Gilded Serpent presents...
Cabaret: Is it a dirty word?
by Piper Reid Hunt, PhD.
grew up surrounded by "cabaret" style belly dancers.
defines cabaret as either a restaurant providing entertainment, or
a floorshow provided by a restaurant or nightclub.
belly dancers in the U.S. do
not like to use the word cabaret because in Egypt,
small establishments that we might call dives have taken to calling
themselves cabarets, while larger, more expensive, supposedly higher
class places call themselves nightclubs.
when my mom (Rhea) started dancing
on Broadway in San Francisco
in the '60s, Arabic clubs with live bands and belly dancers were
called cabarets. The cabarets usually had several dancers who did half
hour sets back-to-back, and the stage took up a good portion of the
floor space. There was a lot of cross-pollination among dancers back
then, with Americans sharing dressing rooms with performers from the
Middle East, and dancers sneaking in the backdoors of neighboring clubs
on their break to catch each other's shows.
Relative to today,
there were lots of places to perform, but dancers had to be special
in some way to get a job. Baby dancers with promise got to dance on
weeknights, and experienced dancers performed on the weekends.
Any new step
or trick that could move a novice dancer closer to the coveted weekend
slots was eagerly copied or adapted, regardless of its country of
played favorite songs from the home countries of the biggest tipping
customers, and the dancers had to learn to dance to those songs, be
they Saudi, Turkish, Syrian or Moroccan. This is how "American Cabaret,"
a combination of North African and Middle Eastern dance styles with
a dash of American sensibility thrown in, came to life. As the belly
dance club scene died and the seminar circuit began to take off in the
late '70s and early '80s, specific ethnic dance styles became popular,
and American Cabaret fell out of favor.
Being a mere
entertainer, a performer, became déclassé, and instead, it became
fashionable and respectable to be a "dance ethnographer", a conduit
for the art of another culture.
dancers are becoming interested in fusion again, and decade encompassing
the late '60 and early '70s is sometimes called "the golden age of belly
dancing" in the U.S. I don't
think that it is an accident that, just as attitudes in the dance community
are coming full circle, suddenly belly dancing is having another upsurge
in popularity among the general public in America.
Don't get me wrong! I think that dance scholarship is very important,
but it is equally important to remember the spirit in which specific
dances were originally done. Dances that were made up by ordinary people
utilizing contemporary music with the intention of pleasing an audience
(or just to have fun) are what we now consider to be ethnic or folkloric;
just like everyone else, whoever made up those dances wanted to wear
the latest, coolest fashions available to them, not some politically
is done as a prayer, as a meditation, or as an expression of inner
joy to be shared with others like a gift, dance isn't supposed to
be locked up in a museum, static, immutable.
the original fusion belly dance, is accessible and fun for everyone,
regardless of one's dance education. Additionally, with today's more
solid foundation of knowledge in the U.S. about individual "pure" ethnic
dances, fusion becomes that much more rich and varied, allowing dancers
to be that much more informed, powerful, and creative!
So: Go fusion;
a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Zaharr's Memoir, Part 9, A Visit to my
Teacher's Teacher, More Street Performing
believe it is the signature of a gentleman to make a woman feel as if
she is the center of his universe, even if it is only for five minutes.
Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival 2004-Intro
Travel Journal by Shira
Middle Eastern dance artists and students from throughout the world
attend this event to immerse themselves in instruction by leading Egyptian
instructors, shop for costumes and other supplies offered by Egyptian
vendors, and enjoy the gala shows featuring top Egyptian dancers. Check
back for regular updates!
3: First Look at Egyptian History
4: More Egyptian Monuments and First Dance Show
Romancing the Road (The Bousada Troupe
Tours) by Yasmela
carved our own niche, created our own style, scandalized, delighted,
educated and entertained everyone around us, including ourselves. We
Saving Grace, Belly Dance Comics
I sit here for a few moments?"