Yet another thread on the dilution of authenticity...

Eshta

New member
Hey folks, one of our favourite topics!

PRINCESS FARHANA: BACK TO THE FUTURE: HONORING OUR PAST TO PRESERVE OUR DANCE

Princess Farhana has written an interesting article where she describes her reaction to meeting a fairly 'new' dancer who has been brought up on a diet of 'fusion' with no concept of the origins of the dance, etc. Sound familiar?

I'm a little bit :wall: at reading this. I used to enjoy Princess Farhana a lot more before she 'came out' as a burlesque dancer and basically led the rise of belly/burly fusions, but since then it feels like cashing in, and to hell with the damage it's doing to the dance. And then she is surprised that new dancers won't understand that she is making an 'informed' choice about this fusion?

I know she really does know her stuff, and she is a great dancer and what a personality. And I applaude the sentiment of the article. But I can't help wondering if she realised the personal contribution she's made to this situation?
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
I won't mention any names, but there are some other big-time instructors out there who are currently lamenting the fact that students only are interested in fusion -- but that's all those big-name instructors are DOING. It seems like if you want to set an example, you should sort of walk the walk as well as talk the talk. :/

I got a flyer for a Princess workshop not too terribly far from me. One day was Oriental, and the next day was a burlesque workshop. ??? Personally I would really like to see a wider separation between these two art forms, and I seriously don't agree with having a multi day belly/burly combo.

So how long before we get flamed for having this opinion, Eshta? :)
 

Mara2

New member
Hey folks, one of our favourite topics!

PRINCESS FARHANA: BACK TO THE FUTURE: HONORING OUR PAST TO PRESERVE OUR DANCE

Princess Farhana has written an interesting article where she describes her reaction to meeting a fairly 'new' dancer who has been brought up on a diet of 'fusion' with no concept of the origins of the dance, etc. Sound familiar?

I'm a little bit :wall: at reading this. I used to enjoy Princess Farhana a lot more before she 'came out' as a burlesque dancer and basically led the rise of belly/burly fusions, but since then it feels like cashing in, and to hell with the damage it's doing to the dance. And then she is surprised that new dancers won't understand that she is making an 'informed' choice about this fusion?

I know she really does know her stuff, and she is a great dancer and what a personality. And I applaude the sentiment of the article. But I can't help wondering if she realised the personal contribution she's made to this situation?
I agree completely with you, Eshta. You can't fuse at all if you really want to stay true to the dance and preserve it. Just because the dancer is informed they are doing fusion does not mean the audience knows what's going on.

As an aside, I was asked to dance for a SCA festival this past weekend, which is something I've never done (and still haven't done). The person asking me said he wanted me to meet the bellydancer who usually did the event. I met her, and we chatted a little bit. She said she wanted to show me how she danced, so I watched...and my mouth kind of fell open a little. I asked her who her teacher was, and she said...she said she was Wiccan, and it just came to her naturally. She never took a lesson in her life. *sigh* The most tragic part is, she will undoubtedly go on to teach others at some point in her life. :( This, in my opinion, is what fusion has done to our beautiful dance. It's just a joke now.
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
I asked her who her teacher was, and she said...she said she was Wiccan, and it just came to her naturally. She never took a lesson in her life. *sigh* The most tragic part is, she will undoubtedly go on to teach others at some point in her life. :( This, in my opinion, is what fusion has done to our beautiful dance. It's just a joke now.
The above isn't an example of fusion or the problems with fusion.

The above is what happens when we allow self-taught or 6-week wonders to put themselves out there as professional dancers.

The above is what has happened because the early unions and organizations like MECDA couldn't formulate a set of criteria by which a dancer and a teacher could be judged.

The above is what we've allowed to happen by fighting tooth and nail against ANY kind of certification or training program in teaching and performing this dance.

The above is what happens when a dance form lacks something fundamental to any skilled labor:
STANDARDS.


eta -- the above is also what happens when we perpetuate the myth that belly dance is just a movement vocabulary, and isolate it from the music and culture with which it SHOULD be studied hand-in-hand.
 
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Mara2

New member
The above isn't an example of fusion or the problems with fusion.

The above is what happens when we allow self-taught or 6-week wonders to put themselves out there as professional dancers.

The above is what has happened because the early unions and organizations like MECDA couldn't formulate a set of criteria by which a dancer and a teacher could be judged.

The above is what we've allowed to happen by fighting tooth and nail against ANY kind of certification or training program in teaching and performing this dance.

The above is what happens when a dance form lacks something fundamental to any skilled labor:
STANDARDS.


eta -- the above is also what happens when we perpetuate the myth that belly dance is just a movement vocabulary, and isolate it from the music and culture with which it SHOULD be studied hand-in-hand.
As I said, it is merely my opinion. Did you ever learn to surf, Aziyade? You don't learn in the water to begin with.
 

alosha

New member
I have to jump in here and say that there will always be people who don't care about the roots of the dance. They will always think it's raunchy, or easy, or whatever. I've said it before: you can't educate those who don't want to learn.

Part of the attraction to tribal, IMO, is that it is SO warm. It is welcoming, and takes in those who are "outcasts" in other styles of dance, not just belly dance.

But, as a Tribal dancer, I can say that EVERY SINGLE tribal dancer I know, including myself, when speaking with the public about their dance, says that it is as far from 'authentic belly dance' as you can get, then offers a bit of information on Tribal. And perhaps directs them to someone who knows about authentic styles.

Belly dance has been around for SO long, and has been through far worse threats than fusion. It will NEVER go away, so why spend so much time worrying about it? Why not learn to embrace other styles for what they are: different. You don't have to do it, you don't have to like it, and you don't have to watch it.

For every dancer who buys into the belly/burly fusion being the best dance EVER, there are dozens of dancers who are learning authentic styles. It's really a case of what's being brought to our attention, I believe. This forum and the responses to fusions cement that.
 

maria_harlequin

New member
I agree completely with you, Eshta. You can't fuse at all if you really want to stay true to the dance and preserve it. Just because the dancer is informed they are doing fusion does not mean the audience knows what's going on.
I'm going to disagree with you on this :) I consider myself very, very true to the dance but I'm also a fusion dancer. I can dance traditional Egyptian raqs sharqi but I also do flashy AmCab, ATS, and Tribal Fusion.

I never bring a "fused" dance to the public without making sure they understand what's going on and I also make sure that the venue's appropriate.

I give a clear explanation that it is not belly dance before or after the performance. In fact...I was doing a photoshoot in ATS gear the other day, no dancing involved, and I actually explained to the photographer that it's not a belly dance outfit and even gave him a brief history of ATS!

There are plenty of dancers out there that do fusion and traditional yet they remain true to the dance. However I do believe there's a "right" way to do this - and that is if you're planning to do both, you have to be educated with both. You can't just be an Egyptian dancer one day and start doing ATS, or throw some Amon Tobin on your stereo and start doing Tribal Fusion.
 

Kharis

New member
I have to jump in here and say that there will always be people who don't care about the roots of the dance. They will always think it's raunchy, or easy, or whatever. I've said it before: you can't educate those who don't want to learn.

Part of the attraction to tribal, IMO, is that it is SO warm. It is welcoming, and takes in those who are "outcasts" in other styles of dance, not just belly dance.

But, as a Tribal dancer, I can say that EVERY SINGLE tribal dancer I know, including myself, when speaking with the public about their dance, says that it is as far from 'authentic belly dance' as you can get, then offers a bit of information on Tribal. And perhaps directs them to someone who knows about authentic styles.

Belly dance has been around for SO long, and has been through far worse threats than fusion. It will NEVER go away, so why spend so much time worrying about it? Why not learn to embrace other styles for what they are: different. You don't have to do it, you don't have to like it, and you don't have to watch it.

For every dancer who buys into the belly/burly fusion being the best dance EVER, there are dozens of dancers who are learning authentic styles. It's really a case of what's being brought to our attention, I believe. This forum and the responses to fusions cement that.
All true. I feel that there will always be those who preserve certain styles and formats, and that this will hold the dance in this area as it has mostly been for all of it's life. Banging away about how fusion is bad for the dance makes no difference at all, and in my mind is futile, for it changes nothing. Bellydance in it's so called 'pure' form will always be there. There seems to be an increasing trend here of fear of change. I personally don't see the threat. It's all about fashion and what's currently in vogue. Trends change, come and go. The dance, and it's foundations, will remain as always...most unaltered. But then again, is it? It seems that the styles of bellydance when you compare, say Samia Gamal with Dina, do change in style and content.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
I think 'banging on' about these things does work.

The amount of people who lurk in these forums reading up on these matters is amazing.

They might have their own ideas and opinions but I know for a fact these discussions have changed the perceptions of some people in my area, so it must be doing the same beyond that.

If you can get people to think about what they are doing and enjoy it without being completely self indulgent and egotistical then all these discussions are worth it.

It is not about stopping it but being clear about what it is you are doing and putting a little thought into it. Is that really too much to ask?

People are taking more care these days but there are still plenty who either dont give a shit or dont have a clue... with the latter we do have hope.
 

Hypnos

New member
I don't think fusion in itself undermines belly dance at all, people interpret things differently so fusion is a natural progression, as with any art form. Just because fusion is there doesn't mean authentic belly dance will cease to exist, just because there are people who don't bother to learn it's history doesn't there wont be people who will. The invention of photography didn't stop people from painting, if you catch my drift.

Yes, there are people out there who will undermine belly dance and it's authenticity but there are people like that for every art form that has ever existed. It's just a different problem caused by the same kind of people. I remember being on a forum for guitarists and they would often argue about people undermining "real" guitarists because they used a lot of effects pedals because they believed it was an excuse to play badly and get away with it or were annoyed because some people didn't learn notation and rely entirely on tableture.

However, because they were talking about it, it showed that their style of playing still existed and that there were people who would play in a more traditional way. We're talking about it, we acknowledge the problem so there MUST be people who dance authentically still. If authentic belly dance had ceased to exist, none of us would care! because "authentic" belly dance wouldn't exist! There would be nothing to be worried about!

I think you have to remember as well, same with guitar, there are A LOT of belly dancers, unlike lets say, Sitar or Ballet, it's extremely commercially available and popular. Which attracts all sorts! Some who will not bother to acknowledge authenticity, good technique etc and those who will. Those with good intentions and those whose intentions are a little dubious.

All we can do as belly dancers is continue to address the problem and make sure that all the good teachers of belly dance will continue to properly educate their students and make others aware, those who don't listen, wouldn't have listened anyway because they're doing it for the wrong reasons.

I'm sure there are many tribal dancers who admire authentic forms of belly dance, I'm one of them, the history is interesting and I will continue going to Egyptian belly dance lessons and learn more about it's characters and it's history and understand it before trying to fuse it. Unfortunately, those who don't, cause a bigger stir than those who do.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Hypnos,
I can see where youi are coming from but this has been going around in circles for eons now.

If you hear Carolina Nerricio talk about ATS you will understand where I am coming from in particular. She is more protective about ATS than most Oriental dancers are about ME dance.

She does not like people doing what they want and calling it ATS. most fusion is born out of ATS than ME dance.

There is nothing wrong wioth fusion per se but people dont know what they are doing half of the time and call it a 'fusion thingey', do you think that is then ok to put it under the heading of belly dance?

I dont know what it is.... so I will call it this!

I like anyone else, love good fusion.. but i really cant stand dross under any heading...especially when they call it 'belly dance'.

People can do what they like with dance, but they deliberately cling to the commercial belly dance label because what they do is not commercially viable on its own... and that is wrong.

It has sweet FA to do with the 'everything evolves' theory, it is about having an audience.
 
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Hypnos

New member
Hypnos,
I can see where youi are coming from but this has been going around in circles for eons now.

If you hear Carolina Nerricio talk about ATS you will understand where I am coming from in particular. She is more protective about ATS than most Oriental dancers are about ME dance.

She does not like people doing what they want and calling it ATS. most fusion is born out of ATS than ME dance.

There is nothing wrong wioth fusion per se but people dont know what they are doing half of the time and call it a 'fusion thingey', do you think that is then ok to put it under the heading of belly dance?

I dont know what it is.... so I will call it this!

I, like anyone else, loves good fusion.. but i really cant stand dross under any heading...especially when they call it 'belly dance'.

People can do what they like with dance, but they deliberately cling to the commercial belly dance label because what they do is not commercially viable on its own and that is wrong.

It has sweet FA to do with the 'everything evolves' theory, it is about having an audience.
I don't agree with people calling all bits and bobs ATS just to get away with something that isn't belly dance. I find it very disrespectful as I'm sure most sensible people would. I was just making a point that during a time period of an art form, there will be idiots who misuse it especially if it's commercially viable and = profit but as long as there are informed people who respect the art form they will address the issue and do their best to educate those less knowledgeable so they don't make the same mistake again, I was trying to say, whilst it is stupid and disrespectful authentic belly dance wont be under threat whilst there are people like you and others who can teach those less informed.

It is not okay at all, it's s**t, I'm not defending them, I'm trying to say that authentic belly dancers will always be here because there are people who care about the art form passionately and teachers who will teach and educate their students to prevent them from doing the art form injustice. Isn't that a positive thing to say? That as long as those people are around to pass on their knowledge authentic belly dance will always be here?

Unfortunately, idiots ARE a part of the evolution of art forms especially if commercially it sells and gets you an audience, I wasn't defending them, I was trying to be positive about those who know what they're talking about.
 

Mya

New member
eta -- the above is also what happens when we perpetuate the myth that belly dance is just a movement vocabulary, and isolate it from the music and culture with which it SHOULD be studied hand-in-hand.
:clap::clap::clap:

Applause to the whole post really, but particularly to the last part.


People can do what they like with dance, but they deliberately cling to the commercial belly dance label because what they do is not commercially viable on its own... and that is wrong.

It has sweet FA to do with the 'everything evolves' theory, it is about having an audience.
Caro - I'm completely with you on this!

the powers won't let me rep you or Aziyade though. Virtual Rep to you both!

Hypnos - i hope what you think turns out to be true; that the traditional dancers will always have a market, but i'm not convinced! Cheers to your positivity though.
 
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Aziyade

Well-known member
As I said, it is merely my opinion. Did you ever learn to surf, Aziyade? You don't learn in the water to begin with.
Oh I agree that we have major problems with fusion! Don't get me wrong.

But the example you quoted was a different problem altogether -- people who do not have the knowledge and the training, who are presenting themselves as professional, and not bothering to try and actually LEARN anything abut what they're supposedly the authority on.

The old adage I've heard was "fake it till you make it" -- and we've all read the stories of now-famous dancers who did their first gig with a less than stellar understanding of the dance. Just like Morocco's first job! But those dancers DID bother to learn and train, and many of them are now our authority figures on Middle Eastern dances.

It absolutely kills me to hear a supposed "professional" say they don't have time for classes, or they've outgrown all their teachers, or they already know all the "moves" or any other lame excuse for why they're not continuing or doing any training.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
I don't agree with people calling all bits and bobs ATS just to get away with something that isn't belly dance. I find it very disrespectful as I'm sure most sensible people would. I was just making a point that during a time period of an art form, there will be idiots who misuse it especially if it's commercially viable and = profit but as long as there are informed people who respect the art form they will address the issue and do their best to educate those less knowledgeable so they don't make the same mistake again, I was trying to say, whilst it is stupid and disrespectful authentic belly dance wont be under threat whilst there are people like you and others who can teach those less informed.
Yes and I agree with you, it wont disappear but it might become like an old relic of sorts. Many aspects of ME dance that we used to see performed have suddenly disappeared. It is a shame really.


It is not okay at all, it's s**t, I'm not defending them, I'm trying to say that authentic belly dancers will always be here because there are people who care about the art form passionately and teachers who will teach and educate their students to prevent them from doing the art form injustice. Isn't that a positive thing to say?
Yes

That as long as those people are around to pass on their knowledge authentic belly dance will always be here?
I just personally dont want it to fade into oblivion in favour of some new fad that looks easier and more attactive. I do see elements of this dance diminishing.

Unfortunately, idiots ARE a part of the evolution of art forms especially if commercially it sells and gets you an audience, I wasn't defending them, I was trying to be positive about those who know what they're talking about.
I still think those who know what they are talking about have to acknowledge their dependancy on the word Belly dance and the effect it has had.

We have festivals called Gothla now and Tribal London so these things can stand alone and I think that is great, the trouble is, ME dance is seemly the diminishing one which is not quite as able to stand alone as before.

How the tables turn.
 
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alosha

New member
Here's one issue I'm having, and perhaps it's because I am a newbie dancer, and a tribal one at that. To me, logicaly, the biggest threat to authentic ME dance is 'authentic' ME dancers.

My example: Student x dances tribal, and has been dancing for a few years. Student x has always been told by her/his teacher that tribal is not authentic belly dance. If said student goes and takes a class from a well-known Turkish teacher who says her style is authentic, that student is going to assume that she is teaching authentic Turkish belly dance. So if she is a dancer with poor technique, and poor teaching skills, student x may start to dislike Turkish and chose not to learn it.

I stopped dancing at a time because my AmCab teacher was evil, and made me hate the style. At the time, since she was telling me, the newbie dancer, that I was learning AmCab, I believed AmCab was all waltz steps and veils with some spins. I CHOSE to learn more, and to go back to another teacher. I could have very easily quit, as I know others have in similar situations. Disclaimer: I am not saying AmCab is authentic, just citing an example.

As a newbie dancer, if I thought I had to dance and dress like Dina to be an Egyptian dancer, I would NEVER take a class. I'm just not interested by her.

But, because I, like so many other tribal dancers, want to continue learning and growing as a dancer and as a belly dancer, I have taken Egyptian, and more AmCab lessons. I believe by me doing so I am a better dancer, and a better proponent of traditional dance.

People keep talking about how the general public sees what we do, then makes snap decisions about the authentic dances. No offense, but a LOT of the general public are individuals who are stuck in their ways. They never would have taken a class anyways, so my tribal performance had no effect on them.

Just my two (or three ;) ) cents
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
I think 'banging on' about these things does work.
Yes -- and I'm an example.

They might have their own ideas and opinions but I know for a fact these discussions have changed the perceptions of some people in my area, so it must be doing the same beyond that.

If you can get people to think about what they are doing and enjoy it without being completely self indulgent and egotistical then all these discussions are worth it.
I can remember in the heyday of Stella's MEDance list, when I first joined the internet dance community, I was all about the fake-Gypsy dance, tambourine, swishing skirt, bells on the feet, all the faux-Esmerelda fantasy schtick. Morocco and Lucy (Scheherezade) spent a great deal of time on that list trying to describe the difference between what people like me were doing and what the dance was in Egypt, Turkey, etc.

Frankly I'm ashamed to admit I used the "art evolves" argument, but Morocco was kind enough to pat me very gently and discretely on the head and suggested I watch one of her videos. I got hold of a Sohair Zaki video -- and that was all she wrote. I realized the people on that list were bitching about something legitimate -- and why the HECK was I not being taught about Sohair and Nagwa and Fifi -- and why wasn't I dancing like that???!!! So I set out to learn THAT dance, and abandoned my tambourine and flounced skirts.

Now, as a teacher, Sohair Zaki is one of the first dancers my students see. I start them with Om Kalsoum music right alongside George Abdo and Turbo Tabla. They NEED to see the variety of Arabic music, to appreciate the breadth and scope of Arabic dance.



Alosha -- I respect that you and your community are different, and try to educate your audience, but there are SOOOOO many articles online, so many videos, and I've heard so many dancers completely misrepresent Tribal style. BUT -- the same can be said for all belly dance. That's why I think it's VERY important for educated, articulate dancers to SPEAK THEIR MINDS when it comes to issues of authenticity, history, or musical interpretation.

We NEED to keep harping on what this dance is and isn't -- and we NEED to keep defending the philosophy and purity of ATS in the face of "fusion du jour." For every self-important "artiste" out there, determined to do whatever she wants whenever she wants, there is another student like I was -- a little misguided, but just waiting for the chance to see what this dance is really about. We need to target her. We need to keep harping. Morocco and Sahra aren't doing it anymore. It's up to the next generation now.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Here's one issue I'm having, and perhaps it's because I am a newbie dancer, and a tribal one at that. To me, logicaly, the biggest threat to authentic ME dance is 'authentic' ME dancers.
:think:

My example: Student x dances tribal, and has been dancing for a few years. Student x has always been told by her/his teacher that tribal is not authentic belly dance.
yes...

If said student goes and takes a class from a well-known Turkish teacher who says her style is authentic, that student is going to assume that she is teaching authentic Turkish belly dance. So if she is a dancer with poor technique, and poor teaching skills, student x may start to dislike Turkish and chose not to learn it.
yes... but Tribal teachers are not always great either but for some reason people do find it easier to latch onto.

I stopped dancing at a time because my AmCab teacher was evil, and made me hate the style.
Oh dear.

At the time, since she was telling me, the newbie dancer, that I was learning AmCab, I believed AmCab was all waltz steps and veils with some spins. I CHOSE to learn more, and to go back to another teacher. I could have very easily quit, as I know others have in similar situations. Disclaimer: I am not saying AmCab is authentic, just citing an example.
Yes but the same can happen with any negative experience. I am afraid there are too many nut cases teaching who seem to not care about providing students with utterly terrible dance lessons.

As a newbie dancer, if I thought I had to dance and dress like Dina to be an Egyptian dancer, I would NEVER take a class. I'm just not interested by her.
Nor me particularly.

But, because I, like so many other tribal dancers, want to continue learning and growing as a dancer and as a belly dancer, I have taken Egyptian, and more AmCab lessons. I believe by me doing so I am a better dancer, and a better proponent of traditional dance.
Yes and if you continued to not like any of the Egyptian dancers you see then this dance is not for you. The problem is, too many take the bits they like and turn it into something more suitable for them. Then still call it what it is. Do you see what I mean? instead of admiting that this dance does not suit them, they change it to suit them and then teach it to all and sundry.


People keep talking about how the general public sees what we do, then makes snap decisions about the authentic dances. No offense, but a LOT of the general public are individuals who are stuck in their ways. They never would have taken a class anyways, so my tribal performance had no effect on them.

Just my two (or three ;) ) cents
It does, they may see it and want to learn tribal and that is OK.

But if they turn up at Tribal class and then after a few weeks say, I dont like this outfit and come wearing pasties and a belly dance belt do you think that would be OK?

I doubt very much indeedy.
 

maria_harlequin

New member
As a newbie dancer, if I thought I had to dance and dress like Dina to be an Egyptian dancer, I would NEVER take a class. I'm just not interested by her.
That happened to me after two years of dancing. Thank goodness it didn't happen to me at the very beginning...
 
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