The Mainstream Media’s Influence
posted March 19, 2009
We Indonesians were a little slow to catch on to belly dance in comparison with our neighbouring Asian countries. Nowadays though, things are changing rapidly in this archipelago. Since around 2006, belly dance has taken off in a big way, figuratively groaning under the heavy weight of national mainstream media attention that has been piled onto it for the past two years.
Dance teachers and aerobics instructors across the archipelago have capitalised on what they may well see as the latest ‘lifestyle trend’. From large urban cities to smaller towns in the outer parts of Indonesia, you’re likely to find classes full of women hip-dropping their jingly hip scarves to their hearts’ content.
Extensive mainstream media attention has been a mixed bag of blessings and, well, “somewhat less than blessings,” as most Indonesians would diplomatically say.
Since early 2007, Bellydance Jakarta (where I’m a student) and Christine Yaven (its founder) have been featured in at least 20 print publications (women’s magazines, newspapers, journals) and invited to two commercial radio talk shows and at least five prime time television appearances. That’s without even including online magazine articles. Phew! "Great!" you say, "Amazing coverage." So, what’s the problem?
For every sound article written on belly dance recognising it as a respected and ancient art form on par with other respected dance styles or listing benefits such as empowerment, body confidence, sisterhood, stress alleviation and just plain fun, there’s always another story lurking around on some television station, showing footage of ‘belly dancers’ in darkly lit cafes and nightclubs—as Akon put it—“windin’ and grindin’ up on that pole.”
Well, sometimes sans pole. You get my point. It’s the same in many countries, I’m sure. I’m sure that every single reader is familiar with the undeserving connotations linked to this ancient art form.
We fully realise that mainstream media attention will wane after several years, and those interested in belly dance simply as a passing fancy or trying to cash in on this ‘trend’ will move on to other things. When that happens, we hope that all the work our community has done to show and inform the public will ensure that belly dance in Indonesia is showcased with the dignity and appreciation it amply deserves.
As a community, we’re proudly growing in number, and there is a true sense of cohesiveness and comradeship I’ve never encountered anywhere else. Christine focuses on ensuring clean technique among her students and on impressing upon us cultural and historical values embodied in the dance. Bellydance Jakarta also hosts workshops several times a year, previously having engaged legendary exponents such as Tamalyn Dallal (all our students love her!), and having Hadia of Canada set to come in April this year.
Belly dance in Indonesia is still in its infancy. With a growing number of true devotees of this dance, its future looks bright, with endless exciting possibilities.
Ready for more?
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