Letters to the Editor

Email the Snake--[email protected]

December 2003 up through April 2004

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4-30-04 re:Front cover teaser photo for Orit's report on BD in Israel
Dear Lynette,
I see that you will be featuring an article about belly dancing in Israel. I hope it will also discuss belly dancing in Palestine, or rather the lack thereof, due to the Apartheid-like conditions Palestinians must endure because of the illegal Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine over the last century, and especially since 1967. After all, it is a predominantly Arab dance form, not a colonial Zionist one. It is a bit difficult to dance and celebrate when your family has been dispossessed of its home and has been living in a refugee camp since 1948.
Regards,
Kat
Northern California

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4-29-04 re:Class War-Fair by Alexandria
Alexandria's class war-fair is right on the money. Teachers who have been through this can relate 100%. Whereas people who have done this. . .and you know who you are. . .will be angry. I suspect this goes on in our community more offen than people would like to admit.
Sincerely,
Pam
Van Nuys, CA

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4-28-04 re:Class War-Fair by Alexandria
On Alexandria's cartoon.
Come ON! I understand this was intended to be funny. Obviously, the inference from the cartoon is that the teacher in is an altruistic innocent victimized by an ambitious, petty, selfish student-to-dance star.

Let's face it, no one who has a name in this industry gets there by being lily white. Maybe this cartoon is actually an unconscious confession...
Gia

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4-26-04 re:Class War-Fair by Alexandria
Alexandria does it again! "Class War-Fair?" is a riot, and oh so true! Sad, isn't it?
carolynn

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4-24-04 re:The Myopic View of Bellydance by Sadira

Hi, I agree partially with Sadira's view in that it would be nice if Americans had a broader view of physical beauty however it seems that there is a confusion of sorts going on in the essay. I do see many performers who are older and less than "ideal" physically marketing themselves quite well. However they are the most talented among us, and have perhaps aged past a certain caliber of professional lives just as older dancers of other forms are revered and marketable ( MArgot Fontyn could still pack the house into her 60s). Of the examples given the impromptu social dance was confused with paid performance. Yes at a church hafli you will see old ladies dancing well or at the bistros or around the campfire. But just because they dance well socially doesn't mean they would be or even want to be dynamic performers for an audience. That involves adding a separate set of skills. Yes it is unfair for culturally acceptablely attractive women to be hired to dance if they can't dance well over a better skilled, older or less attractive dancer but I can't think of one very famous bellydancer who is simply beautiful but can't dance. They are attractive and very talented, hard-working performers. Dance is a visual art- so what the viewer sees is the entire point. -the look of the dancer is a component of the movement and the shape of the dance visually so movement and the body performing the movement are inseparable. I also believe that people who pay the bills and run the show deserve to choose who they want in it. I don't believe anyone who wants to do something deserves to be a professional and it seems that that is an accepted concept in any other dance form. Perpetuating an inclusive attitude for the wrong reasons dooms our dance to mediocrity.

Suzy
Boston, Ma

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4-23-04 re:The Myopic View of Bellydance by Sadira
While I commend Sadira's desire to promote dancers who don't fit the "Shakira" mold, I believe she herself is being a bit myopic about the topic. It seems she feels the bellydance field is particularly prone to elevate young, shapely dancers. However, it is in every area of life that beauty has an advantage. Even babies have a tendency to gaze longer at people who are typcially considered "beautiful." It is ingrained, and even a cultural revolution that made us widen our definition of beauty to be all-inclusive would be denying something primal and valid. I don't suggest that club-owners' tendency to go with beauty over talent is doing anything to advance bellydance as an art, but perhaps we don't have to view it as a particular injustice. Clubs are clubs, rock n' roll festivals are what they are. Art has its venues. The true superstars will always find their audience.
-Perizad
of Santa Cruz

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4-20-04 re:The Significance of Jillina by Arabia
Jillina is a LEGEND! The greatest bellydancer in the world today,, I love her

Charis

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4-17-04 re:Queen of Dance by Najia
I very much enjoyed the article about "Who Died?"
It certainly agrees with my feelings about the world of Oriental Dance and the various forms included therein. Having been in the SF Bay Area during the 60-70's and the various instructor-feuds that cluttered the landscape, I'm certainly no stranger to the snarky factor among any number of teachers and their students. The territorial conflicts got to the point where they would have been comical, if the emotional impact hadn't been so dreadful.

Najia's success as a dancer and teacher is well earned and she's given much to the dance world. I'm proud to have been one of her students. I also find it really appalling that so few of today's beginning dancers in almost ANY dance form have so little knowledge of those who came before them.

But I think that has a lot to do with the lack of knowledge or even caring about the lack of real and accurate knowledge in history (ANY history) in general in today's world. The past is always inportant because it still affects the present. I forget who exactly said it, but I believe it's true: "You need to remember where you've been in the past in order to better decide where you will be going in the future." That's true in historical world events, personal family history as well as the complete World of Dance.

The people who contribute to the Gilded Serpent are doing a good thing. The fact that you're getting flack would seem to prove that point exactly. Keep up the great work.

Bismillah,
Luise of the phoenix

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Just a quick note to let you know how much I look forward to reading anything by Najia. Her insight, honesty, and directness cut right to the heart of a matter. It makes no difference what she's writing about; she always leaves me (re-)thinking.

Thanks!
Cathy Larripa/Sitara
[Ventura, CA ?-ed]

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4-16-04 re:BellyBus
Dear Lynette,
Thank you for publishing this article.

All my life the din of those who would be God's messengers against birth control have been a source of constant irritation. My grandmother didn't even approve of ballet-dancing, so you can imagine her reaction when I branched out into such scandalous dance forms as modern dance, jazz, Flamenco and (shudder!) "belly-dance".

The idea that a woman's body isn't hers to control and develop into a tool for body-musical expression has always been abhorrent to me. For family reasons I attended a Roman Catholic school for a year in 7th Grade. As a rather liberal and somewhat lapsed Protestant Episcopalian, the experience was bizarre.

There are too many close-minded folk in this world who treat women as wombs with legs, bound by Fate to be property of the males who sired them, their male siblings who always take precedence in the home, and finally given to the males who have agreed to marry them. The fundamentalists of any persuasion tend to dislike our form of the dance because its spiritual sensuality is impossible for them to comprehend. The power of a patriarchal society feels threatened thinking of that kind of freedom being glorified and advanced.

So a dance that challenges tradition (as the blue-noses have defined it) must be branded immoral. In a secular world that sort of individual choice must also be made illegal, so the good old ways can be maintained, as unfair as they always were to one half the world's population.

I think Gloria Steinem said it best: "If men were the ones who got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."

Bismillah,
Luise of the Phoenix
aka
Asfoor al Noor
Luise Perenne BFA

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4-14-04 re: BellyBus
I just wanted to speak up as a dancer AND a Christian that I support and applaud the powerful women going on this journey. Just because one is Christian does NOT make one immediately anti-choice (also called pro-life but I will not take issue with that here.) So horray for the BellyBus!!!!
Audrey

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4-14-04 re: Queen of Dance by Najia
Maybe you should give your columnist Najia a weekly "Whine" and Art Korner.
-Amy

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4-13-04 re: Queen of Dance by Najia
Hello. I am glad to see this article. There is a lot of unhappy snobbery these days. I could go into details about the new generation of cabaret dancers but grace will not permit. However, remember... the dance is fluid, not stop and go. For the life of me I can't help but wonder, where are those little wind up keys on their backs, anyway?
re:Rakkasah West Photo Teaser
Thanks for the beautiful picture of Aneena and her grand daughter! I haven't seen her for quite awhile.
Phoenix Melusine
Denver, Colorado

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4-13-04 re: BellyBus
Hooray for Bellybus!

May I say, as a mother and I'm sure other mothers would agree, that this is not just about grown women and their freedom of choice about their own bodies -- it's about making decisions for our children's future. All
children deserve to grow up in an environment of abundant love, and to have their needs for food, shelter, and education met without question. When a woman discovers she is pregnant and knows due to her circumstances it will be impossible to provide for these needs, the painful decision to have an abortion is greater than her self.

I won't be able to go to Washington, but will be dancing at a baby shower that day so will be celebrating the reason all women are marching...thanks to all the women who are marching!
Tana

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4-12-04 re: BellyBus
I have been the receiver of many politically liberal, "pro-choice" emails from different groups speaking for the belly dance public; seeming to assume because I am a belly dancer I am automatically far to the left. No - I am staunch conservative, Bush supporter...pro-life. Some of us actually are...
Saleen

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4-12-04 re:Queen of Dance by Najia
Najia,
Once again, please accept my thanks for stating what should be obvious. My own somewhat silent voice these last couple of months has been due in some part to my battle with illness, but also due to the fact that written critique can, indeed, be a thankless task, taking time from more important matters. I love this art and have been loving it for 32 years. I have had a career, and quite an influential one, that ended long before many of these "chat-room experts and kitties" were even a twinkle in their parents' eye. Sometimes the greatest lesson to learn in youth is to hold your tongue and do your research. No, critics are not totally altruistic, but most are motivated to make something they love even better. And one of the sweet rewards of age is the ability to allow ego to step out of the way and be honest...with no more career to advance, what have we got to lose? Your writing was insightful and much needed.
Shelley/Yasmela

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4-12-04 re:Queen of Dance by Najia
Najia Marlyz's "Who Died and Made You Queen of Dance?" is another thought-provoking article of the sort that I expect from G.S. Agree or disagree with your writers, at least they usually make you think. However, while I understand that Najia's point was that just because a bunch of newbies hasn't heard of someone doesn't mean she is nothing, the whole issue of whether G.S.'s writers are good dancers or not is a big fat red herring. To quote my own contribution to the chat room that she refers to:

"i gotta take issue with the assumption that unless one is a superior dancer oneself, one cannot be a critic. must art critics be able to paint? must theater critics be able to act? write scripts? direct? must opera critics be able sing? i can't sing to save my soul, but i can still tell if Luciano Pavarotti hits a flat note.
"i find this in belly dance a lot: 'who is she to critique, she's no better herself.' maybe not, but she might still know what's right and what's wrong and how it shd be done or not done."

Whether or not a writer was Queen of Belly Dance or got booed off her first stage, is irrelevant. What is relevant, is whether or not she knows what she is talking about, has good judgment and taste, and can clearly present her ideas. In fact, one of the best critics of belly dance I know is a man who has never taken a dance lesson in his life, but he has an excellent eye for performance, extensive knowledge about belly dance and the belly dance scene, and can not only tell you whether or not a performance was good, he can tell you why. If he tells you a dancer is worth watching, she's worth watching, but trust me, you don't want to see him in a bedlah!

Dancing and critiquing are different talents, with different skill requirements. Let's not confuse them.

Keep up the good work. Like I've said before, I'd rather read a thoughtful article that I disagree with than gushing pablum.
Carolynn, Los Angeles, CA

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4-8-04 re:Rakkasah West Photo Teaser
Unfortunately I missed Rakkasah entirely this year, but I have seen the Suhaila Dance Company many times. I had to chuckle at the Britney reference; the video made for the song to which it refers features choreography done in the spirit of "belly dance" by *the* most amazing, skilled dancer in ANY format I have ever seen -- Mayte Garcia! It is interesting to me that subliminally or directly, Suhaila choose inspiration from a true Renaissance dancer/performer (which is what seems to be one of the preoccupations of her dance directive.)

Arabia

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4-7-04 re:letters below re: Review of 'Celebrating the 5 Elements' show
Dear GS Editors,
I normally don't write "Letters to the Editor," but I just have to after reading Anthea's letter.

Anthea (a.k.a. Kawakib) has tried to discredit author x's review. Yet Anthea makes no mention in her letter that she was in the very production author x critiqued. So obviously she’s offended and is looking to fire back. I think Anthea has some nerve to question author x's credibility after not being open about her (Anthea’s) association with the show.

There were a lot of people ripping into Janeeda's production, even months later at other seminars. But I know of no one who wants to be identified by name in a publication, probably so they can avoid becoming targets, as one can see has already occurred. There's a price to be paid for telling the truth. Thank goodness (or perhaps Anthea and Janeeda would prefer to thank the goddess) that author x isn't afraid to speak up.

As for the dancer in the black unitard ("What was she supposed to be?"), well...what WAS she supposed to be? It should have been presented in a clearer fashion to the audience. Or is everyone there supposed to ask Janeeda about all the confusing “elements” of the show?

Anthea quotes a book from a Washington Post writer as “proof” that author x’s article was allegedly written badly. Well, I know her and here’s the truth: author x has been published in The Washington Post (1994). Has Anthea?

author x's review was very well written especially compared to other reviews in MED trade publications where most sound like amateur press releases. The article actually has substance. How could anyone say she “gee whizzed” her way through the review? It was quite detailed.

Thank you, Editors, for letting me have my say. I didn’t know if there was anyone else willing to stand up for the author and set the facts straight. And since author x has the courage to use her real name and is not hiding behind some stage name, then I will, too.

I am…

Anna Jacobson

(ed-Now, the author of the orginal articles doesn't want her material on GS and will not tell us why)

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4-7-04 re:Rakkasah West Photo Teaser
I found the negative tone of Kirsten Oliver's letter unfortunate, because it conveniently ignores the straight-out fabulous compliment in the caption from Gilded Serpent about Suhaila's troupe performance being "a beautiful show nonetheless". How much more of an accolade can dancers expect than that? All the world is a stage, and if dancers choose to perform in trendy costumes, they should be able to weather the inevitable comparisons with some grace; hello, the outfits were almost identical to Britney Spears! I've seen lots of trends in costumes over the past 20 years; Gilded Serpent is simply documenting a well-known trend of pop rock stars who perform in pseudo-belly dance attire. It is one of the interesting and note-worthy reasons why belly dancing has regained its current popularity; but let's not criticize the media for reporting it!

Yours in dance,
Nisima

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4-6-04 re:Rakkasah West Photo Teaser
Dear Editor,

I just finished checking out the first photos from Rakkasah West and noticed that the photo of the Suhaila Dance Co. was titled "The Suhaila Club" with an accompanying photo of Britney Spears in a similar outfit. It comes across as rather a catty swipe at the company, which I find pretty juvenile. Three of the women in this photo are my dance teachers and are some of the nicest, friendliest people I know. In the future, please reserve your bitchy comments for actual bitches.

Sincerely,
Kristen Oliver

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3-30-04 re:author x's review of 'Celebrating the 5 Elements' show
Dear Editor:

In regards to author x's review of the show, I just wanted to say that I'm glad someone has the courage to give an honest review & not kiss butt like most reviewers do. Cudos to Gilded Serpent for having the guts to publish the truth.

And, as for Kawakib's letter, a review is based on the reviewer's experience at the event and that person's opinion. I believe author x was being quite fair to all parties, pointing out both the positives AND the negatives of the show. It's too bad Kawakib didn't find the review "helpful," as she put it. I found it quite descriptive (and accurate, as I was there at the show) and certainly a warning to the kind of productions Janeeda puts on for those out there who prefer real Middle Eastern dance to fairies and druids.


Yasmina Bova
Norfolk, VA

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3-24-04 re:author x's review
In re author x's Review of 'Celebrating the 5 Elements' show featuring Morocco & Tarik: it's too bad Ms. Mushung doesn't follow the advice of the Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan
Yardley: "...one of the cardinal rules of reviewing books (or anything else, for that matter) is that one must review the book that the author actually wrote rather than complaining that he or she didn't write the book you wanted to read."*

While "gee whiz-ing" her way through the review ("No kidding. You had to be there to believe it."), Author x admits "the program guide doesn't specifically say that it’s a 'Middle Eastern dance show.' But when you connect it with a Middle Eastern dance seminar and have Middle Eastern dancers play the parts, the connection is obvious even when not stated." Presumably she hasn't been to many seminar shows in the U.S. in the last decade or she would not have been so dumbfounded. Many, if not most, seminar shows include fusion and/or interpretive styles of bellydance, whether the headliners are considered "traditional" Middle Eastern Dance artists or not.

Although It would be interesting to have an overview of what Author x considers "conventional" Middle Eastern Dance, it wouldn't really be pertinent when reviewing a fantasy-themed show featuring interpretive bellydance.

To be fair, she dispenses accolades throughout the piece, which makes me think she may not be as prejudiced as she sounds. Yet if so, why include negative comments from "several participants in the show who did not want to be named", without also presenting the viewpoint of the show's producer, Janeeda?

The biggest piece missing from this puzzle of a review was "why": why wings, "Renaissance garb", hula dancers, Indian headdresses? Understanding "why" is necessary before assessing and critiquing how the individual effects, costumes, and choreographies relate to and support the theme and contribute to the production as a whole. Simply writing, "...and some gal in a black unitard (what was she supposed to be?)" is not helpful in a review.

If she'd taken her questions to Janeeda, she might have gained insight into the artist's visions. Adding these insights to the review could have broadened the reader's understanding of creative bellydancing... and perhaps even inspire someone to dance to the sound wind and water.

* Yardley's review of "The Twentieth Train". The Washington Post. March 21, 2004. Book World, page 2.

Anthea (Kawakib)
Fredericksburg, VA USA

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3-9-04 re:Hindu Extremists Riot at Belly Dance Show by Michelle
Wow! Glad Michelle made it out alive. You can't help but admire her for this one - big congradulations to her for causing a political incident, war chants and all! I'm jealous. We should all be so lucky to have that on our dance resume. And the photos of Michelle happily belly dancing away counterbalanced by the angry protesters and security forces. Priceless...
Qan Tuppim/DeAnna, Boston, MA

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2-20-04 re: American Veil Dancing
Hello,
I just finished your wonderful article on American Veil dancing which touched upon so many different aspects of this dance. I myself am a ballet, modern - ala Graham, Limon etc trained dancer who NEVER thought I would ever belly dance because.......that was never considered serious or real dancing by me or my college class mates, teachers etc.
Since I have been studying this dance - only for 2 1/2 years - so I am a novice - my former - now 48 years former - educated dance head, heart and body have been pushed and pulled in so many directions I'm positively giddy. In so many ways I feel I have landed at home finally - a freedom to dance, not choregraphed with complete abandon and to wear just about any wild costume I can create (except that I am a mother of 3 teens who don't really approve) - and then also conflicted - because I haven't traveled over THERE to those exotic lands to absorb the heart beat of the land where this dance came from......... but I am a dance child of Isadora, Pavlova, St Denis and Graham - the mothers of the beauootiful dance legacy in our country....... so maybe I don't have to go over THERE to find my Beauootiful Interpretive Belly Dance ( which is what I am calling my version of this dance now) voice because my dance mother's brought it over so long ago.
Some people say that if I don't play zills with proficiency I have no right to perform or teach this dance and every fiber in my educated body screams in revolt against that point of view. I wasn't taught to dance with props or move in circles and in isolations. I was taught to move through expansive space and to tell stories with my full body extended.
I found your article tonight because I was researching sword dancing. I am very slowly experimenting with this idea of props. Veils are a natural of course - the grace, beauty, fluidity and extension of your body of them - all the lovely turning. I was brought up with many sword stories and thought maybe I have one of my own in me. I was trying to see if there were sword dances performed by women that use space instead of balance as the main theme. Then I found this article which just split my head wide open.
Part of what I love about this dance is that this particular group of women dancers love to cavech - to share, to show themselves in their glory - almost nothing is a secret - everything is common knolwledge for the asking or the taking - this is wonderful quality - and I think - quite Un American - we Americans like to be more proper and pretend that we are always being good.
All for now. Thanks for your article. You are a wonderful writer
Blessings from Barbara
www.thedancingspirit.com

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2-17-04 re:When Comparing & Contrasting by Shira
Dear Editor,

Shira's article was to the point. May I add that one person's thoughtful critique is another's scathing criticism. Some of us need to grow a thicker skin and not take every comment so personally. When some one responds to a comment with fury, I wonder who she is trying to convince, me or herself.

Regards,
Joya

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2-14-04 re:When Comparing & Contrasting by Shira
Dear Editor,
Thanks for the great job you do! I really enjoy browsing the Gilded Serpent, there is always something of interest to read or photos to look at. Regarding Shira's article, I appreciate her plea for civility and logic. It's much more professional and better for the art as a whole if our dialogues are at a higher level than, say the Jerry Springer show. And, of course, our dialogues are. I think for the most part our on-line communities and our real life communities are pretty supportive. There are always negative people and I think some of the negativity that dancers have toward other dancers stems from their own insecurity. Jealousy motivates many a mean-spirited criticism, even when the person making the comment is unaware of her/his own motivation. Easier to put down someone who threatens one's own position by being different, getting a better gig, getting more attention, or whatever. People, being human, sometimes speak before they think.
.....edited for length...
But I have noticed something that I'm curious about. "Belly dance" festivals are usually open to all styles and genres of performance, but "Tribal" festivals are not. They are for "Tribal" styles only. I guess that means a circle with a slash through it over the words Cabaret or Egyptian? Tribal fusions of every sort are acceptable, some fairly ludicrous, as long as the dancers are wearing cowrie shells and afghani jewelry? Don't try this in chiffon or beads? I'm just asking. Is it because Tribal was a minority style for a long time and needed to create its own venues? Or is it a marketing decision? Is exclusivity the "dark shadow side" of tribalism? If you're in the tribe, you are accepted, if you're not, then you're an outsider. Or is it something else? Inquiring minds would like to know.

I have heard Tribal dancers accuse "cabaret" dancers of being unfriendly, and I have heard "cabaret" dancers say the same thing about Tribal dancers. I'm sure there are some people in any group who are unfriendly, insecure, jealous, or threatened. Of course they don't represent an entire genre. There are MORE people in each camp who ARE open minded and courteous, and dedicated to their dance. The limitations of a style are what define the style. ...Raks sharqi doesn't usually involve a male dancer lifting a female dancer above his head as she does the splits upside down. Ballet dancers don't utilize the posture, hipwork and torso articulations of raks sharqi. Similarly, the limits of a particular style create a framework within which the dancer's creativity can flourish. It is good to understand what one is doing and what style one is emulating. But I agree with Shira--we need to accept the differences between styles and appreciate them and not denigrate the people who dance in styles we don't prefer.
Belly blessings to all,
Dunyah
http://americanistan.com

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2-12-04
I have a general question I'd like to throw out for anyone who might care to enlighten me. Is the way in which belly dance is being featured publicly going downhill nationwide, or is this a unique problem to the Atlanta area?

We used to have live bands with regular gigs at restaurants. Admittedly, they weren't exactly prevalent in this area, but every so often a new Greek place would open and start out with live music, at least! Nowadays, the restaurants that feature the dance only provide a c.d. player and often expect the dancer to queue up the music herself. There are never any introductions, and often the proprietor doesn't even know the dancer's name! Consequently, the music and (sometimes) zills start, and the customers find themselves looking around to find out what all the racket is about. The shows are about five to ten minutes long at most, barely giving the dancer enough time to get warmed up, let alone build a rapport with the audience. It seems that all the proprietors want the dancers to do is shimmy between the tables and flirt with the customers, as there certainly isn't any room provided for them to do much else! Then there are the places that send several dancers out on to the floor at the same time, as if it's some sort of costume show. To me, this all demonstrates a complete lack of respect for the dance. For over forty years now we've been trying to gain the respect of employers, the western dance community and the general public, and it seems we are going backwards instead of forwards.

I am semi retired anyway, but find I don't even have the desire to dance anymore under those circumstances. What happened to clubs with audiences that excitedly awaited the introduction of the featured dancer to a stage or performance area, where they expected to see a complete twenty or thirty minute show and a dancer who could fully demonstrate her skills? The way things are now, she doesn't need to know much more than how to shimmy walk and chat to the clientele, perhaps with a sword or fire on her head in order to glean some sort of "wow" factor to what would otherwise be an excrutiatingly boring show!

Vilia, Atlanta

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2-12-04 re:When Comparing & Contrasting by Shira
Excellent article by Shira "When Comparing and Contrasting". These issues needed a voice in a widely read belly dance publication. We are aware of the the tribal vs. cabaret, the stereotypes of both, and other things mentioned in the article, but it's rarely addressed. Thanks to Shira and Gilded Serpent for a brave and enlightened article.

Ireena Volovik

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2-12-04 re:When Comparing & Contrasting by Shira
Brava! Brava! Brava! to Shira for her article about not judging a style on the merits of individual performances. Before you say you don't like a style, make sure that what you don't like is actually attributable to the style. You can justifiably conclude you don't like ATS if, for example, you just (for whatever reason) hate its flamenco-influenced posture of ATS, but no fair blaming the style because a group of half-trained no-talents bored you to tears. You can justifiably conclude you don't like cabaret if, for example, you just (for whatever reason) are allergic to sequins, but no fair blaming the style because a nitwit shook her breasts in someone's face. And super Brava for asking people to define their preferences by what they like, as opposed to what they dislike. If you prefer one style of belly dance/Middle Eastern dance just because you dislike all the other styles, perhaps you shouldn't be in belly dance/Middle Eastern dance at all.

Carolynn

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2-10-04 re:Kalifa's Big Comeback by Kalifa
I've only been dancing about seven years, professionally for four, and the choreography vs. improv issue is something I think about a great deal. When I perform in a festival/recital/revue situation I usually follow some kind of choreography unless I'm doing something very ethnic/regional. In a party or restraint setting choreography often goes out the window due to audience participation/reaction. That's one of the fun things about ME dance for me: you never know what's going to happen!

I think my only real problem with choreography is when it looks too much like...choreography. If the dancer has a look of fixed concentration, or you can almost see her counting to herself, or if she's just doing A, B, C, etc. with no real interpretation of the music. One dead giveaway is when the dancer is just a tad off the music: a beat (or fraction thereof) ahead or behind with her phrasing.

This dance form evolved from improvisational dance, and it's at its best when it at least gives the impression of spontaneity.

Improv away!
Nabila

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2-2-04 re:Jillina’s DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley Muzzy
To whom this may concern,
Shelley Muzzy's review of Jillina's instructional DVD's is contrary to popular belief. Myself and dancers around the world believe that Jillina's DVD box set exhibits everything of what a professional belly dancer should aspire to be. With all thanks to Jillina's belly dancing, style, personality, and knowledge of the modern Egyptian style dance, our audiences are growing into the commerical world and opporunties for belly dancers are better and greater then what they have ever been. I believe it is only fair to say that due to all of Jillina's efforts, belly dancing is now becoming a house hold name.
Best regards,
Dancerizzo/Rosanna

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1-30-04 re:"Where's The Hook When We Need It?"
To the editor:
I'd like to chime in here and respond to Bobbie' s article "Where's the Hook When We Need It" . There's no need to reiterate the benefits of auditioning dancers (of all levels) IN COSTUME for a show and Ms. G. does a fine job of listing the downside of not doing so.

I'm sure there are many involved in this dance, from producers, vendors, students, general members of the audience, instructors and professional dancers who second this idea. Not to mention those members of the public who've been subjected to poor quality and now have a permanently negative impression. The upside could never be overstated. And some of us complain that we aren't viewed as a legitimate form of dance by others such as jazz, modern and ballet dancers? Duh!. You go, Bobbie.

More from Feiruz re: Gilded Serpent Post Card Calendar
I'm writing to complement the artist on the composition of the post card photo I received with the 2004 calendar months on the front. Whoever set it up to appear that the dancer in the middle doing the back bend had those characters in the background and the woman on her right sitting on the ground as tho she is looking into the upside down dancer's eyes-as her audience- is very clever and artistic.

Yours is the only website I read, altho I have lots of choices. Keep up the great work. I know it's labor intensive and I thank you.
Sincerely,
Feiruz Aram
dancer, instructor in SoCal
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1-23-04 re: Jamie Miller/ Sabah , interview with Jamie
I just went looking on the web for Jamie, since I was unable to reach her at her old number. I wanted to invite her to my 60th birthday party. We had known each other since around 1970, but were in infrequent contact. Needless to say I was quite shocked to get the news. Thank you for writing and posting the article about her. I'm sure I'm not the only person who appreciates your having done that.

Fanny

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1-20-04 re:Understanding Middle Eastern Rhythm by Frank Lazzaro
This is an excellent starter article for understanding rhythms. I loved what the writer stated, that a dancer can learn to play better zills after learning Middle Eastern rhythms. That is what happened to me.
Thanks, Rebecca

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1-20-04 re:Getting Shagged on Virgin Atlantic by Kayla Summers
Thanks for the "Heads Up." We think because we speak English that our minds are alike, but the British don't believe in democracy, really. When I was studying Arabic at the University of Jordan, a guard refused to let a friend and I park near our classroom. He was, however, letting all of the men park nearby. We women had to park from afar and walk the way in the dark. A Brit in our classroom said, "Nobody ever promised that life would be fair." I told him that with his attitude that it never would be, would it? One of the women was almost raped because her pursuer knew there were no men around.

Kayla should have asked them if they were the same chuckleheads who allowed the Brit with the bomb in his tap shoes to board a flight to her country.

There are British Consulates at major cities in America and she could have obtained a visa from the one in San Francisco. If you are staying for more than a day, it's an assurance. The other assurance is dressing like a person of substance while you travel. Speak clearly and look directly at the immigration control people with a polite/surly attitude...like your elementary school principal. Always say "Hello", and if you say "How are you?", it can improve many bumps along the road.

Before things get out of hand, say, "You know, I have been looking forward to visiting your country for some time. My mother has always loved England and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit with my friends and see the countryside. If there's a problem, let's see if we can resolve it."

I am really sorry that her hard earned trip was ruined. I hope she never has this experience again, but now that we know where the trouble lies, perhaps we can all fly elsewhere.

Kathe Alkoudsi
Cartouche

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1-17-04 re:North Valley Belly Dance Competition, photos and layout by Susie
Dear Susie & Gilded Serpent Editors,
I wanted to thank you so much for posting pictures of the North Valley Belly Dance Competition. How nice of you to put pictures of all dancers. I enjoyed seeing everyone who was there again and it was really thrilling to find my picture on your web site. Thank you.
Cheers,
Malika

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1-13-04 re: Jillina’s DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley Muzzy
In response to the following comment:
"...she spent interminable minutes looking down at her mid section as if she was in awe of what her body was doing. Who told dancers that this is attractive, educational or necessary?"

Egyptian dancer Fifi Abdo often spends entire songs looking down at her waist as she shimmies. It suffices to watch nearly any of her performance videos to see this. As for why this happens, it might help the dancer focus on what she is doing, but it also serves to draw the audience's gaze to that part of the body.

Regards,
Cat

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1-12-04
I really like your site, and I like how you've taken a photo to make the designs along the sides :-) It's nice to see the ads along the side. If I want to read them I can, and if not, they aren't in my way of reading an article! Thanks, I'm still exploring what you have to offer :-) Sahirrnee

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1-8-04 re: Dancing Inside Out By Najia El-Mouzayen
Dear Najia,
I very much enjoyed your insightful and quietly humorous essay, Dancing Inside Out, in the current Gilded Serpent. Thought-provoking and well-written.

Sincerely,
Monique Monet

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1-7-04 re:Luna Gitana 2003 photos and layout by Susie
Lynette,
Thank you so much for your support -- I really appreciate that you photograph so many of our community events. You provide a wonderful service to us....

Vashti

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1-7-04
Hello there,
I ran across your site while looking for information on belly dance, and loved it. SO much fun. I was also pleasantly surprised that you had links to some belly dance sites. I have my own site on belly dance. If you get a chance please come visit me. I hope you have as much fun visiting me as I did visiting you.

Thanks again, and keep up the great work!
Michelle Morrison
http://www.farfesha.com

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1-1-04 re:Volunteer opportunities
Hi there,
First i want to say how much i love the gilded serpent, and have been keeping an eye on it for many years!
Well, just today i was reading it again and saw 'volunteer' and i thought 'hey, why not?!'.
I'm always out on the web looking at bellydance sites...heck, i usually find them before they get a chance to really start up!! :0)
Let me know if i can be of any service! I'd love to help you Ladies out!
Nila
www.gipsy.ca
North Vancouver, BC
Canada

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1-8-04 re: God Belly Danced, part 1, 2, & 3
Wow, her articles are so inspiring. She has helped answer some serious questions I had about Middle Eastern Dance (bellydance) and how it affects me as a Christian, especially from the Pentecostal standpoint as I believe much the same way, more along the lines of non-denominational, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I found bellydancing about a year ago... I loved it. I have a long way to go in getting the moves down, but I seemed to take to it like a duck to water. I read some things on the origins of it, and I became concerned that maybe, as a Christian, I was doing something that I shouldn't. I didn't feel it was "dirty", just that I was concerned with what I had read, that it had probably originated as a fertility rite, etc. I wasn't sure how God would view me doing that, even just for exercise.

I have since come to feel that it is probably okay, but there are still a lot of questions I have. Like, I have still wondered what place, if any, bellydancing may have had among the Hebrews in Biblical times.

Then tonight, I found these articles...they are the first of its kind I have ever read. I read parts one and two (more like devoured them) and I have been looking for part III but can't seem to find it... :o( [ God Belly Danced, part 3]

I don't know if she has thought of this, but I bet she could write a fascinating book on this subject. I know I would surely buy it. I was very impressed with her knowledge of the Bible, the languages... she seems to know her stuff. I feel maybe this is some of the information
that I have been looking for.

Thank you for posting these articles on the internet, and please give her my thanks for the wonderful writing she has done.

Cordially, Amy

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1-8-04 re:A New Year's Dance by Najia
Hi Najia,
I love the poem -- beautiful, strong images, spiritual and humorous. I printed it out; [my husband] read it and thought it very good. Keep it up -- you have a talent for language and images. [.....personal comments edited out....]
Love,
Mae Meidav, Instructor
Brookside Writer's Workshop, Berkeley

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1-5-04 re:Aisha Ali &The Birth of the Ghawazee by Sadira or
Khairiyya Mazin Struggles to Preserve Authentic Ghawazi Dance Tradition
by Edwina Nearing

Hi:
I was once a student of Sadira. I love dance but pressures of the rest of life have held me out of dance for the past 7 years. Tonight I start my first class in 7 years! I have studied here in Santa Cruz area with Helene and am joining her class tonight. I asked what she was working on and she said Ghawazee. Being so long since I've participated in dance, I went online to do some brush up on Ghawazee style. Much to my surprise, I came upon your website and writings from my teacher and dear friend, Sadira. I want to say hello and wish her (and all of you!) a wonderful 2004!

Deborah Moreno

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12-31-03 re:Dancing Inside Out by Najia El-Mouzayen
I agree with the general tone of Dancing from the Inside Out. However, American audiences don't seem to want to watch a dance as much as be 'wowed' by a spectacle for entertainment. Have you noticed how more and more movies, even supposed children's movies such as Harry Potter have taken on a much more frantic pace than even a few years ago? Is this a reflection of our time-starved lives? Frenetic action in entertainment tends to crowd out subtlety and nuance - it requires less attention and less perception on the part of the audience. A more sensual dance requires a more relaxed, attentive, perceptive audience to appreciate it. I am all for the effort, but it will take a re-education over a very long term.

Loraine Beyer
Birmingham, AL

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12-29-03 re:Dancing Inside Out by Najia El-Mouzayen
Dear Lynette,

I just read Najia's article and while I agree wholeheartedly that dancers should "dance from the inside out", with emotion and not just a "smile pasted on their face" in overblown costumes, I don't agree with her view that we have somehow lost the "sensual soft dancing" because of "harsh, obvious hip shimmies". Precise hip shimmies are all over the Middle East, one only has to observe someone, ANYONE, even a child of four from the Middle East dance and you'll see exactly these precise hip shimmies lacking in traditional Western dance forms. Not that this is "news", but let's face it, fundamentally, we Westerners HAVE to sweat to "get it" and believe me, when I was a baby belly dancer, there was lots of sweat involved in order to master those isolated movements! Those classes were total "workouts", one of the best and dedicated teachers I experienced told us, "get the technique first and develop your stage presence later; because without good technique you have nothing". She was right!

However, having said all that, I do appreciate Najia's view that we shouldn't loose the "soft sensual" side of Orientale Dance; and yes, there are dancers who are "frenetic" but this just speaks to their dance training which apparently was incomplete! But, dancers need to master those isolations first, and then incorporate the "soft sensual" movements or risk mushing around the dance floor like an exotic version of some sort of modern dancer.

I confess, I too, have "fallen in love" with much (not all) of the "new" Middle Eastern music mixes and the reason is I appreciate the way the music has evolved from the old "club classics" into fresher, vibrant pieces; they are fun to dance to and even more exciting to choreograph. And I also believe that students need to be exposed to the old classic Middle Eastern pieces as well as the new. But, dancers, please take responsibility for researching and then choosing good music, old or new, because it is the foundation for your dancing; as Najia says, don't let your "costume" dance around the stage for you! It is, first and foremost, all about the music.

So, the word here from Nisima, an "oldie but goodie" for sure, is this: dancers, train hard to learn all those, isolated moves first, because without very precise technique, you won't be performing Danse Orientale! And, be very selective about your music from the beginning, train to the very best of the old and new Middle Eastern music you can get your zills into.

Then, you can dance from the "inside out" when you have something to show your audience that you've put your heart into!

Yours in dance,

Nisima

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12-24-03 re:Dancing Inside Out by Najia El-Mouzayen
I just wanted to send a short note to thank Najia for putting into words
something I have been trying to express for years, and feel I have come
close to losing. Najia, thank you!!!

--Aisha Aladeen

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12-19-02 re:Jillina’s DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela
Gilded Serpent...
Glad to see genuine reviews with varying viewpoints and someone who is not afraid to say what they think. I'd love to have the reviewer of Jillina's DVD's and Anaheed's Classic Floorwork take a look a my video, "Turns and Spins" and write it up.

Keep up the good work.
Marguerite, www.gypsymagic.com

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12-19-03 re:letter below about Satrinya's articles,
"Reflections on North Beach" by Satrinya Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
I found the vituperative tone of that "opinion" letter far more offensive than anything in the article &, having been around in this biz before, during & after what Satrinya writes about & knowing/ having dealt with almost all the principals, from what I saw/ heard & experienced when I was teaching seminars & performing in S.F., I can attest that the basic facts of what she wrote are correct, though the degree of interpretation is hers *&* she has a total right to it, having been there & seen it up closer & more personally than I did.

While I'm glad that the letter writer found Aida to be a good & loyal friend, my experiences with her, even when I helped her get gigs & a seminar here on the E. Coast were totally the opposite. (Putting on my bulletproof vest & knickers as I type this)

Morocco

Luv,
Me

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12-6-04 re:Egypta, a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance performed by The Silk Road Dance Company
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington D.C. report by Pen Katali, M.L.S.

Dear Lynette,
Just wanted to thank you for the beautiful job you did with the Egypta review. We have been getting wonderful responses to the piece. People really have a sense of what the concert was like.

Laurel

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11-19-03 (ed-sorry for the delay!) re:Raks Assaya Instruction at Najia’s Studio

I LOVED the little photo demo with the young lady. There are some people who don't believe that children shouldn't be involved in the belly dance world. PSHAWWWW! Your little model was delightful.!

Alberta N. Wright

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11-19-03 (ed-sorry for the delay!) re:When Pop Culture Meets Belly Dancing; Here we go again!by Shira
Great article by Shira ("When Pop Culture Meets Belly Dancing; Here we go again!). Thanks so much, Shira, for the enlightening commentary. I always enjoy your balanced perspectives-

Maya Hallmark, Las Vegas

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12-8-03 2nd Annual San Leandro Festival photos and layout by Lynette
I wanted to write in support of the Gilded Serpent for the beautiful photos of Parri's sword dance at Festival Fantasia. I agree with Ellen that they really capture the emotional effect of the dance, and are not at all unflattering. More's the pity that she cannot se her own beauty, and would actually call into question the intentions of Gilded Serpent, which has always been a well balanced online publication with only the best of intentions as far as I have experienced.

That said, however, I do feel that it is the resposibility of Gilded Serpent to be respectful of those who are represented on this site. If a dancer should feel strongly enough to request that a photo be removed,
I should think it would be a small thing for the editors to take it down at their request. Why upset them further by keeping it up? Why is it so important that it remain posted, when the dancer in question is so obviously upset about it? This is actually the second time I am aware of that a dancer has requested their photo (which was put up without their permission) be removed from the website and the editors have refused to do so. This is a practice I don't understand and hope changes in the future.

Thanks for giving us a forum to share our thoughts,
Sharon Moore
Mandala Tribal

(ed response to come regarding the 1st amendment, censorship of the press, etc)

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12-8-03 When Pop Culture Meets Belly Dancing by Shira
In a response to your article I submit the following:
I have a difficult time buying into the sincerity of your argument. You seem to create the existence of two different worlds: one where the purists perform art and one where commercialism reigns supreme.

The reason your sincerity falls short is because of banner ads on your website promoting "artists" I am sure who would love to align themselves with the purists.

Let's take Jillina for example. I have attended many of her performances at various locations in S. California. She and each of her performers meet the exact description you stated of being "commercially thin," and her performers are almost all under the age of 25.

My personal opinion is that if I were trying to promote the classical side of Middle Eastern dance, I wouldn't employ a stunning blonde with ripped abs. It leans more to the commercial sale of a supposed art form.

Jillina and her group perform in various restaurants and ceremonies. Although her costuming has the flavor of authenticity, it wreaks of sensual pleasure over art. Where in authentic Middle Eastern dance do you find multi-colored spandex body suits?

I am just trying to say that if you are really trying to promote the healthy cultural dances of the past by implying that present commercialism is destroying its cultural authenticity, the performers in the recognized upper echelons of this popular dance form need to adhere to authenticity and not to salacious packaging. And, those who cry for the former shouldn't promote the latter. Just my opinion.

Anthony McClure
Glendale, CA

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Older Letters  

Archives Pg 17- January through December 2007!
What's in a name, self acceptance, Men in Belly dance, Yasmina's new column, MECDA Ellections, Tajikistan, AWS fest, Arabic Idioms, Professional Presence, Suhaila in Phoenix, Music recording, Vegas IBDC, Egyptian Code, Jodette, Journey to Womanhood, New York Dance Scene, Amy Sigil, Tito Seif, Arab Defamation, Gothla, Neon's Keeping your mouth shut, Valizan Ozgen, Toronto IBCC, Burlesque, DVD purchasing, God Bellydanced, North Beach Memories, Princess Farhana fan article, Cabaret to DJ by Nina, Raqia Hassan, Serpentessa, Cover-ups, Criticism, John Bilezikjian, Certificaation, BDSS, East too West?, Vendor's View, Lynn Zalot & Habibi,

Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007
Tatseena's Belly Bully piece, Amina's writing, IBCC coverage, Review on Tirbal DVD's, Barbary Coast and Bellyqueen, Cover-ups, Non-Profits, lifting the Veil by Yasmina,
Mona Said's letter, Music Copyrights, Ethics of Fusion, Egyptians being too Western?

Archives Pg 15- December 2006 through June 2007
Interview with Nakish, Sashi-kabob, How to charge what yo'ure worth,Tribute to Rhonda, Marliza Pons, Party booking, George Elias, "I dance you follow". Ethics of Fusion
Archives Pg 14- June 2006 through December 2006
Ethics of Fusion, Queen of the Bay, Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Greek Flavor, What ME Audiences Expect , Taxsim, Gothic Dance, Gyspy Dance, Sashi Kabob, Wierd Rituals

Archives Pg 13- November 2005 through May 2006
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Sashi's piercings, Sex shows on Rakkasah Fest stage, God Bellydanced, Sima Bina, Devi Ja's passing, Jamie Miller's Passing, BDSS reviews and Mile's reponse, Michelle and Sandra's Adventures, Turkish Baths, Muslim Cartoons, Working together, Review of Shareen El Safy's DVD, Spokane's Festival Coverage, Articles by Keti, Michael Baxter, Zar article and racism, WHEW!

Archives Pg 12- May 2005 up through October 2005
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Competing Cairo Fests, Israel Fest, Untaught Teacher

Archives Pg 11- December 2004 up through April 2005
Copeland, BDSS film and auditions, GS kicked out of Rakkasah, Zaheea's dancing for the blind, Christian dancer, the THONG, Luxor club review, Miles vs Horacio

Archives Pg 10- May 2004 through November 2004
Mena in Iraq, AWSF, Desert Dance Festival 2004, Biblical Accounts of Bellydance in Ancient Near East, Bellydance in Israel, Festival of the Nile review, Suhaila’s Sheherezade review

 

Archives Pg 9- December 2003 Through April 2004 you are here
Myopic view of BD by Sadira, Belly Bus, Queen of Dance Contest, Rakkasah West photo teaser, Comparing and Contrasting, Jillina DVD review, Dancing inside out

Archives Pg 8- May 2003 - November 2003
San Leandro Fest photos, Reflections on North Beach, BD and healing from sexual trauma, Dina in Dallas, Searching for your new dance teacher, BDY pageant

Archives Pg 7- October 2002 - April 2003
Najia’s Real Critic article, Back in the Holy Land, Glass dancing, Casbah and Bagdad Club, Reflections on North Beach

Archives Pg 6- March 2002 to September 2002
Vendors, Dance certification, BD and strippers, Jamila Al Wahid video review

Archives Pg 5- March 2001 - March 2002
My uncle Yousef, BDY pagent 2001, Dancer attitudes - BD gossip and back biting

Archives Pg 4- November 2000 - March 2001
Criticizing and reviewing events, “Where’s the hook when we need it?” Desert Dance Festival review

Archives Pg 3- March 2000 - October 2000
Entertainment or art? Sicilian bellydancers, Rhea, Review of Giza Academy Awards

Archives Pg 2- November 1999 - Febuary 2000
Living Goddess review, Fred Glick travel, Fanana of Bellydance

Archives Pg 1- Febuary 1999- September 1999
Shira’s advice to “Offended”, North Beach memory, George Elias & Bagdad Cafe

 

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