Gilded Serpent presents...

Milaya, Tipping, Gossip

Ask Yasmina #7

by Yasmina Ramzy

Question #1: Thank you for recommending the recent article on Gilded Serpent about Milaya but I still have a few more questions. What are the most typical steps in the Milaya dance? What was the life like of the girls that inspired this dance? What is the rhythm used, or what is the most characteristic thing in a song that is for "Milaya"? And I haven’t quite understood if the Milaya dance is folkloric or not.

Answer:  I am not good at describing steps or technique without physical demonstration. I highly recommend you take a workshop or get an instructional DVD for Milaya; however, I will say that most of your traditional Bellydance technique can be used but with a different nuance.

It is really about the character depiction.

A variety of strutting type walks are often associated with Milaya. Performing hip accents while standing on one leg is associated with Alexandria. Much of the performance is utilizing the heavy black veil in different ways of wrapping or not. This prop is integral to the dance.

The lead drummer for the El Tannoura Troupe in Cairo once showed me a variety of rhythms he said were Alexandrian. Each one had a different name. I have forgotten this kind of detail but they all seemed like variations on Maksoum and Masmoudi Soghair. Often upbeat songs depicting the character or beauty of the Alexandrian girl or a song describing a city or town on the Mediterranean are used, The answers to your other questions are probably answered in the comments by Morocco and myself at the bottom of the article you read.

Tipping the SnakeQuestion #2: Please explain the appropriate etiquette for accepting tips when performing.

Answer:  From the Cabaret to the high class 5 star Night Clubs throughout the Middle East, it is considered an insult to the dancer to offer cash in the middle of
her show. It insinuates she is a prostitute (I found this out the hard way by throwing piles of cash on a dancer in Cairo I admired, trying to win her affection, and then being promptly scolded by management and getting a very angry look from the dancer). If someone would like to offer a tip, then it is encouraged to do so after the show and it is more polite to offer gold than cash. In many places flowers are thrown on the dancer to show appreciation in the middle of the show (can get slippery). Most of the tips/presents I received when performing in the Middle East were in gold. Either way, it should be in an envelope or wrapped.

At a private family type event, particularly a wedding, money can be thrown on the dancer (this is a whole custom onto itself that has more to do with the bride and groom than the dancer). The concept of stuffing cash in a bra strap would be very rare and definitely not done with respect, as physical contact between men and women in a public place is almost non-existent in the Middle East. The concept of earning ones income based on tips leaves the dance artist in a very precarious position, not just risky financially but the appreciation
of the performance is often diminished.

If the employer is offering large tips as payment, then this employer can afford to pay an appropriate fee and if tipping becomes part of the equation…bonus, but never expected or needed.

Outside of Arab countries, tipping is more prevalent. If an audience member starts approaching you while dancing waving some cash, then you can turn away and ignore them or be more forgiving and with a big smile and a "thank-you" take the money out of their hand before they get too close and then place it down near a musician or on top of your veil. If the patron insists on aiming for your bra strap, then definitely turn away and ignore them.

If you work with musicians, it is customary to split the tips as they contributed greatly to the success of your show. In many establishments, it is a three-way split between management, the musicians and the dancer. The same practice is implemented for singers as well. Musicians are often not kind on stage to artists who have previously withheld tips. It is a good idea to tip a waiter and ask them to pick up your tips for you. It is not becoming for a dancer to pick tips up off the floor. At a wedding, the kids are usually eager to do this chore for you. Always, double check at a wedding to make sure that the tips were meant for you and not for the bride and groom.

gossiping galsQuestion #3:  I have been in love with Bellydance for almost 12 years and have met many inspiring women in this community. Although I was not very adept myself, I was
encouraged by my teacher to start teaching in my own smaller city which previously had no Bellydance classes. Over the years, my life became consumed with Bellydance including teaching many classes, hosting workshops, travelling to attend workshops and staging performance events. In the last few years, many Bellydance teachers in my small city have sprung up,
some good, some not so, but most of them were once my students. For some reason, I keep hearing mean-spirited gossip, insults and lies that these teachers spread about me. I cannot begin to explain the pain this has given me and now leaves me wanting to never teach or dance again. Any advice?

Answer:  Hey, you are not alone. I am sure if you talk to most teachers who have been around for a while, they have all experienced different degrees of this kind of behaviour. I have recieved many a tearful midnight phone call from teachers with the same story. One of the first times this happened to me, I asked the person in question why she would spread such lies and she quite frankly answered "but Yasmina, it is just competition!" She seemed surprised I did not get it. Whatever the reasons, I find it is best to ignore and just go about your business as usual. Definitely try not to retaliate. You will only bring yourself down in so many ways by getting caught up in an unfortunate web. Sooner or later, this person(s) will get tired of such antics or maybe even go away or apologize eventually. Students are sometimes like kids and when they are in that adolescent stage of discovering their independence, they can get kind of rebellious. Don’t worry, they eventually grow up and lose their insecurity. If not, at least it is not your concern. A wise musician once told me "not to worry about what was being said, just be thankful people are talking about and reacting to you, because it means you matter and are important".

The feeling of wanting to give up and quit can happen for many reasons. The above mentioned would be a good one of course, but there are so many. At all of these discouraging moments, I find it best to dig down deep to the original fire that was lit in your belly because of Bellydance.

Ask yourself "why?’ over and over again, digging deeper for the truth, until you arrive at that moment when the beauty of Bellydance had you completely inspired and elated, that moment when you wanted the whole world to experience the same joy.

Ask "why are you upset?", then "why does this reason make you upset?", then "why did this happen?" etc. When you forget about who is saying what or which event you were not invited to or whatever the details, and you just dance and/or teach for your original reason or impetus, then things usually fall into place again and the path to take is clear. Even if you have one student whom you are inspiring and being inspired by then you are back on track, sharing the joy.


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