Letters to the Editor
Email the Snakeemail@example.com
October 2002 - April 2003
re: a comment on all the articles about reviews and critiques.
Isn't it just about what is popular? People have different taste in things. Ebert may give a movie a terrible review only to make the movie he reviewed very popular.
All I am saying
is if you must, take the "advice" of "reviewers"
with a grain of salt. If you have the $$$ and you are curious buy
it and see; see if a friend has it and you can watch before you buy;
or sell off the offending video.
Consider the source and motivation of any critique if you trust it (personal feelings here) go with it or go you own way.
I expect constructive comments from my teacher and from my fellow performers, and I'm used to it because of my professional business standing in my "paying" job. But... SHAME ON YOU FOR PUBLISHING THIS! The author makes it sound as if those of us who are not of the rippling abs and less than 4% body fat should not be seen.
So, as a business professional, let's do some math. How many of the students that you see in a studio setting are pro quality - probably less than 1%. Likewise, the number of students who are considered to be in excellent physical condition are less than 1%. So, the point that I make is that the critique of technique is by all means needed at all levels but be realistic on who and where your majority of devotees are. Are you going to turn down the application from a student who is wanting to learn because she is overweight? Of course not. Are you going to push her to perform in a venue where she is going to roundly booed - of course not. Insist on professional quality dancing and find venues for dancing appropriate for the level of dancer but for heavens sake don't "throw out the baby with the bathwater..." if you only have gigs that need Hollywood style starlets. If you are not serving but a sliver of the potential revenue out there, you may be elite put poor.
I found the article by Najia overwrought -- I agreed with some of the points - not the delivery. I hope to also see some dissenting opinions (I am certain there will be a few) on this “Critique” article in your Letters to the Editor...I’m sure we would hope that the Gilded Serpent staff can accept critique as publicly and freely as the dance public should.
Wasn't it the
famous Bert Balladine who once
said "You have nothing to dance about unless you're over 35 anyways"?
Certainly, some of the best Belly Dancers I've seen are Grandmothers
or Grandfathers, and I enjoy their passion for life and their life
experience the young nubile
I don't think Karen has anything to worry about, and I hope she continues to dance until she is 100 or more! I know I certainly intend to, I came to this dance too late in life (at 40) not to run it out to the very end!
Having someone critique your dancing makes for a better dancer. One does not have to be snide or rude to say "your arms are stiff, and you need to work on those." One's teachers do that all the time.
As far as performance goes, dancers who get up on any type of stage need to expect both positive and negative responses to their performances. Most dancers who do oriental dance do it for the love of the dance and fun. Most of them will never be able to earn a living at dance, and many of them do not want to. Therefore, the dancing they do is at student nights, Hafla's and perhaps in restaurants. That being said, amatuer or professional, once you are on stage you are open to others opinions. As a dancer who wants to better her art, I welcome both the positive and negative, as I learn from both. (I have only danced at student nights, and a couple of restaurants but expect my audience to be honest with me.)
....edited for length....
In sum, those of us who perform need to expect criticism. However, I think that it can be done in a way to encourage and help a dancer. And dancers should not take offense. They need to listen to the comments (both good and bad) and learn from them. Oriental dance should be a community of people who want to bring the culture and dance to others and to assist those already in the community to improve.
Maureen K. Dixon
I have been very conflicted about the whole "criticism of fellow dancers" thing. There are ways in private to be both honest and supportive, but no matter how hard one tries to write these things publicly, many dancers take anything other than compliments as a personal attack. Therefore, I am VERY glad Najia put in a few pointers to help dancers learn how to read a critique of their work. It is helpful to understand the difference between a personal attack vs. the opions of an audience member, no matter how much it stings when the review is read.
Since I fall between the enthusiastic amateur and the professional, I'm waaaay far from perfect. As a result, I'm sure one day I'll need to rely on those pointers.
Frankly, we'll benefit if we keep taking a hard look at how we present our art. I am always reassessing what works and what doesn't before, during, and after - especially after - a performance. Though I can get frustrated trying to make something work, it's better to have the frustration along with the direction of a critique, than to think one needn't bother bailing the water from a sinking ship.
I also appreciate the pointers Najia gave to the critics. It's one thing to express discontent with a performance, it's another thing to rub salt in wounds you intend to make...
Thank you, Najia.
With Love and
PS- Wow, another good article regarding the critic and the dancer. The words of wisdom expressed by her dance teacher, "learn from it and move on", are stellar. I will also keep these words in mind, because well, I am my own worst critic. Keep it up!
There are a great many "troupes" out there that seem to be nothing more than mutual admiration societies. I've performed in recitals hosted by a few of them, and it's made me gun shy of invitations to perform. I will no longer perform in recitals or shows that have no dress rehearsals or other opportunities for me to see what I'll be sharing the bill with. There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what is acceptable at a private hafla and what should be inflicted upon the paying(!) public.
Don't get me wrong,
the more troupes and dancers the merrier, but they need to be realistic
about levels of proficiency.Thanks
for sharing your thoughts,
re: Doug Adams
I found the article entitled "Reflections on North Beach (Part I of III)" both interesting and disturbing. I was disturbed by some of the not too kind remarks on Jamilla and Aida.
I first started studying belly dancing with Jamilla in 1973 (San Francisco). I found her to be one of the most generous women I have ever met. She had such talent not only for dancing but also in teaching as well. Even today, 30 years later, I have such fond memories and still remember all the basic things I leaned from her instruction. She ALWAYS took the time to work individually with the students, providing encouragement and enthusiasm. She would often bring her daughter little Suhalia to class...she was about 5 or 6 at that time. Now I hear that Suhalia is teaching in the East Bay.
Later, I also took classes from Aida in Berkely. Aida is undoubtedly one of the NICEST people I have ever met. She had a sweet disposition, tought us many of the subtleties of the dance, and was down to earth and practical. Not only that but she had tons of humor providing funny anecdotes about some of her experiences as both a student and professional dancer. I recall that she had a beatiful singing voice. One night I coaxed her to sing some Opera songs, and she did! Absoulutely glorious! I saw her dance at all three places your article mentioned - the Bagdad Caberet, the Casbah Caberet, and the Greek Taverna Retaurant. What a talent!
Over the years I have often thought about both Jamilla and Aida with such fond memories. I remember Jamilla's mantra "Keep on Dancing." Now 30 years later, I am back in class studying in Virginia. The lessons I learned all those years ago are coming back (a bit slower now). My enthusiam for coming back to the dance is most undoubtedly based on the stong foundation and reinforcement introduced to me by two of the most beautiful, kind, spirited, superb and talented ladies I have ever met. The picture of Aida in 1973 is just how I remember her!
Thank you for
providing a forum for people to send comments.
"Ulysses" was Sam Stamas, a man of small stature and giant heart. Not only was he a terrific dancer, but a wonderful human being. I had the privelege (sp?) of participating in the annual Roseville Greek festival a couple of years ago dancing with the Greek Dancers of the Monterey Peninsula; where Sam not only performed his famous table dance, but MC'ed and organized the festival as well. He seemed to have endless energy, boundless enthusiasm, and was always warm, kind and friendly to all.
We, of the Greek
Dance community, sorely miss him! His death, in a senseless
You can read a
bit more about Sam at our WebSite: http://www.greekdancemonterey.org
under the "In Memorium" heading.
re: The Joy & Pain
of Collecting Tips
I am a little confused about how to encourage tipping here... I've had people toss coins at me, slip coins in around my belt, etc. It would be nice if someone would put a 5, 10 or 20 in there just to start the ball rolling. The urn thing is okay, but I like the look of the bills in the belt myself. I guess if they come to me with paper, I could let them put it in my hip belt, if it's a coin(s) it will have to go in the urn. (I really do miss the paper money... the change is very heavy).
you might enjoy an old photo from the Agoura site.
recently found your web site and I love it! Thank you! I was very
interested in the article about the
myths and realities of the harems and belly dance. It was excellent!
I look forward to reading more and becoming a life long reader of
1-31-03 belly dance aerobics
a certified fitness instructor and dance teacher, I commend Michelle
on her ability to make a business from her particular set of skills.
I would advise a bit of caution on the cultivation of a capitalistic
"one size fits all" blend of fitness and an art form that
represents a deep and broad cultural perspective that is beyond the
experience of the average American. I have observed so much hybridization
and mixing of the various movement and dance genres that I am wondering
if people are starting to lose sight of what is pure in a singular
modality. Now one can choose from Yogalatis, Yo-chi, Chi-ball, and
had to say that I loved the
article about Bert's diet. When I saw the title I thought to myself
"why would Bert ever have been on a diet? He doesn't eat!"
Now I understand LOL
died laughing reading your story..... my first language is Arabic!!!!!
your writing is awesome,
wonderful article!!!!!!! Alexa is so beautiful, wish I could have
seen her performance...she's a natural. Looks great in the costume,
hope to see her in person soon. Hope all is going well for you. You
write extremely well, my dear...so multi-talented, and bright, I'm
so proud of you. Thanks again the article and photos all were pure
I would like to inform you that the mentioned that Park Hamam is a gay hamam in Istanbul, that's why it is men only. :) Please inform Kayla... http://www.outuk.com/outgoing/europe/istanbul/index2.html
12-20-02 Re: Tease-O-Rama
To: Editor of the Gilded Serpent;
I came across your web site because of the bellydancemagroup that I belong to.I found your site very interesting on the burlesque section. I have been a professional belly dancer and instructor for twenty three years. The first dance instructor I ever had teach me how to belly dance was an ex-exotic dancer from the 50's era. ( her dance name was Barbette). To this day we still keep in contact and there is not any other dancer that can do the Camel Walk like her!
I now teach adults and children's classes at the same studio where Barbette first taught me!
Yours In Dance,
Re: Glass Dancing
Some months ago I found a picture of a dancer on glasses on the Internet and have since then been collecting information about the topic. I live in Switzerland and have never seen a European dancer do it. So I was very pleased about this article.
About no washing the glasses: I have asked a colleague at work who has a doctor's degree in physics and he said that washing glass with HOT water can indeed change the structure of the material. But it's not so much the water but the temperature (especially sudden changes in temperature).
I don't put my glasses on a rug but directly on the floor (if it is a smooth wooden floor) because I also turn by sliding the glasses. As for the music, I start with a slow part and then get faster (this is where I turn with little hipdrops). Anyway, I would not do it too long. One or two minutes are enough.
I use the glasses as part of a tableau called "In the coffe house" which also includes Melaya dancing and smoking a shisha. I do it together with a man who besides sitting and smoking will put down the glasses for me and clear them up when I am done.
I hope this helps other dancers.
just finished reading the article "Music
and Style" by Yasmela. A friend was kind enough to pass it
on to me, and I was so impressed. Not only do I agree with everything
said, but was so impressed by how intelligently and articulately it
was written. Brava!!
12-12-02 Re: Festival Fantasia Photos
job, super photos! The gal on the right of the picture of Marilyn
Lane, Jewels of Cairo, is Nichole Blanc (stage name Farasha) of the
Jewels of Cairo.
12-7-02 Re: Tease-O-Rama
I really enjoyed your article, "A Weekend of Burlesque" and am sorry I missed the event.
In your article you mentioned attending a tassle twirling class. Would you mind sharing the secret to how that feat is accomplished? I know that is an oddball question, but it's something which I've always wondered about...
Thanks in advance!
We did not attend that particular workshop, but someone on staff did
purchase a pair of pasties from TwirlyGirl, who are supposedly working
on how-to instructions for their website: http://www.twirlygirl.net/products/twirl.asp.
We heard attendees
claim that nobody could do it - but the staffer has had some success
drawing from her years of shoulder shimmy experience. Have fun.
Keep us posted
on your progress.
11-15-02 Re: Glass Dancing
I enjoyed Neferteri's article on glass dancing. Layla Hazine of Fort Worth, Texas, has danced on glasses since the '80s. She uses a board that is laminated with something (I'm not exactly sure what) that allows her to move the glasses around. She's able to move in circles and up and down the board. She learned the art from a video that she doesn't have anymore and she can't remember the title or dancer's name. Anyway, I would agree that as a specialty (candle, shamadan, sword, etc.), it's pretty effective! Kudos to Neferteri and the Gilded Serpent staff's continuing efforts to bring informative articles to our dance community!
11-22-02 Re: Glass Dancing
Thanks for your
great article on glass dancing! It truly is a great addition to your
"specialty" line up and you offered great inspiration and
important information. I also do what I call "shimmy on glasses"
at San Francisco's El
Mansour Moroccan Restaurant. You mentioned wondering about it's
origins: I heard a legend of it's beginnings in 1900 - 1920 Greece.
To those who become interested in this graceful balancing act thanks
to your wonderful article may I add some hints? Try a restaurant supply
store for your glasses, and buy thick ones! Also, I homogenize any
surface by doing my glass dance on a brass tray. Mine's a round one,
and here's another sneaky
11-20-02 Re: Dancing Again in Afghanistan
11-20-02 Re: And Back in the Holy Land
I just wanted to thank Gilded Serpent and Fred Glick for this article. It is heartening to read these opinions from a fellow American Jew. I have been so heartbroken at the blindness and plain racism and brutality with which the Palestinians have been treated by people who really should know better. My family are Holocaust survivors, and they talk about Palestinians and other people from that region as though they are subhuman; these are people who were hunted and hounded and persecuted by Germans, Poles, and Ukrainians, and then they simply went and did it to another group of people. It is incomprehensible! And as Jews we're expected to toe the party line and accept everything that Israel does. It's good to see that not all of us do. Thank you for speaking out, when so many would shout you down.
Your site is terrific. I'm a new student of the dance (I'm in love with it!) and I'm really enjoying the articles and photographs.
Re: And Back in the Holy
Can I please ask
one favor? Can you please use the attached photo instead of the one
you have of me on that page right now. It looks like I have no chin
and I have dark circles under my eyes.
re: Gilded Serpent Article
Your article "Music and Style"
Re: Julia's story about Child's
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