Gilded Serpent presents...
Heather- moderator, Monica Berini, Shira,
Barbara Bolan, Amina Goodyear, Debbie Lammam
at Carnivals of Stars Festival
Initiating Dance Dialogue:
held on Nov 14, '04
Transcribed from video by Andrea
First, let me introduce Heather; then she'll introduce everybody
else. Heather started belly dancing three years ago to "try
to fix the damage that ballet did to my body," she says.
"It is so nice to finally be in a dance form where my hips
are an asset! The luck of the draw found me taking classes with
was in need of a new ghawazee dancer, and I seem to fit the mold.
Luckily, I also managed to learn the dance. With Alexandria, I
learned the beauty and styling of classical Egyptian cabaret and
folk dancing. I'm also her apprentice costume designer. I dabbled
in college for years pursuing a degree in English literature.
Upon realizing that "said degree" would get me a manager position
at Wal-Mart, I turned to my other passion and became a hairsylist.
As a former nightclub bouncer and a biker chick, I feel like I
am more than ready for the rough and tumble world of belly dance
debate." Here's Heather.
[H]: Thank you everyone for coming out, vending, shopping,
and enjoying. I'm going to start by introducing Amina.
Amina Goodyear has been a fixture in the belly dance scene, dancing
in clubs and troupes since 1966. She's been known for her troupe
The Aswan Dancers, the nightclub Tropigala, the much coveted
Giza Video Awards,
and of course, the incredible
Giza Club where we have all learned a lot. Thank you Amina.
[S] has been belly dancing for over 20 years. She
studied other forms of ethnic dance such as Eastern European,
Scottish Highland, and many others. She's the creator of Shira.net,
which is the leading online resource for the belly dance community
for over seven years. I'm sure all of us have visited Shira.net
and learned quite a bit. She has recently relocated to Iowa and
came all the way out here just to be part of this panel. Thank
Bolan [B] is our next guest, also a traveler to
come to our festival. She's the marketer for Miles
Copeland's Belly Dance Superstars. Barbara has 25 years
of experience in the music business, from punk rock, alternative
rock, just plain rock and roll, and the blues. She's worked with
Tina Turner, REM, Blondie,
Lenny Kravitz, Yanni, and Motley
Crue. Rock on, Barbara!
Our next guest
[D], who has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Currently she's
the program director of the Dance Mission Theatre in San Francisco,
working with dancers from all over the Bay Areas dance communities.
She' a recent resident from Texas who moved here three years ago
and has become very involved in the San Francisco Bay Area community.
Berini [M] is our last (but definitely not least)
guest here. She's currently a performing professional dancer who
spent the summer in Cairo improving her Arabic and learning new
techniques. She's an award-winning dancer in a troupe that unfortunately
has recently disbanded, but that does not lessen its beauty and
award winning at all. She is a teacher in San Francisco and has
been teaching since 2002. Monica has been dancing and studying
Middle Eastern dance since 1991. Thank you, Monica.
main topic for this panel is the future of belly dance. Obviously
there are many aspects of this future. We're going to start off
with a question about music.
trends in the music are currently influencing the belly dance
world, both movement and changes?
you have a comment you'd like to make about this?
Let's see. OK. good, my microphone is working. The thing that
I've noticed about music is that we're seeing an increasing amount
of pop music based on Arabic themes, and also, partly pop music
coming out of the Arab countries, like Amr Diab,
Shereen, Nancy Ajram. We're
also seeing pop music in the U.S.
drawing on Arabic beats, like music by Natacha Atlas
and Shakira. As that music, the pop music, becomes
more popular in the clubs in Cairo, I'm seeing an increasing use
of the pop music and a decrease in the use of the old classics
from 40 years ago. So I see a trend in that direction where the
music is shaping the dance that's being used.
Monica is a recent visitor to Cairo. What did you see and hear
performed over there?
Definitely pop music! I would agree with Shira on that. Probably
the biggest pop singer or pop singers in Cairo this summer were
Nancy Agram or Ajram. Amr
Diab is hanging on definitely. People love his music,
and he affects the fashion of young men in Cairo. Definitely,
whatever he wears on his latest album cover is in; men had blond
tips in their hair like he did on his last album cover. I was
probably most excited by a singer named Marwa.
She is pretty interesting.
In her video, she does a lot of dancing, and she covers the really
old songs. Probably the most popular one was "Ama Naima"
which I'm 99% sure was a song that the Reda Troupe used
to use. She dances in her videos and has folkloric dancing behind
her. She's singing and crossing music and dance. I was probably
most excited by Marwa. I haven't seen her too much over here,
even though she's big over there. However, definitely the pop
music thing is big. Shaabi is really big. I think
over here it seems like Arabic lounge music is this new trend.
I don't know what that's going to mean for dancing or interpreting
music because it's got a long mellow groove. So how that's going
to affect music interpretation? We'll see, but that seems to be
a very popular sub genre that's coming up.
You know, hopefully, the Copeland group of companies will
be instrumental in bringing some of this wonderful music that
you both have mentioned, that you've heard and seen overseas,
have a label "Mondo Melodia" which has been around for
a few years. It's our world music label, and we've released a
number of wonderful Middle Eastern artists including the Egyptian
"Lion of Egypt"
Hakim, as we call him. but we also have just
recently made a deal with EMI. EMI has a vast vast catalogue of
music overseas, and in particular the Middle Eastern area that
hasn't been exploited here in the United States,
or brought over here I should say. So we just made a deal with
them and after the first of the year, we will be releasing records
by some of these wonderful pop Middle Eastern artists through
a label that we call IRS World. It's the rebirth of IRS records-only
this time, it has a world perspective.
anyone else have anything to say on this subject?
I also noticed that there's a trend, besides the pop music, which
is really true, that there are a lot more remixes of some of the
old traditional songs. So, at least, they're not getting put in
the past; they're just coming back in a different way. Also, I've
noticed that there are a lot more introduction to oriental dance
songs being composed, which is kind of nice. Some of them may
sound more western because that's where the trend is going, but
at least they're out there--new songs!
just wanted to contribute a little anecdote. This summer I met
she was the principal dancer in the Reda Troupe for many years.
I met her in a workshop here, and we were talking about music.
She was actually lamenting the fact that dancers... Now that
pop music has become so popular, the driving beat of the pop music
has driven the movements to become more and more percussive, and
like a train that just goes on and on. She said "I'm very
sad because the dancers have lost the ability to follow a subtle
melodic line like the they used to, and they just don't use that
kind of complex music." So I thought it was very interesting that
someone who has actually observed dance in Cairo for decades and
decades....she was was expressing the hope to me that dancers
would go back to some of the older and heavily melodic music that
doesn't have drum tracks to be able to interpret those subtle
melodic lines. I actually like pop as well as the classic stuff,
but I just thought that was interesting coming from Farida.
like pop too, but I, personally, am on a mission to keep the old
questions can be written on a card at the Gilded Serpent table
and thank you. Thank you, all.
have you noticed pop culture (kind of) being infiltrated by
bellydance? Is it just my imagination, or in the last five years,
has it really started to come to the forefront?
I know you have been dancing since the '60s when it was also popular.
What have you seen recently with that is infiltrating pop culture?
[Shrugs, laughs, and tries to defer to her neighbor.]
the audience] You are pop culture!
know you've been watching the trends. I know you've seen this.
Your house is full of it!
[Amina laughs and shakes her head]
OK. Well, maybe Barbara would like to tell us how she got into
Belly dance, since she's obviously coming from a pop culture world.
How did it infiltrate your life?
Well, actually it infiltrated via Miles Copeland. I've been working
with Miles Copeland for quite some time. I was with his seminal
punk rock label called IRS records, and I worked there for 14
years from 1981 through the middle of 1995 before I went on to
Virgin Records and a few other places. Miles is an interesting,
enigmatic impresario, and he has always been at the cutting edge
of whatever it is that he's been about and doing. I think it's
important to let folks know too, in case you don't know, that
he comes by his interest in Middle Eastern music quite honestly.
Miles was raised in the Middle East. He spend all of his formative
years from middle school on through high school living in Beirut
as his father was instrumental in setting up the Middle East operations
of the CIA. So music. I mean, he grew up with the music; he loves
the music. He's always been a man of world music and world music
interest. So, when we started working on a release that came through
the label a few years ago, .a release by Oojami, some of you may
know, a Turkish outift out of London. they did this record called
"Bellydancing Breakbeats." We, as a record label, a good
record label, said:
put a marketing plan together. What should we do? Let's do a competition.
Oh yeah! Let's do a belly dance competition. That sounds like
a great idea. OK great! Let's do that!' Then, of course, I had
no idea that we were going to find ourselves immersed over the
course of the next two months, finding and putting together a
Belly dancing contest, and we did that! I spent two consecutive
Sundays in May, Mother's Day and Cinco de Mayo, in a studio down
in Los Angeles auditioning Belly dancers, which was.... I felt
like I had slipped into an alternative universe. But, we did put
that together. We held the competition at the Knitting Factory
in Hollywood. We had television crews come down. We had fun. We
met some interesting people and Miles was...fascinated. He saw
this world that he hadn't known about heretofore, or thought about,
and within the course of several weeks, he had hatched an idea
to create the 'Arabesque Riverdance'. At this point now, we are
two years, or two and a half years, into the Arabesque Riverdance,
--which is exactly what we've been about. So that's kind of how
I came into it. I will tell you that I sing; I don't dance. I
don't even slow dance! So, I have great respect for all of you
who have had the opportunity to have a body, a spirit, and a mind
that's willing to let you move.
I'll throw out that I think --in terms of the meeting of popular
culture and Middle Eastern dance especially in the
I'm under the impression... I feel like a lot of people would've
been doing it for a long time and would have had their own schools
and would have been performing and have been going to the Middle
East or going to Egypt to learn and bring the dance back to the
States...I think that a lot of people, from what I've discussed
with them, have been caught quite unawares by the surge of popluarity.
Not that it hasn't happened in the past. It's waxed and waned.
However, from my perespective, it's very popular right
now. It's definitely very popular. I agree with you in the last
five years, suddenly belly dance is everywhere, .sort of aspects
of belly dance and different pop singers. So, I think that a
lot of people who've been dancing for a while, teaching for a
while, obsessed with belly dance and making a living at it, are
wondering how they might fit in with some of the current trends
in pop culture. I know that that's been a question that some
people have talked about.
I don't have
an answer. Again, maybe it even goes back to music being the
trend. How do we keep the depth and the heart of it and where
it came from? That's one of the things I think about when I see
it becoming very, very pop culture oriented. When I see it marketed
and sold back to people who have been doing it for a long time.
problem with pop music in belly dance in the Middle Eastern world
is just the globalization of music in the whole world. You listen
to an Arabic song and wonder: Is it really Arabic, or is it Indian?
I don't know! I think that it's a mission of the dancers to take
a serious look at themselves, and try to keep the Middle Eastern
dance and its music alive. Even if it's through the remixes of
the old stuff.
obviously know this is happening with the music, but what about
the styles of dance? I can't even count how many types of Middle
Eastern dancing or Belly dancing there is now.
you think that having such a diverse repertoire is a benefit?
What do you think about that?
I'd like to say that there are so many styles now. I think
we all know that some of those styles have only a very tangential
or loose relationship to the Middle East at all. We've come into
a world of belly dance where you can have an Afghani belt, an
Indian bindi, use Lorena McKenna music together. It's like, after
all, where's the Middle East in this? So, I think in order to
achieve what my fellow panelists have said was kind of keeping
a little bit true to the spirit... It's up to the dancers --no
matter if you choose to do American Tribal or fusion or Spanish
Arabic or 'Sparabic' as I call it, whatever. If you can --stay
in touch with the cultural context that this dance actually came
from, and at least for the sake of history and posterity, be able
to place yourself in a geographic and historical continuum, along
with the foremothers of the dance. That way, at least if you've
chosen to go far afield and do a fusion form, you know where you're
coming from. It's one thing to innovate, but if you innovate
without context...,,You should really... You could even argue
that that goes as far as "Orientalism" or cultural
co-opting. That is a sticky issue about which we should be tentative.
an instructor, I feel I have some responsibility, especially at
the beginner's level, to use Middle Eastern music in my class
for my students and teach moves that stay close to the Middle
Eastern movement vocabulary. Admittedly, by the time people get
to the intermediate level, they're more commited to sticking around
the dance, and they are more interested in exploring and experimenting.
So, at the intermediate level, I am more willing to loosen up
a little and explore some things that, perhaps, aren't Middle
Eastern --like American style veil work or double veil. However,
I try to keep that at the intermediate level and make sure that
the beginners first have a good foundation in the Middle Eastern
basics. When I teach things that are more Americanized or fusion
oriented, I'm always careful to differentiate and explain that
that what I'm teaching is an Americanized adaptation. In that
way, the students who want to know the difference between the
Middle Eastern forms and American editions have the opportunity
to be aware. Of course, some students just want to dance, and
that's OK, too. As instructors, I feel we have some responsibility
to show our students the range and let them choose what they
want to explore further.
think that's true but may I add one thing? I think that one of
the most important things that we have as human beings is passion,
and when we find something that creates, we become interested
in, whether or not it's in its truest form or its original form,
or there's something about it that has connected us to it, the
most important thing is to be able to find your passion. Then,
later you explore it, and learn it, and educate yourself. You
mentioned concerns about globalization. You know, it's interesting;
a couple years ago when Miles started to bring
Hakim here, we had originally intended to bring
Khaled and Hakim to the U.S.
in September of 2001, for the first big theater tour. Khaled
has had a big audience here in the United
States, and he could do big theaters. Hakim
was not the case. We were very excited and looking very forward
to that opportunity. Well, of course, September 11 happened,
and we ended up not being able to bring forward those artists.
Everything--the country, the world--went into a tailspin, and
we weren't able to bring those artists back to the United
States until February or March of the following
bring this up by way of saying that we found that there were an
awful lot of people who became even more interested in what musically
we were planning to do and the artists at whom we were looking.
There were more college campuses that had classes about Middle
Eastern studies being filled to capacity with interested students.
Everybody's eyes and attention turned there and got their interest
in it. So I think that the first thing you always have to have
is something that sparks your interest. Interest spawns passion
and then you start to go after it, and then you start to learn.
The learning process gets you to the roots of what's important
in terms of origins.
leave this subject with a silly little anecdote. To me, it's like
sushi: If you don't like sushi, one of the best things you can
do is probably try to eat smoked salmon. If you have any friends
with whom you go to Passover or a nice Sunday brunch, try the smoked
salmon because it's not really raw fish. .but it's kind
of close, and it tastes really good! .and you'll find yourself,
after eating smoked salmon for a while, deciding to experiment with
a little tuna or other kinds of sashimi. The next thing you know,
you're going to find yourself into sushi.
is a very good point, and it actually brings us to our next question,
once again sticky grounds:
you think that belly dance is being impacted directly by current
trends in world politics? Why or why not? Is it insulated
or is it truly being affected? This goes for the music as well
as for the dance form.
[long pause] Someone's got an opinion. Come on. OK, let's start
with Amina. You've been around; you've seen the world change.
Come on, tell us what you think about current world politics affecting
belly dance trends.
right after 9-1-1, I think on 9-1-2, I got a phone call from an
American woman who was having a wedding and she wanted to have
a wedding shower/Belly dance party. So, I think that world politics
has sort of brought the Middle Eastern music and dance kind of
--more to the forefront.
certainly see an impact in the Middle East on world politics on
the dance coming out of the Middle East. The belly dance scene
coming out of Lebanon
was very... it almost died due to the Civil War in Lebanon
because a lot of the fighting was in the part of Beirut that featured
the clubs in which the dancers were appearing. That means that
today, we are only starting to see a resurgence of Lebanese dance,
because for a couple of decades, it nearly died out. That's a
very dramatic impact on one of the forms, or one of the places
where belly dance once thrived. It's only now really getting
a foothold again.
we're seeing a different trend, where it's partly due to economic
factors --and partly due to political --that belly dancing is
seen less and less. Many of the five-star night clubs that used
to feature belly dance performances have closed because they haven't
been drawing enough audiences, and because the Islamist fundamentalists
have been putting pressure on the clubs and the people who attend
them, trying to dissuade them from going to the shows. Also,
some very prominent dancers have been paid a substantial amount
of money by Islam to retire and take the veil. The dancers who
are left, like Fifi Abdo and Dina,
have hired armies of body guards to go with them everywhere to
protect them against possible attacks. Even at the more family
oriented level, increasingly, Belly dancers are not being hired
to perform at weddings. That's because the fundamentalists are
threatening to make violent interruptions at any weddings that
feature female dancers.
When I was
in Cairo in 1999, I went to two weddings, and both of those weddings
featured troupes of young men dancing, neither one had a female
dancer. So the rise of Islamist fundamentalism, which you could
say is a political influence, is definitely suppressing belly
dance in Egypt.
also --sort of --suppressing it here! I work at an all-Arabic
club and according to whatever's happening in the news or the
war, you can predict what's going to happen that evening, --whether
we're going to have an audience or not. Also, my group does a
lot of Arabic weddings and parties, and more often than not,
we're asked to perform completely covered. We just got invited
to do another Arabic Zeffa but they want us covered. So,
we wear belly dance one-piece dresses and our hair covered up,
but they still want the dance. They still want the dance and the
music, but because they're Muslim, they say, "Well excuse
us, but we're Muslim so we need to have it covered." Or
they'll say "We need to have you covered because this is
a family affair." However, they still want it.
what trends did you see in Europe recently with the Belly Dance
Well, the tour was over there from roughly the 15th of September
through the second week of October. I had the opportunity to
go for the two nights in Paris at the Folies Bergere,
which is where we filmed, incidentally. We have a DVD of that
live show coming in the early part of next year. I also was there
for the first show at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London
that was a six-night stand. Interestingly, the audiences were
incredibly receptive to the show that we presented. Again, the
shows that we're doing are full-stage performances with a variety
of dancers presented with full production value, lights, curtains,
rear screen projections, and staging. Across the continent, though,
on that short tour, we not only felt that we were warmly received,
we had a number of invitations back into 2005. The dancers will
be back in Paris for another week --at the Folies Bergere --in
February and then again for a month long engagement in August
of next year. So, I would say that in terms of what I saw and
what we were seeing from the folks coming to the show, there's
a lot of support for what they're doing. There were a lot of
compliments. People were very complimentary about what was being
presented on stage in terms of the beauty, the incredible professionalism
of the dance troupe, and again, the production value that we had.
are two anecdotal comments that will hopefully relate to
the question: One is that I did work dancing in a place that
received several, I wouldn't call them so much threatening, but
definitely hateful and racist comments in early 2002.
audience] Here in the United States?
in the United States,
in the Bay Area and that's a negative repercussion of world events
affecting an Arab-owned club and a place where there's Arabic
dancing and music. Also, the last time I was in Cairo, I had
an opportunity to visit a lot of homes. I was living with a family,
and we went out to people's houses every night and they invariably
said, "Oh you know how to dance? OK!" Women would drag
me into a room, push the men back out into the living room, and
we would just dance behind closed doors--definitely no men allowed.
They would tell me, "We can't take you to see dancing" because
they either couldn't afford to go to the really expensive Dina
dancing at the hotel place, or they weren't going to go to the
low, low budget club either. There was not a lot available that
was in-between. "We can't take you to see the dancers, but
we can dance with you!" they said. So it was both discouraging,
wishing to be an audience member, seeing performances and encouraging
that women women really wanted to get down and boogie!
for Arabic music: I belong to an Arabic singing group. It's out
of the Arab Cultural Center in San Francisco, and it's comprised
mostly of Arab-born people and a few Americans. After 911, there
were only Americans; the Arabs were afraid to go there.
We used to be a group of about fifty or sixty people! Some of
the Arabs have come back, but the group is, maybe, about twenty
now because they've just been harassed a bit too much.
OK, thank you for that, that was very informative. I actually
have a question for both Barbara and Debbie.
advice would you give to dancers who [want to]work more closely
with the mainstream dance world?
Well, my job as program manager of Dance Mission Theater
means that I work very, very closely with a number of modern dance
companies that are self-producing, just like all of us are self-producing.
Except for Bellydance Superstars, no one really produces
Middle Eastern dance. Anyway, these are self-producing artists
that are putting their own financial....they are investing in
their work, they're investing time, they're paying their dancers,
they're renting the venue, they're doing the publicity. And I
work closely with so many of them it's like having a front row
seat into the production values in modern dance versus Middle
Eastern dance. And I came up as many of us did, in the whole
"seminar" world, where you go to a hotel or ballroom or some place
like that, there are vendors, you dance for six minutes. You might
start working on a piece that week, or you might start working
on it a few months out. But in modern dance and many western
dance forms people don't think in terms of "Oh I've got to
dance every weekend." They think in terms of seasons. They
say "I'm going to do x number of pieces. I'm going
to do my fall season." That's such a fundamentally different
way of looking at performance and process than I think we normally
have. I don't think that Middle Eastern dance needs to really
change its essential nature in order for us to learn something
Just looking at how much thought you give to your performances
and to your work, how seriously you want to present it or not.
Because if all we do.and there's nothing wrong with these venues.but
if all we do is go to a coffee shop and every week, pick the tape
the same day and say "Oh, I think I'll dance to this."
I've done it, we've all done it. But if that's all we do, it
might be really hard to see qualitative change and growth in our
field. And I actually think that's very important. So my experience
has led me to think that if we can all just give a little bit
more thought to what our concept is, what we want our production
values to be, how seriously we want to be taken....and even if
you're not actually going to the extent of putting your dance
on the theater stage, it can't help but improve our dance on a
micro level. Whatever you do at a restaurant or club is actually
going to be that much better, because you've given it thought.
I've actually talked to many western dancers about belly dance
because they find out that I'm a Middle Eastern dancer and they're
like "Oh, you mean like belly dance?" [shakes shoulders
mockingly] I mean we've all seen that, but since I can discuss
the dance intelligently with them I've actually changed their
opinions in some cases. So that's another really important thing
we can do. Because before I had this job, the idea of what modern
dancers think or what ballet dancers think, was a really alien
concept to me. But they're dancers, and if you can intelligently
discuss your movement and your thoughts with them they will respect
you. So...that's another way we can...I don't think we need to
become mainstream but if you can speak the language of the establishment,
you can get that much farther. And I think that's important for
the future of our field.
I don't know that I have so much advice. I would like to
express my appreciation and my deep respect for all of you people
who spend an enormous amount of time and energy exploring, learning,
and presenting the beauty of belly dance. I would like to think.I
hope.that you believe that what we are doing, that the work that
I'm doing with the Bellydance Superstars Productions is something
that's beneficial to the world of belly dance, and people who
love belly dance, because we are really about and interested in
promoting the practice and the art of belly dance, certainly as
it's done here in the United States. I hope that what we have
done in terms of the effort to put increasingly more thought into
production value....and certainly working with some of the best
and finest dancers that we can.that that helps speak to the whole
world of what you're doing and helps to create a better opportunity
in your individual endeavors and pursuits. That's what I can
say. Not so much advice but great respect. Respect.
I may not always agree with the music used with the Superstars
but I really respect the fact that the dancers are well-trained
and are wonderful dancers.
Here, here. Support that. Training is everything.
anyone else have any advice to give dancers?
One thing I've observed is that a lot of belly dancers don't
think in the same terms as "mainstream" dancers, going back to
what Debbie said, and we don't think in terms of rehearsing and
rehearsing and rehearsing three hours a day for a big show like
a ballet dancer might. We don't think in terms of choreographing
ahead of time. Or if you're choosing to improvise, listening
to the music so thoroughly that you really step up and do it.
It's a different thought process, a different discipline. Many
of us here in the Bay Area do think about technique, which of
course mainstream dancers do too, but we don't necessarily think
in terms of body conditioning, flexibility and stretching. We
go to our classes, we do what we went there to do, and we go home
and we have fun. And it's great. It's a great thing for a hobbyist
to do but it does make for a big difference between many of our
so-called professionals in our community versus a professional
ballet dancer who rehearses four hours a day and goes to the barre
every day for flexibility stretches.
That is a very, very good point. Does anybody see any new
venues opening up for performing? Any ideas on where dancers
are going to be headed in the future for performing?
Yeah, well I hope we're taking the big stage, that's exactly
where we're going. We want to be in the Cerritos Performing Arts
Center and in venues, beautiful theater venues that are thousands
of people coming to see this art form performed on a gorgeous
stage, with professional lights, professional back drops, the
whole "shootin' match." So that's where we're going.
Do you think that's different, though, from the original purpose
of belly dance on the small family level, at parties? Do you
think that's still a valuable venue?
I'd like to address that with a little historical perspective.
Although it's true that raqs sharqi has always been performed
by Arabic women in kind of a family setting, everyone has their
version of it and their variation of it, the truth is that the
dance that we perform today and know as Middle Eastern dance,
Oriental dance, whatever, actually started to become theatricalized
in the 20s and 30s when Badia Masabni opened the Casino Opera.
Samia Gamal started to use a veil and use the space differently.
So actually the historical precedent for our dance going to a
big stage and changing in its movement style and its presentation
style actually goes back to then. And then with the film industry,
my God, the film industry probably affected our dance tremendously,
among other things. But actually we're talking about a dance
form that has been theatricalized for a very long time.
So, I don't think it's going to change the essential intimate
nature of the dance because there are already two dances. There's
one you do at home among your friends and family, and then the
thing you present as a performance. I mean you would never use
a veil in the living room, you know what I mean. I actually think
there is a great precedent for theatricalization without
losing the essential aesthetic quality that makes our dance so
beautiful. I actually think that it's a natural trend to refine
the presentation while sort of keeping the intrinsic qualities
that make our dance different than any other dance.
I think the use of belly dancing as entertainment at family
parties is here to stay in the U.S., just as much as it is in
the Middle East. You certainly see a lot of people hiring belly
dancers to do belly grams for birthdays, or office parties or
maybe they'll do a dance party for a bridal shower where part
of what they'll do is teach the bridal shower attendees how to
get up and do a few moves. We're seeing videos releases that
promote the use of belly dance as a party dance. There's a video
called "Belly Dance Party"[by Neon,
review coming soon! -Ed] that teaches in step
combinations with the idea that you could teach those to your
guests at your party and get up and have a little fun dancing
together. And the dance lends itself so well to a party environment
because it doesn't require much space, it's social in its nature,
and it's comfortable to do, and somebody who has never done a
lot of technique of a ballet dancer can still get up and learn
enough to have fun. They might not be good enough to be a performer
on a stage but they can be good enough to have a good time with
their friends after a little bit of instruction. So I think that's
here to stay. Restaurants I think are kind of dying out as a
venue. They're certainly not paying as well as they used to.
And increasingly having to pay for entertainment licenses along
with liquor licenses is a deterrent for some restaurants at having
dancing. But I think we'll still see some restaurants enduring
as well. I just don't see them as the important venue that they
were for our dance form thirty years ago.
Thank you very much and thank you to all our panel members:
Amina Goodyear, fixture in our community, wonderful teacher and
dancer. Barbara Bolen, who came all the way from L.A. Tell Mr.
Copeland "thank you" for us. Also, to Shira, thank
you so much for your internet resources and coming all they way
from Iowa. That's fabulous of you. Monica, thank you so much
for sharing your experiences with everyone here. And Debbie thank
your for having an opinion and sharing it with us, as you as well
have a lot of knowledge. I hope everyone here has gotten some
food for thought. Thank you Alexandria for having this panel,
I think it was wonderful. And now for what we really came here
to see, the different styles of belly dancing as we all know and
love them. Thank you very much everybody.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Carnival of Stars Holiday Dance
Festival and Comic Book Convention Photos by GS Staff
new festival held on Nov 14, '04 produced by Ghawazee.com's at
Centennial Hall, in Hayward, California, which included a panel
discussion, raffle, costume contest, and famous comic artists,
along with the usual dancing and vendors.
of Shahrazad: Face to Face Cultural
Encounters Through the Expressive Arts of Middle Eastern Women
by Shira. On March 5, 2005, a unique
conference in Iowa honored International Women’s Month.
Art, Activism &
Magic: Krissy Keefer In Her Own Words by Debbie Lammam
dancers are not expected to think and speak.
A Subjective View of Raqia's
Cash Cow The AWS Festival 2004, Part 1 by Andrea
she came out as a snake, then entered wearing a melaya,
next, as a caged lion. Her performance was very entertaining.
Keti Sharif’s A to Z Advanced
Stage Instructional DVD and booklet review by Monica Berini
It is rare that an instructional video marketed to advanced
dancers follows through to actually challenge experienced students
or performers. This one does.
Belly Dance Super Stars Video
Review by Amina Goodyear
and Directed by Jonathan Brandeis Executive Producer: Miles Copeland.
"... However, as there is no audience, most of the
dancers have a difficult time conveying the emotions of the dance
to the video viewer. Only Jillina and Dondi seem to overcome this
Helm takes Rhythm Diatribes
Workshops to Europe by Ling Shien Bell
musicians will be conducting a series of rhythm/music workshops
in Ireland, Spain and Luxembourg this April.
San Francisco Screening
of American Bellydancer by Miles Copeland
to San Francisco to attend the screening of American Bellydancer
to a largely belly dance community crowd was like jumping into
a hornet’s nest of opposing views!