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8-16-12 re:Ma Shuqa & Yosifa's 's Raqs Sharqi Improvisational Taqasim part 1... part 2 is here
Absolutely wonderful article!! 

Marwa
Chile

More from Facebook on this article:
Valerie Lindholmloved the ney in the forest and would love a LUCY workshop - I am meeting and dancing with more dancers/teachers who share her view / re enforce that spontaneity/improv. is the true essence of belly dance = its a challenge to channel that spirit/ energy but certainly very rewarding

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Comments from Facebook on Ozel Tribute:
Shadiyah Dances:Great to have this article re-posted from Bennu as it's wonderful and I've loved reading all the copies I have of Bennu plus the archives of GS! So much fantastic info!
Also, FYI: Lynette Harris, so happy to see you used my photo of our class with Ozel at Anahid's. It was a simply amazing and magical day and one I will never forget! Ozel was so sweet and gracious and full of humor! She will truly be missed. Blessings, Shadiyah

Leyla M Matsueda The article inspired me to buy 2 of Özel's CDs.

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8-13-12re: DaVid's Article on Sashar Zarif

Great summary of the workshops, I'm glad you took the to e to write this up! I left the classes sincerely wishing I could take a year off to come learn more- or at least check out the weeklong intensive he mentioned.

Lara
Alaska

YouTube comment on video embedded in article
TheLampDancer has made a comment on Sashar Zarif teaches and performs at IBCC 2012:
"Da'Vid is too cute!!!!"

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7-21-12 Re:Jhaiva's and Najia's articles
I read the article “Superstars:  What Sets Them Apart?”  That led me to the article “This is Not a Review: Bellydance Superstars”.  Both led me think about the following:
Since retiring from dance I’ve sometimes considered what I miss the most about it.  I always come up with the same answer; working with good musicians.  There’s something magical that happens when you suddenly find yourself totally in sync with the musicians that are working with you.  At the risk of sounding corny or like I’m exaggerating, it’s akin to a spiritual experience.  To feel like you’re “one” with someone and communicating with them without words, to feel like you both (or all) “understand” at the same time what the music means to you is illuminating.  I don’t know if I imagined it or not, but on those rare occasions, the entire room would hush as if the audience became a part of that understanding, too. 

That, to me, is the reason B.D.S.S. is not the true raqs experience.  Yes, they are beautiful and technically perfect and it is a lovely “picture” to watch, but we are only observing.  The difference between the Western concept of dance and that of the Middle East is the acknowledgement and expectation of that experience.  I see young dancers these days trying desperately to capture the expression they’ve been taught by Egyptian dancers as they perform to canned music, but it only succeeds in looking fake because, although you can get into a spiritual state, it rarely happens to recorded music while you have to stay in the moment to perform for an audience.  However, live music allows for a different dynamic.  When others are “making” that music with you, watching you as you are listening and communicating with them in order to allow for improvisation, that magic can happen when you find that connection.  At that point, something else takes over and you are no longer “in your head”.

Vilia
Atlanta

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7-16-12 FB comments re: various articles
Yosifah and MaShuqa's article on Tarab-

  • Yolanda- All Belly dance should be improvisational, unless it is a troop or folk dance!
  • Rebelle Rebel- awesome article, I want everyone to read it!
  • Sherry Jeffries- I love dancing to live music for this reason and taxsim is most beautiful.

Melina's article

  • Aziza Parker- Excellent article/speech!
  • Naomi- Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this entire experience!
  • Jhavia Nayeli Such a great article!!!

Amara's article

  • Valerie Lindholm- lets avoid rigid, contentious judgements and strive to be supportive . Critique can be straightforward & inspire controversy without condemning negatively " do unto others " etc.

Cairo streets article, part 1 on the CK

  • Sierra Suraci -That's a great video. Where were you? Khan el Khalili market? If so, it sure changed when I went in 2008....it was dusk though and we were running after our tour guide who just incidentally took us only to the places he wanted us to see before we had to board the train. It was dirty, crowded, and very unsafe feeling.
  • Yolanda- You're so brave.
  • Brigid- It looks so cool!

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7-14-12 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat

Hello! I loved the article called Journey To Womanhood that Elizabeth Artemis Mourat wrote. I am 46 and her attitude is wonderful and loving.
Thank you for such a warm and enthusiastic look at being a woman.

Jennifer Schelter,
Philadelphia, PA

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4-24-12 re: Yasmina Ramzy's Column- Is Bellydance in a Downward Spiral?
So regarding the excellent article Yasmina wrote in TGS:
My thoughts:

1) Using "Bellydance" or as Morocco puts it, "that horrible misnomer" is our first mistake. Whether it's the name most Americans recognize or not, we should have been steering away from it, a la Morocco and Ibrahim Farrah did, decades ago. It's inaccurate, and is a foolish, silly, snicker-inducing title for a dance form with ancient roots and a lot of technique to learn to do it properly.

2) Substandard performers/performances in inappropriate costuming for style of dance or body type undercuts us in the eyes of the public

3) As noted in some of the comments on the article  - this latest bit about combining "bellydance" and "burlesque" is a dangerous road to go down. We have fought for decades to get away from the "exotic dancer/stripper" notion, and then fools out there start offering burlesque classes at Oriental Dance workshops or performances. Just what we freaking need - NOT.
  I feel the same way about the extreme Goth/Tribal/Fusion stuff. Let it spin off and be its own thing - it certainly isn't Oriental Dance.

Pauline Costianes

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4-18-12 re: Yasmina Ramzy's Column- Is Bellydance in a Downward Spiral?
Thanks for this interesting story. I have been a bellydance student since 1997 and teacher for the last 11 years. I am sad but happy to see there are other people who feel the same as me about this beautiful artform. When I first started to bellydance I was determined as a performer to change peoples perception of this style and make them see the tradition, history and health benefits of the style.

After maybe 4 years of performing I felt the frustration grow that people still scoffed when I said the word bellydance. Then I went to Egypt to see some of the "stars"and left disgusted thinking that I had just basically seen a strip tease on stage from one of the stars who bellydancers around the world rave about.

In the classroom there is no doubt they have talent - on stage why why why is everyone undoing so many years hardwork that industry leaders have put in to make people see how special this artform is.

I made the decision to stop performing unless its in traditional gear - you can imagine that dosent sit well with people but that is the only way I found people focus on the dance and not the past perceptions they had. Everytime I look at photos or videos of bellydancers I feel so sad and sometimes even ashamed to say that I am a bellydancer - they are dressing and behaving cheaply and showing no respect to themselves or the artform.

The younger generation of dancers coming through -  the costumes are getting skimpier, breasts are nearly falling out, botox seems to be more common and its a real embarressment to the industry.

Its such a beautiful art Im trying to turn a blind eye to how I feel and whats going on, but right now I feel the industry is projecting a soft porn image of the dancers and making everyone feel this is how you should look.

I long for the day we see a young dancer covering up, respecting herself and the art and showing the audience what bellydancers can really do.

Perhaps a competition where the requirment is to wear a galabia is the way to go! Im sure many people will disagree with how I feel but Im sorry it had to be said - I find myself exploring other dance styles now days as I dont want to be associated with the image the bellydance world is currently projecting in 2012 when we talk about women respecting and empowering themselves.

Thanks,
Katerina

Australia

More comments on this article-

You ask thought provoking questions, Yasmina.  I started bellydancing to improve my confidence and explore my femininity.  At the same time, I found dance and a what I thought was a beautiful art form.  During the 5 years I spent at my studio I saw it get increasingly “sexed” up.  There was an emphasis on being sexy over dancing well.  Our costumes began to show more and more skin, despite the presence of children.  Finally, we started offering an increased number of burlesque and striptease classes.  

It is impossible to defend bellydance as a true art form when studios are offering bellydance classes alongside striptease classes.  Further, the more dancers emphasize their cleavage and thighs over skill and grace, the less the arts foundations are going to be willing to offer up grants.  

I consistently argue with dancers from the studio I left that bellydancers need to learn some basic dance fundamentals, and I am told that bellydance is an ancient dance that should stay that way.  Dance evolves.  Until instructors learn more than how to teach hip drops and shimmies we will never be taken seriously.  I am sorry to tell you that is just the fact.  

And yes, I have seen plenty of dancers accepting money in all sorts of places on their costumes.  Until dancers stop dancing for tips — PERIOD — you will never be seen as a serious dancer.  Have you ever seen a ballerina or a jazz dancer picking up tips in a restaurant?  

Marie

Thanks so much for writing about this issue. I won’t hide being a bellydancer, but it always seems like the image of bellydancing needs constant correction in the mind of the public – something I naively thought we wouldn’t have to do forever.
I also know bellydancers who won’t use their real names out of fear of what might happen to their jobs, or what their co-workers would say. I’m sorry they feel they have to do that.
One of the reasons is as you put it, “Bellydancers cheapening and selling out their feminine sensuality” and no doubt thinking they are somehow empowered by doing so. I don’t think it’s all about the economy although I’m sure that plays a large part in what type of behavior some bellydancers put in their act as well as what types of dance studio owners promote. I’m so glad I don’t have to run a studio and make those decisions!

Anthea

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4-7-12 Comments re: Katalin's Article about Festivals that Could Have Been

Zummarand- I can’t help but feel that Katalin just did not do enough research before embarking on this. And a woman *has* done it before – Raqia Hassan. Yasmina Ramzy. Many many other women.
Probably the biggest mistake was picking a foreign country. Organising a festival is hard enough without factoring a country you don’t know inside and out into the mix. 
But I feel sorry Katrin lost so much in the deal!

IsisDancer28- BRAVO, Katalin to your courage, perseverance. PLEASE keep on dreaming and dancing, you’re a beautiful artist with grand vision. 
Business and arts are two polar mates that can create the most dynamic synergy but needs experienced hands in both. Finding a business partner in bellydance is like finding a diamond in the roughs. Perhaps, Katalin should try it in her home country to start, a more familiar territory to start.
The current economic condition in the world has definitely put a big damper effect on the attendance. Additionally, competing with established international festivals is not easy. Perhaps, Katalin would like form a partnership with other dancers who have been organizing dance festival in this scale first before venturing on her own.

Samira Tu'Ala- I take issue with #3 in her article.  Katalin is blaming other experienced organizers for setting standards that are too high for her to meet, when in truth it’s her lack of experience that was the major culprit here.

I am so tired of artists blaming organizers for being money-mongers who don’t care about the art. That is so ridiculous. There is no reason that organizer can’t love the art AND make money with their time & effort.

Additionally, I’ve found that it’s the inexperienced organizers who do more harm to our community than good.  It’s especially frustrating to hear the stories about organizers who don’t want to make a profit.  They just want to study with their favorite artist.  This is the equivalent of undercutting and makes it much more difficult for experienced organizers to set prices that will reasonably cover the cost of running a sustainable and quality event.

Author's response- Dear Samira! 
Can you send me please where i blaming the organizers with anything in the article? I just wrote my experience and my mistakes and the situations with to many festivals which shares the dancers… I wrote also that this was not good time to organize a new one, mainly to that i am not a business women just an artist…
I am sorry if you bought yourself anything, but it is just about me and my mistakes, i never want to judge anyone else, i have enough tasks with myself! 
Warm Regards 
Katalin

Anthea/Kawakib- I’m goggling at #2: teachers are traveling to teach at workshops without compensation? Is that true? Please go on – I’d love to hear more about that. 

Barbara Grant- Katalin,
There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, putting your passion behind what you want to do, and putting all your effort behind it. Any entrepreneur in any field goes through this, but success is not assured. Most important thing is that you learn from your mistakes, which you seem to be doing here. In your next effort, I’m sure you will be wiser for what you have learned.

Author's Response-
Thanks a lot for all encouraging words i am touched by the thought that artists from different countries and with different history understand and help each other! And yes this was the first plan for the title: “Lesson Learned!” :-)
It was just very good feeling to write about my mistakes to and during this i know more myself… (just more, not all…:)

Amira- Read more: Dear Katalin,
I understand what you have been going through. It is too difficult to open a festival without your own following. I have tried to do the same thing, failed, and not giving up. The big factor might be ego of local dancers who may feel omitted or undercutted. Please do not give up, work on organizing your event step by step, promoting, educating, looking for co-organizers. I will contact you through Facebook if you want some more ideas. Have a great day everybody!

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4-6-12 Response to Rebaba's exciting chapter in Iraq!

Georgi- Memories of Baghdad……great story, want more!!!!

Barbara Grant- I’m glad, once again, to read that Rebaba made it out of difficult circumstances without any harm to her. But I think a little more historical basis is important. The recent (several decade) history of the U. S. to Iraq is a bit complicated. For instance, 1983 and Iran-Contra did not occur during a Bush presidency, but during Ronald Reagan’s time in office, long before we sent troops to Baghdad during the tenure of George W. Bush. Why did the Iraqis feel betrayed by the U. S. in 1983? Was it arms sales to their opponents, the Iranians, or something additional? Again, given recent history, I think their opinions are important to note and recall.

Author's response- Thank you Barbara Grant for your comment above. My memory of Iran Contra here in the USA, made public many years after I returned home to California, is most likely the reason I remembered President Bush’s involvement…What I know is that during my stay in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein broadcasted to the Iraqi people on his two TV stations that the weapons Iranian soldiers were using to kill Iraqi soldiers were originally sold to them by the USA via a host of others.  This “betrayal” as Saddam called it is what I know and experienced while in Baghdad.  No American troops were there when I was there, just plenty of American business men and journalists as the USA was publicly on Iraq’s side and publicly funding their war effort against Iran.  The betrayal Saddam Hussein broadcasted to the Iraqi people said that the USA was playing “both sides of the coin”.  What was later publicized in the USA as the “Iran Contra” affair told a story far too similar to be ignored by me, and hence my referral to it in my story.

Barbara Grant- Thank you, Rita! That is very helpful.

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3-10-12 re: Nelly Fouad Interview by Caroline Evanoff
Caroline Evanoff's article "Nelly, Beloved Star of Egypt" sets a standard that I wish all GS writers would try to emulate.  It's easy reading but also packed with "hard data":  information on Nili's training, career, films, signature moves, costumers, and choreographers.  Where other writers, interviewing a dancer, devote paragraphs to the dancer's apartment decor or what she served the writer for dinner, Caroline gives us Nili's advice for the foreign dancer -- "Learn Arabic!" -- and why (though here most readers would admittedly need more explanation).  Am I the only person who appreciates this kind of writing?  Readers, tell the writers what you want; they need feedback in order to do better . . .

Edwina Nearing
Chico, California

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1-1-2012 re: interview with Jacqueline by Kamala
Hello.  I just watched a clip on YouTube from "The Man With Bogart's Face."  Someone named the three belly dancers in the scene, one of whom is Jacqueline Lombard.

I was amazed to see her name.  I saw her perform in early April 1977, I believe, at the Seventh Veil on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.  The year is certain.  I was in LA on spring break.  I was about to start my last term of college.  The LA trip was a big adventure.

Performance details--lost to history.  She was wonderful. I have remembered her name ever since.  Thank you for putting the interview with Jacqueline on your site.  The Gilded Serpent is a terrific resource and great site.

Sincerely,
Jeff Wilson
Age 56
Portland, Oregon
Loyal Fan of Belly Dancing

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11-18-11 re: Nanna's "How Much Do You Charge?"
I haven't been dancing long... 3 years... and at times on & off... but when I began to consider professionally dancing at restaurants and private parties I wondered why there wasn't any standard, and that's when I started to see the "belly dance world" its a world (from my experience) where there is so much cattiness, uncertainty and disloyalty that we can't even get along with each other long enough to team up and work together. I must admit over the past year I haven't been dancing because my experience left such a "bad taste in my mouth". The woman I learned from was very hesitant to tell me anything about charging or any "secret" rules, maybe I wasn't ready at the time, but I had many people asking me if I danced for events and I thought it was right to say yes so that they would take me seriously when I turned to her for advice. She gave me an attitude and snubbed me off - this is someone I trusted and was very loyal to for years, someone I considered a friend!  So I ended up asking a friend of mine that danced with another instructor how much I should tell people I  charge... well, anyway, long story short I had found myself in the middle of a situation I knew nothing about... I got  blamed for "undercutting" (which never happened) and ridiculed - it was horrible and has effected my trust in other belly dancers and their motives... its so sad that organizations have to be this way sometimes. 

Well thanks for hearing me out  : ) Im happy there are people like you out there that are addressing these types of things. It give me new motivation to get back to class and DANCE!
Sena
Providence Rhode Island, USA

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11-14-11 re: Sausan's Ballet-ification of Bellydance
It's difficult to  respect  an instructor who so blatantly criticizes other dance forms. It comes across as bellydance elitism. Dance is a matter of personal preference. No genre is superior to any other. There may be superior  dancers, but not superior genres of dance. The author should take a ballet class and experience the joy of extension, balance and feminine lines for herself.  Personally, I rejoice in the beauty of ballet and greatly enjoy many other dance forms for what they express culturally and individually. And yes, I actually prefer "old school" egyptian style all the way.
---Frankie

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10-19-11 re: Fayruz's "Gotta Have a Gimmick"
I just want to comment on this article by Fayruz.  I thought it touched on a subject that had often frustrated me in the latter years of my dancing days.  I was never a connoisseur of the cane, sword, pot or fire, but I used zills and the veil, which were not considered props back then, but more like extensions of the dancer.  The other props I mentioned were rarely used in clubs and restaurants as part of a regular show.  Many of us kept our zills on throughout our shows, which generally were twenty to thirty minutes long, and it was possible to hold them in a way that did not inhibit graceful hand movements or "clang" when not being used. 

There came a time, however, towards the end of my dance career, when dancers who were not as adept at improvising with live music or were less able to carry a full show began using props as a means to maintain their audience's interest.  This is not to say there are those dancers who are very skilled at using sword/cane/fire etc. who cannot also be wonderful dancers at the same time.  I have seen many who can do it all and do it extremely well.  However, too often these props can be used to mask a lack of skill when it comes to actual dancing, yet the unsophisticated club/restaurant owner and some members of audiences with short attention spans or lack of a discerning eye regarding talent want only the "wow" factor, and consider the ability to manipulate a prop while moving without whacking, stabbing or setting oneself (or others) on fire to be the ultimate test of dancing ability.  In reality, of course, these are two entirely different skills, but the lack of acknowledgement of that fact is one of those unfortunate lessons in showbiz.  Fayruz came at the subject from a slightly different angle, but made the point nevertheless.  Thank you, Fayruz! 

Vilia
Atlanta

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10-19-11 re: Katalin's Costume photo spread
....I need to speak up !....the style of ones dance certainly dictates what one wears, I am a middle eastern dancer, pan Arabic....these costumes could not be worn for my studios style. guess I am annoyed that this is presented as what we all WANT to wear ! to me..these look like a hula bd fusion thing. I sincerely want what I wear to reflect what I do..I sincerely do not understand any of what was shown...there is nothing to even pick up movement with the majority of these . i admire every ones creativity...but not insulting others is big with me too. not all styles of MIDDLE EASTERN dance could do much more than just stand in 1 place in these costumes.

Cory Zamora
Fresno ca.

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Multiple Comments re Davina's Assuit/Assiut FAQs
8-12-1011:Hi! Thank you for the assuit info. I have a beautiful, very heavy vintage piece (about 3 1/2 yards) that is torn in a few spots. I am debating whether to take the plunge and make a dress out of it, or mend it and leave it as is. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations regarding cutting or mending tears?  I have condidered backing the fabric with another peice of tulle, but am unsure how to proceed. Any info would be greatly appreciated!
Cecile

8-17-2011: Hi, I really enjoyed this article.  I was told that if the designs are geometric that the assuit was made by Muslims and if the designs contain animal or people patterns that the assuit was made by Christians.  Thank you for contributing! 
-Sausan
http://www.sausanacademy.com

8-18-2011: Author response-
Cecile – Oooh.. vintage assiut – how rare and wonderful – you lucky thing!
The first thing I would do is stabilize the fabric by flat mounting it onto modern tulle.  This will support the weight of the fabric and keep it from tearing.   Once it is mounted, carefully hand wash it using some extremely gentle soap.  Vintage clothing enthusiasts swear by a product called Orivis, but I’ve found that Dreft is quite gentle and does a good job for the fraction of the price.
Once it is mounted and cleaned.  Enjoy it.  Wear it out to a dance event as it is as a shawl or scarf.  Or, like my friend Sarah does in the photo in the article, wear it draped over an existing costume.  You can either put it over one shoulder as she demonstrates above.  Or you can wrap it around your neck and tuck it into your hip belt front-to-back or on either side.
Once you’ve worn it and experimented with it as a whole piece, then you will understand it’s drape, nature and value, then consider using it as costume piece.  The easiest tunic is just to open a neck hole at the center and wear it over the head.  It does the least damage to the original shawl, and it creates an amazing tummy cover .   You could also cut it in half and make a lovely skirt from it by simply adding a waistband at the top.
Regardless of what you ultimately choose to do with your vintage assiut shawl, be sure to really enjoy it!
Happy Costuming!  
~ Dawn Devine ~ Davina

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8-20-11 re: Caroline's "Permits, IDs, Licensing, Foreign Dancer's in Cairo"
Letter to the Editor, Readers of G.S., and Caroline Evanoff,

Thank you for your informative article posted in the G.S. 7-7-11 Belly Dance News and Events, “Permits, IDs, Licensing: Foreign Dancers in Cairo.” It immediately revived my memory of the frustrating and sometimes harrowing experiences of getting that elusive pink “Artist” card. I, too, had to surrender my passport as the final step in receiving official permission to dance in Egypt. It was a traumatic day, I well remember.

Just to clarify, I was not one of the lucky diplomats and journalists to have a second passport issued. Rather, following travel advice for U.S. citizens staying more than one month in Egypt, I had gone to our Consulate in Cairo to have my passport copied—photocopied, not duplicated—to have on file. There were international tensions during this time, and it was a precaution that in the event Americans were asked to leave the country quickly, I would be able to prove U.S. citizenship with a 24 hour turnaround and board a plane.

And like you, Caroline, I was very aware of the scary reality that a nightclub owner could refuse to give his permission to terminate the contract, and for any number of reasons, prevent a dancer from retrieving her passport and leaving. So having a copy on file at the embassy would be helpful, if the need arose.  Fortunately, my first contract was with Lucy’s Parisianna; their club manager accompanied me through the endless bureaucratic licensing steps. Subsequently I danced at other nightclubs when official permissions were extended to El Leil, Sunset and Siag Pyramids based on the first contract. When it was time to go back home, I was thankfully released from my contractual obligations with formal letters and documentation that all government taxes had been paid (48% for a foreigner). It took about two weeks for the paperwork to be processed, and returning to the frightening Mogamma, I handed in the little pink card. The safe, burgeoning with multicolored international passports of foreign entertainers, was opened and my navy blue one retrieved. I was overjoyed, kissing my passport with tears in my eyes. They must have thought I was crazy, but they already knew that about us dancers!

Shareen El Safy
Santa Barbara, CA, U.S.A.

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8-16-11 Re: Hana's Article about Egyptian Music Choices
This is a really interesting article. I was particularly struck by this comment:
Mergencies tend to have a lot of rhythmic variety built into the format, often with varying tempos and energy levels, so are ready-to-use versus the extra burden involved in devising one’s own cocktail or medley’.

A good point well made, and I can’t help thinking, isn’t the ‘burden’ the whole point?!! In that actually, engaging with the music in a dynamic way should not BE a burden to a professional dancer, it should be part of our job, right? ‘Taleta wa bass’ – it’s a 3-way performance, inextricably linked and a constant flow between the 3 elements. I recently had a very interesting conversation with a Gnawa musician about ME dance/music and we came to the conclusion that the art is all about ‘poesie‘..poetry. The lyrics, music and dance are all expressions of this. Sad that so many choose to disregard it.

Shema

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8-2-11 re: Surreyya's article on Helena Vlahos

Thank you for showcasing Helena – not only a real innovator (with the quarter tricks), but an accomplished Oriental dancer. I hope all teachers & students of Belly Dance take a long look in the mirror and heed her advice “…stay true to the dance & make it better & not obscure”.  In the last few years as some dancers are fancying (or deluding) themselves as innovators, they are instead taking our dance down a mediocre & obscure path – & they are teaching it in classes & doing it in public. Our community in the USA  has been so welcoming of all comers, that we’ve  allowed this to flourish & become the norm. Fusing styles is fun – but make it great! If you fuse hip hop for example – we watch America’s Best Dance Crews – so make it impressive. If you are a belly dance student & wondering “where’s the belly dance” as your teacher is having you do bad hip hop moves to Michael Jackson, trust your instincts and seek out a real Middle Eastern Dance teacher. I just can’t keep my mouth shut any longer!

Kamala Almanzar
Los Angeles, CA

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I’ve nothing profound to say, but wanted to say it here so it gets archived…wanted to pipe in with my appreciation for the picture at the top of the page of Helena, and the absolutely beautiful, very chic costume she is wearing.
Best to all.

Barbara Grant
South Bay, CA

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8-3-11 re: Surreyya's article on Helena Vlahos
I too remember watching this great  lady on tv as a kid…she was my idol next to I dream of Jeannie!! Except she was/is real!!!  Can’t wait to see her in person!

Terry
San Rafael, CA

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8-2-11 re: Najia's Dance Cancer Part 2
Thank you for your revealing, passionate and personal articles on Gilded Serpent. You have indeed endured more than your share of strife. I believe your articles will encourage others to be pro-active and cause an awareness of potential health challenges. I admire your strength and determination.

Faye Austin
Atlanta, GA

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8-2-11 re: Najia's Dance Cancer Part 2
Najia,
I always enjoy your writing, but I love this quote:

"I felt rather like a humored school girl being given the choice of wearing one of two or three hideous dresses to the prom" (Najia Marlyz, 2011).

I enjoyed your article. I hope that it did bring you some closure rather than resurrecting old ghosts.

Yosifah
CoCo County, CA

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6-23-11 re: Serpent Tour 2011
It was so interesting for me to read about your Serpent Tour and particularly your visit to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England.  This is my old stomping ground, as I was raised in Tonbridge (which is a few miles from Tunbridge Wells).  I learned from your videos that I emmigrated to the U.S. right around the time that the Middle Eastern clubs were becoming popular in London (l975), and it was only a year after I arrived in the States that I began taking lessons here myself.  The style I learned, which was a mix of Turkish/Lebonese/Egyptian, and the places I danced, in Greek and Arabic clubs to live as well as canned music, led me in a completely different direction from the way it evolved on the other side of the Atlantic.  I don't regret anything, however, as I really enjoyed my dance years and probably did more with it over here than I would have done if I'd stayed in England. 

I had first seen Western women learning belly dance on an English television documentary about Americans and had told myself I wanted to learn it, not knowing at the time that I would wind up over here and do that very thing!

Thanks for the article and I want to give a shout out to the ladies in Tunbridge Wells! 
Valerie (Vilia) Cherry
Duluth, Georgia

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5-11-11 re: Facebook link to class photos from Leila's workshop
Hi Lynette,
Sahra C Kent commented on your link.
Sahra wrote: "Thank you Lynette for printing Leila's article about her musicians. My heart has been touched. Kamal, the violinist, worked with me from 1989-1995 and was one of the group I brought out to the US for the tour. He has 9 children. I will be happy to give them work when we go to JtE-3 Cairo in a couple weeks. Thank you, Leila, for writing this."

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5-5-2011 re: Marliza Pons
I'm sad to say that Marliza Pons has passed.. Marliza and I have been friends for many years. We met on the set of "Alexander the Great" in 1963, I don't believe she was belly dancing yet. We became friends and I found out she had a son the same age as mine and her sister-in-law Joni took care of him. When the film ended my agent had a dancing job for me in Oahu I asked Marliza if she would like to join me in the show and bring her son and her sister-in-law. I really wanted my son to come with me. It was perfect, we had both our children with us and Joni who was a wonderful caretaker. We had a great time together. Joni remained with me many years and took care of my boys while I was a dancer. I'm so sad to see her pass. I thought you would like to know. Joni also passed away tonight. 

Antoinette
Los Angeles

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4-21-11 re: Note on Facebook
Hi Lynette!
We met at IBCC 2010. I'm almost done writing my dissertation, and I can't tell you how great it was to have Gilded Serpent as a resource. Hope to see you at IBCC 2012!

Candace Bordelon
Texas

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More interesting comments oin these pages:

 

4-5-11 re Ozma's article on the Japan dance scene
Ozma's report deacribes Japanese belly dance scene in detail. I couldn't find any mistake in it.

By the way, Northeast Japan earthquake also hit Tokyo. But me and my family are all right, thank you! People live in Fukushima direction is still suffering. We continue to pray for JAPAN...

I think dance is a kind of pray. I beleve that dance and music bring love and peace. It would heal many people. I heard that many dancers all over the world pray for us and hold charity events. The Earthquake is really tragedic but brings unity for not only Japan but world, I feel.

I keep dancing.
 
love & lights,
Ayumi
Japan

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3-10-11 Re: Jeanne's review of Cory Zamora's 2 DVDs re:BD for Men, Seniors
Thank you for the reviews .I guess any mention is better than none . It seems most view all only from their perspective..we are human. But perhaps dancers with simular styles should review each other.

my DVD's are about getting over 50+ years of dance training, experience out of my head ! If any viewer would like more in depth, they come to me. I need it out of my head ! As for the "old school" comment...yes we are ! and in my opinion, if more started with an education of where this all comes from we would not see so many insulting takes on a vast ethnic culture .

From past reviews of my material , I understand we teach and learn in a different mode in our studio. but it is working here .Ethnic people make up the better % of our clients. As long as they are happy...and I can live with myself we are "winning"(..sorry, just had to say that! yes, I have a good humor to me.)

My next and last DVD...the 16th...will soon be out. it is very basic...me teaching all the 2/4, 4/4, 6/8 and 9/8 , drum solo steps I know with zills.....yes, basic and shot in my studio , but the information is there. I am not about "me" or frilly videos...this is not and has NEVER been about us...it is about our souls being a vessel for an art born from a culture and faith. thank you serpent for all your wisdom and being here for us all !

Cory Zamora
Fresno, calif.

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2-28-11 re: Not So Steam Punk Bellydance by Jasmine June
Comment:
"It’s  never a good feeling, having your meticulous, time-honored craft   dismissed or eclipsed by a trend you have no immediate connection to.   It’s difficult not to feel uneasy, watching your art form be   oversimplified, lumped in, or lazily dismissed by an all-too-easy and   reductive definition.  It’s not fun, being shoved in a box that you have  no desire to be in,  even if that box is comfortable, or even  inspiring, for plenty of others   who’ve willingly placed themselves  inside of it."
Not to be flip, but I imagine this sums up the feelings of a large cross-section of the bellydance "culture" who feel that lots of different things have been tossed into a giant pile and called bellydance, for no other reason than someone likes bellydance AND something else, and they think that gives them the inalienable right to jam them together and call it bellydance.  These sentiments ring true to artists of any and all ilk--there are always those who are trying to maintain a set of recognizable criteria and standards, and there are those who feel to do so is a constraint of their creativity. The former feels they are being undermined in their efforts to uphold their ideals, and the latter feels they are "taking it to the next level."

I always argue that a dancer should be able to remove their costume and even the music (gasp), and those knowledgable of the style being presented should be able to recognize the dance they are doing.  I have yet to see a performance called "Steampunk bellydance" able to communicate that fusion through purely movement. Tempest and I disagree on gothic bellydance as well--I have not yet experienced something under that moniker that didn't look simply as either simply bellydance or generally modern/interpretive dance.
Think of it. Can you recognize tap without any of the trappings? How about ballet? Flamenco? Hip Hop? Irish Step Dance?  Contact improv? Salsa? Jitterbug? Stomp?
And within these styles, experts can even discern sub-styles fairly easily.  yet with bellydance, often we throw on a different piece of music and a different costume, and we think we can call it something else. We need to look deeper, as a community of artists, to understand what really differentiates one style from another, and whether it truly is a new style, or an existing style in a new frock.

Shay Moore
Seattle, WA

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2-12-11 re: Nanna's article-Calling All Professional Dancers- How Much Do You Charge?
Bravo for speaking on a very important subject. I have also fought this problem for years and always charged an appropriate fee for my dancing services. But then, I am a business woman and like to make a profit for all my hard work. I would say that most belly dancers are not in business for themselves in the real world and never think about making a profit as a belly dancer. They just want to dance so badly that they will give themselves away for the opportunity to perform.

I would agree with you that $200 is a fair price for a professional quality belly dancer. One of the best things I learned about pricing was from Adam Basma. He always asks the client what their budget is. Now if you think about this, it makes perfect sense. If their budget is low, you can decline or decide to dance for them. And many times, their budget is higher than what you might have charged them.

I don't know if there will ever be a belly dancer's union and I don't know if it would work if there was one. But our true power lies in communicating with each other about our business practices and will only make us stronger.

Genie Sumrall
San Luis Obispo, CA

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1-3-11 re: Leila's Dance for Dancers
The Bellydance Superstars have performed to Arab audiences in Dubai and in Morocco and we found no confusion with the audience - quite the contrary they insisted our dancers must be Arabs because "Americans cant dance like that".  In our contract the promoters made a point of making sure we were going to include Tribal - they did not want to see only just what they already have.  They loved the modern approach to bellydance and the class of the dancers delivering it.  That appeared new to them and the women expecially appreciated it.  All to often the venues for bellydance in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world are catering to men and tourists which makes dancers dance to please that crowd.  In the West the audience is much more female so dancers are more prone to focus on dance instead of pushing sex as they tend to do in the Middle East. 

In many ways Bellydance has grown up just as Rock and Roll did.  Its become a world dance.  Once the Beatles came along and took Rock and Roll out of America it soon became a world art with great practicitioners everywhere many beating Americans at their own game.  Bellydance is no longer Egyptian any more than Rock and Roll is American.  There is no "essence" in Egypt any more than there is in Chicago.  The big differance is that the Egyptians did not respond to the rest of the world loving what they invented the way Americans did.  The Beatles woke American artists up and Rock and Roll had a rebirth all accross America.  No one in his right mind now would consider a non American rock band somehow not having the "essence".  The Rolling Stones, U-2, Rachid Taha, Beatles, Zucchero, The Police, Led Zepplin, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Inxs, ACDC tons of acts compete and have competed equality with the best America has to offer and we all have the benefit of it.  Where are the new Egyptian dancers?  Why has that society not responded to the respect and love of bellydance that the non-Egyptian dancers have given it?  The only thing they have contributed lately is hip scarves, costumes, and trinkets which I am glad to say gives employment to people who need it.  Their festivals are entirely about foreigners NOT Egyptians.  They make their money entirely from foreigners NOT Egyptians.  A strange turn of events.  Its a real shame. 

Miles Copeland
Los Angeles

 

Click a link below for the previous letters.

Older Letters  

Archived Letters Page 19- 2010

Archived Letters Page 18- 2009

Archives Pg 17- January through December 2008
What's in a name, self acceptance, Men in Belly dance, Yasmina's new column, MECDA Ellections, Tajikistan, AWS fest, Arabic Idioms, Professional Presence, Suhaila in Phoenix, Music recording, Vegas IBDC, Egyptian Code, Jodette, Journey to Womanhood, New York Dance Scene, Amy Sigil, Tito Seif, Arab Defamation, Gothla, Neon's Keeping your mouth shut, Valizan Ozgen, Toronto IBCC, Burlesque, DVD purchasing, God Bellydanced, North Beach Memories, Princess Farhana fan article, Cabaret to DJ by Nina, Raqia Hassan, Serpentessa, Cover-ups, Criticism, John Bilezikjian, Certificaation, BDSS, East too West?, Vendor's View, Lynn Zalot & Habibi,

Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007
Tatseena's Belly Bully piece, Amina's writing, IBCC coverage, Review on Tirbal DVD's, Barbary Coast and Bellyqueen, Cover-ups, Non-Profits, lifting the Veil by Yasmina,
Mona Said's letter, Music Copyrights, Ethics of Fusion, Egyptians being too Western?

Archives Pg 15- December 2006 through June 2007
Interview with Nakish, Sashi-kabob, How to charge what yo'ure worth,Tribute to Rhonda, Marliza Pons, Party booking, George Elias, "I dance you follow". Ethics of Fusion
Archives Pg 14- June 2006 through December 2006
Ethics of Fusion, Queen of the Bay, Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Greek Flavor, What ME Audiences Expect , Taxsim, Gothic Dance, Gyspy Dance, Sashi Kabob, Wierd Rituals

Archives Pg 13- November 2005 through May 2006
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Sashi's piercings, Sex shows on Rakkasah Fest stage, God Bellydanced, Sima Bina, Devi Ja's passing, Jamie Miller's Passing, BDSS reviews and Mile's reponse, Michelle and Sandra's Adventures, Turkish Baths, Muslim Cartoons, Working together, Review of Shareen El Safy's DVD, Spokane's Festival Coverage, Articles by Keti, Michael Baxter, Zar article and racism, WHEW!

Archives Pg 12- May 2005 up through October 2005
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Competing Cairo Fests, Israel Fest, Untaught Teacher

Archives Pg 11- December 2004 up through April 2005
Copeland, BDSS film and auditions, GS kicked out of Rakkasah, Zaheea's dancing for the blind, Christian dancer, the THONG, Luxor club review, Miles vs Horacio

Archives Pg 10- May 2004 through November 2004
Mena in Iraq, AWSF, Desert Dance Festival 2004, Biblical Accounts of Bellydance in Ancient Near East, Bellydance in Israel, Festival of the Nile review, Suhaila’s Sheherezade review

 

Archives Pg 9- December 2003 Through April 2004
Myopic view of BD by Sadira, Belly Bus, Queen of Dance Contest, Rakkasah West photo teaser, Comparing and Contrasting, Jillina DVD review, Dancing inside out

Archives Pg 8- May 2003 - November 2003
San Leandro Fest photos, Reflections on North Beach, BD and healing from sexual trauma, Dina in Dallas, Searching for your new dance teacher, BDY pageant

Archives Pg 7- October 2002 - April 2003
Najia’s Real Critic article, Back in the Holy Land, Glass dancing, Casbah and Bagdad Club, Reflections on North Beach

Archives Pg 6- March 2002 to September 2002
Vendors, Dance certification, BD and strippers, Jamila Al Wahid video review

Archives Pg 5- March 2001 - March 2002
My uncle Yousef, BDY pagent 2001, Dancer attitudes - BD gossip and back biting

Archives Pg 4- November 2000 - March 2001
Criticizing and reviewing events, “Where’s the hook when we need it?” Desert Dance Festival review

Archives Pg 3- March 2000 - October 2000
Entertainment or art? Sicilian bellydancers, Rhea, Review of Giza Academy Awards

Archives Pg 2- November 1999 - Febuary 2000
Living Goddess review, Fred Glick travel, Fanana of Bellydance

Archives Pg 1- Febuary 1999- September 1999
Shira’s advice to “Offended”, North Beach memory, George Elias & Bagdad Cafe

 

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