Letters to the Editor

Email the Snake--editor@gildedserpent.com

May 2005 up through October 2005

10-20-05 re: How MECDA began by Feiruz Aram
To the Editor,
Regarding Fairuz's dementia, the top dancers at Apadana Restaurant at that time were Samar, Julia, and Angelika Nemeth. The mutually agreed upon distribution of tips was 50% to the dancer, 50% to the musicians. When the Saudi prince was handing out his $100 travelers checks as tips, one or more of the employees had to talk him into giving one to Fairuz.
She refused to split any of it. About a week after the night in question when she was again on the schedule, I talked to Fairuz about it. She still refused to any split whatsoever. And, if I recall correctly, she was the one who gave the ultimatum that if the drummer wasn't fired, then she be fired.
Believe me, if an owner's choice is between a truly great dancer who is filling the place and a "mediocre American tabla player" who obviously wouldn't be bringing in anyone, the dancer wins every time. So, who do you think the mediocre one was? By the way, I never had any such problems with any of the other dancers I worked with at Apadana's, Cabaret Tehran, Delilah's, The Seventh Veil, Cascades, The Casbah, the Baghdad, Irvine Prime, etc. in over nine years playing clubs.
Mark Bell


10-16-05 re: God Belly Danced, Part III: by Qan-Tuppim
Hello My name is Sheba ( Gillian Evans.) I am always having to defend " poor Old Salome "
I thought your article was spot on. I read many articles on Belly dancing, having learnt the dance in Cairo in 1969. Most of the articles do nothing for womankind, The picture they paint is more in keeping with the "regime of the Talliban " or Spanish Inquisition than any thing else. There is a misconception in the pagan movement. I think this is due to the fact that most have no orthodox religious background or have had bad experiences. so they have nothing to fall back on. Therefor they adopt a pagan evangelistically approach. But enough of my digression, I thought the article was superb.
Many Thanks.
Sheba N. Wales

United Kingdom


10-14-05 re: Behind the Nile Group Workshops in Cairo by Zeina
Wow! I have to say good on you, Gilded Serpent, for printing that article. I have been working in Cairo as both a costumer and dance instructor for about 5 years now, and have run into the same "bellydance mafia" treatment. Although I have been dancing since 1977, and have trained with many master teachers, here in Egypt, I am not in the circle of the festivals ect. "Who do you think you are?" I was asked when I came here to start a dance costuming business. I have a degree in fashion design and have been making costumes since 1980, with an extensive background in fashion. I was also blackballed as a teacher since I am a non Egyptian, even though I studied with Raqia herself for 7 years. Where would these teachers be if we hadn't welcomed them to America and worked hard to advertise, publicize, and support them? But when I dared to move to Egypt, I was attacked and slandered by the very people I helped. Thank Goddess I have been able to maintain my business through the professional quality work I am doing. I am happy to see that there are more festivals and venues here in Egypt for the dance. I believe that this will make for a better oriental dance. There are many western dancers that qualify as master instructors that should be invited to teach at these festivals. Being Egyptian should not be the only quaification that counts when choosing teachers.
Hallah Moustafa

H aram St Studio, Giza, Egypt


10-13-05 re: Pr Farhana's Letter below re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Dear Princess Farhana,
Your facts are incorrect. I never promoted the Pussycat Dolls, though I had several meetings with their record company on the subject of how to marry the music business way of doing things with the potentials of a dance troupe. I saw the Pussycat Dolls perform only once at The Roxy, and there was definitely no nudity.

I don’t want to sound like a prude and should not say that a bit of nudity tastefully done is something that would shock my conservative male sensibilities. I only say, as does Cory Zamora, that in bellydance, where we are fighting perception burned deep in ignorant people, it’s not helpful. It’s detrimental to associate the two even if seemingly harmlessly. It is for this reason I operate such a somewhat puritan regime with the Bellydance Superstars. You’ll see Condoleeza Rice in a g-string speaking at the UN with Christina Merrill at her side (also in a g-string) before you see the Bellydance Superstars in less than proper attire.
Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA


10-12-05 re: letter below re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Bravo, Miles! For once, you and I can agree on something!
We, the traditional dancers of Fresno, live and work in a city where the local newspaper refuses to print ads for “belly dance,” claiming it falls under the category of “exotic dance." This continues to be a hot topic in California’s Bible belt, especially since many in our Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Greek communities hold to the tradition of including a belly dancer at weddings and other functions.

To enlighten these misinformed journalists, we considered directing them to The Gilded Serpent’s excellent series of articles entitled “God Belly Danced.” However, because the Princess’s article (Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond) inadvertently provides so much ammunition to those who would perpetrate the image of our dance as “hootchy-kootchy,” we were somewhat torn, knowing that referring them to the website could actually serve to reinforce their already negative perception.

The Princess is adorable, knowledgeable, and open-minded, and her writing is geared for like-minded individuals. Unfortunately, in this instance, it adds fuel to the fire in the opposing camps of those not so open-minded, whose prejudice we are continually trying to dispel.

Cory Zamora
On behalf of the dancers and staff of Belly Dancing by Zamoras
Fresno, California


10-11-05 re: Raqia's Response by Dee Dee Asad in response to
Behind the Nile Group Workshops in Cairo by Zeina

A few words on the whole Nile Group and Ahlaan Wa Sahlan festival.

Most dancers around the world are outsiders to this whole conflict. We only see whatever is being published in magazines such as Gilded Serpent and Habibi, etc. We don't know what really happened. And WE DON'T CARE. The dancers and teachers in both festivals are all fabulous teachers that anyone should be lucky to be able to learn from. That's all we care about.

However, the public relations for both festivals but in particular for The Nile Group is HORRENDUOUS. I cannot imagine what could drive the organizer of The Nile Group, Zeina, to post a whole article about the festival in which no mention is being made of the teachers, the schedule, the facilities, the times, the location, etc of the festival.

The only thing that she talks about is this completly catty and rather badly spinned argument with the Ahlaan organizers. WHO CARES about that? It only made Aida Nour look bad, and the Nile Group look bad. It makes me very, very sad because this type of "article" is tarnishing the reputation of dancers associated with this organization, some of the biggest and most recognized stars of the dance in Egypt: Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Camelia, Teto and others.

Dear Aida Nour, please get a better public relations manager. Then post a POSITIVE article in Gilded Serpent or wherever, in which the name Ahlaan Wa Sahlan is not even mentioned - and only descriptions and backgrounds the fabulous Aida Nour, Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda are mentioned.

New York, NY


10-9-05 re: Raqia's Response by Dee Dee Asad in response to
Behind the Nile Group Workshops in Cairo by Zeina

Full text of letter here last 2 paragraphs only here-

As for me being the one "creating" the Nilegroup as you called it, the Nile Group is created by all the dance teachers that felt and experienced what we experienced from Raqia lately. With or without me, the Nile Group would have been created anyway.

Didi, I know very well that you are a good friend to Aida Nour, Lubna Emam, Freiz and many of our egyptian teachers in Egypt, why dont you phone them and ask them? It only take one phonecall to know the truth.

Mohamed Abou Shebika


10-7-05 re: letters below re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Dear Gilded Serpent.
It seems ludicrous to many of us dancers that burlesque strip queen Princess Farhana and Flo Zeigfield wanna be Miles Copeland should be slugging it out for the "purity of bellydance" award. Both of these two sad sacks are clearly competing only for media attention and interested only in promoting their own self interest / cash balance. I am sure it won't be long before the Princess and Miles kiss and make up in the interest of mutual financial benefit and we will all be seeing tomorrows Superstars in G strings coming to our town twirling around poles with their beads flying. Won't that be something! (smile)

Considering that Flo Zeigfield was the inheritor of the American burlesque tradition, of which our Princess Farhana is participating wholeheartly!!?? Where is Egypt in all of this? . What springs from the same source returns to the same source. And it is not Egypt....it is totally Americana.

Christina Merrill
Portland, Oregon


10-6-05 re: letter below re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Hi Miles!
C'mon, Miles- you can relate, can't you?
I seem to remember back oh, a couple of years ago- before YOU got into promoting belly dance- that you were going balls-out ( so to speak) promoting YOUR very own BURLESQUE group, The Pussy Cat Dolls.... So I guess that means you yourself had a personal period of "confused logic", right?
Princess Farhana


10-5-05 re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
As someone who has faced ignorant criticism regarding my intentions/motivations, I would normally tread carefully criticizing someone else in the bellydance community who has been in it for longer than me. “Confessions of a Past Modern Showgirl,” however, demonstrates such confused logic that is not just insensitive to the position bellydance has within the dance arts and society (Arab and American) in general, but at a time bellydance is entering the mainstream with growing respect down right irresponsible. Though burlesque may not be outright nudity, I find it difficult to imagine it’s about “spirituality” as Pleasant infers. By blithely connecting bellydance and burlesque as equivalent, she reinforces those who put bellydance down. Not only nudity; burlesque has a comedic, “low brow” and saucy image with lots of sexual innuendo. Linkage with bellydance is like giving guns to the enemy. Until bellydance has built a solid “respectable” reputation as ballet has or modern dance, the dance must religiously avoid forays that can keep it down. Ballet could get away with nudity in a show and nobody would think all ballet is nude. Bellydance should be in that happy position, but alas, it’s not. Forgetting that, as Pleasant obviously has, is not helpful.

Whatever anyone thinks of me or the Bellydance Superstars, one thing for sure, we push bellydance as a respectable art, which is suitable for young and old alike, and absolutely no nudity or saucy sexual innuendo. Beauty, sensuality, femininity? Yes. Saucy, sexual, exploitative? NO. Perhaps I’m a prude or an overly conservative male, but I’d be embarrassed to promote a show that I’d be uncomfortable with if my mother or 13-year old niece were in the audience. I’d be even more embarrassed to ask any of the ladies in the show to add stripping to their repertoire and I know where they’d tell me to get off if I did.

If you want to strip, that’s a personal choice, but calling it “spiritual” and equating it to bellydance is harmful delusion.
Miles Copeland


10-5-05 re:Zaharr
Hi, my name is chika nagasaka writting this letter to my forever friend zaharr from tokyo japan.it is increadable that i could know of zaharr since then.what she taught me 23 years ago is still lingering in my mind that is "be free to live your own life". thank you zaharr.
Tokyo, Japan


10-1-05 re:letter below re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Dear Editor:
I did not find Reanee Temple's article as a stab at one specific group, but rather an article written to wake up everyone to the inadequacies that are being perpetuated by many periodicals about this often misunderstood and misused dance form.

Normally, with any reputable magazine, newspaper, or otherwise, the journalist will always present his findings and writings based on fact. That simply did not happen. In fact, I believe the editor of this magazine was bombarded with emails and postal mails attacking the article for its legitimacy, the majority of which did not come from individuals who personally know the group that was mentioned in the article.

Yes, one group in particular was mentioned; but that was the one group that was interviewed. And to the reader, that group was representative of all those groups that in any way use the words "belly dance" as what they do.

And that is why, I believe, Ms. Temple wrote the article for Gilded Serpent.

Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance


9-30-05 re:letter below re:My 2005 Eilat Festival in Israel by Orit
Hi Joan, how are you?
I've just seen your comment at the "Gilded Serpent" for the article I wrote about the Eilat festival. As you read, this is what was mentiond in the article:

"This evening is exceptional because it is the first evening of the first Belly dance festival in Eilat that comprised solely of Israeli talent. We will have our own festival, in the city of Eilat, bordering Egypt to the west and Jordan to the east, and it will be the first festival of its kind, celebrating Arab culture, which is, in fact, part of the complex weave of Israeli identity."

Of-coures it doesn't mean it's the first ever feast, but the nature of this event is one of it's kind. We had many events, including at the major Israel festival on 1990 with dancers from all over the world, and of course the Shaar Hgolan events led by you.

So to set things straight I'm sending my greetings and apreciation for all your doings, and hope you'll see that no credit was taken for the wrong way.
Shana Tova,
Orit Maftsir


9-30-05 re:Amani's Oriental Festival by Beverley Joffe
I would like to congradulate Amani and her wonderfull festival- needless to say i wish we can share our love of dance one day, as nighbures, in our boath festivals.
Well done!
Orit Maftsir
Founder of the Eilat Oriental Dance Festival in Israel


9-28-05 re:Laurel's Haft Paykar reviewed by Rebecca Firestone
Dear Editor,
As the producer of the M-NCPPC's World Dance Showcase at the Publick Playhouse on April 2, 2005, I would like to thank you for publishing this review online. Rebecca Firestone has persuasively stated her reactions to the program, and I am happy that, in general, she enjoyed the program and seemed to get the import.
I would just like to clarify the presentation, so that Laurel Gray does not get blamed for something over which she had no control. The Showcase was entitled "Dancing in Islamic Lands," and featured dancers from several different Washington-area troupes. The first set was performed by Kardelen Turkish Dance Ensemble. We also presented a set of dances from the majority-Muslim islands of the Phillipines, along with Moroccan and Saeedi dances. After the intermission, the Silk Road Dance Company, directed by Laurel Victoria Gray, presented the new folkloric ballet "Haft Paykar: Seven Beauties." Because this story-ballet featured seven different dance styles from the Islamic world, I think it served to fulfill our goal of giving the audience the experience of travelling through North Africa, across Turkey and Central Asia, into India.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to present these rich and varied dances to the Washington, DC metro audience, and I think the appetite of the public is very strong for these dance genres. I hope there will be another opportunity for the presentation of "Haft Paykar: Seven Beauties" in the near future.
Thanks again for the excellent service you are providing to the dance community through the Gilded Serpent.

Christel Stevens
"Toujours la meme histoire" Stella Artois


9-18-05 re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Dear Lynette:
Thank you to Princess Farhana for her well written and cogently reasoned article. It was the most thought-provoking I've read on GS in a long time, and caused me to consider the following questions:
Why is Middle Eastern dance not taken seriously as an art form; and why are Middle Eastern dancers not accorded the same status in the West as ballet or modern dancers? Setting aside the particular cultural challenges faced by a non-Western art seeking to gain acceptance in the West, two particular reasons come to mind. First, some presentations of the "art" of Middle Eastern dance are downright trashy. Unless one wishes to define "art" as "anything one does on stage," there is a need for standards. That term, "standards," comprises not only technical execution, but considerations of decency and good taste as well.
Dancers grabbing their crotches or bumping and grinding during the course of a Middle Eastern dance performance are doing nothing to elevate the art; they are bringing it down to the gutter. I can only imagine the horrified reactions of Middle Easterners when they see such spectacles and take away the message "this is how we interpret your dance" or worse, "this is how we perceive your culture and its people, as sets of gyrating body parts."

Herein lies the difficulty: without a common set of standards that includes considerations of good taste (interpreted differently by every dancer, of course) how can Middle Eastern dance ever attain the status accorded to respected dance forms?

Second, many having little knowledge of Middle Eastern dance confuse the art with stripping or other forms of exotic dance which are not generally considered respectable in the U. S.. One can always argue that if someone arrives at this conclusion, it is his or her own problem; and one can also argue that an individual who doesn't appreciate the art behind burlesque has problems of her own. To a degree both arguments are true. Yet I'm frankly sick and tired of being asked whether I also strip or dance topless in addition to performing Middle Eastern dance. Some inquiries I've received aren't printable due to their illegal nature. And while I fully realize that some ballerinas may moonlight as strippers, I've yet to see a ballet company go out of its way to advertise its prima donna with the mention that she is also "Lightning Strikes, the premiere dancer at such-and-such striptease club on Broadway in San Francisco."

Dance is not my primary occupation, yet I know many women who've devoted the best years of their lives to elevating the art of Middle Eastern dance and trying to help it gain the respect and critical acclaim it deserves. I applaud them for engaging in this uphill struggle, one that I believe might be made easier if we, as a community, had some idea of what "good taste"
means when it comes to our dance.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


9-17-05 re:
Many thanks to Najia for the latest installment concerning her muse and the spirit of Oriental Dance!

Her photos as well as her attitude towards the art of performing and costuming will give much inspiration to up-and-coming-dancers who want to avoid the "cookie-cutter" lack of variety that always threatens to take the real soul out of our dance form.

Also I was particularly happy to read an account of Jamila Salimpour inviting Najia to perform and even gave her compliments on her appearance. It's reassuring to know that old rivalries can mellow with time.

My dance lessons with Najia are still vivid in memory although it has been decades since I had the privilege of studying with her and Bert Balladine.

Many thanks, Najia, for brightening the world of dance with your talents and your humanity.

Asfoor al-Noor
Luise Perenne BFA


9-16-05 re: Behind the Nile Group Workshops in Cairo by Zeina
I read with interest the article Titled "Behind the Nile Group Workshops in Cairo" by Zeina. Before I make some comments about the article I would just like to give folks a frame of reference about me....I have been traveling to Eygpt a once or twice a year for my business, Scheherezade Imports, since 1983 and have sponsored tours to Egypt for a number of years; most recently over the past 4 yrs my tours have coincided with the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo since so many folks expressed an interest in such a tour/trip. During the 1990's I co produced, with Rocky, the 3 Nadia Hamdi US tours in 95, 97 and 99. I have been dancing since 1974, and have been a seminar sponsor and teacher since 1981.

Regarding a few statements in the article: I was perplexed by the following statements in Zeina's article "We heard that Raqia's assistants were guarding the hotel doors, stopping people, and asking them rudely where they where going! One girl came back from the other dance festival, crying. She told us that because she had been performing in one of our parties the night before, she was no longer welcome to their festival again! Another famous dance teacher called one of the Nile Group organizers and said "Congratulations, I would really like to come and visit your festival, but I cannot go out of the hotel, as they are guarding all the doors."

The reason for my confusion is that during the festival, I talked with dancers who although staying at Mena House and attending the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival...attended classes and attended/participated at parties at the Nile Group Festival. They experienced none of the very unpleasant reprcussions or shunning Zeina reports.
And as for guarding the hotel doors, well that just had me scratching my head...I couldn't imagine what doors were being referenced... The Mena house is huge resort that is set up like a campus with many attached buildings and many many doors into and out of different wings and areas. The festival was in the Conference center, itself a huge area with many entrance ways and wide open vestibules, hallways and seating areas...guarding the hotel doors??? Which doors?? The large lobby doors at the main reception area of the hotel? The large entrance stairway door way that leads to the conference center from the garden? The large upstairs sitting areas adjacent to the wide halls leading to the conference center??? The back hallway that leads from the garden view room wings to the main hotel and conference area? The main gate to the resort itself ot near the road where the tourist police and hotel security are located? Please let us not be silly, people are free to come and go as they please at the Mena House! The Mena House is a 5 Star International Resort where there are literally thousands of local guests, tourists and business people coming and going all day and all night long. Neither I nor anyone I spoke to at the festival or other guests at the hotel I spoke with, not affiliated with the festival, experienced the presence of anyone stationed at doors other than hotel security and the bellmen....and of course the ever present and requisite :))) police at the main gate of the resort itself....trying to tell them where they could or couldn't go:))). And heaven knows, we came and went, to and from all over Cairo at all hours of the day and night:))))).

About the article in general:
I can certainly sympathize with Zeina and the NileGroup regarding the difficulty in finding just the right hotel/venue for a workshop/festival and finding just the right time to hold their event. It is not always and easy thing to do . Having been a seminar sponsor as well as teacher myself since 1981, I understand exactly!!!
But..... in those 20+ years I have seen it all, and I have learned many things. One of those things is, that no matter what issues someone may or may not have with other people in the belly dance world....no matter what wrongs or mistreatments they may have perceived have come their way...and whether those were real or imagined... and regardless of how other people may or many not choose to behave, in the end, all someone has left is their own behavior and reputation.
I have also learned that no matter how wrong or slighted someone may feel by another's behavior....2 wrongs never make a right...and certain behaviors only add fuel to a fire.
I have learned to that in order to maintain a professional, respectful and cooperative spirit in relation to other festival/workshop producers/sponsors it is never a good idea to schedule an event at the same time as any other event in the same area regardless of how justified one feels about doing so. Since in the end it, regardless of the perceived justification, it ultimately reflects uncomplimentarily on the person, usually reflecting an unprofessional, disrespectful, and unsportsmanlike uncooperative spirit.

These are things I have learned from my experieces and watching the experiences of those around me. These experiences and this knowledge have been very helpful to me. I share them in hopes that they may be helpful and meaningful to others as they make their way in the world.



9-14-05 re: letter below re: letter below re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple [yawn-ed]
I really don't appreciate the "us versus them" mentality of this response. Honestly, I really really despise anyone who has the "bellier than thou" attitude, be it tribal or cabaret or what have you. I actually don't know a single person in that group, personally or professionally. So in that, you are right that I don't have any personal information that would lead me to believe this was something they would have said or not. What I do not like is the finger pointing of Ms. Temple's "article", which to my eyes read as just a stab at another group, sounded very personal, and seemed to have less to to with the newspaper article itself , and more to do with personal issues outside of the context of this article (which your commentary seems to confirm). Ms. Temple left NO room for the fact that newspapers and other media misquote us ALL THE TIME. There was no acknowledgment of the possibility of the writer having misquoted those interviewed, or any fault on the part of the media source at all. It was completely "LOOK WHAT THEY DID! HOW DARE THEY!'

It sounded personal. Now you are confirming it is at least partly personal. That is exactly how the tone of the article came across, and that is what I took offense at.

I have actually just received a mail from Ms. Temple herself, and I will tell you what I told her.
My initial reaction to her article was based on her article alone. I hadn't even gone over to read the media article she were commenting on, and as such I certainly had NO IDEA it was a tribal group. I began to compose my thoughts, just as you have read them in the letter to the editor. I hadn't noticed until I re-read her article, before sending my completed letter, that she had provided a link to the article in question! So before hitting send on my letter, I popped over to read the article in case I had missed something important that would change my mind about what I had written. And voila, my opinion of Ms. Temple's "article" didn't change one bit. It sounded very much like she had a personal issue with the group in question. Her language was very personal, and not what an impartial writer would turn out as an "article". It was personal editorial commentary, and sounded very sour in tone indeed. And most importantly, it left no room for the possibility that the media could have had anything to do with the misinformation. The fingers were firmly pointed, and it wasn't a pretty sight. So I felt I should send in my comments, which at that time I did.

So please don't throw the "if the turban fits" crap at me. If you have issues with that, they are yours and yours alone. I am the LAST person to take a side based on anyone's chosen style, and refuse to be drawn into any argument between two people or groups based at all on that piece of information. How petty... I just felt someone needed to point out that we have to take the third party interpretation (the media) of the original speaker's content and context. And certainly anything claiming to be an informational article should be written with some personal distance and objectivity. This was none of that.

I do appreciate your defense of Ms. Temple, and also fully understand that you and she have both been "burned" by this group in one way or another, and already have low opinions of them. But I felt this so- called "article" wasn't so much informational, as a chance to get back at them by discrediting them publicly. And that is the issue I have with it.

Sharon Moore
Seattle, WA


9-14-05 re: letter below re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
I don't believe that the subject of the article was misquoted, several of us who were appalled at the ridiculous article talked to the author AND editor at the Reno News and Review and compared notes. We came away understanding that the subject of the article was quoted accurately, and it was the subject of embarrassment to Reno News and Review ONLY that they didn't FACT CHECK Ms. Johnson's claims as faithfully represented in the article, which was their gaffe. Us locals who have personally encountered the negative attitudes of Ms. Johnson and her group towards dancing styles, other than their own fusion style, tend to favor credibility towards the writer and publication.

It sounds like you also have some personal stake in this, are you friends with this group, listened to their one-sided personal gripes? So you are bashing Ms. Temple's article publically, doing much of what you said shouldn't be done without ALL THE FACTS. Have you personally investigated YOUR claims against Reno News and Review with them one-on-one to see the other side, or is this just friendly HEARSAY? If the Tribal turban fits!....

Your comment:In the end, I just don't see what possible benefit this article is to the community, other than a perceived attempt to tear down another group for reasons we don't understand. What educational value does it hold? What kind of usable information is the reader supposed to come away with?

Answer:This article is of benefit to all cabaret dancers who have been put down by Tribal dancers as having an image of being morally loose and deficient. Tribal dancers basically take basic steps in American non-authentic cabaret, throw some coins and turbans on it, use any mish mash of music, be it techno, Bollywood, Heavy Metal and whatever they choose, re-invent the history of Middle Eastern Dance to suit their purposes and claim it superior in morality, technicality and authenticity. I think it would warrant some serious Psychological study as to why certain woman are so attracted to the wrapped up, androgynous veneer of Tribal as a ticket to bash cabaret. Sounds like a major rebellion agianst a style perhaps that they just don't have what it takes to do. Really good cabaret is highly technical and challenging and a select few have the talent to be hired to do it. Whereas with Tribal put ten passable basic dancers together, and they've got an award winning troupe!

Anyway, so if you know the media is "Truly guilty of the crime" I guess you are quoting correctly as you wish Ms. Temple has done. So - again, where are your FACTS to back up this statement?

Thank you.
Gigi North
Reno?, NV


9-13-05 re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)

I wanted to write a big AMEN SISTER to Princess Farhana with regard to her "Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl" article. As a fellow bellydancer and burlesque dancer, walking that precarious line in the eyes of our peers, I have to say this article was just incredibly written and a fabulous validation of the work I do in both arenas. I have not been performing either discipline as long as Farhana, but completely understand her fear of being misunderstood by other dancers, as well as the tricky skill it can be to keep the two stage personas separate when they draw from the same well of creativity.

I have been asked many times by other bellydancers how it is that I balance my bellydancing with my burlesque, keeping them respectfully separated in order to avoid promoting the stripper/bellydancer stigma. And the fact is, it isn't even an issue. Because they are totallly different parts of my life and parts of my stage personality. Of course I never want to contribute to the confusion about the stripping/bellydance line--I knew that the moment I took up my pasties. But mostly, burlesque has given me a real opportunity to explore new ideas and concepts in the world of movement and theater, not to mention music and costuming; and I have no desire to let my belly dance (read: work, however fulfilling!) bleed into my playtime in burlesque! Yes, in both I get to dance and "play" with my audience, but I am looking out through very different eyes in each, and this is expressed in every facet of my performances.

In bellydance, frankly, I am myself. I am a bellydancer. It's who I am, and any energy I put out during a bellydance performance is purely of myself. For me, it doesn't include vamping or sexually charged energy. I exude lightness and joy for the most part when I do bellydance, because that is how it makes me feel. I celebrate when I bellydance, and invite my audience to celebrate with me. At my most snakey moments, I exude sensuality and graceful internalized power. A smoldering, controlled energy which I give in measured doses.

But when I do burlesque, I am Miss Scarlet Rose, playing whatever role I have chosen to play that night, supported by music, costume, and attitude I have carefully developed to match it. It can be overtly sexy, sultry, vampy. It can be silly, angry, or sad, with facial expressions and postures to match the mood--burlesque is theater, as much as dance. In burlesque I am raw. I am racy. I dare my audience to gawk at every exposed inch of my body, and then thrust it teasingly in time with the music, with a laugh over my shoulder and a kick of my heels as I strut across the floor in my frilly panties and fishnets. Everything is exaggerated. Subtlty of movement is something I learned in bellydance, and is something I have to *fight* when doing burlesque, because for the classic bump n' grind I favor, you have to be big, bold, and brassy in every aspect of your movement and presentation. I am in your face, and hopefully, you are screaming for more...

The bottom line is that bellydance and burlesqe are two different disciplines, with two different audiences and two different stories to tell. You might as well ask how the plumber keeps his day job from infringing on his hobby of painting. How could he possibly keep clogged drains from making its way onto his canvases? I know it is an extreme exaggeration, but the point is that while the shared history of bellydance and burlesque cannot be denied, the fact that both use the human body for expression (as the plumber uses his hands to snake a drain as well as lift a brush) does not mean that it is hard to draw a clear line between the two. You choose your costumes and stage persona. You choose your venues. And you choose to be clear, in every word and deed, that bellydance and burlesque are two different forms of expression on more levels than most people realize.

Sharon Moore
Seattle, WA


9-13-05 re:Dance Festival or Shop-a-thon? by Nisima
Dear Nisima and all like dancers,
Thank you, thank you. I am sorry to jump on your bandwagon but, you are absolutely correct. The first time I went to Rakkasha, I thought I had died and gone to belly dancing heaven. Where else would you find non-stop dancing, shopping, friends and networking. Whoa. Early on, it took at the very latest, 20 minutes to call-in for a dance spot! After six hours, at least you were able to get one. I started calling approximately at 12 noon (eastern standard time) and by 3 pm, I surrendered. No dance spot, no recording, no voice. There has to be another way. This is ridiculous and why punish the dancer who cannot afford to stay at a hotel all week, pay for classes and hope to get a dance spot! Rakkasha, you need to re-vamp yourself and streamline your program. Everyone should be given an opportunity to dance, but Rakkasha is like the Apollo Theatre in Philadelphia. The best of the best ---- your at least, those who believe that they are the best. It is no place for "students or beginners." Students and beginners can take advantage of dance venues on their on home turf --- Rakkasha, should knock you out!! I have worked hard this year, wanting to dance at Rakkasha. I am sorry, hurt and disappointed that I couldn't garner a spot according to the rules. In fact, Rakkasha treated me like I didn't exist this year -- by not even answering the phone.
Still hoping for that call,
The Fabulous Faydora


9-9-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
I am writing in response to the "untrained teacher" article posted in the Gilded Serpent. I can't believe that someone would tear another teacher apart, SECONDHAND through a news article printed by a third party! We bellydancers know how notorious the media is at misquoting, misinterpreting, and quoting out of context. I have seen more articles than not which made the quoted dancer look like an idiot, or at the very least painted them as saying something they would NEVER have said, thanks to the creative "editing" process.

I would bet money that the impression drawn of the dancers in question had far more to do with the writer of the article than the actual words coming out of the mouth of the dancers themselves. And any fellow dancer worth her salt would know that and read with a *grain of salt* any article written in such a way, rather than condemning the, more than likely, victims of this gross misinformation. The editorial by Raenee Temple is unduly harsh, unforgiving, and reeks of the author as having some personal beef against said dancer or troupe outside of this article. The mere fact that she feels the need to mention that the only reason they got this interview was because they were voted "Best Danced Troupe" stinks to me of jealousy. I am usually the last person to accuse someone of this stereotypically female trait, but if the shoe fits...

In the end, I just don't see what possible benefit this article is to the community, other than a perceived attempt to tear down another group for reasons we don't understand. What educational value does it hold? What kind of usable information is the reader supposed to come away with? It sounds more like sour grapes than any attempt to pass along wisdom or knowledge--the dissemination of helpful information I would hope would be the ultimate goal of those who submit articles to any publication. Instead, it sounds like plain old opinion, hearsay, finger pointing, and the propagation of misinformation. And why don't we throw witch burning in with it?

I suppose the only lesson here, which we have all learned long ago, is that if you allow yourself to be interviewed for any media source, BEWARE. You will more than likely be misquoted up one side and down the other. And thanks to Ms. Temple's article, I suppose I learned, too, that some people will be completely unforgiving of this and blame you instead of the media who is truly guilty of the crime.

Sharon Moore
Seattle, WA


8-22-05 re:Sausan's 1st Egyptian Seminar by Melinda
Melinda started her article by saying: "What would you think if you heard somebody say, “There are no isolations in Egyptian Belly dance"?"
Here's an answer from an Egyptian dancer: AMEN!! THANK YOU Sausan!!

Regarding the Egyptian Dance Code listed in Melinda's article #1 & #2: Yes, there is NO isolation in Egyptian or Middle Eastern dance. What may look like isolation to the untrained eye, is in fact initiating movement from one body part. I teach that concept in my classes all the time and it's really simple to demonstrate in action but here's the gist of it (I hope all the teachers are listening :-): Instead of using the word 'isolation' which makes the student intentionally freeze all their body parts and start twitching one part (looks like some nervous reaction :-), we instead say 'initiate movement from one body part and let the rest of the body follow'.

To teach that concept, we typically play a kindergarden game where one person calls any body part (can be the knee, shoulder, nose, hip, sternum, elbow,...etc.), the students then start moving from that body part and let the rest of the body follow. This way they get the concept of focusing on one part but the rest of the body is engaged and playing. They don't intentionally stiffen or move the rest of their body. It just moves because it happens to be attached and going for the ride (i.e. relaxed). We then reverse the game and have students jump in the middle of the circle one by one and do a move, all the rest of the class has to guess which body part is in control and initiating the movement. If we can't guess, the person is thinking too much about other things and they have to try again. It's a fun game and always gets the point across that one should focus on one part but the rest of the body is FULLY engaged. Especially the upper body with the whole emotional expression.

It is very obvious when someone is doing isolations (think American tribal style) vs. moving from a central point and letting the rest of the body flow naturally (Middle Eastern & Egyptian styles). Dance in the Middle East, like any indigenous dance, evolved organically over the years from people's natural movements, bodies and environment. However they move in their daily lives, is how they dance (with a little exaggeration of course to express their joy & happiness). It's not natural to the human body to 'isolate'. That's why we do it (isolation) when we imitate robots and mechanical (non-human) movement.

Hope that helps!
Lots of love,
South SF Bay, CA


8-22-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Oh my goodness, I hope the teacher in the article was misquoted!! I guess I tend to take the “local press” articles with a grain of salt, since I’ve been misquoted so often myself. The last article, which was based on a long interview, made me wince. I had mentioned that I was surprised when I took Pilates that the engagement of the back muscles was similar to what I had learned in dance classes. This was transformed into “Latifa says that belly dance and Pilates are very similar.” Cringe!!
Severna Park, MD


8-22-05 re:Redefining BD and MEDance by Tasha Banat
First  may I say I agree with your definition of belly dance and your reasoning for it. I have been  in the past one of those who didn't like the term "belly dance"  for exactly the reasons you pointed out and did not use it. I felt it meant "uneducated , sleazy dance" to  many people and since I study love the "folk dances" of the region as well as "belly dance" it did not describe what I did as a dancer. However I was living in Texas at the time and did not have contact with Middle Eastern people or work for them. When I moved back to Boston I found the term "belly dance" to be the only term used to describe this dance form and it was used by Middle Eastern people with out derision. Mainly to clarify what I did for commercial reasons I began to use the term again,. I found the phrase "belly dance artist"  to be the best acceptable way to describe my dance and it arose from definitions within the Middle Eastern community as the term "belly dancer" is further broken down in their understanding as "artistic/well executed or professional" or " sleazy,poorly done and cheap".

As an Armenian-American, I also found  confusion from non Middle Easterners about the "folk dance" forms with the "belly dance". They assume because I am Armenian I am dancing an Armenian dance. American Armenians do not consider Belly dance to be Armenian. It is considered Turkish or Muslim dancing and is taboo or not politically correct for reasons of which I'm sure you are aware. However many Armenians worked in night clubs as musicians with other Middle Eastern musicians- Arabs, Turks, Greeks and there were a few Armenian belly dancers.

Also after studying for a long time with a lady who performs Folkloric dances based on the regional folk dances of the Levant and Egypt I have learned how certain movements are used in belly dance with specific differences either smaller version or executed on  half toe instead of flat footed or not used at all in folk dance like hip shimmies. So it has become clear to me that belly dance is a form in itself based in folk movement but designed for different circumstances such as viewing by an audience in a small space, being performed solo as opposed to in a group, viewing for commercial purpose etc.

I am curious what you think of the term "oriental" which is used by some Arabs to denote "artistic  or well executed belly dance" Also I am sure you are aware that the dances of the region also include the dances of non-Arab peoples who live there such as Armenians  and Greeks. the "folk dances" and music of non-Arabs in the region are distinct in the same way from the dances of Armenians and greeks from Turkey or  Armenians from Armenia.
Boston, MA


8-19-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Indeed I am so upset by your article about that interview by a troupe teacher. My goddess, she is not only very wrong she has some serious issues. I am a Professional dancer of over 18 years and many forms. I have not only been to teachers, studios but have read many books on the dances of my interests. You have to learn the theory, history and movements of any dance be it Ballet or Flamenco. I am appalled to say the least. It is a spiritual celebration dance of the feminine form and to be in balanced with your spirit, body and heart and soul.
Need I say more!
The gothic Gypsy
PS Good afternoon, about that interview with the teacher from Vegas. She also does not even speak with proper etiquette I am sorry to say she does not put Goddess worship dancers into a good light I am so appalled by that interview. Perhaps she needs to read GRANDMOTHERS SECRET by Rosina-Fawazia Al-Rawi or even THE DANCE IN SPAIN by Anna Ivanova to broaden her thoughts, knowledge and mind.


8-19-05 re:My 2005 Eilat Festival in Israel by Orit
To the Editor and Orit Maftsir,
While I am delighted to read about Orit's successful festival in Eilat, it is hardly the "first professional festival in Israel.
The Middle Eastern Dance Camp/Festival held in the Jordan Valley in Israel was founded by me and my Israeli producing partner, Nurit Katziry, in 1996. Since then, we have held 6 fantastic, successful festivals. Dancers have come from Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, the USA, and from all over Israel to participate in the event. Our faculty has included Nava Aharoni, Shlomo Haziz, Fifi Ness, and Elina Pechersky, all leading Israeli artists, as well as internationally acclaimed artists Shareen El Safy, Khadejah and Mustapha El Oueslati, Leila Haddad, Elena Lentini, Sakti Rinek and myself. Our festival has been featured in the magazines Masa Aher, Habibi, Biblical Archeology Review, and The Palace and was the subject of a documentary made for Canadian Bravo TV.
I hope you will be able publish this letter to set the record straight for all your readers. Orit is totally aware of our festival - last year she wrote and asked to be considered for the faculty.
Joan Kafri
Founder and Artistic Director
Middle Eastern Dance Camp/Festival, Israel


8-19-05 re: Calling all professional dancers! How much do you charge? by Nanna
& The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
To the editor,
Regarding Nanna's column, I couldn't agree more. MECDA originally started out in L.A. as a dancers' union with the acronym standing for Middle Eastern Cabaret Dancers Assoc. Among the founding members was my
friend, Samra, who found the same conditions driving dancers crazy. That was in the late '70's or early '80's. If I recall correctly the name shifted with Cabaret being replaced with Cultural, signifying the "death" of the union. I believe to have any attempt be successful, teachers must start discussing the money aspect with their students, otherwise, ignorance will cause this absurd situation to continue.

Furthermore, in discussing prices with a potential client, you must have a formula already in place and the strength to stick to it. You can always go down, you can never go up in price. Factor in drive time and set up time, how long you are expected to be there and dance. Performers usually make less at "established" venues than at parties because the
place itself has placed itself in a position of risk; they have usually advertised that they have dancers and possibly a band...add up their monetary exposure for a year, throw that on top of their overhead, and you can understand why you would be paid less there. However, it doesn't mean you work for less than minimum wage.

Regarding the untaught teacher: What ever happened to the phrase, " I don't know."? How about, "As far as I know...." or " I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but...". Also, for those who are critical, remember being "on the air" the first time or two can make one temporarily stupid. Unacceptable are people having a history of being
on the radio who make absurd statements such as, " I had to rearrange the song since the Egyptian composer had the maqam sequence in the wrong order."
Mark Bell
Fairfax, CA


8-11-05 re:Calling all professional dancers! How much do you charge? by Nanna
Dear Lynette,
This indeed is a can of worms and I congratulate both writers for saying who is controlling club/restaurant salaries - the owners of course! And it's been like this for decades, although salaries are much lower in Bay Area than East Coast. Is it because our area is just saturated with belly dancers, many willing to do 2-3 shows a night for $20-$40 a night plus whatever tips they get? Or is it because many of the East Coast dancers are represented by agents who negotiate for them? I don't have solutions, but I can tell you this, when I was in NYC for a visit for a couple of weeks about 15 years ago, I ran into a dance pal of mine who'd relocated to NYC. She told me that basically, things were much better for dancers than in Bay Area; more organized, most dancers had agents getting them jobs and club salaries were better. Since then, I've read more than one "dancer salary survey" on line, and the Bay Area is the absolutely lowest in the country! Depressing, really! Especially when one walks into a club/restaurant with at least $1,000 worth of costuming, and performs 2 to 3 shows for $20-$40 for the whole night and "tips" are supposed to make up the rest.

I do know this, as long as dancers are willing to work for next to nothing, just to get "experience" things won't improve! We have not been successful in dealing directly, as dancers, with club owners - they are just not going to raise the dancers' salaries because, big drum roll here, THEY DON'T HAVE TO!

This is the reason I retired from club/restaurant dance gigs about 12 years ago - although I loved the live Arabic music format,the situation wasn't going to improve, not without agent representation for dance work, and that hasn't been acceptable to restaurant owners or club owners - they do talk to each other and have their own network and THEY are setting standards.

What I would like dancers to remember is that every time they dance "free" on an open night at a restaurant or club, they are promoting and supporting the idea of low pay for professional dancers. I don't do that anymore. There are plenty of opportunitites to perform at haflas, or festivals - but the club/restaurant venue should be reserved for professionals who are paid depending on experience and skill level.
Yours in dance (and I don't dance for free)


8-12-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Dear People,
I am writing to you from Cairo, Egypt, where I am both teaching dance and making costumes. I think that those of us who see these kinds of interveiws should write to the publication where the interveiw appears and state the correct information. I have been dancing and studying dance for almost 30 yrs, and get bugged when I see new dancers advertising themselves as MASTER instructors when they dont have the training, or dance experience to begin to qualify as teachers. It turns into a contest of who has the best advertising. We need to organise, standardise, and recognise our experts. Here in Egypt all performers have to register and be licenced to appear profesionally; and since people here have real information about the history of our dance, most are careful about the things said in interveiws. Why not admit that what they are doing is a personal vision loosly based on the art of oriental dance? A fusion, if you will, of tradition and modern oriental and occidental? Or should I say accidental? Oriental dance suffers from the do it yourself syndrome. In what other dance do we find a performer that also teaches, designs costumes, makes up their own dances,and invents history??? To be taken seriously we need to train, study and then, innovate.
Thank you.
Hallah Moustafa.
Cairo, Egypt


8-9-05 re:Calling all professional dancers! How much do you charge? by Nanna Candelaria
Dear Editor,
Hurrah Hurrah for this article. We have been fuming about this issue here too and I just lost a wedding to someone who is charging so little that the bride is willing to forgo the deposit she paid me to hire her! I wish if someone didn't think they were worth 200 dollars they just wouldn't look for work, but that's not human nature. So it is no skin off my nose if someone else is hired if she gets a good rate as that benefits me in the long run. I am thunderstruck in a good way with this concept!

As for clubs and restaurants, they are all in cahoots about what they pay and if one guy pays only 25 bucks he brags to another owner and the rate plummets everywhere. As for the dancers, the owners knows who works where and won't pay a dancer who works for cheap elsewhere any more at their place if they happen to pay more. There are a couple of places here that pay a fair wage for a show here and believe me if you worked elsewhere for 25 dollars you'd see your rate slashed there so quick it'd make your eyes water. When folks hire dancers for their events and they are in the business- such as singers or musicians, they too know what the bottom line is for a certain dancer and who will do what for less. So maybe you don't work as much but you get a reputation for being high quality if you hold the line for decent pay in the club scene too. The thinking with clubs and restaurants is you make it up in tips and you get exposure for better paying gigs but let's go back to the first paragraph and revisit that unhappy situation. I have made little or no tips far more than big bucks in tips to make the average pay for a low-paying gig very sad indeed. Plus in some places you get pawed for each lousy dollar. Yuck.

If you know any musicians ask them what their pay is. Here the rate is so low even for weddings it makes you cry. We hired a band for my step-daughter's wedding- 3500.00. Of course they were Americans. Your local Arabic band does a wedding for 1500.00. As for clubs the drummer pounding his hands raw at the night club behind you is lucky to get 120.00 for a full 4-6 hours of work. The singer will make maybe 200-250 for the night. So getting 200.00 to dance in a club is not realistic. But why would you dance for 35.00 knowing that everyone else is making 3-5 times more than you!? they get tips too! Or a wedding where you are a featured attraction and have to hang around for hours and often dance 2 or 3 times?! So you can brag to your friends about it?! Anyways, my big sloppy kisses to you Nanna for opening this can of foul worms and I am marching right behind you. 200.00 it is!



8-2-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Reading the article by Reanee Temple: The Untaught Teacher, brought a few memories to mind. The dance community tin the Phoenix Az area has had some disastrous results from interviews and articles with the large, local “what’s happening” type of publication. What the dancer actually said never quite translated to what the average publication reader saw in print. Inevitably the reader would see some demeaning fluff, punctuated with words and phrases like: titillating, wiggling, jiggling, fanny shaking, sexy, heaving bosoms....blah, blah, blah, one gets the drift. Even an on-air belly gram at a popular local radio station contained remarks and questions about the dancers’ breast size and one winner of a comment that the DJ was finally “seeing the bald man in the canoe”. What an insult! Many times the interview would push and prod the dancer being interviewed to get her to say as much as possible about the perceived sexual aspect of dance. It was almost like the writer wanted the reader to not take the dance community seriously, like dancers should be seen as either hippies or stripper wanna-be sex kittens, certainly not as anything serious. Sure enough, when the article was finished, the dancer’s words would twisted into something she never actually said, but that the publication’s editor thought would get the most readers.

HOWEVER, directly referring to the “Untaught Teacher”, I have also seen an, “us against them” attitude with SOME tribal dancers vs cabaret dancers. I’ve personally seen a tribal style dancer actually inform a young, talented non tribal dancer that since her style was cabaret, it meant with certainty that she danced like a slut! The tribal dancer on the other hand danced the TRUE bellydance, just like in the olden days. HUH???? Ever see a person from the Middle East react to Tribal dancing? Some react with an open mind, curious about this new physical expression that uses rhythms familiar to their ears, some ask the cabaret dancers what on earth are these women doing, some get up and leave. Somewhere along the way, some have turned it into the old, “my god/goddess is better than your god/goddess”.

But unfortunately when reading any article in non dance publications, it’s hard to know what the dancer really said and what the interviewer wrote. I guess I’m just hoping that the teacher in that article really wasn’t as biased and ignorant as she sounded in print.

Mena Craney


7-30-05 re:The Untaught Teacher by Reanee Temple
Dear Lynette:
Hooray, hooray, horrahhh!!!! I am so glad that you published this article. When I read the initial article printed by the Reno News and Review, I was astounded; my jaw actually dropped. I was astounded at the comments that were made by the interviewee, and I was more astounded at the research that was not done by the interviewer. I, too, wrote a multi-page letter by email followed by hard copies to the interviewer with a copy to the editor. I am so very happy that the education process can begin with The Gilded Serpent with regards to the facts and not the fiction that is being perpetuated by groups like the one that was interviewed. Again, HOORAY!!!!!!!
Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance
San Francisco, CA


7-27-05 re: Calling all professional dancers! How much do you charge? by Nanna Candelaria
I am writing the Guilded Serpent for the first time regarding this recent article of "How much do you charge?" by Nanna Candelaria. I have been a professional Burlesque Entertainer and Performer for 6 years now. I have done fan dancing, belly dancing, singing, comedy and striptease w/out nudity all at the highest caliber a woman could perform without demeaning
herself or her womanhood. I have performed in many classy venues and theaters from Las Vegas to San Francisco to Sacramento, Ca.

From costumes to building stage props, to preparation, travel time, rehearsal & make-up, I think $200 is a most appropriate minimum amount. Depending on the show and what is entailed & location of the venue, I would think this would be too low in some cases. Sometimes I think this also depends on the reputation of the dancer and their titles if any apply. Do they have a large fan base that will follow them? Will they bring in more business to the club/restaurant? Only will these answers help bring more power to the dancer and what she can offer and what she says she is worth.

Being a one-woman show, I have performed full shows up to 20 min including stage set-up and props along with programmed story lines. Not an easy task at all!

The main thing we are up against as performers is the cheapening of live entertainment on the whole. Its easier to book a DJ for cheap vs live musicians. Its easier for restaurant/night-club clients to book a less experienced dancer compared to a well-known dancer who may bring in more fans who pay for drinks etc.. Sometimes they just dont care how experienced or well- known you are!

The appreciation for the art of live quality entertainment has gone awry in my opinion. This is partly because of the internet age and how easy it is for less-experienced performers (from dancers to musicians to actors) and so forth to market a service that is less than those whom have been practicing mastery for years. We live in a fast-paced throw away society and artists suffer.

When I started out, I once worked a Holiday Inn Nightclub on a weekly basis performing with a live band. After momentum picked up, people started pouring in the club because I had something different to offer in my hometown. I was getting paid $75 for 3 dances a night and that was when I was still new. They changed entertainment directors and cut me off the budget because they said they did not have the money. Later, I learned that patrons came in asking the doorman where I was. I had created a fanbase and the club lost business because of poor choices.

I have been asked to perform out of town for $100 and in town for $50 or even for free! I have turned down offers to perform because the hard work I put into performing had become less appreciated from both an admiration and a monetary basis. I am worth so much more than that. When a dancer charges less, she sends the message that she is not worth very much. Not only is it a question of how much do we charge, I think it is a question of how much do we feel we are worth? And how will this opinion of ourselves affect our ability to reap rewards for our hard work?

I am currently reviving my passion for belly dancing again during my haitus to the stage. I wanted to respond to this article as it really touched on some things I felt to respond.Thank you for publishing this article. I hope that the appreciation for the art of live entertainment and the art of the belly dance returns with bigger dollars and cents.

Cherry Malone
The Goddess of Burlesque
Miss Exotic World 2001


6-13-05 re: letters below
Dear Titanya,
I thank you for your comments on Gilded Serpent. I comment on two points. First, woman or man, creating a top show will be based on the best dancers you can find and molding them into a cohesive team. By best, I mean best in talent, skill, and attractiveness (charisma, likeability) to an audience. Choosing dancers because of shape or size is not part of art and is not a criteria to choose a dancer. A serious woman wanting to succeed to the level as I do would choose the same dancers I would. Perhaps she, or indeed another man, may prefer a different style, but that’s just a question of taste. More variety- I seriously doubt it because there is only so much you can effectively do in a 1 hour, 45-minute show, giving your star dancers a decent time on the stage, so they feel inspired to be part of the show. “Authenticity.” Now there’s a funny word. Find me one “authentic” dancer and I’ll find you ten dancers to say she’s not. If belly dance is a living dance art, there is no such thing as “authentic.”

Having just returned from Egypt and Beirut, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find “authentic” there. As far as I can make out, most of the Arab dancers want to emulate a Vegas act to give themselves status, as belly dance is looked upon as pole dancing by the bulk of Egyptian society. At the ministry of culture, I was told belly dance “was an embarrassment.”

Regarding the Polynesian piece, it is in the show because it demonstrates an interesting phenomena- that on the other side of the world, women came up with a similar dance to belly dance, also sensual and feminine. It serves to break up the show with variety and provides a beautiful, if unexpected (good!), interlude. It is also little used in dance shows, which is why I would not use ballet, Irish, or tap, none of which has any similarity to belly dance. Sonia’s presentation of Polynesian absolutely fits this show and has had a very positive impact on my ability to sell the show to the big world out there. That’s real context, is it not?

Your basic premise that a woman would be different to a man, I really think is mistaken. I deal with women on the business end every day and believe me when they want to sell tickets or have a success, they ask for the same things a man does. If they didn’t, they would fail. Women edit almost all of the women-oriented magazines- it is women who push young and beautiful on their front covers, not men. Remember that.

Meanwhile, with 14 ladies in the troupe, don’t think I don’t get suggestions and input, especially from Jillina and Rachel Brice. This is not just my thing; it’s our thing. Our publicists in Europe are all women- they are far more brutal than I am in choosing who should be in photographs or speak to the press. In fact, I would bet if a “powerful, rich woman” was involved out to create a top show, she would be a lot tougher than me on every issue.
Miles Copeland
Los Angeles, CA


5-27-05 re: letter below
Dear Nissima,
I am all too familiar with the dance scene of which you have been describing. I too, have been dancing for over 20 years and you are right, not much has not changed in pay and respect within restaurants. I have danced in restaurants and changed into $1,000 costumes in dirty closets, getting paid sub-standard wages. I’ve “been there and I’ve done that.” It is a shame that is seems to be getting worse in terms of pay and respect. It is also a shame that new dancers come into the restaurants not knowing the job history of our art form and undercut each other because they want to dance in the clubs. I am concerned about all of these issues…but this isn’t what my letter was about. I guess I could’ve been clearer in my words about Monique’s article in reference to “Once again a man has received credit for a woman’s art form”. This dance, in my opinion is by women, for women, about women, although I still love male dancers coming onto our scene. I am sad that there is not a powerful, wealthy woman backing the show.

Although I don’t consider myself a feminist, I guess I am coming from a feminist standpoint in this issue. I also so respect Miles Copeland as a brilliant mastermind. I respect what he has done for dancers in our community. I thought that was clear in my letter. I support the “Bellydance Superstars” and have seen the show and met Miles on numerous occasions. In my letter, I say he is a “Master Magician”. I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was serious! He was a genius to put a show together of this magnitude and to pay his dancers generously is awesome! I know this because my sister is one of the “Superstars.” The show has talent and beauty with Miles Copeland behind it all. I wish it were a woman…not a “slime from another planet” (as you say), not a man…but, a woman. In fact your “slime from another planet” comment was odd since there is no history of these “slimes” producing, directing, or being CEO’s, presidents and owners of companies like there is a very strong history with men.

On another note, I would like to see more recognition for the dancers who laid the foundation for Miles to do what he is doing. This recognition might be on the BDSS program or mentioned in the show somehow. Because, if it weren’t for the “pioneer” women paving the way, the “ Bellydance Superstars” might not even exist today… dancers like you and me who worked for decades at those dive restaurants for the true love of the dance. And, the true Bellydance Superstars like, Jamila Salimpour, Delilah, Mish Mish, Cassandra, Rhea…not to mention our Middle Eastern Superstars like Nagwa Fouad, Tahiya Careoka, Samia Gamal, Dina, Lucy, Amani, Souheir Zaki… If Miles Copeland included Polynesian because it is “respected” as you say then why not make it an international show with tap, ballet, and Irish step dancing? It is obvious to me, and many people during the show who were talking in the lobby, that the Polynesian dance piece is way out of context. Beautiful it may be, but out of context. I do not mean to “knock” Miles Copeland. I just know that “The Belly Dance Superstars” would feature more shapes, more sizes, more styles, more variety and more authenticity of Middle Eastern dance if a powerful, rich woman would have come up with the brilliant ideas that Miles Copeland has.
Titanya Dahlin,
Boulder, Colorado


Dear Lynette ,
The more I read in your magazine the more I appreciate you work.

Good luck



Hi, I'm French and I study bellydance only for a year..I enjoyed so much ur report about ahlan wa sahlan festival, I think I ll go there this year.
Thank u again for ur wonderful site


Older Letters  

Archives Pg 17- January through December 2007!
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 you are here
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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