flyer for Jane Yee Shan Chung and her troupe DanceDiva
Matrix: A Long Journey
The Belly Dance Scene in Taiwan
dance received its introduction in Taiwan over half a decade
ago. Five years might seem a relatively short compared to our
Western colleagues’ experience or from the prospective of the
entire history of Belly dancing. Nevertheless, the Taiwan Belly
dance community is eager to make up for lost time, and already,
it has undergone a great deal of development. For example:
in the past five years Taiwan has hosted two blockbuster shows
from Bellydance Superstars! We have had several workshops by
master instructors and famous dancers, including Carolena
Nericcio of Fat Chance Belly Dance, Kajira Djoumahna of
Black Sheep Belly Dance, Suhaila Salimpour, and Ansuya, etc.
while our local Belly dance community is quickly expanding,
it opens its arms to embrace all kinds of information, knowledge,
and dance resources. The materials new to us become a stimulating
force to guide dancers, instructors, and students. They find
themselves encouraged to review the progress they are making
in the development of their individual careers as well as continuing
the past, the most popular method of teaching Belly dance used
here has been the choreography-oriented approach. There are
several reasons. First, since we don’t have many mature dancers
and choreographers available, we have had to rely heavily on
choreography created by other dancers and masters dance teachers.
Teaching choreography is also a great way to elevate students’
sense of achievement; they come to the classroom for ten classes
or so, and they can take a piece of choreography home with
them by the end of the session. Students report that they can
dance for family members and friends with those memorized pieces
and they receive satisfying feedback from their audiences.
Students claim to have better motivation to continue learning
Belly dance when they learn a choreographed piece and they
expect more choreography. The result is that almost all Belly
dance classes here have had to adhere to teaching choreographed
from choreography is quite an effective way to practice drills
and combinations of steps.
one might have to admit that learning only choreographies
might lead students and dancers away from learning the essential
elements of traditional Belly dance.
refer to such elements as technique, as well as understanding
music and rhythms. However, as we gain more accessibility to
master dancers and well-established instructors overseas through
live performances and workshops, we realize now that we need
more than choreography to be able to achieve what those masters
and instructors can perform on stage.
who are focused on technique became popular in Taiwan as a
natural response toward the increasing demands for lessons
and better technique.
the early stage of our development, our major resource was
from the Middle East; we believed that it was best to learn
with the dancers from the original source as the best benchmark.
However, we quickly discovered that the language barrier
severely hampered our learning.
us, Arabic is not a very common language and Middle East culture
is absolutely foreign to our local students. The common way
to teach there is usually a visual imitation on what teachers
demonstrate and students simply must copy everything they see.
The lack of systematic teaching and yet, abundant information,
also resulted into further confusion! For example, people from
different areas could call one specific movement by several
names. Often the names used do not call up any images nor do
they make any sense because we do not share, and therefore,
do not understand the cultural or spiritual metaphors behind
of the Taiwanese dancers turned to the American Belly dance
community, mainly thanks to the popularity and high exposure
of Bellydance Superstars!
began to learn from American Belly dance instructors through
DVDs or workshops; so, we have found a great way to communicate
and systematically learn to dance. (After all, English is one
of the most common communication languages for us.) In
addition, we find abundant resources and knowledge of Belly
dance in English on the Internet (and occasionally, printed
matters as well). Many pioneering dancers and scholars in America
conducted a field survey in 1970s and their documents subsequently
become a precious resource to fill up our gap of understanding
Middle East music and dances.
2005, ATS and Tribal Belly dance were introduced to the Taiwan
Belly dance community through Taiwanese dancers attending the
Tribal Fest in San Francisco for the first time. Before that,
local dancers and audiences only had access to the Cabaret
style of Belly dance (Raks Sharqi).
also realize that there are many other branch styles of Belly
group improvisation of ATS highly challenges our choreography-oriented
learning pattern! There is no instant choreography to learn
or to perform but a lot of new concepts to learn instead.
specific concept of posture and several finger cymbal patterns
used by ATS dancers are also very new to many dancers and students
here. By now, we understand that learning to perform Belly
dance with seemingly effortless elegance requires something
far beyond memorizing patterned choreography. We also have
had to turn to our bodies and learn to use our muscles accurately
and properly. Through this technique, we connect our body movements
in order to develop our individual dance.
Salimpour family, Jamila and
her daughter, Suhaila, have been known here. In 2007, Suhaila
came to Taipei
to give local bellydance community a workshop.The local Belly
dance community had the opportunity to witness the “state of
art techniques” developed by Jamila and her daughter. A
few Taiwanese instructors went to San Francisco to earn a certificate
of technique and brought back to us more first-hand knowledge
and technique. Among the instructors who went was Jane
Yee Shan Chung, our first “Suhaila Technique Level 2
Certified Dancer.” Suhaila has granted permission for Jane
Yee Shan Chung to teach
up to the level she earned.
teaching demonstrates something quite different from what
use to be the norm at our Belly dance classes. Now, there
is a lot of core-muscle training and strength development
(and no choreography at all) for entry-level students.
the awareness for need to have strength and basic technique
grows, more students sign up for what they joke is “torture
camp.” Yet, they experience profound passion and joy of dancing
through their bodies and perspiration. The growing classes
prove that increasingly, dancers and students are willing to
take fundamental training seriously for improving their dances.
Suhaila technique also challenges the stereotypical impression
regarding the preferred female beauty here.
might be universal, but it is definitely more obvious in
Asian society that girls or women are discouraged from training
their bodies to be firm and fit, and to accept their own
bodies as unique and beautiful.
many people regard Belly dance as a form presenting the feminine
quality of being bold, sexy--and yet fragile. As a result,
many women believed that Belly dance matched the stereotyped
expectation both from the society and from women themselves:
that Belly dance is merely moving around and is “safe” from
developing females into “muscle women.”
ATS and the Suhaila Technique demonstrated to us the other
side of what female beauty could become. Students and dancers
now learn that solid technique and great control of strength,
together with a clear mindset of intention and attitude can
lead to (seemingly effortless) elegance as well as visual and
mental pleasure. This could be a new direction for our local
Belly dance community in Taiwan to work on and fulfill our
goal of achieving what some other masters and well-established
dancers have already achieved.
all the way back at our learning matrix, we can observe that
it has been like a long journey and that we have learned through
each step. The longer we walk, the more we see, and thus,
we continue our journey.
and Megha Cavin gave the first GS workshop in Taipei'
photography by Ji-yiing Wang
click for larger photo
needed- back row from left: 1, 2-pink
top, 3, 4, 5- red head, 6, 7
middle row: 1, 2, Carolena, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12-
front row: 1, 2, 3, 4- purple top, 5, 6- maroon top, 7-
blue top, 8- blue top, 9, 10
needed: 1-man on tabla, 2 standing woman on def, 3 seated
woman on tamborine,
standing 2nd woman on def, 5- second man
on tabla, 6- seated woman on metal tabla, 7- dancer, 8-
dancer on deck
author-"This picture was taken during a local TV show introducing
kinds of street artists, and Al Maha
as the first
Middle Eastern Ensemble here, they were invited to perform
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Bellydance Scene in Taiwan Toss Hair Dance by Eugenia
women were much more skillful than I expected: just 3 years ago,
nobody in Taiwan really knew anything about Bellydance.
Tabu goes to China! by Nanna
should be noted that somewhere between passing the audition and
performing, it was announced that three out of four dancers in
the group (not including myself) were pregnant.
Dance in Brazil by Thania
...they are trying to organize a Code of Ethics
of Cairo- Egyptian Rhythm, Language and Dance by
streets are much like its dance –streams of freestyle movement
guided by intuition rather than rules. There are no 'principles'
as such in both circumstances –it’s the organic-ness
of Egyptian life that creates order in chaos.
London Belly Beat! by Alexandria
have nothing against tribal or fusion styles and seem to enjoy
all belly dance.
in Iceland by Sabah
Recently, I was able to witness first hand how truly global the world of bellydance
has become. Dances of the Middle East and North Africa are no longer a mystery
and unknown “exotic”style of dance.
to India –This Time it’s Personal! by
Michelle and Sandra
thought that the misfortunes associated with our previous performance
tours of India were simply anomalies in the blissful and glamorous
world of dancing overseas.
Belly Dancer in Iraq- “THAAWUMPFF” by Meena
women who work in the Ministry are brave women. At first they
looked at me with suspicion, not sure of my ethnicity. I sometimes
get thanked when they realize that I share the Arab blood.
Dance in Israel by Orit Maftsir
Belly dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike
the totally frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.
Journey to Nepal by Daleela
I will never forget Nepal and the dance adventures we encountered. They will
remain etched in my mind forever. What I found most amazing is how much I learned
about Middle Eastern dance going to Asia.
Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 1, Photos
held June 23-26, 2006. Part One- Workshops and Setting,
Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari
Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set
in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the
picturesque village of Santa Pau.
IN YEMEN by Jalilah Part 2 - EL AROUS
I had been to many Middle Eastern weddings before, but none were as visually
impressive as the ones I attended in Sanaa, Yemen.
recommend reading list just added-10-24-01
articles from around the world on our "Geo" page.