Gilded Serpent presents...

Kajira & Chuck Interviews

Cultural Appropriation & Artistic Freedom

Videos Interviews by Lynette Harris
posted October 14, 2012
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Kajira and her husband, Chuck, are well-known individuals in our community. Kajira started the first festival for tribal style belly dance called "Tribal Fest". She also wrote a book called "Tribal Bible". We have a review of this book by Shelley "Yasmela" Muzzy here. One of the common issues that the community has had with Kajira’s philosophy and with tribal dance in general is with the issue of cultural appropriation. In this series of videos we discuss different issues and how Kajira feels about them. This is the passage from her book that I asked her to read on camera, and then we discussed different points.

"Remember that this is a dance of OURS. Our very own American Style Bellydance! Even though this style is not the first American style of bellydance, this is perhaps the first one that is unapologetic about that fact. We celebrate this fact. We love this aspect of our dance! This makes it a form that we can relate to in every way as American people. We don’t have to adopt or support another culture’s moral or religious standards if they are not comfortable for us personally. We don’t have to buy into any political agenda. We don’t have to feel bad because we’re not of Mediterranean descent, olive skinned, or don’t speak another language. We don’t need to feel as if we should hide our tattoos or body art for fear of offending someone else. We can choose our reasons for dancing and our venues and occasions. In short, we get to make up the rules as we go."

The first video here is an introduction to what Kajira and Chuck are doing now and their recent move back from Maui. The next videos will begin the discussion. Please add your thoughts and questions below in the comments section. It maybe helpful to reference which video or even the time stampof the video you are discussing in your comment.

Part 2: We begin our discussion by reading the above quote and discussing using the term belly dance and American Tribal Style. Kajira describes being ostracized because of her tattoos and the artistic freedom of not having to be tied to Middle Eastern traditions.

Part 3: Not MED, Misappropriation of the Rom culture, Ostracizing of Tribal. Find reference in Tribal Bible for time stamp 2:30. We found it- Page 215 at the top, "The parallels between the struggle of the Roma and that of bellydancers is undeniable.  Both groups are fighting to gain respect and move away from social prejudice." This point is addressed in the review of the book here.

Part 4: The Rise of Tribal Fusion. New terms- Spontaneous Group Improvisation, International or Improvisation Tribal Style. "Tribal Fest chronicles the rise of Tribal Fusion." Tribaret. No codification in our dances. Big difference betweem Tribal Fusion and Cabaret– Isolations, torso, arm movements. Kajira became certified in Rachel Brice’s format. ATS is a subset of Spontanteous Group Improv.

Part 5: Using the Term “Tribal”, The Modern Primitive Movement. Artists will fuse anything which is ok. What if we said “American Style Flamenco”? Morocco made this name up. Middle Eastern people get a feeling of “home” when they see tribal style. This is because we use authentic textiles and don’t use Hollywood fantasy. Doesn’t American Tribal sound like Native American? Modern Primitive Movement included tattoos, piercings, colored hair, alternative lifestyles. The hippy movement started the look of anything exotic being cool. Salimpour…

Part 6: Creating a Separate Community, Burlesque?
Kajira believes that the Tribal community is bigger and more successful than the rest of the belly dance community. “We wish we could be accepted as a sister dancer form… As Artemis said, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look.” Burlesque is a separate art form.

Part 7: Belly Dance and Islam

Coming soon!


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