Cultural appropriation

Farasha Hanem

New member
And no, I never believed any of that crap. My first teacher had solid technique and a great grasp of the dance (she had studied folk and flamenco before belly dance). She passed on accurate knowledge. Then the first workshop I attended was with Aisha Ali. I don't need the dance to provide my fantasy life.
Neither did I. I joined this forum before I started taking classes---my dance education started here. Kinda gets on my nerves when someone assumes something about me when they don't know me. :confused:
 

Nejmeh

New member
These are the moment I wish my English was better...I am sorry if I did offend:(

First, I didn`t intend to offend anyone, just intended to point out that all our countries have reps that don`t fit our own experience of living there or being from there. We all know that for our own countries/heritage. You all proved my point by immediately defending your countries(which is just), just as Shan did with 'her' US. Reputation of nations are just that, it`s not reality. That I took Nz&Australia is because most of you debating the US are from there. I am well aware my own heritage has its own rep issues(and thats why I don`t like any kind of generalisation)

I hope you understand my comment was not meant to offend but to stop the generalisation of the US...
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
These are the moment I wish my English was better...I am sorry if I did offend:(

First, I didn`t intend to offend anyone, just intended to point out that all our countries have reps that don`t fit our own experience of living there or being from there. We all know that for our own countries/heritage. You all proved my point by immediately defending your countries(which is just), just as Shan did with 'her' US. Reputation of nations are just that, it`s not reality. That I took Nz&Australia is because most of you debating the US are from there. I am well aware my own heritage has its own rep issues(and thats why I don`t like any kind of generalisation)

I hope you understand my comment was not meant to offend but to stop the generalisation of the US...
No problem:D My comment - pointing makes holes in the air was said (mainly) with tongue in cheek to lighten the mood ( & yes my Dad always said that to us kids when we pointed at things especially people, he considered it quite rude to point ... times change & one needs to roll with the times at times:D). I doubt there is a country in the world that doesn't have a bad rep for some reason - often a whole country can be tarred by one or 2 idiots doing something dumb when they go on holiday, so many tourists leave their brains at home unfortunately.
~Mosaic
 

Aniseteph

New member
I also don't think that one should watch a performance and expect it to be completely culturally and historically accurate unless it is specifically marketed that way. Especially with something like belly dance.
You (generic) can get up there as a performer or teacher and not be making any claims to being authentic X style, and as someone who has seen a lot of things in the dance community, I will not expect authentic anything. The wider belly dance community has decided in the interests of inclusion, supportive sisterhood, creativity, not stepping on anyone's right to self expression and Aaaahrt, etc etc to make the term belly dance very wide indeed, to the point of meaninglessness.

But the minute you take it outside those circles, just using the term belly dance is enough to set up expectations. You are representing something... belly dance... (rhetorical yet critical question alert)... what IS that exactly? :think:

Outside, people don't know or care what the dance community thinks. Belly dance is a dance associated with the ME. Camels and oases and harems and exotic costumes and weird music? Audience members and students will on some level take whatever you are doing as related to the ME because you said belly dance. And a few of those people have clear ideas about what belly dance means to them, especially if it's part of their culture. It's unavoidable unless you are only relating to people who are coming at it from the same background and with the same POV as yourself.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
These are the moment I wish my English was better...I am sorry if I did offend:(

First, I didn`t intend to offend anyone, just intended to point out that all our countries have reps that don`t fit our own experience of living there or being from there. We all know that for our own countries/heritage. You all proved my point by immediately defending your countries(which is just), just as Shan did with 'her' US. Reputation of nations are just that, it`s not reality. That I took Nz&Australia is because most of you debating the US are from there. I am well aware my own heritage has its own rep issues(and thats why I don`t like any kind of generalisation)

I hope you understand my comment was not meant to offend but to stop the generalisation of the US...
*hugs* Please don't be sad, Nejmah. You meant no harm. And your English is fine. :)
 

Nejmeh

New member
Happy you understand!

@farasha: Tnx, I know my English is doable, but when it gets a bit deeper I want to type something quickly and I`ll just miss the right ring(this for example, I know thats not the correct way to say it but I don`t know what is:rolleyes: )
 

DancingArabian

New member
:confused:???

Nope, I started out as the four-year-old who, after watching bellydancing in movies from the '50's and '60's on TV, wanted to learn how to do a bellyroll correctly; even at that young age, I knew I was doing something wrong. :think:

I've always been the kind of person who takes her hobbies/interests seriously, even as a child. My grandfather taught me, "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well." For me, that's the fun of learning to do something.

Not everyone takes a hobby seriously enough to do it 'properly' or to the best of their ability. Hobbies, for some people, are just about having fun - without thought or consideration for progression or advancement, just about enjoying the activity.

Oh, something else (doggone it, wish I could remember EVERYTHING I want to say at one time, instead of realizing later I forgot to say it. Stupid old age...it's not fun getting progressively more forgetful... :confused: ). I did say in my post that there's nothing wrong with having fun. Nothing wrong at all... as long as we still take responsibility for the way we represent what it is we're doing.That's what this whole debate is about, not being guilty of passing on "wishtory," and respecting the cultures of other people. Have fun, yes, by all means, as long as we use wisdom while doing so.
But how does one take responsibility for a performance that is less than culturally accurate, but is well performed and well received? Should they send a letter of apology to the teachers in (insert country here)?

Actually "cultural appropriation" is about taking parts of another culture without permission. In most cases people are resonably happy about respectful and genuine uses of culture (there are exceptions - especially when connected to religion or identity which is why some Maori are against the use of moko and haka by non-Maori).

When reflecting accurate and honest expressions of raqs sharqi and raqs beledi few people from the source culture seem to be upset. When they do get upset is when a mix and match approach is used - whether it is mixing inappropriate music, costumes, moves, or cultures ie "fusion". Few Egyptians I have spoken to feel this improves the dance. Many give a WTF response. But when mixing with myths such as freedom loving "gypsies" and sluttish beledi women I have seen real anger. Thus fusion is the area that is most likley to cause offense.


Actually you can. I have spent most of my post-beginner studies with Egyptian (as born and danced in Egypt) teachers and dancers. The dance is not lost in the mists of time. It is a living culture and there are people who have observed and studied first hand.
I've seen way more appreciation of the "gypsies" and slutty harem girl than I have seen derision. I think most performances have *something* about them that can offend someone out there. I do agree that fusion is most likely to cause offense, which is why I think fusion performers should be particular about where they perform.

It's awesome that you have been able to study with Egyptian teachers and dancers. I say that with zero sarcasm and more than a little bit of envy. HOWEVER....not everyone can. I never said nor do I believe that the dance is lost in the mists of time, but I do think it's ever changing, growing, evolving. I have no doubt that it's very different than what it was 20, 50, 100, 1000 years ago.

Not everyone has access to teachers/dancers who are authentic to the culture. Not all dancers are interested in taking on the responsibility of acting like a cultural representative for a culture that isn't theirs. I don't think they do it out of malice, they just are interested in the dance, and not so much its origins.

How is a person supposed to know who or what is authentic anyway, even if dancing with someone from Egypt? I stand by what I say - there are too man sources marked as "True" or "actual" for the common person to be able to easily say what's true and what's not. If this wasn't the case, the majority of newbie dancers wouldn't think they're dancing the dance of the temple priestess/harem girl/whatever. Not everyone can afford, or even wants to take, a trip to Egypt or another country to study the origins of belly dance.

Baskets of water?????

Sure, no problem with a little fantasy - as long as people know it is fantasy and nothing to do with the real thing. But in that case, why do they need to use the "belly dance" label? I mean, if I like eating candyfloss why call it chicken kiev? That goes triple for teachers.


Actually it is being kept alive - in homes in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey - just the professional part is having problems.

And no, I never believed any of that crap. My first teacher had solid technique and a great grasp of the dance (she had studied folk and flamenco before belly dance). She passed on accurate knowledge. Then the first workshop I attended was with Aisha Ali. I don't need the dance to provide my fantasy life.
Yes, baskets of water, LOL! The explanation I was given was that when you're carrying a basket of water on your head, the water sloshes forward and back with your walking momentum and that in order to keep it balanced (because your hands were full with other stuff, you see), you had to do a motion like the camel dance move to keep the basket up there.

It's labeled belly dance because the inaccurate portrayal they're acting out is what much of the audience expects to see when they see the words belly dance. What should they call it?

I don't think the dance is dying, but I certainly don't see as many students in classes as I used to. I don't see as many classes offered as I used to, or even bastardizations of belly dance being offered. I think the economy has kind of put it on the back burner a bit for many people.


Which brings me to.....

But the minute you take it outside those circles, just using the term belly dance is enough to set up expectations. You are representing something... belly dance... (rhetorical yet critical question alert)... what IS that exactly? :think:
What IS belly dance, exactly?
Why does it seem so hard to mythbust its origins and useage?
Should the wishtory dances be called something else instead of belly dance?
How should dancers who perform less than accurate performances label themselves?
How should they costume themselves?
How can they perform, market, and costume themselves in a way that minimizes or eliminates causing offense?
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
But how does one take responsibility for a performance that is less than culturally accurate, but is well performed and well received? Should they send a letter of apology to the teachers in (insert country here)?
No, one takes responsibility by correctly labelling what it is that they're doing, and by not slapping on the term "bellydance" to it.

Not everyone has access to teachers/dancers who are authentic to the culture.
This is true. However, thanks to the internet, we can have contact with native dancers and teachers, and with those who have studied under native teachers. :)

Yes, baskets of water, LOL! The explanation I was given was that when you're carrying a basket of water on your head, the water sloshes forward and back with your walking momentum and that in order to keep it balanced (because your hands were full with other stuff, you see), you had to do a motion like the camel dance move to keep the basket up there
You said in an earlier reply that someone "told" you this. Was this person your teacher? A workshop teacher? Fellow student?
 
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DancingArabian

New member
No, one takes responsibility by correctly labelling what it is that they're doing, and by not slapping on the term "bellydance" to it.
As I said in my last post - I have to wonder which useage of "belly dance" is more appropriate. Is it more appropriate to call the stage version belly dance, or the local in-country version belly dance?

Do Egyptians call it belly dance? Just curious. What about in other countries?

If they call it something else, wouldn't it be more culturally responsible to use the terms used locally?


This is true. However, thanks to the internet, we can have contact with native dancers and teachers, and with those who have studied under native teachers. :)
And thank goodness for it! I wish dancers from other countries would all have a little blurb on their site about how dancing at the casual and profesional levels differ, how it's done, what they wear, etc etc etc. It would make for some great reading!


You said in an earlier reply that someone "told" you this. Was this person your teacher? A workshop teacher? Fellow student?
My first belly dance teacher. She said some moves were inspired by things in day-to-day life (such as the camel and water basket thing), and some moves were "by women for women" and were a kind of lamaze thing to help with birth, and that belly dance was typically done behind closed doors when women gathered together.

I'm not saying I believed, or believe it, but I'm just repeating the things I was told when I started :) I will point out that I've been very careful to not specifically state my own beliefs, but rather to just provide discussion material based on my experiences.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
As I said in my last post - I have to wonder which useage of "belly dance" is more appropriate. Is it more appropriate to call the stage version belly dance, or the local in-country version belly dance?

Do Egyptians call it belly dance? Just curious. What about in other countries?

If they call it something else, wouldn't it be more culturally responsible to use the terms used there locally?
From what I've learned from this forum, there is a name that is preferred: "Raqs Sharqui," or Oriental Dance (teachers, feel free to kick me if I'm wrong). It's the term preferred by Morocco---she hates the term "bellydance," which in truth probably isn't the best name for it.

Tarik Sultan had a good explanation of why he uses the word "bellydance," but I wouldn't know where to begin to find his statement here. :(
 
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Kashmir

New member
I've seen way more appreciation of the "gypsies" and slutty harem girl than I have seen derision.
But wait a moment - you just said you have not studied with Egyptians (and I assume not travelled to Egypt and spoken to people there) - so who is this "appreciation" from? If it is from non-natives it is irrelevent as we are taking about cultuarl appropriation ie how people whose dance it is feel about what is being done to it and how their culture is portrayed.
It's awesome that you have been able to study with Egyptian teachers and dancers. I say that with zero sarcasm and more than a little bit of envy. HOWEVER....not everyone can. <snip> Not everyone has access to teachers/dancers who are authentic to the culture.
In New Zealand we have some access - but sometimes we need a passport to travel to Australia. In the States you have far more opportunities and no need to use a passport. It often comes down to priorities - not opportunity. If I can count the number of times I have seen people spend money on costumes rather than primary or secondary source workshops ...
How is a person supposed to know who or what is authentic anyway, even if dancing with someone from Egypt? I stand by what I say - there are too man sources marked as "True" or "actual" for the common person to be able to easily say what's true and what's not. If this wasn't the case, the majority of newbie dancers wouldn't think they're dancing the dance of the temple priestess/harem girl/whatever.
Research. Read sources like Habibi, Arabesque, Morocco, Shira. Ask people with experience. Ask for the teacher's experience. Ask about what field work they have done. If the person has a website with no sources quoted and no information about their experience and training assume they know very little. This covers propably 95% of belly dance sites. Frankly most are pure fantatsy and just crib from other fantasy sites.
It's labeled belly dance because the inaccurate portrayal they're acting out is what much of the audience expects to see when they see the words belly dance. What should they call it?
Fakelore. Fantasy tableau/dance. Orientalism.
 

Kashmir

New member
Do Egyptians call it belly dance? Just curious.
No they don't - unless they are on some of the aimed-at-Westerners circuit - and then some of the less scrupulous will say whatever you want to hear to your face and have a good laugh behind your back.

The social dance is raqs - some times it is called raqs beledi or raqs shaabi - but ordinary people don't normally use any adjective (just like if you are dancing at home what would you call it? "solo interpretative club dancing"? - nope, just "dance".

The professional dance is raqs sharqi although professional dancers tend to use the French terminology danse orientale - or just "orientale".
I will point out that I've been very careful to not specifically state my own beliefs, but rather to just provide discussion material based on my experiences.
So, everyone else is pinning their colours to the wall. What do you actually believe?
 

DancingArabian

New member
From what I've learned from this forum, there is a name that is preferred: "Raqs Sharqui," or Oriental Dance (teachers, feel free to kick me if I'm wrong). It's the term preferred by Morocco---she hates the term "bellydance," which in truth probably isn't the best name for it.

Tarik Sultan had a good explanation of why he uses the word "bellydance," but I wouldn't know where to begin to find his statement here. :(
Is this it?

AHLAN WA SAHLAN : HELLO AND WELCOME

" It was in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair that Raks began to be called “Belly Dance”. The promoter of the Midway and owner of the Egyptian Theatre, in an attempt to gain interest and customers for the dance shows, decided to give it what was then considered a racy name that would catch the public’s attention. At that time, referring to any body part by name was considered very vulgar. When the American public heard the name, they anticipated an exotic wanton display of lustful sexuality. As expected the public descended on the Egyptian dance theatre in droves; the promoters of the fair were soon making money hand over fist.

 Some people found the movements strange and shocking, but most people who came anticipating something wild, actually enjoyed the simple folk dance they saw. Unfortunately, the stereotype remained firmly stuck in the imaginations of the general public who never saw the real dance. "


Okay, so assuming this is accurate... (not that I'm implying that it's not, but I didn't check his creds either. I just googled a name.)

Where is the harm in calling the stereotypical stage performance belly dance, calling the more culturally accurate dances by their regional names, and leaving it at that?

If "belly dance" was coined in order to label a racy dance - why wouldn't the people from the countries of origin of the dance see it and treat it that way - a racy label to something that isn't the real dance of their country - and not give it a second thought?

(This is written without snark, hostility or lack of appreciation of the cultures. Goodness knows I see MANY bastardizations of the dances of my own culture and they do not strike my heart with fury and offense.)

But wait a moment - you just said you have not studied with Egyptians (and I assume not travelled to Egypt and spoken to people there) - so who is this "appreciation" from? If it is from non-natives it is irrelevent as we are taking about cultuarl appropriation ie how people whose dance it is feel about what is being done to it and how their culture is portrayed.
Okay, then I retract my experience :) I have not traveled to Egypt, nor have I studied with a dancer or instructor from Egypt. Locally, I see people react positively to the gypsy/harem girl dancers, though dancers dancing to Scottish/Irish/Celtic music is gaining popularity at local festivals. Sorry, there is not a "gotcha" moment there.


In New Zealand we have some access - but sometimes we need a passport to travel to Australia. In the States you have far more opportunities and no need to use a passport. It often comes down to priorities - not opportunity. If I can count the number of times I have seen people spend money on costumes rather than primary or secondary source workshops ...
Workshops are not easily accesible to everyone, and not without great expense for some. If I wanted to travel to one of the belly dance camps, I'd be looking at at LEAST $1000-2000 dollars in expenses. That is 4-5 high end costumes, and hundreds of pieces of cheaper grade costume pieces. Local workshops would still run me a couple hundred - though that's far more attainable a goal. I don't feel I personally dance well enough to go to a local workshop though.

Research. Read sources like Habibi, Arabesque, Morocco, Shira. Ask people with experience. Ask for the teacher's experience. Ask about what field work they have done. If the person has a website with no sources quoted and no information about their experience and training assume they know very little. This covers propably 95% of belly dance sites. Frankly most are pure fantatsy and just crib from other fantasy sites.

Fakelore. Fantasy tableau/dance. Orientalism.
Research can lead you to just as many bad sources as it does good sources. I'm just trying to point out tht there's a huge number of sites that claim to be "authentic" but are just filled with inaccuracies.

No they don't - unless they are on some of the aimed-at-Westerners circuit - and then some of the less scrupulous will say whatever you want to hear to your face and have a good laugh behind your back.

The social dance is raqs - some times it is called raqs beledi or raqs shaabi - but ordinary people don't normally use any adjective (just like if you are dancing at home what would you call it? "solo interpretative club dancing"? - nope, just "dance".

The professional dance is raqs sharqi although professional dancers tend to use the French terminology danse orientale - or just "orientale".

So, everyone else is pinning their colours to the wall. What do you actually believe?
My social dance styles all have names...so I'd use those names if someone asked me what I danced on socially. There are *many* bad examples of the dances of my culture, and how the cultures are portrayed and the names they're called.


I'm kind of getting the feeling that I've ruffled your feathers somehow, but I'll be damned if I know how. I haven't posted anything argumentative, or hostile, or rude. If I've posted something that has caused you offense, then I apologize as it wasn't meant that way.

My emerging belief is that the dancers should use caution when labeling themselves. If the the local level of dancing is not called "belly dance" in the countries of origin, then offense shouldn't be taken at the use of the word as it's clearly not meant to be an accurate cultural representation. I think more effort should be made to express that "belly dance" is inspired by the dance styles of the countries - because I really don't think that many people realize that people in ME countries dance like that socially and they think that it's just a performance art and not a cultural aspect. I could absolutely agree that if someone is calling themselves an orientale dancer or "raqs beledi" dancer or some other culturally specific label, then walks out to music of another genre with a costume from yet another genre, then yes offense should be taken. From this thread I'm seeing that "belly dance" was meant to be something specific - so it really should be viewed as and considered as that, and nothing else.
 

Darshiva

Moderator
Workshops are not easily accesible to everyone, and not without great expense for some. If I wanted to travel to one of the belly dance camps, I'd be looking at at LEAST $1000-2000 dollars in expenses. That is 4-5 high end costumes, and hundreds of pieces of cheaper grade costume pieces. Local workshops would still run me a couple hundred - though that's far more attainable a goal. I don't feel I personally dance well enough to go to a local workshop though.
Frankly, if you have the money for the high-end costumes and not the dance experience to use them, you should perhaps prioritise doing those workshops to get the experience and maybe buying or making those costumes later.

I didn't have a high-end costume until I'd been dancing for 8 years - because I prioritised getting as much of an education as I could. Even then I just lucked out in having the money available for a second-hand costume when I was... you guessed it - out learning how to be a better dancer.

Do the workshops honey, it'll make your dancing worthy of the costumes you covet. ;)
 

DancingArabian

New member
Frankly, if you have the money for the high-end costumes and not the dance experience to use them, you should perhaps prioritise doing those workshops to get the experience and maybe buying or making those costumes later.

I didn't have a high-end costume until I'd been dancing for 8 years - because I prioritised getting as much of an education as I could. Even then I just lucked out in having the money available for a second-hand costume when I was... you guessed it - out learning how to be a better dancer.

Do the workshops honey, it'll make your dancing worthy of the costumes you covet. ;)
Hm.
Let's back up a moment?

I don't have ANY high end costumes. ZERO. I never said that I had any. I was was trying to put the cost of a dance camp into perspective.

Your post is coming off as very demeaning to me. You jumped to some conclusion about my devotion to learning, said that I don't deserve to have a nice costume and said I was a cruddy dancer. Thanks for the warm fuzzies, because that really makes a person feel nice to have someone jump to all sorts of conclusions and make accusations based off them.

If I've pissed you off somehow, then kindly tell me in a PM exactly why you're being so harsh. I have not posted anything rude, mean, belligerent or demeaning to anyone on here, nor have I posted anything with that intent.
 

Kashmir

New member
Where is the harm in calling the stereotypical stage performance belly dance, calling the more culturally accurate dances by their regional names, and leaving it at that?

If "belly dance" was coined in order to label a racy dance - why wouldn't the people from the countries of origin of the dance see it and treat it that way - a racy label to something that isn't the real dance of their country - and not give it a second thought?
Because the link is there. You cannot "sell" belly dance without the exotic other.

There are also quite a few dancers in the West who do not use the label "belly dance" - not because they are doing the real dance (although most are) but because of the associations that go with the label. Rocky has about 30 pages on it in her book. I thought she had a short article on the reasons on her website but I could not find a concise article. Here is one that may be of interest Welcome to Morocco's Meanderings

Okay, then I retract my experience :) I have not traveled to Egypt, nor have I studied with a dancer or instructor from Egypt. Locally, I see people react positively to the gypsy/harem girl dancers, though dancers dancing to Scottish/Irish/Celtic music is gaining popularity at local festivals. Sorry, there is not a "gotcha" moment there.
Okay - so, this does not support people whose culture it is expressing an opinion. My comment was based on talking with people who were born or still live in Egypt.
Research can lead you to just as many bad sources as it does good sources. I'm just trying to point out tht there's a huge number of sites that claim to be "authentic" but are just filled with inaccuracies.
As I said, look at their sources. Never accept a claim without evidence. Reading lots of fluff that has been made up is not "research". I listed some reliable sources. Both Shira & I also list others on our sites. Shira has an excellent article on judging how reliable sites, books, articles are. Have you read it? If so, follow it and you may find yourself less confused. If not, then do so.
I'm kind of getting the feeling that I've ruffled your feathers somehow, but I'll be damned if I know how. I haven't posted anything argumentative, or hostile, or rude. If I've posted something that has caused you offense, then I apologize as it wasn't meant that way.
No, you are not offending me - but you are frustrating me. You ask questions and are getting answers from some pretty cued up and experienced dancers and teachers but you seem to be coming back with "people say lots of different things and it's all opinion any way and I cannot be bothered reading or researching anything hard because I'm not interested". So I'm wondering why I am trying to teach you something for free when I could be cutting code and making some money :rolleyes:
 

shiradotnet

New member
Where is the harm in calling the stereotypical stage performance belly dance, calling the more culturally accurate dances by their regional names, and leaving it at that?
This question comes up a lot from beginning and intermediate students. It also comes up a lot from more experienced dancers who want to divorce "the movement vocabulary" from its cultural origins for their personal convenience.

It's important to remember that the term "belly dance" was applied to dancing performed by ACTUAL MIDDLE EASTERN PEOPLE at the Columbia Exposition. It was not applied to some sort of generic American imitation. In fact, when generic Americans started doing satires of it in their Vaudeville and burlesque shows, they didn't usually call their satirized version by the term "belly dance". They tended to prefer the term "hoochy coochy" for their satirized version.

Inside the belly dance community, we have a lot of terminology that would completely confuse the public. The public still tends to associate belly dancing with the Middle East. When someone's sister thinks it would be fun to hire a belly dancer for his 30th birthday party, chances are she has never heard of our insider terms such as "tribal fusion", "American Tribal Style", raqs sharqi, raqs baladi, Gothic belly dance, etc. All she knows is that she wants someone to show up in a sequinned bra/belt set, with a chiffon skirt, using exotic music from foreign climes, playing finger cymbals, adding a dose of light entertainment and a taste of faraway places to her party. The party planner probably doesn't expect her "belly dancer" to show up in a black leather corset and garter pants expressing herself to hiphop music.

Our movies and television shows do still show belly dance being associated with the Middle East. If the characters in our favorite television show go to a Middle Eastern restaurant, there will probably be a brief belly dance scene. If the characters travel to Turkey or Egypt, there will probably be a belly dance scene.

I personally find the term "belly dance" unattractive, and I think "Oriental dance" is a more elegant, prettier sounding name. But at the same time, I recognize that if I market my classes as Oriental dance, nobody will show up because they won't understand the term, so I need to use the term "belly dance". So the personal balance that works for me is to call it "belly dance" when promoting my classes, but if I'm invited to perform in a local dance showcase that includes other world dance (Argentinian folk dance, Irish step dance, etc.) then I will ask the organizers to identify my performance as "Egyptian dance" or "Oriental dance" or whatever else seems appropriate to the occasion.
 
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Farasha Hanem

New member
This question comes up a lot from beginning and intermediate students. It also comes up a lot from more experienced dancers who want to divorce "the movement vocabulary" from its cultural origins for their personal convenience.

It's important to remember that the term "belly dance" was applied to dancing performed by ACTUAL MIDDLE EASTERN PEOPLE at the Columbia Exposition. It was not applied to some sort of generic American imitation. In fact, when generic Americans started doing satires of it in their Vaudeville and burlesque shows, they didn't usually call their satirized version by the term "belly dance". They tended to prefer the term "hoochy coochy" for their satirized version.

Inside the belly dance community, we have a lot of terminology that would completely confuse the public. The public still tends to associate belly dancing with the Middle East. When someone's sister thinks it would be fun to hire a belly dancer for his 30th birthday party, chances are she has never heard of our insider terms such as "tribal fusion", "American Tribal Style", raqs sharqi, raqs baladi, Gothic belly dance, etc. All she knows is that she wants someone to show up in a sequinned bra/belt set, with a chiffon skirt, using exotic music from foreign climes, playing finger cymbals, adding a dose of light entertainment and a taste of faraway places to her party. The party planner probably doesn't expect her "belly dancer" to show up in a black leather corset and garter pants expressing herself to hiphop music.

Our movies and television shows do still show belly dance being associated with the Middle East. If the characters in our favorite television show go to a Middle Eastern restaurant, there will probably be a brief belly dance scene. If the characters travel to Turkey or Egypt, there will probably be a belly dance scene.

I personally find the term "belly dance" unattractive, and I think "Oriental dance" is a more elegant, prettier sounding name. But at the same time, I recognize that if I market my classes as Oriental dance, nobody will show up because they won't understand the term, so I need to use the term "belly dance". So the personal balance that works for me is to call it "belly dance" when promoting my classes, but if I'm invited to perform in a local dance showcase that includes other world dance (Argentinian folk dance, Irish step dance, etc.) then I will ask the organizers to identify my performance as "Egyptian dance" or "Oriental dance" or whatever else seems appropriate to the occasion.
THIS. And this was similar to the post Tarik wrote somewhere on this forum that I can't find, and wanted to provide a link to. Thank you, Shira, for your reply. :)
 
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