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Gilded Serpent presents...
Parveneh:
Promoting Diversity Through Public Access TV
An Interview by Anniitra Ravenmoon

I met Parveneh in 2005, when Jessica Martinez (of “Nubian Divas”) and I started producing showcases in Inglewood, California. Parveneh had the wonderful idea of starting her “Hafla World Dance” for cable access TV, and she made it happen! At present, “Hafla World Dance” appears on cable access stations in the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, Orange County, Compton, Lynwood, and other areas throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

Parveneh, founder of “Hafla World Dance”, is a versatile and talented woman! She has earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, is the owner of the Bellydancers’ Swapmeet, and is well traveled. Parveneh offers clothing and jewelry she finds on her travels to Yemen, where she has family. She hand dyes her own silk veils and designs harem pants that are particularly geared towards the more voluptuous dancer. Currently, she is designing and creating a Ghawazee styled costume for the larger dancer as well. 

How did you come into Belly dance?
I started Belly dancing about 6 years ago—after wanting to do it for forever—and after watching Helen Vlahos dance on a TV show where she rolled the quarters down her belly! The time and the desire came together, so I got into it, and I enjoy it very much. It is a combination of the freedom of movement and being in touch with ones self as a feminine being. It is very “freeing”. 

Where did you learn?
I have studied long term with a couple of teachers and also, I’ve taken seminars and workshops with well known visiting dance instructors just to get their different aspects on the dance.  I have performed at local showcases and events.

Why and how did you get started with the Hafla show?
I have always thought of Belly dance as a woman's dance (especially a voluptuous woman's dance) and lo and behold, being in close proximity to Hollywood, I find that there are restrictions on who can perform!

I find this exclusionary attitude prevalent amongst many of the local teachers. They have gone so far as to insult their students who are of color, older, and heavier. However, they will consistently accept their money for classes even while trying to make them feel bad about themselves!

There is one young lady in the Midwest, who, when she wanted to venture out and dance publicly, was told by her instructor that she was "too dark" and because of that, no one would hire her!  However, it turned out to be a huge falsehood—as she has done quite well.  In the Southern California area, there have been showcases held in which a stipulation for performing was age and size and that if you did not fall within certain parameters, you were welcome to patronize the facility—but not to dance there!

I have friends, and probably you do, too, who have quit dancing because a teacher has made them feel insecure about themselves. For one person in particular, the instructor kept pointing out her physical "flaws" to the point that she became insecure, and she did quit. I have found venues that are so tightly closed to the ladies in these classifications that the instructors have told them they were not even welcome to dance at local showcases.  I am not saying that everybody has done this because there are some wonderful women who run showcases in which all dancers are welcome to participate. 

I had always wanted to do something with Public Access. So, the Belly dance and public access came together and “Hafla” was born!  Although I have found some attitudes to be exclusive, I decided I wanted to be inclusive; so my show has featured diversity.  I have presented larger, smaller, older and younger dancers (and, especially, women of color) who are often excluded here in our local area. I have been expanding to include musicians and a variety of dance, and I have a show coming up that will feature some dancers of South Indian heritage who will be performing dances from India as well as some male dancers who will be performing Raqs Assaya (the cane dance). 

On the show, we have discussed costuming, the history of dance, exclusivity issues, the growth of Tribal styled Belly dance, and more.  Also, I am getting the opportunity to feature different dances that are connected to Belly dance (such as Indian styles and flamenco).  Public access has given me an arena that is not controlled by anyone else, and therefore, I can reach far more people than at the usual Belly dance event or showcase. Many of the people watching television have never been to a Belly dance show of any sort, and Public Access is where I can present the diversity that is in the art and show to the public at large the beauty of all who perform it.

What are your plans for the future?
I want to keep dancing and to continue doing my show.  I am hoping to expand to location shows and not solely producing them in the studio, but we will see...

Parveneh is the producer and host of “Hafla World Dance”, a local cable television show that features world dance and musicians.  Her show appears on various local cable access channels as well as on YouTube and she has been producing the show for 3 years. At present, Hafla World Dance appears on cable stations in the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, Orange County, Compton, Lynwood, and other areas throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

I offer my salute to Parveneh for bringing our beautiful dance into the homes of so many families in the Los Angeles area, and around the world. She has received compliments from men and women from Turkey, New Zealand, Egypt, and Japan, praising her shows. So far, to date, she has counted over 140,000 views on YouTube. Parveneh's show can be seen on local cable access channels at different times. Parveneh may be contacted at bellydancerscorner@yahoo.com or you can catch clips from the shows on www.youtube.com/parveneh.

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