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Gilded Serpent presents...
“Dancing In The Streets; A History of Collective Joy”
Authored by Barbara Ehrenreich
A Book Recommendation by Delilah

I cannot say enough about the importance of this book! I love it so much, I have ordered a bunch of them and am making it required reading for my students. Barbara Ehrenrieich’s book is witty, scholarly, and surprising.“Dancing In the Streets” arrived on the wing of many synchronistic thoughts I have been having lately.One of my thoughts was about my opinion of the good, but rather repetitious, Belly dance I have been seeing on exhibition lately. I’ve observed a high-caliber conformity. I guess it is because there are so many dancers now, and everyone is anxious to dance.

Homespun promoters often think that if you have more dancers in the show you will have a bigger paying audience.

This is not necessarily true—unless you are charging your performers. Most professional dancers do not drag their family, fans, and friends to every gig. Bringing the audience to the event should be the job of the promoter. Inevitably, including many performers in the show means we all get only 5 minutes to dance. In 5 minutes, you cannot let most dances develop naturally; therefore, you have to choreograph your dance. Well, if you are going to spend time choreographing it, then you will want stability/reliability so you can do it repeatedly; thus, you will want to use a CD. In this way, you can cut an “edited mix” to give the most variety and range for all of your “tricks” in that sound bite of dance performance. Personally this type of show makes me feel like I am jumping through hoops like a circus performer, rather than a dancer. Does this sound about right to some of you? So, I kept asking myself, “What’s missing?”

“The joy, the ecstatic joy, the sense of transcendence!” I answer.

I find myself becoming a little crazy. I love Belly dance, but I can’t sit still for hours and watch what seems like a million 5-minute dances that go nowhere because they weren’t allowed/granted enough variation in time. I find it hard to come out and dance for an audience who has become nearly catatonic from hours of passive watching.  Dance was not intended to be passive so proportionately. Ideally, I want to see 1 to 3 ritualized solos (at the most) and the rest of the time, I expect everyone to dance.

In her book, Barbara Ehrenreich takes one back to the original motivations of dance along a historic journey of how human impetus to dance, has been repressed by societal hierarchy, and religious zealots.

I am talking about all those who want control over other people (especially women), our pocket book, our hours spent working for “the man”, and inevitably, all our souls.

Editor recomments many of this author's titles.

There are two ways to repress it:

  1. Ban it.
  2. Control its performances within narrow confines.

You must have freedom to develop dance! I have been quoted as saying, “Ballet has taught more dancers to stop dancing than it has taught to dance.”  Belly dance’s claim to fame has been based upon how inclusive it’s been in recent years for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  If we are not careful, it may shift into the strict confinement of "pop and lock" on a thin 25-year-old’s frame. Competition, paint-by-numbers dance choreography is not what “Dancing In The Streets” is about!

Ehrenreich shows us that the need and the innate human inclination is to find and express joy freely with one’s body. She finds this urge impossible to annihilate—but repressed--it has been! It will eventually find a way to resurface. When it does, we are all happier and healthier for it. So, let’s do it!

After reading this book, I sat and meditated, and in retrospect, I saw the current political picture. Our government has usurped our rights in the name of “Homeland Security!” It has freaked out our senior citizens and has kept us busy chasing ridiculous bureaucracies, high-priced housing, and excessive medical costs. Today’s climate is one of social fear and repression of rights having filtered down to Belly dance. Wake up ladies! Resist! Read this book and let it inspire you to dance ecstatically!

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