is this worthwhile, is it not. The Mead question I was referring to was not that, but that 'Samoa' was not a proper term to use (as there are more and different parts of Samoa and she should have been more specific in titling. Of course that is a small point, but again, I did most of my college education in Hawai'i, and you wouldn't believe how nit picky they get). I think I am trying to say that we should always be objective with any kind of research and not simply accept it wholeheartedly, which I think you are saying as well.

-Brea
Yes, I do agree with you. Science is always about retracing steps and reweighing the evidence in light of new discoveries and ideas. You can figure that you've got the answer based on what you know now, but there's a lot we still have to leave the door open to.

It was unlikely that Mead chose the title of her book -- those decisions are made by the publishing house.

She did spend a large part of her time with the people she was studying so that they would get to know and trust her. Evidently many people did, but it was still only a "representational sampling" of the larger community. And representational samplings are always at least a little suspect.

When we are researching the history of belly dance we have to remember that the same guidelines apply. Belly dance as we know it today is a fusion of various dance traditions from the Middle East, Turkey and Greece, largely. That's a pretty big swath of folks from different places, times and traditions who have used dance in different ways and have different opinions about it.

From its beginnings as raqs sharqi in Cairo cabarets, it was showcased with a strong Western influence -- Westernized bands and a Westernized style of traditional music often accompanied dancers who incorporated Western touches such as high heels, veils, costumes that borrowed from Hollywood, use of ballet-style arms and spins, etc.

You can see the evolution in the United States where immigrants and imported performers taught the moves from their traditions to Americans, and where immigrants and children of immigrants kept up the tradition of presenting Westernized versions of ethnic music for these dancers to perform to.

Again, this is history that cuts a pretty wide swath so our research has to cover a wide area as well. Leaving out credible evidence because it doesn't match our preferences or previous findings is not scientifically honest.

Every group that has involvement in the evolution and spread of belly dance has a part of the picture, as it were. But it's a big picture.
 

Brea

New member
Yes, that is true. I am interested in history (it's my major, after all) and I am surprised at the lack of true scholarly research into the history of bellydance.

-Brea
 

belly_dancer

New member
Yes, that is true. I am interested in history (it's my major, after all) and I am surprised at the lack of true scholarly research into the history of bellydance.

-Brea
me too (interested in history)
I'm not...(surprised)... as I am assuming you know (with your schooling)... most "scholarly research", until quite recently, was done by men... so it either included their biases & prejudices about anything "woman related" or they were simply disallowed access to the true "insider info" on woman's activities, precisely because they were men.......
 

Kharmine

New member
Well, let's face it - dance in general doesn't get a whole lotta attention as an academic subject, particularly folk dance.

My husband and I do a lot of English country dancing, and he is also a Morris dancer. Both are traditions that almost died out in the UK by World War I. It took people like Cecil Sharp to dig it up, study it and learn how to teach it to a new generation.

Flamenco was considered a peasant or gypsy dance for a long time until it caught on as art with Spain's upper classes. The Argentine tango was born in brothels. Tap started out with Irish immigrants and black laborers. None of these forms got much in the way of scholarly attention for quite awhile.
 

cathy

New member
I am also interested in the history of this dance (and music) and its larger historical context including influences of / contact with/ perceptions by the West. Flaubert wrote about travels he took to Egypt in 1849. Sol Bloom exhibited Middle Eastern dancers at the world fair in Chicago in 1893. Badia Masabni opened her Casino in Cairo in the 1920s. Egypt was occupied by the British from 1882-1922. The Golden Era films were when--1940s-50s?

I am also thinking a lot lately about the larger dance and social context of Raks in general-- the social dance that existed before Badia Masabni and after her, that has much of the same movement vocabulary.

Cathy
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I noticed with some alarm that in normal conversation things could reach almost a shouting level, as one person would talk, the next would talk louder, the next would talk louder, maybe several people would talk at once..... then a moment silence and it would start all over, I have noticed this kind of communication pattern among Arabs who know each other well fairly often since then. It is sometimes intense, but it has never led to violence. It is just a different communication rhythm than we see among westerners, I think. I am used to it now, but it was a lesson to be learned.
Actually, this aptly describes my dad's family's mode of conversation. :DMy mother married into the family at 19 and was as adept at this form of conversation as anyone born an Arnold. One of the wonders of the world was to listen to my mom and my aunt both talk at the same time about different things, then answer each other the same way. I've never seen two other people hold two completely unrelated conversations simultaneously.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Actually, this aptly describes my dad's family's mode of conversation. :DMy mother married into the family at 19 and was as adept at this form of conversation as anyone born an Arnold. One of the wonders of the world was to listen to my mom and my aunt both talk at the same time about different things, then answer each other the same way. I've never seen two other people hold two completely unrelated conversations simultaneously.

Dear Shanazel,
My father also comes from a loud family, but it seems like they all talked at the top of their lungs all the time with no lull!! They all had these booming voices, even the females. One of my sisters and two of my brothers have that same voice. I was raised in a house with 7 brothers and sisters and when I left there, I moved in with three bikers. The first time I went to visit my family, I was amazed at how LOUD it was, compared to living with the nice, peaceful So Cal bikers!! A lot of it was not even them being loud, but just that there were so MANY of them. I had never noticed it when I lived at home.
Regards,
A'isha
 
Top