of the Spirit
Dance and art have long shared a combined history of utilizing creativity and
diversity. Within this scope, there is the beauty of creating a blend of
stories, tableaus, and personal reflection. There are no restraints in
the arts, only your imagination and spirit of creativity to take you to
the edge of a limitless scope of possibilities. There are many pioneers
in the field of dance, who captured the world with their own interpretations
of the spirit and the music. For example, Isadora Duncan revitalized the
myths of Grecian and Roman styles, using a freedom of movement and expression
unlike anything that had been seen before her time. Togas and tunics of
flowing, gossamer fabrics swirled upon the Victorians while liberating
dances of joy and life. Ruth St. Denis, whose fantastical tableaus brought
the mysteries and exoticness of Eastern worlds into a theatrical form of
dance. Costuming from the Ballet Rousse seemed to make Middle Eastern fantasies
come to life.
of expression and personal display, there would be oppression in
creativity. Though we are allowed license without boundaries in
what we create (or call our "masterpieces"), there is
still one glaring flaw:; cultural assimilation and stereotypical
romanticizing of real cultures that belong to real people. I don't
propose that everyone should create only anthropologically researched
material, but what I advocate is a dance based on reality.
in the Middle Eastern field of dance tend to romanticize
a mythical concept to the point at which it becomes a caricature
of reality .
Because so few
of the latest "Tribal" and/or "Gypsy" styled
dances have been truly researched or taught by a mentor from that
culture, the so-called styles become assimilated into the dance
community currently as a "genuine style " of dance, only
emphasizing this disparity. New members to the art of dance believe
this popular stylizing is a genuine rendering of gypsy dancing.
Many dancers follow along, blindly, without giving any thought
to the original people and culture from which this dance springs.
The Romany people
or "Rom", commonly known as "Gypsies", are
a multi-faceted people with a diverse culture that contains their
main cultural identity as the holding thread in their tapestry
of life. When we appropriate art of another culture, and portray
it as our own fantasies would wish it to be, we rob the Rom of
their rights and identity. We owe responsibility towards understanding
and knowing more about a group of people upon whom one decides
to build a fantasy representation!
five-layered skirts, and ribbon bedecked tambourines are
no more true to the actuality of gypsy life or dance, than
if we had done this same dance in a traditional Egyptian
is often guilty of "borrowing" from the most grotesque
areas in life around cultures that are beyond our own Anglo sphere.
The role of one
who romanticizes is a great menace to the roots of traditional
people and the generations that come after them. It has always
been through stereotyping, whether positively or negatively, that
the much damage is done. If you love dancing "tribal" or "gypsy" style,
take the responsibility to know what those words mean, and whom
are you contributing - either to their dilution as a people
or the strengthening of their true image.
People like the
Rom, the Native Americans, and other indigenous people are the
peoples of the world who have been "marginalized". Most
people have heard of them, but either they believe the engineered
stereotype of their culture in regards to art and religion, or
prefer to think they don't exist at all. They are usually treated
abysmally in their native countries and relegated to forced assimilation
and hatred for their ways. They are purposely not counted as part
of the populations and atrocities have been perpetuated upon them,
just because of their existance.
gather, villagers and people of the area ascribe to them titles
of thief, liars, dirty wanderers , confidence artists, and violence.
They are prohibited to camp in certain areas in Europe, and many
still live poor lives due to the harsh transition from Communism
to Democracy. Because of their low rate of school attendance, they
are unable to get jobs or are placed in schools for the learning
disabled due to language barriers. Many are trying to follow the
dominant cultures ways, but it is hard in a world that has long
shunned Gypsies as pariahs. Hostility to Gypsies has existed almost
from the time they first appeared in 14th century Europe. They
live under a clan system, based mostly on their traditional crafts
and geography. There is a commonality in the distrust and hatred
towards the "Gadjo" (non-gypsy, outsider, or stranger).
The gypsies are a nomadic tribe, which has caused them to be persecuted
throughout history, especially throughout Europe. At various times
they have been forbidden to wear distinctively bright clothing,
to speak their own language, to travel, to marry one another, or
to ply their traditional crafts. In some European countries, many
Romany women were forced into sexual sterilization by governmental
authority. In some countries, the Gypsies were reduced to slavery.
In Romania, it wasn't until the mid 1800s that they were freed
from their slave status. Many people, unfamiliar with the history
of this last century, do not realize that many Roms perished under
the Nazi's "ethnic cleansing". Half a million of the
Romany were persecuted, tortured and killed in the concentration
camps, along with the Jews, Catholics and homosexuals. The Gypsies,
as Porriamos, know the Holocaust as The Great
Gypsies no longer
live in horse drawn caravans as they once did. Now they live in
homes, motor homes, and apartments. Yet, frequently, they are still
portrayed as itinerant, colorful wanderers of the world in their
brightly painted caravans. This romantic stereotyping is brought
into clear consciousness because of the myriad of "gypsy style" dances
that are currently being performed by the Middle Eastern dance
enthusiasts. Most, but not all of these dances, have no clear resemblance
to actual gypsy dancing! Like any regional group of nomadic people,
their dance style reflects the region in which they live. It is
music, and the Roms own identity with it! A mournful, lamenting
cantos (song) usually accompanies most dances, which reflects the
pain and suffering in a long tribal history.
scoff at the idea of being "trained" in dancing. Much
like the nomadic or village dancers in Egypt and North Africa,
they are not trained. They are raised to dance, from being part
of an environment that is based upon music, dancing, and story
telling. As a gypsy performer said, "I don't need to train
to be a dancer. Training! That's for people who aren't Gypsies." A
young Romany man says," I'm afraid we don't all have campfires,
wagons, bandannas, earrings, or violins. We don't steal babies
or pick peoples pockets! Maybe we're not 'Gypsy' enough for
What is your idea of the Gypsies? Is that faux 'Gypsy' your allusion
when you present a dance under the name of a group of people who
have their own unique culture?
must remember the dignity and respect when they dance under
the guise of a real group of people who have a distinct culture
and history. One may do more harm by not knowing the pertinent
history, thereby romanticizing the Rom into obscurity.
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