The Gilded Serpent
Sa' Elayssa of Southern California
The Phenomenon of Gothic Belly Dance
To some, it’s
that perfect niche that they’ve been searching for in order
to take that next step and grow as a dancer; to others, it represents
the continuation of an alarming trend heralding abomination and the
desecration of their art-form.
Ahh, Gothic Belly
Belly Dance, or "Raks Gothique" as many of its aficionados
fondly call it, merges the styling of the Gothic or "Goth" subculture
from the last 20 years with the beautiful expression of Middle
Eastern Dance in both cabaret and tribal formats.
Hence, it is a
fusion form of belly dance, and is also used as an umbrella term
for related forms like experimental, ritual, and sacred belly dance.
This may come as
a shock to many, but Gothic Belly Dance isn’t really a new
phenomenon, and it’s not just centered in California. First
of all, it’s simply a merger of two entities that go well together,
like peanut butter and chocolate. Goths love shiny things, elaborate
costuming, passionate music, and being dramatic. Belly dancers love
shiny things, elaborate costuming, passionate music, and being dramatic.
Sooner or later, the two camps had to meet, and the Gothic Belly
Dancer emerged. And not just in one spot, but throughout the United
States, Europe, Japan, and Australia.
Tempest of Los Gatos, CA
”So why am
I just now hearing about this and how did this happen?” Several
Media & Society: First
off, events of the last decade have brought the Gothic subculture
to the media’s attention (for better or for worse). Most of
the initial profiling was off in left field (like we as belly dancers
should be surprised that the media sensationalizes its news...*gasp*),
especially with the shootings at high schools, alternative religion
discrimination, etc. Toss in a few vampire and occult movies, and
bam, there’s a trend! To make a long story short, although
Goths have been around for the better part of two decades (and, some
would argue, longer), it’s a movement that ebbs and flows and
gets revitalized as the scene develops, changes, and attracts a new
generation, who bring their own flavor to it. From
Anne Rice and her vampires to movies like The Matrix, The Crow, Nightmare
Before Christmas, and Underworld, to bands like Evanescence and stores
like Hot Topic and Torrid bringing the music and the clothing mainstream:
all are influences on general society and subsequently cause an influx
to the Gothic crowd - a little light in the shadows, if you will.
Goths & Dancing:
Out of all of the modern subcultures out there, you’d be hard-pressed
to find any as obsessive or enthusiastic about dancing to their music
and dressing in their high fashion as the Goths. Going to a Goth
night is like going to your own private fashion show, where everyone
gets up to dance. And while most regular folks may find the dancing
at the clubs a tad odd in style, it’s truly a celebration of
individuality, where everyone does his or her own thing, and they’re
there to dance, socialize some, and dance some more.
Movement: I think the biggest reason why Gothic Belly Dance
seems to be emerging now is that there have been a lot of groundbreaking
changes in the whole belly dance community over the last decade, especially
in regards to fusion and the people who perform it. From long-respected
dancers like Dalia Carella and Suhaila Salimpour to
emerging ones such as Rachel Brice and Desert Sin,
there are new standards being set, rules being broken, and challenges
being made. Another major factor is the development and astounding growth
of American Tribal Style dance. It has been well documented that ATS
and related Tribal Fusion provided (and still do) an excellent outlet
for those who look more alternative (tattooed, pierced, unusual hair,
etc) and may not have originally felt comfortable in more traditional
Ya Meena of Washington DC
with the gradual acceptance and visibility of alternatives
to more traditional forms of belly dance, a new atmosphere
for inspiration is created. Dancers who were afraid to do something
that was outside of the “normal” for fear of being
ridiculed by their teachers or fellow dancers are now feeling
more courageous to be themselves.
The Internet: now
you can find out about things you never even dreamed of, as well
as network with people from around the world. It makes the planet
a lot smaller, so word gets around more quickly. In my desire to
find out more about what other people were doing, I discovered there
were a lot more people with the same ideas. It was because of this
that I wished to document the growth and development of Gothic Belly
Dance and help it along the best way I could…I created the
Gothic Belly Dance Resource at http://www.gothicbellydance.com
Possesion of Washington DC
So what then is
Gothic Belly Dance really? Why the mixed response? To
answer this, I’m going to address some questions/issues I’ve
it still be belly dancing if it’s not done to Middle Eastern
GBD can be performed to appropriate Middle Eastern music, which we know represents
a diverse number of cultures and expressions, but in addition to that, a great
deal of the music found in the Gothic category incorporates Middle Eastern,
Near Eastern, and Far Eastern instruments and vocals. For the most part, it’s
not your basic Western popular music, and can be very similar in sound and
beat structure to what we consider standard belly dance music. Likewise, the
attitude of the belly dance movements may take on a different personality,
but they still share the same base structure.
course, there’s the whole issue in the larger community
about the name "belly dance" itself. Without leaping
onto that battlefield, it should satisfy most that the term “belly
dance” is used to describe this dance, rather than Middle
Eastern Dance, Raks Sharki, Danse Oriental, or whatever term.
GBD doesn’t claim to be any of those specifically.
Authentic compared to what? Another whole mess, but again, GBD isn’t
advertised as anything but what it is.
just trying to cause trouble.”
(Are we still talking about GBD here?) I can’t speak for every Gothic
Belly Dancer out there, but I know that I dance to what moves and inspires
me. And it’s the need to express and celebrate that feeling that is the
basis for performing. I’ve also been the sort of person who likes to
push limits—it’s an integral part of my fine art training, as well
as part of my upbringing.
learned that those who want to be offended, will be offended,
whether you intend it or not.
There seems to be a fear that Gothic Belly Dancers are going to overrun traditional
venues and cause distress to the masses (the uneducated, the ethnic, etc).
The first time I heard this one, I laughed for quite a while. First off,
there are plenty of venues within the Gothic subculture that traditional
belly dance could never go. And unless a venue or event is open to alternative
forms of belly dance, chances are, you’re not going to find Gothic
Belly Dancing there. And, more than once, (and I’ll admit, this even
astounds me), I’ve had genuine Middle Eastern women (and I stress
women here, because I think this is the toughest crowd to impress) come
up to me and tell me that my performance made them feel more like they
were back at home than any of the traditional performances they saw at
that event. This probably has to do more with my training than anything
else, but the point here is (I think) that-
dancing to non-traditional music in my gothic costuming, the
belly dancing still comes through loud and clear.
On the Resource website, I talk about what makes Gothic Belly Dance what it
is. It’s more than just dancing to goth music in a bedlah, or dressing
goth and dancing to traditional music, or even goth on goth---
is a certain presence and level of skill necessary to really
pull it off…which is really what makes a good fusion:
a strong understanding of what you’re putting together,
including technical proficiency, stage presence and personality.
It is my hope
that the Resource will help educate everyone interested in GBD and
will inspire them to strive to do the best they can. We are all responsible
for whatever dance form we represent.
a comment? Send us
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Al-Ghawazi, Part 2 by Edwina Nearing
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi" were
first published under the title "The Mystery of the Ghawazi." We
are happy to be able to respond to the continued demand for these
articles by making them available to our readers worldwide.
4 of the Rakkasah West Saturday Photos The last page of photos
2 of the Rakkasah Saturday Photos, Page
5-7-04 Rakkasah West Festival
2004 SATURDAY, PAGE 1 March 2004, Richmond, California photos by GS Volunteers
Biram, Clare, Cynthia, Krista, Lynette, Michelle, Monica, Sandra, Valentino,
Yasmine and probably more!
*Let us know if you recognize faces!
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.