Befreiung | Liberation

Bellydance au derrière

Yet again, there’s been a dust-up in the bellydance community about what “bellydance” is, whether it is the same thing as Raqs Sharqi or Oryental Tansi, whether fusion dancers should be ‘allowed’ to call themselves bellydancers.… Whatevs. I’m so over it.

Yet again, bellydance displays its status as a ‘second-class’ dance genre. Which is fine, really. After all, underprepared students perform in the same shows that highlight talented professionals. Dancers with little skill get paid restaurant gigs. Or worse, those dancers undercut ‘true’ professionals. I see no signs of that changing, so it doesn’t even really bother me anymore. It’s just the state of things. Could you imagine a ballet dancer with a year or two of training showing up in the Nutcracker? Or a hip-hop hobbyist backing up Justin Timberlake?

Randa Kamel

Out of curiosity, I spent some time investigating the latest online squabble, and it was, as I expected, people talking past each other, generally not being careful with semantics, and generally not trying to read through the words they found upsetting. Nobody gets (or gives) the benefit of the doubt. But they aren’t even arguing about what they’re actually arguing about.

It doesn’t matter what we call this particular dance style. It doesn’t even really matter what types of movements comprise the style. This is a culture clash, but it’s not “Middle East vs. The. West.”

The clash is between dancers who view a dance genre as a movement vocabulary and those who view it as culturally-tied expression. We Americans who started dance classes at a young age were indoctrinated into the view of dance as artistic movement. Ballet is not French per se. And while tap has roots in jazz music and African movement styles, it’s now considered its own thing.

Many fusion bellydancers have lassoed around the movement vocabulary and are dragging the rope into their own paradigm. They mix in hip-hop, jazz, Indian, Balinese, et al. They want bellydance to be a serious (dare I say “legitimate”) performance dance form. But there’s a whole cadre of folks tugging on the other end of the rope, insisting that the folkloric roots of the dance ipso facto keep it tied to its cultural origins.

 

Other folk dances don’t suffer from this, it seems. Square dancing doesn’t get fused with break dancing or tango. West African dancers don’t break out into grand jetés. And yet other dance styles have been taken beyond their roots with seemingly little complaint. Exhibit A: hip hop. What started as a street and club dance is now taught at dance festivals and featured at Super Bowls. I don’t hear B-boy purists grousing about that. But maybe I’m not listening well enough?

I’ll confess: to me bellydance has always been a movement vocabulary with cultural roots. I (and most professional fusion bellydancers) have extensively studied bellydance history and music with myriad master teachers. I understand where it came from, and how it still exists today in its native lands. And that’s good enough for me. I also understand that many folks would say that what I do does not deserve the moniker bellydance. Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

I’ll just sit over here sighing and shaking my head. As bellydance stays stuck in the same loop, rehashing the same arguments. I’m actually taking a break from teaching my weekly fusion bellydance class so I can focus on my new horticultural business. The timing seems right on many levels.

Instead, you can find me in my Tuesday night tap class. Nobody’s gonna tell me that ain’t tap. Phew.

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Sibling sleep time. #catstagram

Sibling sleep time. #catstagram

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OMG. just look at this gorgeous new floor at the Performance Garage! No tape!!! #drooling #marley

OMG. just look at this gorgeous new floor at the Performance Garage! No tape!!! #drooling #marley

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How we cope

Millions of Americans are, like me, terrified about what could happen come next January. We worry about a right-wing Supreme Court in control for the rest of our lives. We worry about how our government programs and civil rights will be decimated because all three branches of government are under the control of the same right-wing political party. We worry about a totalitarian demagogue with his finger on the button.

Right now we need to find a way to breathe. This just happened, it’s still fresh. We need to find a way to just get through the first _____ days of processing this new reality.

How ever many days you need, take them. Allow yourself the time you need to be numb. Allow yourself to be sad, scared, angry. Despondent, terrified, irate. Your feelings are valid.

Do not let yourself be shamed for your feelings. Walk away from verbal battles, unfriend with reckless abandon, block when appropriate.

People who didn’t ‘get it’ during the election still don’t ‘get it’ now. It’s not your job to engage, to argue, to convince…not right now. If you want to do that, you’ll have many opportunities in the future.

sunset

But right now, we need to just get through. Tend the wounds. Let your scar tissue grow, allow the scabs to form. We need you to take care of you right now.

We need clear heads and full hearts in order to move forward. There are many ways to resist, and you will find yours, when you are ready.

I love you, my fellow heartbroken Americans.

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Tapping for Hillary #pantsuitnation #StrongerTogether

Tapping for Hillary #pantsuitnation #StrongerTogether

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Peeking through the arches into the rally. Speakers starting already. #hillaryclinton

Peeking through the arches into the rally. Speakers starting already. #hillaryclinton

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I made this. Just a lopper and my 2 hands. #ladylandscaper #ofcourseicanliftmorethan50pounds #fallcleanup #landscaping

I made this. Just a lopper and my 2 hands. #ladylandscaper #ofcourseicanliftmorethan50pounds #fallcleanup #landscaping

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This. Is huge. These two do NOT like each other. But they’ve been sitting together for a half hour already. And Hugo just fell asleep. #peaceispossible #catstagram

This. Is huge. These two do NOT like each other. But they've been sitting together for a half hour already. And Hugo just fell asleep. #peaceispossible #catstagram

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