cover teaser photo for Orit's report on BD in Israel
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.
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.
Van Nuys, CA
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
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...
War-Fair by Alexandria
Alexandria does it again! "Class War-Fair?" is a riot, and
oh so true! Sad, isn't it?
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.
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.
of Santa Cruz
Significance of Jillina by Arabia
Jillina is a LEGEND! The greatest bellydancer in the world today,,
I love her
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
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.
Luise of the phoenix
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.
[Ventura, CA ?-ed]
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."
Luise of the Phoenix
Asfoor al Noor
Luise Perenne BFA
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
4-14-04 re: Queen
of Dance by Najia
Maybe you should give your columnist Najia a weekly "Whine"
and Art Korner.
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.
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!
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...
4-12-04 re:Queen of Dance
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.
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:
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
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
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.)
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
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?
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).
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
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.
the author of the orginal articles doesn't want her material on GS
and will not tell us why)
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,
West Photo Teaser
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.
x's review of 'Celebrating the 5
In regards to
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
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
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
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.
Fredericksburg, VA USA
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
Qan Tuppim/DeAnna, Boston,
2-20-04 re: American
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
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
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
2-17-04 re:When Comparing
& Contrasting by Shira
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
Comparing & Contrasting by Shira
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,
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!
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.
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.
2-10-04 re:Kalifa's Big Comeback
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.
DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley
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.
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.
dancer, instructor in SoCal
1-23-04 re: Jamie
Miller/ Sabah , interview with
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.
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
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
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.
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.
1-13-04 re: Jillina’s
DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley
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?"
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.
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
1-8-04 re: Dancing
Inside Out By Najia El-Mouzayen
I very much enjoyed your insightful and quietly humorous essay, Dancing
Inside Out, in the current Gilded Serpent. Thought-provoking and well-written.
Gitana 2003 photos and layout by Susie
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....
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.
and keep up the great work!
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
North Vancouver, BC
1-8-04 re: God
Belly Danced, part 1,
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.
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.
New Year's Dance by 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....]
Mae Meidav, Instructor
Brookside Writer's Workshop, Berkeley
Ali &The Birth of the Ghawazee by Sadira or
Struggles to Preserve Authentic Ghawazi Dance Tradition
by Edwina Nearing
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!
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.
Inside Out by Najia El-Mouzayen
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
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,
Inside Out by Najia El-Mouzayen
I just wanted to send a short note to thank Najia for putting into
something I have been trying to express for years, and feel I have
close to losing. Najia, thank you!!!
DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela
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.
below about Satrinya's articles,
"Reflections on North Beach" by Satrinya Part
1, Part 2,
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)
a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance performed by The Silk Road
Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington D.C. report by Pen Katali,
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.
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
(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
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,
to come regarding the 1st amendment, censorship of the press, etc)
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
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.