Will I ever be acceptable?

lizaj

New member
I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my time by expanding my knowledge of a dance I love and respect.
Over the years my desire for a colourful and interesting way to fill my leisure time changed to full blown intrigue with a beautiful art form and a ever- growing admiration for wider aspects of the culture of the Arabic world.
I travelled to 3 North African countries and Turkey and was vowed by hospitality,scenery, history, architecture as well as music and dance.
When I started to teach I wanted to capture the interest of others and ensure that my students realised this was an expression of ME culture and to duly respect that and also acknowledge that not all the people of that region actaully liked the idea of belly dance.
But I sometimes consider that being a middle-aged , say rather old Celt I may have no right to practise let alone teach this dance.
Are my intentions suspect, am I a figure of fun to Arabs, does my race exclude me from being taken seriously?
I feel safe dancing ATS as Americans have encouraged me and I am happy to call it something other than belly dance.
Am I to be discouraged by negative vibes and comments that hint that because I have no Arab or Turkish blood, I can forget this and should try the Highland fling in my dotage?:think:
Or do I consider that Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour and Khaed Mahmoud are quite happy to teach and encourage middle aged Brits and Americans to dance their dance?:think:
 

Eshta

New member
I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my time by expanding my knowledge of a dance I love and respect.
Over the years my desire for a colourful and interesting way to fill my leisure time changed to full blown intrigue with a beautiful art form and a ever- growing admiration for wider aspects of the culture of the Arabic world.
I travelled to 3 North African countries and Turkey and was vowed by hospitality,scenery, history, architecture as well as music and dance.
When I started to teach I wanted to capture the interest of others and ensure that my students realised this was an expression of ME culture and to duly respect that and also acknowledge that not all the people of that region actaully liked the idea of belly dance.
But I sometimes consider that being a middle-aged , say rather old Celt I may have no right to practise let alone teach this dance.
Are my intentions suspect, am I a figure of fun to Arabs, does my race exclude me from being taken seriously?
I feel safe dancing ATS as Americans have encouraged me and I am happy to call it something other than belly dance.
Am I to be discouraged by negative vibes and comments that hint that because I have no Arab or Turkish blood, I can forget this and should try the Highland fling in my dotage?:think:
Or do I consider that Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour and Khaed Mahmoud are quite happy to teach and encourage middle aged Brits and Americans to dance their dance?:think:
Eshta is officially staging an Intervention:protest::protest:: there will be no hanging up of the hip belts missy :naghty:!

I think it depends on what you want out of it. If you want to be a Star of the Cairo Stage and that is the only thing that will make you happy then you might need to start bracing yourself for a bit of a disappointment for a whole bunch of reasons (and please take that as anything but a personal attack on you!!)

As to whether it is your 'right', hmmm :think: I watched a video about how American line dancing craze has hit Korea and there were all these Koreans dressed up in outfits in a 'barn' and talking the lingo with the accent. It all seemed kinda strange but cute and hey why not, kinda thing. And then it dawned on me that that is what we must look like to Egyptians, hahaha!

I think the views of the Natives will always be mixed at the idea that their dance has this worldwide cult following. Some find it flattering, some simply see the dollar signs, some see a combination of the dollar signs and the opportunity to 'mingle' with the loose western women :rolleyes:, and some find it ridiculous, patronizing and even threatening. Then add into the mix that it isn't seen as a high-brow past-time, that it's not something that nice girls do. And then consider how many of today's Cairo stars are foreign...it's a complicated dynamic.

I'm not making my point at all, it's way past my bedtime! I'm just saying you shouldn't turn your back on belly dance just because it comes with its own emotional baggage :lol:
 

adiemus

New member
I've struggled with this too - I know there is no way I can be 'authentic' as a belly dancer, I'm from New Zealand, my background is scot/irish/english/mongrel and I came about dancing it because I wanted a fun way to get fit. Then I got addicted and intrigued by the culture, and expanded my knowledge - and felt totally flattened that there is no way I can dance without imbuing the dance with my kiwi heritage, and probably diluting it way more....

I balance this with the following mental gymnastics:
- ballet, which was my true love as a child, is french/english/russian - and no more kiwi than I am
- I hate working out at a gym, loathe, detest and dislike it more than most other things, at least I'm still dancing!
- I've learned heaps about culture, music, geography, food, history since I started dancing MED - which can't be a bad thing!
- I can embellish my dance costume in a way I can't embellish my work clothing, and express my alter in a relatively safe way
- I don't intend to perform to people who are any more knowledgeable than myself and at least I aim to be respectful and try to raise the knowledge of people in general
- the more I learn about others, the more I learn about myself, the more respectful I am about others, the more respectful I am toward myself - if I can honour my own integrity as much as I can through learning as much as I can, I may never ever be 'authentic' but I can be honest in my dancing and express some of the things I don't have words or images to do so in any other way.

While I know there will be people from the ME who look at my dancing who will think 'who is she trying to fool' - there are so many more who might feel a tinge of pride that their culture is the one I want to learn about, in the same way I feel about people who try to learn kapa haka or poi even though they're fair and red-headed!!
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Shanazel joins the intervention.

LizaJ, you will never receive the unanimous approbation of the world, so you may as well suit yourself. Would you kick a girl from Oman out of your highland dance classes because she wasn't a direct descendant of Flora McDonald and didn't own a single glove that once graced the hand of Bonnie Prince Charlie? What will you and your students lose if you give it all up just because you're a Celt and not an Arab? And as one woman of a certain age to another, I have to add: what in the hell has age got to do with anything? ;)

Dinna fash yersel, honey. Just dance.
 

adiemus

New member
***off topic just a teeny bit***
what's this 'age' that you guys have - I want some!!!

Shanazel as ever you have a wonderful way with words - good point, 'Would you kick a girl from Oman out of your highland dnace classes because she wasn't a direct descendant...' So true.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Live long and prosper and you'll get all the age you can stand, Bronnie. :D Thank you for the complement, and for the record, I passed 54 at a flat run about four months ago. I can go soooo much faster on this side of the hill.
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
I've struggled with this too - I know there is no way I can be 'authentic' as a belly dancer, I'm from New Zealand, my background is scot/irish/english/mongrel and I came about dancing it because I wanted a fun way to get fit. Then I got addicted and intrigued by the culture, and expanded my knowledge - and felt totally flattened that there is no way I can dance without imbuing the dance with my kiwi heritage, and probably diluting it way more....

I balance this with the following mental gymnastics:
- ballet, which was my true love as a child, is french/english/russian - and no more kiwi than I am
- I hate working out at a gym, loathe, detest and dislike it more than most other things, at least I'm still dancing!
- I've learned heaps about culture, music, geography, food, history since I started dancing MED - which can't be a bad thing!
- I can embellish my dance costume in a way I can't embellish my work clothing, and express my alter in a relatively safe way
- I don't intend to perform to people who are any more knowledgeable than myself and at least I aim to be respectful and try to raise the knowledge of people in general
- the more I learn about others, the more I learn about myself, the more respectful I am about others, the more respectful I am toward myself - if I can honour my own integrity as much as I can through learning as much as I can, I may never ever be 'authentic' but I can be honest in my dancing and express some of the things I don't have words or images to do so in any other way.

While I know there will be people from the ME who look at my dancing who will think 'who is she trying to fool' - there are so many more who might feel a tinge of pride that their culture is the one I want to learn about, in the same way I feel about people who try to learn kapa haka or poi even though they're fair and red-headed!!
:clap::clap::clap::clap: My sentiments exactly! Well stated.

Just about every dance style known has found its way into another culture and there hasn't been this mind blowing controversy about those as there has been in recent years about Raqs Sharki.

I will continue to dance this dance as best I can, honouring the origins and seeking to understand the history and culture of the region as I increase my knowledge and execution of the dance, for as long as I am able.

Liz, just you keep dancing as long as you wish, you have every right to dance, whatever dance style you wish and don't allow anyone to cause you to hang up the hipbelt. As long as students come to you, teach! If you were not 'good enough' they wouldn't come. It seems there will be a 'few' who will grumble, sneer and try to put those down who are not from the dance's countries of origin. Maybe it is time they took a long hard look at themselves and their motives - personally they should be proud that a dance that arose from their culture has bought so much joy and willingness to learn about their part of the world.

I have a very close Egyptian friend along with his family and a Lebanese dance instructor (Lebanese mum and Egyptian father) a really delightful family, who are very proud of the fact that the world has embraced their dances and culture, and they arn't the only ones.

This dance is for any age and a joyous way to keep moving:dance::dance:.
~Mosaic
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Live long and prosper and you'll get all the age you can stand, Bronnie. :D Thank you for the complement, and for the record, I passed 54 at a flat run about four months ago. I can go soooo much faster on this side of the hill.
Absolutely, one sure does go faster on the other side of the hill, it's impossible to put the brakes on!:lol: I will just shimmy my way down with a bounce in my step!
~Mosaic
 

masrawy

New member
It's not fair ...

Hi lizaj,

I agree you shouldn't give up your dreams and desires .. because somebody tells you ... you can't.

Having said that you need to have some realistic expectation of what could be accomplished in one's lifetime. The natives have that edge you just can't make up that time, they start earlier and don't have the same hurdle you have to get over, the dance is second nature to them. Also, there is so many fish in the bowl in ME only the exceptional will rise to the top and very few of them will reach to be the stars.

In the other hand, in the West you have less fish in the bowl .. number is in your side but also it's a problem as the quality is not that high.

I always wonder when I see Westerner belly dancing how much of the music they really understand, I just can't see it .. :think:

The other day I was in belly dance Hafla in NJ with over 40 dancer students and so called teachers out of this many two or three were good the rest was pretty nasty. The event was DJ but once they change to live music I just couldn't take one more of this .. I just stood up and walked away. I think there was 20 dancer after that I was told, if the music is so bad what do you think the dancer would be.

Also don't forget the lack of feedback if your general public don't understand any of it or your audience are family and friends you just don't get that kick in the butt that push you upfront the line.

I know it's not fair ... Sorry.

Shanazel, as we say in Arabic

Toult el 3oumr tbalg el amal
If you live long enough you reach your hopes :pray:


 

adiemus

New member
I love that arabic saying Masrawy! beautiful!

A question for you - and others who have grown up with ME dancing 'in their blood' - if you looked across a room at a social gathering, how many of those dancing would you think 'wow! what a dancer!' and how many would you simply overlook and say 'they're having fun'?

Where is the goal post? My point is that I know I'm not going to be a 'Ms BellyDance NZ' - apart from being waaaay too old (a mere 45 ladies - but I'll shimmy til I drop!), I don't have the time to dedicate to become even as good as I could be because I have an 'other' life. But I do want to be able to dance informally/socially, express something that the music inspires in me, and be respectful towards the origins of the dance.

Can I suggest that there would be many people in the middle east who would feel similarly about their dancing? And some will be really dedicated and float to the top and Be a Star, while others will simply shimmy when they hear a particular bit of music they like and the setting is right.

There is a wonderful arabic saying that comes to mind:
أَكْل العِنَب حَبَّة حَبَّة
Akl il-3inab Habba Habba
“One step at a time” (or, "Grapes are eaten one by one")

My first step was to accept that there is much I do not know, my second - I can only learn one grape at a time!
 

Lydia

New member
lizaj ,please dont stop.... why?you are having a good time when you dance ,so why stop? who are they????? do what you want to do,be selfish in this ...you live only ones...
I am sure that the teachers like aida noor are happy to teach the people from outside the arab world ...they have a nice income from that so i think it makes them happy...dont think the arab dancers dont get critizised...we all get a share of negative vibe,s.....but brush it off!!!!! you have fun ...you like what you do ....dont listen to much to others,think for yourself and what is good for you...dont follow others people ,,brain,, why you think we have our own???please be happy ..stop to dance when you feel you hade enough,not when other say or think its enough...YOU,IT IS YOU!!!!your body ,your time your life...just remember how much plessure you get out of it...i hope you will dance till you are 100 years old!!!!! hugzzzzzzzzLydia
 

lizaj

New member
Thank you ladies and gentleman..keep it coming.
I keep reading the odd snippet and snipe on forum and wonder if I have the right/aught to be etc etc.....
I didn't arrive at this dance with visions of "Dreaming of Jeannie" in my eyes. I had a little advanced knowledge and I always thought I would be respected for wanting to widen my horizons. Oh dear me ho hum there are individuals out there who keeping pushing out the fact that they are "of the blood" and by default I can never make a contribution and added to the fact I haven't got as much time to absorb what I want........

You know I have a Welsh friend who can't sing a note!;)

So yes your thoughts please.....
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
what are you talking about??? :naghty:

Having a drop of blood is all you need!

Having any Turkish or Arab blood has nothing to do with how you dance at all and i tend to think that is a load of B&^^%s.

I have NOT mentioned my heritage to anyone for years except in a few debates on here, which has nothing to do with me being able to dance or not... I was born in London and raised in Liverpool.

Anyhow, 1) people say 'oooh thats why you are so good..no it's totally not.

and 2) all kinds of people make it up to tie themseleves with a blood bond to this dance. :rolleyes:

If you are Welsh, born and raised in Egypt or Tunisia you will dance and feel the music in your 'blood' (if you have it in the first place naturally).

Is this all because you missed Markos party? ;) :lol:
 

lizaj

New member
what are you talking about??? :naghty:

Having a drop of blood is all you need!

Having any Turkish or Arab blood has nothing to do with how you dance at all and i tend to think that is a load of B&^^%s.

I have NOT mentioned my heritage to anyone for years except in a few debates on here, which has nothing to do with me being able to dance or not... I was born in London and raised in Liverpool.

Anyhow, 1) people say 'oooh thats why you are so good..no it's totally not.

and 2) all kinds of people make it up to tie themseleves with a blood bond to this dance. :rolleyes:

If you are Welsh, born and raised in Egypt or Tunisia you will dance and feel the music in your 'blood' (if you have it in the first place naturally).

Is this all because you missed Markos party? ;) :lol:

You rekkon??? :lol::lol::lol:
Aw I had a (rather crappy) Italian meal then listened to him indoors cough instead of boogying at Marko's . What fun what fun.:rolleyes:

Nah..it's just what I read and read betweens lines mostly from those of "the blood" who seem to love dismissing the contribution of Westerners
No no I ain't hanging up any belts. I am less fond of my two pieces but the sparkly dress will still (God willing) adorn me.

So I put this question to the debate forum.
Does it hurt you to know that your desire to learn about this dance and the wider culture is "disrespected" by some?
Is there a hint of "White guys can't dance"?
How hard has it been for pro dancers of non -Arab backgrounds to be accepted especailly as to many over-there belly dance is a big no-no?

I won't make some potential student-performers happy because I don't look at this dance as "just a fun opportunity to dress up". I do consider it as a vehicle for those ladies who want to keep fit as that is what any dance can achieve but I don't like "panto-belly dance" as I think that is disrepectful so here's me trying to keep that element of "this is borrowed from another culture so do your best and be thoughtful". That doesn't seem to be good enough for some.

So does anyone else have those same impressions..what's your attitude?
 

Kharis

New member
what are you talking about??? :naghty:

Having a drop of blood is all you need!

Having any Turkish or Arab blood has nothing to do with how you dance at all and i tend to think that is a load of B&^^%s.

I have NOT mentioned my heritage to anyone for years except in a few debates on here, which has nothing to do with me being able to dance or not... I was born in London and raised in Liverpool.

Anyhow, 1) people say 'oooh thats why you are so good..no it's totally not.

and 2) all kinds of people make it up to tie themseleves with a blood bond to this dance. :rolleyes:

If you are Welsh, born and raised in Egypt or Tunisia you will dance and feel the music in your 'blood' (if you have it in the first place naturally).
there does seem to be a preoccupation with this hypothesis. I've seen a good deal of ME folk who can't dance, OR feel the music. I have two ladies in my class who are a prime example of this. They understand the lyrics, if there are any, but that's about all. Neither have a rhythmic bone in their bodies. Both have been raised around the dance all their lives. And neither can dance a step, never mind feel and interpret the music. They just jig around despite my efforts to educate them in technique and 'hearing' the music.
 

Kharis

New member
But I sometimes consider that being a middle-aged , say rather old Celt I may have no right to practise let alone teach this dance.
Are my intentions suspect, am I a figure of fun to Arabs, does my race exclude me from being taken seriously?

Am I to be discouraged by negative vibes and comments that hint that because I have no Arab or Turkish blood, I can forget this and should try the Highland fling in my dotage?:think:
Or do I consider that Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour and Khaed Mahmoud are quite happy to teach and encourage middle aged Brits and Americans to dance their dance?:think:
Some of the top dancers are 'middle aged'. Fifi was still dancing professionally well into her late 50s. OK, so we're not all Fifi. But there is a certain amount of snobbishness that goes hand in glove with this dance. So we don't have Egyptian blood? So what?
 

cathy

New member
I sometimes wonder if I am wasting my time by expanding my knowledge of a dance I love and respect.
Over the years my desire for a colourful and interesting way to fill my leisure time changed to full blown intrigue with a beautiful art form and a ever- growing admiration for wider aspects of the culture of the Arabic world.
I travelled to 3 North African countries and Turkey and was vowed by hospitality,scenery, history, architecture as well as music and dance.
When I started to teach I wanted to capture the interest of others and ensure that my students realised this was an expression of ME culture and to duly respect that and also acknowledge that not all the people of that region actaully liked the idea of belly dance.
But I sometimes consider that being a middle-aged , say rather old Celt I may have no right to practise let alone teach this dance.
Are my intentions suspect, am I a figure of fun to Arabs, does my race exclude me from being taken seriously?
I feel safe dancing ATS as Americans have encouraged me and I am happy to call it something other than belly dance.
Am I to be discouraged by negative vibes and comments that hint that because I have no Arab or Turkish blood, I can forget this and should try the Highland fling in my dotage?:think:
Or do I consider that Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour and Khaed Mahmoud are quite happy to teach and encourage middle aged Brits and Americans to dance their dance?:think:
Dear Liza,

Did you ever see that Todd Browning movie Freaks? The tiny man "Little Hans" marries a full-size regular woman and all the other freaks have a wedding party for them and chant and beat on the table: "One of us! One of us! Gabba, gabba, we accept her! One of us!" I couldn't help thinking about that when I read the title of your thread.

Forget the negative comments and vibes about "no Turkish and Arab blood." Believe me, the teachers you mention ARE quite happy to teach and encourage Westerners to do their dance. They want this market to GROW.

You have a very respectful and intelligent approach and every right to practice and teach this dance or anything else you approach with the same dedication and care. And I 110% agree with others who have said age has nothing to do with it. Well, actually I believe age HELPS because you have had more time with it.

Cathy
 

masrawy

New member
How many grapes .. in one hour

To answer your question I have to know what he means by social gathering ..

I will try
once one put Badla on and step in front of the crowd it's not social anymore, you are a professional then and you are a judge evaluated with different measuring cup. Personally, it does not matter what nationality or blood run in your veins it's only the talent. This is the problems with these events dance are anxious to perform for whatever reasons they may have with no consideration to ability and where they are in the scale.

It's not only those Egyptians who wants to make money off the Westerners ... and most of these cases the Westerner teacher are guilty of that sometimes they even don't have the product they are trying to sell.

In most of these events they opened the floor at one point for social dancing which usually will have a better return. Particularly in this event there was this tall full- body lady, who seems to have lots of fun and enjoy dancing her heart out many others up and down the scale, there was another one but she is an Arab. But it is social dance is no right or wrong
 
As for the blood vampires thirsty ... it's not about that it's about ability as I said before it's a numbers game the native have much higher number to compete against.

Yes, you have to eat one grape at the time .. the question is how much time you have to eat all of them ?? ;)


I love that arabic saying Masrawy! beautiful!

A question for you - and others who have grown up with ME dancing 'in their blood' - if you looked across a room at a social gathering, how many of those dancing would you think 'wow! what a dancer!' and how many would you simply overlook and say 'they're having fun'?

Where is the goal post? My point is that I know I'm not going to be a 'Ms BellyDance NZ' - apart from being waaaay too old (a mere 45 ladies - but I'll shimmy til I drop!), I don't have the time to dedicate to become even as good as I could be because I have an 'other' life. But I do want to be able to dance informally/socially, express something that the music inspires in me, and be respectful towards the origins of the dance.

Can I suggest that there would be many people in the middle east who would feel similarly about their dancing? And some will be really dedicated and float to the top and Be a Star, while others will simply shimmy when they hear a particular bit of music they like and the setting is right.

There is a wonderful arabic saying that comes to mind:
أَكْل العِنَب حَبَّة حَبَّة
Akl il-3inab Habba Habba
“One step at a time” (or, "Grapes are eaten one by one")

My first step was to accept that there is much I do not know, my second - I can only learn one grape at a time!
 

lizaj

New member
Yes, you have to eat one grape at the time .. the question is how much time you have to eat all of them ??

That is memorable!:clap:
 
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