Letters to the Editor

Email the Snake--editor@gildedserpent.com

November 2005 through May 2006

5-31-06 re:Sashi - Kabob by Lynette
Dear Editor,
I was disturbed, to say the least, by the lack of information, sensitivity, or respect in Lynette's article "Sashi-Kabob", detailing the performance of Sashi of Ascend Tribal Dance during the recent Tribal Fest 6 in Sebastapol, CA. This performance involved actual pierced wings, which were "inspired by the Tribal Hindu Thaipusam Festivals of Malaysia in which kavadi frames, cheek and tongue spears are worn in trance-like states to honor Lord Muruga while seeking penance for themselves and their community" (as taken from the introduction to the performance). Ms. Lynette failed to cite this
introduction in her article, instead focusing on the more intense aspects of the performance, i.e., Sashi's pierced wings, stating how she as a medical professional could not understand how anyone could do that to their body.
What Ms. Lynette saw and wrote about in her article was only part of the picture, and this was made evident by the lack of tact in the title of her article. This article (and indeed the performance itself) seems to have stirred up a lot of debate in our community, one reader comparing Sashi's performance to fetishism, which is a far-fetched assumption based on a few photographs. This is the impact of this distastefully-written article.

On a personal note, I have been a student of Sashi's for 6 months, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for this woman. I was also present for the actual piercing, helping to keep Sashi focused during the process. For the five of us present (myself, my classmate, my boyfriend, Steve - her piercer, and Sashi herself), the experience was as beautiful as anything, almost as if we were midwives helping Sashi give birth to a child, but in this case the child was creativity. If the performance was done for shock value, it would have been sloppy and distasteful...anyone who saw it can say otherwise. I implore the readers of this magazine to find out all the facts before they make judgements, and I implore Lynette to sit down with Sashi and rewrite her article.
Justine Thorpe
Stockton, CA


5-28-06 re:Sashi - Kabob by Lynette
Hello Lynette,
Can I be the first to say how relieved I was to see that apparently not one part of Sashi's lovely Assuit bra, belt and skirt was harmed during her pierced wing dance or the "removal" process as shown in the GS photos!. Geez, .......I was thinking of performing cane dance next year at Tribafest in my new Assuit dress but not if my cane has to be sharpened and driven through a body part ....Hmm, I dunno, have nothing against people expressing themselves, free speech, freedom of belief systems etc. are respected and it's all okay, but let's just rename "Tribalfest" to "Fetishfest" and be honest about the fact that this venue has little to do now with "bellydance".
Pacifica, CA


5-27-06 re: The Photos of Saroya Ahlaam
Dear Editor.
Just as one curious dancer who did not attend Rakassah West, I am a bit puzzled by the commentary accompanying some of the photos. I was a bit grossed-out by the photo of Suhaila's troupe clad in dominatrix gear and then as I scrolled down there was another troupe "Kaya And Sadie" with some commentary in regards to the questionable propriety of their show placed in a family format. I did not see either performance but simply by viewing the photos I am puzzled as to why Kaya and Sadie were too suggestive and Suhaila's troupe was not commented upon. Is this an oversight? I would certainly not want my children seeing Suhaila's piece either. Because she is Suhaila we have to keep our mouths shut in regards to criticism ? Or is Suhaila's troupe raising a valid artistic statement about belly dance while Kaya and Sadie's piece is orientalist commercialism?!

As far as belly dancing and burlesque and stripping being confused with one another in the public eye I'm not sure any of the costuming currently worn by any of us working dancers (save dressing like Angelika's troupe ) will help the uneducated public figure the difference out. Yeah, we wear more than most young ladies going to the prom these days but don't we have a long preoccupation with propriety vs the First Amendment too? You know, Branson Missouri vs
Elimidate? And in regards to the belly dancing they don't go with me to most gigs since despite my own best attempts to be artistic and present the beauty of an ancient danceform people mainly just want to have fun and may not always treat me with the desired dignity .

As the mother of numerous daughters, I removed television from my household as a self-helpful, censorious, motherly decision. I wish everyone believed that images of young women acting trashy is detrimental to the well-being of our children and as a country we put the importance of raising our young people ahead of abstract commercial rights. I'm a bit more worried about what internet porn is doing to the dating pool my girls are thrashing about in at the moment then some silly belly dancers myself included.
Confused in Boston.


5-26-06 re: The Photos of Saroya Ahlaam, or Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond by Princess Farhana
What's the difference between burlesque or Belly Dance ? One might ask this question after attending one of the west coast Festivals this year. And what's all this hub bub about? Well there is much confusion on this subject, and you hear cries from performers for “freedom of expression” and why not dance erotica art as an exhibition with belly dance? Then on the other side: We have fought long and hard as belly dancers to be taken as a serious art form with cultural roots, and we do not want to be compared to stripers even though the dance has a varied past including some history of harems. This question of right or wrong is burning up the gossip columns, public festival producers, as well as advocates of Middle Eastern dance as family entertainment.

And all for a good reason, example: I recently attended a festival where one group came on stage showing butt cheeks! they had nothing but feather boa's over their thong booties! And they bent over right in the front to the audience like a poll dancer would do baring all ass. Now I am not a prude or puritan, and I enjoy fusion of styles and pushing the edge, but I do not like this mix of burlesque at public fairs or festivals due to one main fact - that their are children in the audience! And these performers are not thinking about that as a big factor and for a parent, it is. We as adults like to choose what our kids are exposed to, and if we want to take them to R rated programs. And, I do not know any one who would want their 5 or 9 year old daughter copying poll dancing at school, or using burlesque moves at the play ground, or while belly dancing for an audience.

I hope this lack of respect for parents and children will be put to a stop, and this is not to say if you want to flaunt your body that you can’t you just need to pick the right venue. As an event producer I do not want to screen every performer, which is nearly impossible for large events, nor do I want to only allow adults into a day long festival or show. So my advice to dancers: if you want to include the cross of burlesque and belly dance then atleast let your audience know in advance so they can decide. And, to answer the question what's the difference? well, one is a adult only R rated show, and one is a family G rated show. As a professional it is up to you to understand who your audience is and prepare a show suitable for the event. So, if you want to show bare booty or mimic poll stripers please tell the producer so they can either: A) place you late in the program and let the audience know, or B) not place you on the program at all. And as far as the movements go many of the moves are used by both art forms, so it is not the moves but the way the body and energy are presented that makes all the difference in the world.
Pray for peace.
producer of the annual Belly Dance Fantasy Festival.


5-25-06 re:The Rise of the Pagan Anti-Belly Dance League by DeAnna Putnam
Hello, I respect and enjoy Gilded Serpent, so I was more than a bit frustrated and shocked to see the article "The Rise of the Pagan Anti-Belly Dance League" by DeAnna Putnam featured on your site. Does the author (or anyone) have any evidence that any ancient Egyptian depictions of dancers are depicting raqs sharqi dancers? Let alone 13,000-year-old drawings from Britain? Is finding a 5,000-year-old painting from North America of dancers stamping their feet valid evidence of the movement depicted being the precursor of tap dance? I think not. I have never heard from any respectable pieces of scholarship proof of ancient Egyptians doing what we would call "belly dance". Now are we finding out the ancient inhabitants of Nottinghamshire were raqs sharqi dancers? I am surprised at this BS scholarship being presented in any reputable magazine that features articles by the likes of Morocco and Mary-Ellen Donald.
Saraab al-Wajdi
Portland, OR, USA


5-25-06 re: The Photos of Saroya Ahlaam
I saw the photos of the Rakkasah festival that took place on March,& I wished I was there to see it. I love them all,but there is one photo that caught my eye. It was the picture of Rachel George dressed as a angelic bellydancer. She is so beautiful & I bet she is a graceful dancer. Also she has a great sexy belly to just worship with just pure admiration with the eyes like a visual masterpiece in a art gallery. I would like to know more about her, when she will do DVD of her performance w/Aziza,where could I see her perform,& does she has any special moves. I even would to get a response from her,if possible. From me to her: Keep dancing & expressing beauty & may your wings spread as graceful as your heart for the dance,my angel.

William M. James
Lover of the Belly Dance
Philadelphia ,PA


5-15-06 re:Letter below by Miles Copeland
Dear Lynette,
I would like to commend Mr. Miles Copeland on the letter he submitted to "Gilded Serpent" on May 5th. His lengthy postscript really is telling in regards to his mission with the "Bellydance Superstars". The role of Danse Orientale in our times, and as American dancers, goes beyond our skin, our surface. It shows a great deal of regard and respect, and as dancers we must respect ourselves as well. I totally agree with his comments about the burlesque connection that is so often perceived in our art form. Miles you really do get it! You really are one of us.

Maria Celado
San Francisco/New Orleans


5-14-06 re:Rhea’s Travel to Syria …PART 4 – Damascus
Dear Lynette:
Thanks for publishing Rhea's series about her travels to Syria. They are informative and funny, the narratives delivered in a manner characteristic of this unconventional and fearless dancer and writer.

I freely admit to some bias here, as Rhea's influence on my life and not just my dance has been noteworthy. What a neat thing it was for me to visit her in Athens many years ago, and to find myself later rejuvenated in the belief that an American woman has many choices about the way in which she lives her life. It seems that Rhea continues to live her dream in the manner that she defines it; and for that, I applaud her.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


5-7-06 re: 2006 BDSS Tour
I had the priviledge of seeing the Bellydance Superstars in Oklahoma City a few months ago. It was the most impressive stage show I've ever seen! Ansuya happens to be my very favorite dancer, but people all have different preferences. Sonia was also fabulous, and the little veil spinner dancer was breathtaking! It was one of the best experiences of my life. The venue was shabby, and I was embarassed that these fantastic women had to dance there. I wish they could come to the Performing Arts Center in Tulsa next time. They would enjoy the nice surroundings. It is a great show from start to finish.
Tulsa, Oklahoma


5-5-06 re: Sighting of Miles Copeland at "Burly-q" show

Dear Lynette,
I went to check Margaret Cho’s show at El Cid as I understood there is to be some connection with bellydance and being concerned how this art form was being presented at this critical time I wanted to see what the show consisted of.

As you know there has been a habit of people criticizing my show without having ever seen it but simply making assumptions on hear say. I did not want to be one of these people criticizing a show without having seen it. As it happens the show was primarily comedy with which I will describe as extremely adult and funny but definitely, shall we say, for a “liberal” crowd.

Thankfully the dancing was burlesque in which every dance had the punch line: “Now you can all see my breasts!” Fairly harmless and amusing but I don’t know I could go as far as to say there is any artistry involved. Thankfully, there was no blatant connection between Bellydance and Burlesque. The dancers were not taking off their bellydance costumes to expose themselves. Personally I am glad the connection was so scant because if there is a serious desire to see Bellydance elevated a show like this is no stepping stone to achieve this.

I believe one day when Bellydance has achieved the status it deserves and the public is aware Bellydance comes in many forms from extremely sophisticated and talented to amateur and less talented there will be more latitude for us to have little objections to one Bellydancer presenting nudity or other takes on dance. If one saw nudity in a ballet the public is knowledgeable enough not to assume all ballet is in the nude. Bellydance is still misunderstood and it is a long way to educate the public.

For this reason I hope Margaret Cho and Princess Farhana will do us all a favor and keep connections between Bellydance and Burlesque to an extreme minimum. I certainly would not like to see any reputable Bellydancer perform in this show even with all her clothes on because we live in a world of guilt by association.

Those are my thoughts.
Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA

PS: One more point on the burlesque front. When I was in Egypt last year I was told by several noted bellydance teachers that they were more often than not treated on the same level as prostitutes. I was also told that the gaining of prestige for the art in the West, especially in the U.S. would have a major effect on helping the Egyptian dancers gain respect from within their own society. Basically, if Americans respected bellydance Egyptians would eventually too. Because bellydance in the past has been associated more with the risqué dance arts than the “classy” dance arts it is all the more important for the art today to be consistently presented “up market” rather than down market”. Those American dancers who equate bellydance with burlesque, even fairly innocently and in good fun will inadvertently create an impression that will reach the Middle East and scuttle any good “acceptance” in the West can bring. The plight of this dance in the Middle East, as well as the larger issue of women’s position generally in those societies cannot be served well by this association. We in the U.S. have to be particularly prudent and sensitive at this juncture in Arab - American relations. We Americans need to see Arabs as more than terrorists and people whose oil we need. Arabs need to see us as moral people with principles and not just sex mad, gun mad, culture bashing me firsters. We may feel that going topless in a dance is liberating and “why not’?

Other societies see this as an example of our moral decay. We as a nation have much to offer the world but we can only do so if we are respected morally as well as militarily. Bellydance may only be a dance, a small thing, but it is a definite link between our two worlds currently in conflict. It is a conflict we Americans have to take seriously for obvious reasons. I think bellydance can be a more important link than any of us think. For that reason we need to protect and encourage its progress towards greater respect. For the sake of your bellydance sisters in the Arab world and the art generally I hope those who wish to do burlesque (as is their right to do) will have the good sense and foresight to keep any association with bellydance out of the picture entirely. In the last war they used to say “loose lips sink ships “. In the bellydance wars of today I could say “loose tits sink hips.” .Miles Copeland


5-4-06 re:The Persian Soul of the Music of Sima Bina by Yasmela
Dear editor: Just two nights ago, I experienced first-hand the magic of a Sima Bina Persian folk music concert. I was delighted to find Yasmina's article about her on your Web site! It's exciting to hear from another non-Persian who has fallen in love with this music. I've smitten with Persian/Iranian traditional and folk music since I first heard it years ago, but only recently started seriously learning about the music and the artists and actively seeking out concerts to attend. Unfortunately, even in Northern California, these events tend to be relatively few, and not broadly advertised, so it was a wonderful gift when an Iranian friend of mine told me about Sima Bina's concert being held in the Sacramento, CA area. The Iranian musicians were masterful, playing a variety of traditional instruments: the dotar, barbat, daf, ney, kemenche, and Sima had a magnetic presence, moving with beguiling grace and art, and her voice powerful, rich, and melodic, yet smooth as velvet. Her folk costume alone was magnificent! As a beginner student and admirer of the Farsi language, I also appreciated Yasmina's love for the language. Her description says it all:

"Farsi has the most sensuous sound. It flows off the tongue like velvet, half-whispered and full of longing, meaning and beauty."

Farsi is the language of the great Persian poets, Rumi and Hafez, so it must be beautiful! In case readers are interested, there is a wonderful Web site where you can listen to Persian traditional and folk music round the clock: www.radiodarvish.com. This music, poetry, and language truly speak to the heart. Thanks, Yasmina, for finding the perfect words! -

Nona Bird,
Placerville, CA


4-24-06 re: Miles Copeland
The product of Belly dancers is all about miles Copland only. We did a great concert in Bali; I wish he showed more of live bands and more belly dancing and interviews about the bands from Bali He has no respect for musicians or for artists. The video is about making more money and promoting himself.

I though the whole idea in Bali was to promote peace not miles Copland. He used my music in his film and he didn't even put credit about my music or paid me any money for that but I am cool.
Maybe I can give him more ideas about life & music and point him on the right direction, it all for free.

I was the only Arab and only Algerian representing peace and the Middle East at the Bali concert and I wrote the lyrics for the Zohar band and we did rock on the stage. I love music and I will be promoting peace and write great music no needs for record labels and rock star bullshit and I am sure there are more artists and great bands up there feeling the same.

It’s just me an Arab from the beautiful Algeria but very happy and very friendly!
Abdelkader Saadoun
DJ, composer, drummer, producer, teacher, Singer & actor http://www.saadoun.com

Miles response to forward of this letter:
Interesting note. The film clearly shows this guy as a problem which thankfully got resolved. The Zohar manager was also a problem of course. I was never informed about the lyrics and always believed them to be Zohars but I will contact the guy and give credit where credit is due. Thanks for passing this on.


3-31-06 re: Devi-Ja Croll's death
Hey Lynette,
I just saw on GS that Devi-Ja died. That broke my heart. I saw the benefit concert that they did for her a few years back in Berkeley, and I was so excited to go see it and support her. This must be terrible on Vince Delgado. She performed that night during the benefit with her father and some other people, and the energy between them was amazing to watch. She was such an incredibly happy person, and she just radiated that energy to everyone present.



3-31-06 re: Miles response to reviews
Well Miles neatly covered all the bases, again. I guess this means we'll be subjected to another couple of years of silliness by the "Superstars" while Miles rakes in the dough...ooops! No, while Miles looses money because he is doing this for the "art" and out of the nobility of his heart. Its still a skin show and still misses the point. Until music and musicians are included, until there is a program (please!) and until some real attention is paid to the technical aspects of the production, it will still be Miles Copeland (aka Sol Bloom) playing to the misconceptions of the public that bellydancing is about bump and grind in a better costume (or maybe just a new one). Carnival ain't art, its fun, its entertaining, but PLEASE, don't call it art! You can't have it both ways. Or maybe Miles can...if you pay a dancer enough and giver her enough exposure, maybe she'll do anything. Sid Viscious was about shlock value...and the Superstars? Those who want to get to the heart of the matter will eventually see through the Emporer's New Clothes and move on. And this letter, like Miles' comments, will merely sell more tickets, provoke more controversy, and fill our time.
Shelley Muzzy


3-29-06 re:Miles response to the review and commentaries by Najia and Dondi on this year's Bellydance Superstar's show
I read Dondi's review of BDSS and Miles Copeland's response. I didn't find her review "blistering" at all. But I did find Najia's review blistering; Why didn't Miles mention her review? Dondi's was quite positive in parts and honest,... yet not unkind. And it was extremely precise in areas where the show could be better. What a gift!!!!

She obviously cares about the show and the dancers and, I feel, as a former member of BDSS has more credibility than someone who wasn't with the show. And it is simply not true that belly dancers shouldn't review the performances of their colleagues. Most belly dance performances are reviewed by other belly dancers.

Dondi simply said she expected more and who can blame her? My expectations are high because Miles writes about how BDSS is at the level of "Riverdance." He claims Raks Carnivale is bigger and better than ever...the girls are "a tight, well-oiled machine." And like Dondi, I have imagined aspects of a carnivale. I appreciate Miles saying that he is on a limited budget, but it only takes a couple of bucks to buy some amber gels, carry them in your briefcase and tape them over the white stage lights when you reach the theatre. Now that is pretty inexpensive "fancy lighting." That along with a simple black curtain as the back drop so the dancers really "pop" out instead of the painted backdrop that I can see at any hafla would be my suggestion.

Miles talks about "authenticity" and mentions Dondi's "Marilyn" act as anything but "authentic." Authentic is a strange word to use when referring to this funny and wonderful "caricature" she created. I loved Marilyn when I saw the show in 2004. It is my most unforgettable memory of the show. It was also not fusion as I have heard people argue. It was great "comedic relief." This is an important aspect of any show.

I didn't think Dondi was asking for an educational show, but rather by speaking a line of narration between each piece, a level of sophistication and saavy would be added to the show. This would not make the show "political" as Miles fears. It would make it better, which is what in my reading of her review, Dondi wants for Miles and BDSS. I would hope that the entire crew could understand that Dondi is pulling for them to be the best that they can be.

Miles obviously works hard and has to deal with many pressures. But why go around saying this is the new "Riverdance"? Obviously that will raise people's expectations. Let the show gain more respect and accolades on its own and through reviews like Dondi's. The overall feeling I got from Dondi is that BDSS is a high level of talent with top-notch dancing. Her review actually peaked my interest... and I want to see it again. I am better informed now, which will make it a whole new show for me. Thank you, Dondi.

Chicago, Illinois


3-17-06 re: How I Accidentally Became a Successful Belly Dance Teacher (and you can too!) by Michelle Joyce
Dear Editor,
First and foremost I want to thank the writer of this article for sharing her experience and information. This article was very helpful to me. For the past several weeks I have been trying to find a facility to teach belly dance classes. I recently moved to a small community in NC where the interest of belly dancing is rising, but only one experienced dancer offer instruction for tribal style, wheras I am specialized in Egyptian/Turkish style of the art. It is such a challenge because as stated in the article, if you're not a certified fitness instructor, most gyms are not willing to incorporate bely dancing in their schedules. I have taken the advice mentioned on the page and receiving more promising opportunities! I am going to include a link to your site on mine (www.bellydancezone.bravehost.com) so that other dancers can have access to great information as well!

Smiles and Shimmies,
Cumberland County, North Carolina


3-17-06 re: PJ's Mom's letter below re BDSS show
Dear Lynette:
After careful consideration, I've concluded that Jamila Rasa, below, liked the show.
From my perspective, her gushing "review" sounded more like paid promotional material than a letter to the editor. When I see advertisements like this on a serious discussion page, I tend to discount both the opinion and the product or service it promotes.

DeAnna raises an interesting point when she asks whether documentation is available to confirm the positive effects of BDSS on the "image" of the dance. Personally I'd wonder if any teachers (other than BDSS cast members) have received boosts in class attendance as a result of BDSS appearing in their locales; and if so, was the increase temporary or long-term, and how might it break down demographically? I'd doubt whether many women in their 40's and 50's, for instance, working hard to become fit in middle age, are going to be inspired to belly dance by ultra-slender (though talented) women from a younger generation.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


3-15-06 re: PJ's Mom's letter below re BDSS
Thank you for such an insightful letter about the BDSS. I personally tire of reading so much negative about them. I was not able to attend when the performed in Albuquerque, but some of my fellow dancers did. The raved about the show and thought it was wonderful. I applaud Miles Copeland's hard work to create the show and keep it going. I am sure that most of the people posting about the show liked at least some of it. I would like to hear some of the things you did enjoy instead of all the things you did not enjoy.
Amarillo, TX


3-15-06 re:Turkish Bath articles by Kayla and Justine
Thank you for the info on preparedness for Turkish bathing. It is the only such info I have come across through lots of searching!
Vancouver, BC


3-11-06RE: BellyDance SuperStars- Raks Carnivale in Massachusetts
While watching Raks Carnivale, this involuntary question popped into my mind: “Is Miles Copeland making fun of us?” I don’t think he really is, but the fact that my subconscious would bubble up with this thought during his show is not good. And it suddenly dawned on me during BDSS that I could have gone to several places in the Boston area instead to see a better show performed by one of my local sister dancers. And I could have a drink, a good meal and nargileh at the same time – with a full, live band.

I left during the second act because I myself was performing later that night. I have heard that some audience members left simply because they couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve seen a couple members of the cast perform outside of BDSS and/or have taken their workshops, and they really are excellent dancers. I don’t blame them for taking a shot with BDSS. I imagine it seemed/seems like a great opportunity. But all I can say after three years of this is, “Better them than me.”

People say that BDSS has done a lot improve the image of belly dance. Is there any concrete proof? Unless BDSS management can present the results of a formal impact study or a Gallup Poll survey, such a claim is just marketing spin.

What we DO know, however, is that BDSS management has taken a dance form where a womanly figure is valued and has insulted that dance form by making performers hold to unnecessary weight requirements that, in reality, are artistically detrimental. I’m not saying Copeland should take Superstars and Super Size it, but a couple of dancers in Raks Carnivale couldn’t get a decent shimmy going to save their lives. I say this as a very slender dancer myself. I wish I had more curves, but that’s what padding is for I guess…

My verdict is that BDSS needs to either fold or go back to the drawing board. It should start by fully exploring and perfecting belly dance alone (which, with its 5,000-plus year history and various incarnations, would keep them plenty busy) before mixing it with fusion pieces that are poorly conceived and look like they belong in a student recital. For starters, Turkish style was not represented in the least, and one mishap involved Sonia bonking herself in the face with her stick when she dropped it during the Raks Al-Assaya piece. On the one hand, who of us can criticize her for that, as any belly dancer can tell of goofy mishaps? Lord knows I have had my share. That’s Murphy’s Law of Belly Dance: The more one performs, the better one gets, but also the more opportunities we have to screw up. We can laugh these things off and audiences are forgiving.

But on the other hand, most of us aren’t calling ourselves “Superstars.”

Waltham, MA


3-10-06 RE: BellyDance SuperStars
From the first toe of the Desert Roses hitting the stage, the energy level was high! The grand opening with beautiful colored costumes a stage filled with belly dancers. Followed by solos such as Bozenka, dancing as traditional Egyptian moves as I have seen. The flawless-serene Sonia dancing her Egyptian moves in the drum solo with Issam’s hot-hot tabla! The leader of the pack Jillina rocking the house with her energetic dances. Ansuya’s lightening speed zills and 70’s American bellydance style floor work was unforgettable. Petite Jamilla is always a crowd pleaser with her veils and group drum solo in the show. Tribal Glamazon Queen, Sharon, led her tribe of exotic beauties in innovative tribal numbers including costume changes, some with stocking and boots! Beautiful Desert Roses supporting every dance, the general public sure doesn’t give them the credit they deserve! The music is the best of Arabic, new, old, sultry, upbeat, trendy and classical, compliments the show nicely. Just enough audience participation, with out being too much in your face. There were no clowns vying for your attention, or trapeze artist, just Bellydancers. Bellydancers that can and do hold your attention on stage for two hours of top notch entertainment. Entertainment that you take home with you tucked in your memory bank, to replay in your dreams.
Reviews of Raqs Carnival that I had read, made me question if I would like the show, once I saw the parts in question, simply put, they worked, I like them! I am pretty much old school belly dance, yet I am on the edge of creative- bring it up to date theory, I believe Miles Copeland got it right for Raqs Carnival! He brings a new feel to the Bellydance Superstars show with out jeopardizing the old school. Stilts, for a grand-over-the-top closing, a Latin touch with saucy; a little risqué costumes and moves, Polynesian adds to the exotic feel of colors and earthy movements of the islands. Pushing the envelope with spinning tannouras backing Petite Jamilla’s spectacular quadruple veil, these aspects are entertaining. If Cirque Du Soleil had not re-invented the circus, would they be selling out in stadiums? Better question would we go & support the old circus of the past? There are things in entertainment that need to change to meet our needs as sophisticated well informed worldly audiences that we are. If Miles Copeland had settled for the same belly dance shows that we have all seen and tired of, would we support it?
Miles Copeland’s Raqs Carnival Winter US Tour 2006 has sold out seats in nearly every city they have toured! Thank you Miles for a winning show that 90% of us dancers love to support! Go see the show for yourself, form your own opinions, and see if you come away feeling as if you have just seen Santa Clause and you believe in the magic again.
Jamilla Rasa
[Ed note- this is Petite Jamilla’s mom]


3-7-06 re: Najia's BDSS Commentary
Just saw the show Sat. night in Arlington, MA and just had to write you to let you know that I loved Najia's commentary as it reflected a lot of what I would be too reticent to say too loudly as I'm sure the majority loves this show. I too was thrilled at the begining of the show, especially by the first solo, but by the end of the first half I felt they could have left out several numbers and we would have had more rather than less. I promptly left when the hula skirts came out in part two and wanted to keep the vision of the tribal ladies in my head. And, yes, a who's who and a program are always nice - this was not, after all, the Ice Capades. I didn’t even know there were programs for sale until I discovered that the lady next to me had one and she wouldn’t share.

I reminded myself and others with me that this was, after all, a show for the general public. It is really a stunning display of talented and beautiful dancers and absolutely fantastic dancing and after all, it does sell out. I was disappointed at the lack of respect given to the genre, however, by the mix of the carnival costumes, the Spanish flavored fusion that I’ve seen done so much better by others, (Harmonic Motion for one), and, finally the hula skirts and the attempt at hip hop (?). I love fusion of all kinds, but these pieces seemed underdeveloped and left me wondering why the people who can do this kind of thing well weren't tapped for their input. How nice it would be to replace these pieces with folkloric numbers that actually have meaning in the context of Middle Eastern Dance and, with a little narrative, some education as well. Wouldn’t there have been a natural progression from some of the folkloric to the cabaret then to the tribal (full circle so to speak) – some sequencing without too much effort might have told a loose story of the dance that would have been more meaningful to the general public. After all, we know where to find the super stars, some of these ladies are local talent and we have our own as well. When we go to a show like this, we want to see something we can’t see in the ‘hood. With just a nip and tuck here and there the show could be something that belly dancers every where would be proud(er) of, a well-conceived theatrical production rather than a 'road show', or perhaps the Vaudevillian feel was intentional (?).

Braintree, MA


3-3-06 re:letter below re:recent BDSS articles- Dondi's and Najia's
What is Fay Dunaway talking about?? Dondi's review in particular, was an incredibly insightful, well-thought out, constructive, professionally-written review. How lovely, Fay, that you love the dance, but I refuse to equate constructive opinions as to how to make something even better, to negative propaganda that will drive the dance 'back underground'.

The most recent rendition of this show that I watched in Vancouver, was as usual... a spectacle, of beautiful costumes, beautiful women, and beautiful technique. But it was also a performance with a tired old backdrop that looks as though it came from a community production of Aladin... one that, in fact, was too small for the stage and was compensated for by draping wrinkled beige fabric to fill in about 10 or 15 feet. Weak. The Roses danced well, but without that spark of enthusiasm from previous versions of the show I have seen. One of the dancers missed several beats of choreography... twice... during the uninspired copy-cat hula section. Sonia looked very tired. Which was validated by the fact that she yawned on stage during a group number. Twice. The music and choreography of the vast majority of the cabaret pieces were so similar... that several weeks later... my recollection of the show jumbles into a giant kaleidoscope of sparkling colour. The Latin number was lackluster and entirely without passion. It was, at best, disappointingly derivative of the real thing. It was, as well, rather jarring without the presentation of a context.

Context. This is something that is desperately missing. I attended the show with 'non belly dancers' and they were very confused... asking me for clarification several times throughout the show. A professional voice-over, or live mc would go a long way towards treating these performers and their art the respect it deserves. Perhaps the Hula and Latin numbers wouldn't continue to seem quite so silly were they given the proper set-up and segues.

I came away from the show feeling that I wouldn't bother going again. Although, truth be told, I probably won’t stay away when they do indeed come back. But I’m left feeling very sad that I’m so ambivalent about it all. The dancers are starting to look like they are doing a 'job'. The dances are all starting to become indistinguishable from number to number except for the tricks and gimicks. Jillina appeared rather proud of herself in a not altogether pleasing way. Sonia looked bored and tired, and the overall production values are starting to look more than a little amateurish.

I truly, truly hope that this organization kicks it up again and lives up to its promise of becoming the next 'River Dance'... with all its creativity, passion, diversity, fusion and true respect of other dance forms that it chooses to include. River Dance pushed the envelope of Irish Dance by stretching and pushing the choreography with dramatic intent. BDSS, instead, seems content to imititate itself... over, and over, and over.

I hope they snap out of it. They could set the world on FIRE if they got it together.

British Columbia, Canada


2-24-06 re: recent BDSS articles- Najia's
I've never responded to reviews that ticked me off until now. I'm sick of hearing the whinning of what can only be jealous women complaining about Issam. It just seems like sour grapes because Jillina and the rest of the bdss have the luxury and good fortune to have a live drummer of Issams talent. I find it a total joy to not only listen to Issams' amazing drumming but also to see how he truly enjoys being on stage with these beautiful women.

One complaint of the bdss was that Jillina seemed smug in her choreography, could it be that the smugness is just plain comfort in doing something she created. I started taking bellydancing and Persian dance 3 1/2 years ago so I'm in no way as skilled as the readers that review these shows but I tell you it does my heart good to see Issams' easy smile and complete joy in what he's doing, and what woman wouldn't want a man to look at her the way Issam looks at Sonia when they are performing together, it's WONDERFUL.
Thank you for letting me vent.
Ontario, Canada


2-23-06 re:letter below re:recent BDSS articles- Dondi's and Najia's
In response to Fay Dunaway's letter about BDSS reviews I am confused about what she is talking about. Naysayer's? Belly Dance being back in the closet? Giving the credit to Suhaila Salimpour for keeping the dance going? What? Are you on Planet Suhaila? There have been hundreds of creative, young and old belly dancers keeping this dance going for the last three and four decades all across the nation. One might say that they all paved the road for BDSS to be successful. Did Fay Dunaway read the same reviews I did?

A review isn't "negative energy," especially if it is constructive, which Dondi's article is. Dondi's review is very helpful and shows a true care and concern for the show. She plainly states that BDSS has been a positive boon to the dance community and gives specific ways for which it can continue to shine. Besides, any legitimate show going against the likes of large Broadway dance productions should receive reviews~ otherwise it is simply be a community production at a local high school or YMCA.

Are we so blind, you ask? No we are not. Anyone who can see that reviews make people think. Reviews beget intellectual thought and pertinent questioning. This has nothing to do about people getting along in the dance community or not supporting our fellow dancers. This isn't about "old timers" protesting the BDSS project. This isn't about anyone stirring up controversy. This is about two great articles that recently came out about BDSS and will make people question some aspects of the dance. This is about freedom of speech, honesty and having a fabulous forum like Gilded Serpent to express opinions on. Or would Fay Dunaway rather have us walking around acting like every show is wonderful and every dancer is great? Should we watch shows and pretend that we love them when we don't? This sounds very fear based to me.

Fay Dunaway says, "Enough…this is crazy." I say, this isn't crazy, it's fantastic! And besides, any publicity is good publicity.

Thank you,
Jeff Richards
Producer of Belly Dance Theater
Dance Productions & Events Since 1995


2-23-06 re:letter below re:recent BDSS articles
I respect and appreciate Ms. Dunaway's opinion regarding controversy and differences of opinion regarding the BDSS and other issues regarding bellydance. I must say the reason that this dance does ignite controversy is because it is of such importance in so many women's and men's lives. Great art comes about by being able to voice and express opinions, whether in agreement or otherwise.

One can voice a difference of opinion in a respectful manner, without resorting to name calling and negativity and casting doubt on one's character. That is a very important difference. The two articles written by Dondi and Najia were well-written and offered their constructive criticisms and opinions. Opinions which are insulting and derogatory to individuals should be taken with a grain of salt, and ignored. Opinions and criticism done in an intelligent manner are what matters.

Art's function in society is to evoke a strong response - whether good or ill.

Just because someone has money and connections and is able tour a show, does not mean we should all fall into line with praise. To suggest so is insulting.


2-22-06 re:Bellydance Superstars reviews
Tisk Tisk I say….BDSS has done more for legitimizing BD in the United States than any other group in the past! Are we so blind as dancers that we don’t see what all this negative energy is doing? A question to those naysayer’s “Would you rather have BD back in the closet, underground?” would that make you happy? The fact is YOU are still not going to change the average publics mind about BD! Those are the facts! The controversy over BDSS proves that it is impossible for this Belly Dance Community to ever get along about anything in this field! Everyone likes to think this is their dance and no one else can dance it or present it like they can….well if we want Belly Dance to survive we should support the program that is traveling around the world repressing this dance. IF we don’t support this endeavor then our beloved dance could crash and burn, and could possibly be out of our lives forever.

In the 1980’s belly dance was going strong in the Middle East, until some naysayer’s religious groups came in and said….hey this dance is not right, we shouldn’t let women dance this, so they would burn down the night clubs where the women like Sohair Zaki or Fifi was dancing….this is what happened when no one would stand up for belly dance. Sometimes you have to fight for your freedom, and that includes belly dance! Those of you pointing fingers, and shaking heads should stop and think about how quickly this freedom of yours could go away and go away for good. After the episodes in the Middle East in the 80’s, our dance classes drop drastically in size, there were fewer and fewer restaurants to dance at…and fewer people supporting our beloved dance, if it weren’t for a young creative dancer named Suhaila Salimpour BD might have survived at all underground! Believe me she took some flack too…..it wasn’t until the the late 90’s when people like the Twins, Shakira, Raina, Daphena came around and commercialized BD in videos and commercials, and BDSS and just pushed it back into the mainstream that it had been out of for several years. All of a sudden there are Bdance classes everywhere; even the smallest town has a belly dancer in it! Do you think this happened by those who are picking apart BDSS? I don’t think so….I would venue to say that a large majority of you don’t even know these “ol-timers who are protesting BDSS project! I usually don’t see many of the younger dancers on the band wagon against BDSS…..they get the picture, they have grown up in a commercialist society, and I bet if they saw our old style shows we use to put on with traditional and ethnic dance, they would be bored out of their head!

Enough I say…….this is crazy…..why can’t we just support our fellow dancers and the successful projects that are happening right now in the current time? Why does everything in belly dance have to be a controversy?
Fay Dunaway

[ed note- Did you see this comic we posted last year? Here is a follow up that was never posted]


2-21-06 re: MX articles
Dear Lynette,
First I wish to say that I always have enjoyed the Gilded Serpent Magazine- it is beautifully presented and a fitting central gathering place for belly dancers. And I bet it is a BEAR to run. I am particularly addicted these days since you ran the article about the Mohammed cartoons and the 2 latest reflections/reviews about the Belly dance SupersStars show. I am really enjoying the editorial page and all the well written, impassioned responses. This is as bad as my Tuesday night addiction to Boston Legal and House- is it Tuesday yet?, damn it was, yesterday. I check now daily to see who wrote what. I think we need more real life dance/politics/foreign policy/cultural interplay on the Gilded Serpent and although I am as guilty as everyone else who is too busy to write an article, I am happy to have some interesting reading about topics I feel about passionately.
Print this and give yo' lil' self a BIG HUG from your fan,



2-20-06 re:BDDS articles by Dondi

I was so impressed with Dondi's review of BDSS Raks Carnivale! It's amazing that I read this review after I saw the show and found it particularly interesting that I thought the same about several points that she made...the Flamenco part in particular! I felt at some point I was at a Moulin Rouge performance instead of a bellydance show! What does French Can Can have to do with bellydance? Not to mention, Tribal Style bellydance is really getting way out of the box...so much so that now Tribal dancers are turning to Burlesque as their fusion! What????? It really saddens me that this is happening! I have been performing and teaching for 10+ years now and I have been performing Tribal Style for about 7 years. I was so excited when I first got involved in Bellydance, especially Tribal, but in the last couple of years I am finding that I am being less impressed with performances, workshop shows and BDSS ... the focus is too much on Style and not enough on Technique!!!

Don't mistake lack of talent for genius!!!
Thanks Dondi for a fantastic review! It was bang on!



2-20-06 re:BDDS articles by Dondi
I just read Dondi's recent review of the latest and greatest tour of the BDSS, and... I have to say... word for word... I could not agree more! The tour is slowly being reduced to a pale and homogeneous imitation of itself. How sad, really. When it could so easily be so much more.

Vancouver, Canada


2-20-06 re:BDDS articles by Dondi
I have never seen the BDSS in person ( though I have seen videos of some of the performers and choreographers)and it is the feeling I have, that resembles Dondi's words that makes me feel. I won't really be missing anything if I don't go. I almost dom't want to go because I actually feel I will be disppointed and I don't want to be - I just want to keep them in a dream state and imagine how great they might be. I respect their great efforts, beauty, talent and vision and what they are doing for the exposure of belly dance. I also agree with her that each " different piece" should be introduced with a few lines to help educate the non dance and new dance audience.
I came to learn about belly dance late in my dance life time of 45 years - all ballet and modern before hand and I always walk a line between thinking this dance form is
1) for women seeking something different for themselves that they find when they are ready and it has nothing to do with other dance forms or training,
2) a dance which is more fun and fulfilling to do than to watch because after a while it all looks the same no matter how great or beautiful the dancer(s) is and it is fun to do and to learn
3) that this dance is really a folk / women's dance and should have stayed that way
4) that it is the most fun dance I have ever performed or taught in my life - so I love it anyway
5) it is a dance which educates you about the world like no other dance form and is so appropriate for today's global world
I am glad Dondi wrote this article. I think it took alot of courage. I am curious what the performing dancers will think.
Tiverton, Rhode Island


Warning: in the future LONG LETTERS will be cut down!

2-20-06 re:The Danish Caricatures Controversy: a Muslim-American Political Cartoonist Weighs-In by K Bendib
Dear Lynette:
No dancer or artist should shy away from political or religious expression. Khalil, for example, has every right under the U. S. Constitution, based fundamentally on the Judeo-Christian principles he seems to abhor, to express points of view that others might find offensive.

The American tradition of free expression allows incredibly offensive (to Christians) "art" to be displayed in the public square; witness the "Dung on Mary" and "Piss-on-a-Crucifix" "artworks" that appeared in New York museums a while back. Deeply insulted Christians (Catholics, particularly) did not riot when these pieces were displayed, as Muslims throughout the world have recently done in response to the Danish cartoons.

I disagree with Khalil's point that it is "impressive" to restrict Holocaust denial by law in several European countries, but I am not a European. The American solution to such absolutely offensive, absolutely deplorable speech is more free speech. Contrary to Khalil's point, European laws have not limited anti-Semitism: it has grown rapidly, and I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, Jews will not find Europe a safe place in which to live.

Khalil states that "free speech needs to be outweighed by sensitivity for the rights of a much maligned religious community." What he's suggesting, if applied to the U. S., can only result in restrictions on the First Amendment--one part of our freedoms for which Americans have bled and died for over 200 years. Readers might consider images of the thousands of coffins requisitioned by Eisenhower before American young men stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944; or the thousands of telegrams sent back to the States afterward, telling mothers and fathers that their sons would not be coming home. Such are the sacrifices Americans have made to defend the freedoms Khalil now wishes to limit.

Restrictions on speech are not an option in America. I agree that the "freedom to swing one's Islam-o-phobic fist" must stop at Khalil's "Muslim nose." It already does. We have laws criminalizing assault and battery. But that is not the point I think Khalil is making. Rather, it seems he's suggesting that free speech be restricted so that others not be able to speak freely if Khalil or other Muslims find such speech offensive.

Why should American law be changed to conform to Khalil's sensibilities, or anyone else's, when American Christians and Jews have played by First Amendment rules for over 200 years?

Khalil refers to the "crushing boot of foreign Western occupation" in "Muslim Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine...". From the perspective of American free speech I defend his right to vehemently disagree with the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the "crushing boot of foreign Western occupation" in "Palestine"? This is one way of referring to the illegitimacy of the State of Israel, and Khalil's American, Judeo-Christian based rights of freedom of expression allow him to make precisely this point. What troubles me is that GS, from the editorial note preceding his article, appears to agree with it.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


Warning: in the future LONG LETTERS will be cut down!

2-20-06re:The Danish Caricatures Controversy: a Muslim-American Political Cartoonist Weighs-In by K Bendib
Khalil, thanks for publishing your article and cartoon on Guilded Serpent. I'm glad to see an opinion about this controversial topic posted on the mostly belly dance-centric Guilded Serpent. I'm sure that you expect a response, possibly controversial, from your article, so here is mine. It is not so much an answer to your article but a description of how I felt over the Danish Caricatures Controversy. It does touch on a number of your points. So here goes:

I was horrified when I first saw the blurred out image of Mohammed as a terrorist in the Danish cartoon. I have had many Muslim and Arab friends over the years, through my involvement in the Middle Eastern community, and felt personally offended. I was just as horrified when I saw a painting of Jesus soaked in urine from a museum in the United States that was broadcast on CNN. As the cartoon controversy accelerated into a reason for angry Muslims to riot and murder in the name of Islam, I was even more horrified. These were not the Muslims that I knew. These people reminded me of the Rodney King rioters and the terrible riots that permanently destroyed Newark, New Jersey in the 1960s.

CNN then openly broadcasted horrific anti-Jewish cartoons that supposedly have been published in state-sponsored newspapers in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Islamic countries for decades!! CNN did not care that they were offending the few Jews who are left on this earth, or the many, many Christians by publishing the Jesus painting, among other foul Jesus depictions. Why did CNN feel free to insult Jews and Christians yet censor the anti-Muslim image? Could it be that American Christians and Jews are expected to treat such images as examples of free speech?

The governments of the very masses who have been screaming for the heads of the Danish cartoonist are quite happy to spread the worst kind of hate speech and art about Jews, including the henous blood libel crap that has been going on since the 1800s. I never realized, until Arab cartoons and Turkish movies enlightened me, that Jews drank the blood and ate the body organs of Muslims. My parents never gave me that stuff to eat. I'm not even sure that blood and organ meats are kosher.

I finally stood in front of my TV during all this controversy and screamed "Hypocrisy!" If I was like the angry Muslim masses in Indonesia, I'd dump all my Middle Eastern music collection in front of the local Middle Eastern music store and burn them. Then I'd throw a rock in the store's window. I'd hang Ossam ben Laden in effigy. I'd forego eating Middle Eastern food and stop associating with the many Arab, Turk, and Iranian folks that I've known for years. But what's the chance of my doing that? No chance, whatsover.

In your article you say:

Can one’s freedom of expression – or any freedom for that matter – be absolute? To be sure, democratic societies must be vigilant always to protect free speech against the constant temptation of censorship and intolerance – whether religious or secular. At the same time, let us remember never to cross, the line into hateful bigotry in the name of an abstract absolute, if we can avoid it.

I certainly agree with you. And please remember that the bigotry of certain individuals in certain Middle Eastern countries to people who are not like them is just as hateful as any bigotry shown to Muslims in the West.

I can't speak for the Danes. However, in the United States we have a secular document that we hold in the highest esteem. It's called the Bill of Rights and one of its basic principles is free speech. If Mohammed is going to move West and play with Westerners, he's got to learn to put up with the abuse that Jesus and Moses have been putting up with for centuries--and that the followers of Mohammed, Jesus, and Moses are equally as guilty of intolerance.

San Francisco, CA


2-19-06 re:The Danish Caricatures Controversy: a Muslim-American Political Cartoonist Weighs-In by K Bendib
I would like to comment on Mr. Bendib's article. While I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I too have been at times extremely offended by the way Catholicism is frequently derided in the media. I must say that the recent disclosures regarding criminal behavior among the priesthood have caused me serious concern. However, having been raised in that faith I am still sensitive to easy ridicule involving certain aspects of the Church, i.e., the nunhood and the Sacraments.

I do believe that the Danish cartoons went too far in their extremely negative portrayal of what is obviously the very essence of Islam. Part of me believes that the outcome of publishing the cartoons was predictable, perhaps even intentional. It may be that certain right wing political elements wanted to prove to the world the inherent dangers in the clash of Eastern/Western cultures. The recent riots outside of Paris come to mind.

I don't know if many people remember Fellini's satirization of the Church in many of his films, including the fashion show of Church vestments in his film "Roma" or even the use of the Crucifix as a symbol of the Church's psychological control. (Fellini himself had been a cartoonist prior to his career in films.) I don't recall this causing rioting in the streets, the burning of buildings or the murder of innocent civilians. It is an example of a devoutly religious, in this case Catholic, country where freedom of expression is valued as highly as religious beliefs.

Muslims must understand that freedom is the essence of Western society and while there are obviously daily challenges, most of us are not willing to compromise those freedoms for the sake of religious beliefs. That being said, I think that we must be mindful that if we are to succeed peacefully as a global economy as well as a global society, we must try to respect other values as our own.

NYC, New York


2-18-06 re:BDDS articles by Dondi and Najia
Hello Gilded Serpent!
First off, thank you for your wonderful newsletter, it is a huge source of information and inspiration to me, i am always sending links to relevant articles to other dancers. We particularly enjoyed the two reviews of BDSS '06, as we in Vancouver, Canada were the second stop on the tour and agreed with most of what your reviewers experienced.

Second, I'm intrigued by the article on the Peace Belt. Has it made a stop in, or is it scheduled to come to, Canada? i know it would be a huge honour to host it and to be part of the chain of goodwill and positivity that it represents.

Many thanks in advance for any info you can give me on the Belt's journey , and i look forward to many more years of Gilded Serpent goodness.

Best wishes,
Azrakesh (Christine Hackman)
President, Middle Eastern Dance Association (British Columbia, Canada)


2-18-06 re: Costume Shop Flooded with Love by Evelyn Reece
After reading this article, I felt reassured that there are indeed many good-hearted people in the Bay Area's belly dance community who are happy to pitch in to help a beginning costume merchant fight against nature's whims to recover from such a disaster. That Ellen also took preliminary precautions says much about her skills as a promising business person!

Good work on everyone's part. Now the dancers of Marin County will have a neighborly source for costumes and supplies.

Luise Perenne aka Asfoor al-Noor
Marin, CA


2-18-06 re:This is Not a Review: Bellydance Superstars Commentary by Najia Marlyz

I had to laugh while I was reading this article. It was refreshing to hear another dancer voice my opinion, (and how well she voiced it), in regards to choreographed dance.
The BD Superstars are in my area in early March, and I won't be attending the show, to the disappointment of my students. I just cannot sit through more than 1/2 an hour of 'stilted pieces'. It's highly irritating to me and I get bored. Beautiful dancers?
Yes. Fabulous dancing? Yes. Inspiring? Well...no.
The degree of life, energy, emotion, etc., is not there in a choreography. The vitality of the dance is missing. These women would blow my socks off more by dancing free-style, and even better, to a band. THAT's what I want to see. I want to see you bellydance. No choreography, live music, and show me how you dance. THAT would be a show. :)

New Hampshire


2-18-06 re:This is Not a Review: Bellydance Superstars Commentary by Najia Marlyz
Oh thank god! This was so much better written than the letter I have had spinning in my head since I saw the Superstars in Bellingham a couple of years ago. We obviously saw the same show and had similar reactions...the pulsing badly distorted sound, the over-bright stage, the blurr of beautiful dancers one indistinguishable from the next. I saw the same embarrassing pseudo-Hawaiian number, the Loie Fuller on steroids veil routine and also felt I would like to see more of the gothic tribal gals who at least had some textured moves and lighting that differed from the cookie cutter chorus line that filled the rest of the show. A Master of Ceremonies goes a long way to give meaning to an otherwise frantic and bewildering spectacle. Even in Vegas where I saw a show with topless girls (wearing headdresses not unlike the one Jillina had!) rolled onto the stage on the wings of a jet plane there was a voice-over that wove a silly plot to the otherwise over-the-top parade of flesh. I loved this review and though the show lacks structure and comedy relief, your review made me laugh and clap my hands. So...thank you again, dear Najia for reminding us of the Emporer's New Clothes. Thank you for so succinctly stating the essence of what was expected of a dancer before the Great Choreographic Revolution forever ground to a halt individuality. GREAT BLEEPIN' REVIEW!!!!
Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela


2-18-06 re: Costume Shop Flooded with Love by Evelyn Reece
Blessings to you!!! indeed. I am happy that people were so helpful at a time like that. It goes to show there are some really wonderful caring people in the world. Good luck with your shop.
Belly Blessings!!
The Dark Devi
Danbury CT


Warning: in the future LONG LETTERS will be cut down!

2-17-06 re:The Danish Caricatures Controversy: a Muslim-American Political Cartoonist Weighs-In by K Bendib

"Regrettable over-reactions (such as burning of European embassies and threats of violent retaliation against Western journalists) are clearly uncalled for and only serve to reinforce the worst stereotypes about Muslims. " -- from the article

"Regrettable"? "Uncalled for"? A few years ago, while living with my then husband's parents, my mother-in-law regularly "bumped", pushed me against a wall while I was holding my 3 year-old daughter, her granddaughter. Her husband threatened to get his shotgun and shoot everyone in the house. Everyone in the house was his wife (my mother-in-law), my husband (their son), me, our daughter, my adult son. My mother-in-law threaten to shoot all the family's pets. I escaped with my children to a shelter for the homeless. My husband stayed with his parents. When people asked my then-husband why we had moved out, he said, "My wife didn't get along with my parents."

Kahlil is doing the same minimizing of danger and harm. Burning European embassies and threats of violence is not merely "regrettable" and "uncalled". These are heinous crimes. The Holocaust of the Nazi is a fact of history. Christian violence against Jews and Muslims and other religions, Jews against Moors, etc. are facts of history. A fact of history is not the same as an opinion. Islam like Christianity, Judaism, and so many other religions are all matters of opinion.

As a USA citizen, I've grown up with reading and seeing on TV "Yankee Go Home!" I'm used to nations not liking the USA. I'm not deeply offended by it. But I am offended by people who minimize or even deny intolerance and violence. The violence and the threats of violence say "You do not matter."

I divorced that husband because he cried to me, "How can I choose between my family and my wife?" He could only see a false choice. I later confronted him with the fact the issue in question was a choice between right and wrong. Right is defending against and stopping violence. Wrong is restating it as a choice between loyalty to family of origin or loyalty to your spouse and child.

Too many people are making false choices. They are told and they are choosing to see the cartoon publication as issues of loyalty to one's religion and thus violence is the only answer. The violence stops first. The violent ones have no respect or honor for the religious ideals they claim to be protecting.

Lynnae Kelly
Ephrata, PA


2-17-06 re:Amani “Around the World” DVD Report by Katya Faris
This article that I just came across written by Katya Faris, is very informative! She is very thorough and precise in her descriptions, and I learned a lot. THANKS SO MUCH!!
Caroline Croskery


Warning: in the future LONG LETTERS will be cut down!

2-13-06 re: Dancers & Musicians Working Together by MaryEllen
Dear Editor and Readers:
I'd like to add a couple of small logistical and etiquette "do's" to this pleasant article. First, it is important to write legibly on card or something substantial what your desires are for your set. At the top of the card you need to write your name. Especially if the musicians are playing for a line-up of dancers they cannot possibly remember what you want to dance to or even your name- this goes even if they know you well as they don't have the line-up memorized. As one oud player told me at one of these marathon dance events - "we're the juke box and we just crank the tunes out". Second, acknowledge the band when you enter- make eye contact, smile, nod your head etc and after your set , before you exit and the audience is hopefully clapping act like Vanna White and stand to one side and indicate broadly that the band is included in the applause and you think they're fabulous THEN sweep off. Or turn and audibly thank them then make like Vanna.

"For best results, try something like the following: let the musicians know how long your dance is supposed to be and the order of rhythms and tempos you want. If you have a favorite song or two, mention them. You might have a favorite instrument for floor taqsim – request that. Ask the musicians to pick songs for the rhythms you requested. (Unless you’re very learned in Middle Eastern music, you might line up songs that are in melodic modes that do not follow each other well.)"

This is excellent advice. Also, if you don't know the band you can't assume they know the music you know or play what you want well. It's best to let them play what they have fresh and recent.

"Many dancers don’t know enough about Middle Eastern music to appreciate the skills displayed by the musicians, so they take for granted much virtuosity. "

This is so true. Especially since as the author noted most dancers only have the opportunity to dance to live music at a dancer-sponsored. Playing an instrument is an amazing skill. Playing well, often playing more than one instrument, playing and singing at the same time , remembering a vast variety of songs, lugging and setting up sound equipment.... this is an extraordinary amount of knowledge possessed by the guys sitting behind you on the stage.

Not to put us dancers down but many of the guys who play for us possess the equivalent of a PHD in music and many of us are in fifth grade or dropped out and getting a GED as far as our training and ability.

Yeah, it's not hard to see why some of the musicians get an attitude - from their end it seems as if all it takes to become a dancer is to plop down the money to get a costume.

Here where I work it's almost impossible to plan a show together before hand with musicians as in discuss afew days ahead or, egads, rehearse, even with the ones you work with regularily. I've wondered about this and decided it is because 1. they all have at least one day job and when they play a gig it's usually after putting a long day in at their "real" jobs.
2. They want to be paid to rehearse. Why not- wouldn't you?
3. We don't get them gigs. Singers get them gigs so they have repetory for the singers and know about 10 songs they drag out for the belly dancer.
4. As Mary Ellen noted (see above quote ) why learn music for dancers who don't know their music, don't know even the names of rhythms, how to count to 4 or 8, aren't interested in composers or singers, and can't bother to learn how to present a show.

Yes these are not students expanding their horizons dancing to the band; these are many of our "professional" belly dancers and teachers these days. We are all just another bimbo in bedlah until proven otherwise.



2-12-06 re: Jamie Miller
I went to your site to try to reconnect with an old friend, Jamie Miller, and am so sad to read she died. Her spirit inspired many, including me. 'Good to think some of her warm words are preserved in an interview i did with her in a book, the basic back book, in '79. Thanks for having lovely photos of her on your site.
best regards,
Anne Kent Rush
Gulf of Mexico


2-7-06 re: Calling all professional dancers! How much do you charge? by Nanna
I want to thnak you so much for this very enlightening article!
I am relatively new to Performing and did not realize how setting a lower price to compensate for "inexperience" affects the enire dance community. I will be more careful & confident when discussing rates with my clients!

I Love your website-the infomation is presented in a no-nonsense cincise manner. Thank you again!

New Jersey


1-27-06 re:letter below re: "Mils copeland" BDSS 2006 by Miles with 2005
Dear Editor,
I am writing in response to the letter written by Divyana regarding the photos of the Bellydance Superstars.
This was probably one of the nastiest letters I have ever read on your site. I am so sick and tired of other women lambasting Miles Copeland and the BBSS troupe. These women, regardless of age are performing at a relentless pace, for months on end. I say good for them to be on stage performing what they love to do. I can't imagine if Miles Copeland were a woman there would be so much controversy. It's his show and he can hire whoever he likes.
I have seen bellydancers who are 30years into their profession who are simply terrible dancers. Good dancing is good dancing and as far as I am concerned it doesn't make a damn bit of difference how old you are.
I think the suggestion by the Luloah is quite insightful; if you are so outraged and seem to be exuding so much "divadom" and confidence go ahead and audition!

Yours Sincerely,


1-26-06 re: Return to India by Michelle and Sandra
This was my first time reading about the adventures of Michelle and Sandra the illustrious superheroes from America whose mission is to bring belly dancing to the masses around the world. It seemed as though this trip abroad was one of their most interesting. I only hope that they forgive India soon and venture to go back in March because their work is not by any means done!

Fifi would want them to keep up the good work!
Vanessa Neri
Millbrae, CA


1-25-06 re:letter below re: "Mils copeland" BDSS 2006 by Miles with 2005
Dear Divyana,
Do you honestly think that the only reason why Jillina, Rachel Brice, Dondi, and Ansuya are on tour with the Bellydance SuperStars is because they are, "young?" Rachel Brice is about thirty five and Jillina is almost forty. While I'm unsure of Ansuya's age, it isn't hard to say that she's not young.
Personally, while I may not like a few of the headliners, I think it's because they are good dancers. And as far as the Desert Roses go, there a number of them who look like beginners, but for the most part, they are also good dancers.
I myself am a very young dancer (fifteen) and your letter is extremely rude and insulting to us. At a hafla, one girl who was twenty at the time had been dancing under five years was more graceful, senusal, and elegant than another who was forty-five years old and has been dancing for twenty years.
I haven't read anything about a maximum age requirement for BDSS and I haven't read anything about older women not being able to dance. Why don't you audition for BDSS? It seems like you have the confidence.
Rochester, New York


1-25-06 re: Return to India by Michelle and Sandra
Dear Gilded Serpent,
I laughed and laughed when I read the India story. I loved the light-hearted tone and the way that you can poke fun at the strange situations. Please keep adding to the collection, I want to know what happens next.

Mariela T
(in Santiago)


1-25-06 re:Leadership Risks by Mary Ellen Donald
I really appreciated the article about leadership to day. My name is Cathy Geier. I have taught and performed in the Seattle area. I have lots to thank my many teachers for. When I added teaching young children and managing performances.. I added more to my plate than I had thought.

The article about leadership highlighted many of the in-the-action situations I encountered. I appreciate not only the suggestions but the writing style.
Cathy Geier


1-25-06 re: Zaharr's Retirement
I really like your use of the photograph from "Sunset Boulevard" in the Zaharr retirement article. It was SO appropriate for the ultimate drama queen!
I must say the article is the best that Zaharr has written. It is by far the most sincere.
New York


1-24-05 re: "Mils copeland" BDSS 2006 by Miles with 2005 photos by Monica
Its an outrage I am 43 I have started dancing at 3 years old in traditional and basic dance. I went into Ethnic dance in my teens. I am multi faceted and talented in many forms of dance as well as costuming, instruments, choreography, managing ( myself as well as others). What I am saying experience, knowledge comes with age. I hardly think or doubt that anyone who is just starting can posses the elegance, sensuality , grace or professionalism that us older women posses. It comes with age.

I think he is like every other American man. It happens in every dance form, every profession. They seem to think youth sells. Its funny though you can take 5 women the same age and their looks, energy can be very different. Men are shallow unknowing creatures insecure and intimidated by real women, mature women so they look towards youth because they can get over on nieve women. Its a power trip is all it is. For tat I fear us secure confident ones. I will be dammed before someone tells me I cant dance just because I am not 20!!!
I have had 20 year olds walk out in intimidation of me. Nothing like am older curvaceous woman!!
What a crock of garbage!!
a 43 dancer from NY


1-23-06 re:letter below re:Spokane's First Belly Dance Festival by Nadiyah & Lynette
Dear Jyotir,
I did not find anything disrespectful about the caption under your picture at the Spokane Belly Dance Festival. I took it as a question about your costume, and rightly so, because when I saw it, I was puzzled as to why you performed in it at a belly dance festival that was not advertised as "alternative or innovative dance styles". Different styles, yes, but styles of belly dance and by your own statement you chose to perform "trance dancing" in a very avant-garde type of alternative costume. Excuse me, but I find it interesting that when a performer deliberatley chooses to present something that doesn't fit the venue all that well and then takes it personally when the reception isn't as expected. From your point of view, would it be okay if I decided to perform at a Belly Dance Festival, dressed in my square dance attire, complete with 60 yard petticoat, short skirt and western boots to "Achy Breaky Heart" and then be disappointed with a simple caption expressing confusion ? No I didn't think so.................so lighten up and realize that your performance, however talented and creative also is critqued on costuming appropriate to the venue.

Yours in dance,


1-22-06 re:The Egyptian Category 2005 of The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition, report by Amy Bonham
Hi! Just saw the article on the 2005 competition and I wanted to say thank you for the kind words you wrote about my performance. Also- just saw this article and wanted to give you missing info on Tigerlily.
Tigerlily was 16 at the time of this competition. She represents Santa Monica, CA. She won 1st Runner-up in the 2005 competition. She also won this same position in 2004. Let's see what happens this year, 2006.
Take care!
Santa Monica, CA


1-20-06 re:Spokane's First Belly Dance Festival by Nadiyah & Lynette
Dear Lynette,
I recently sent this letter to the editor at Gilded Serpent, and it was returned to me as undeliverable. I’m repeating the information here, trusting that my request will be honored.

I’m Jyotir, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. We recently met at the First Annual Spokane Bellydance Festival, in fact I was the one you spoke to on the phone who gave you directions on how to get to the event, etc.

I am writing about the article in the Gilded Serpent about the Festival, and specifically the caption under my pictures, which reads, “Dressing room improv?” My performance was a demonstration of trance bellydance, which comes from the heart and from the moment, and as such, can only be improv. I am unhappy about being so disrespected by your magazine, as are my fellow dance sisters. Please change the caption under my name to read, “Trance bellydance demonstrated by Jyotir”, or simply remove my photos and caption altogether from your publication.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


1-11-06 re: Return to India by Michelle and Sandra
I read all 3 of the India articles and you two must have 9 lives. I can't decide if I think you are both crazy or if I am green with envy. Thank you for letting us join you vicariously. From the video clip I would never know that there were such problems behind the scenes. Third world traveling is always difficult in normal situations, I don't know how you two pulled it off without the suitcases and with a big show to do. Amazing!

Los Gatos, California, USA


1-11-06 re:letter below re:The Zar by Yasmin
Dear Djeneba Bryant,
I find your letter confusing. You have strong objections to the use of the word "cult" in reference to the Zar. The dictionary has several definitions for the word "cult"- the ones that fit in this situation are:

  1. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
  2. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
  3. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
  4. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.

The narrow view of the classic American "cult" involving selling flowers at airports, group suicides and mass weddings is part of just one definition of the word "cult". I would hope someone from BOCA holds more than just the narrow American view of the definition of a word.

Dancing and theatre of the spirit is universal- from Native Americans to Aborigines of Australia to (east) Indian to Ancient Rome. As human beings we all seek to find meaning and we all seek to feel whole. It's wonderful that we have this dance to unify us; to feel connected to each other, connected to spirit and connected to ourselves.


1-9-06 12-5-05 re:Shareen El Safy Drum Solo DVD reviewed by Mara
Dear Lynette:
I found the recent commentary and letters in re: Shareen el-Safy's DVD to be very interesting. I'm not qualified to comment on the DVD: I haven't purchased it. But I have taken classes from Shareen at Desert Dance Festival, and have purchased one of her instructional videos from the 1990's. I found it to be full of insightful commentary--delivered in the previously-mentioned "stream of consciousness" style--that helped this American lady, who's never studied dance in Egypt, to appreciate something of the dance from an Egyptian perspective. Shareen has "been there and done that:" I haven't, and neither have many American dancers.

When I first took a class from Shareen, way back in 1990, I was mortified: she didn't teach the "5-part routine" I'd been informed was "canon" for bellydancers. The following year I went out to study with Rhea in Greece; and again I was shocked when I saw dancers who had the audacity to drop their veils during their entrance piece! Interestingly, the mostly-Arab audiences in upscale nightclubs didn't "zaghareet" during the dancer's performance (though it appeared they'd enjoyed it) as I'd been taught was a standard thing for them to do.

In short, I don't believe that Shareen's "stream-of-consciousness" style should count as a negative toward her product: quite the contrary! I've spent many, many hours reviewing her previous instructional material, and I've found both her instruction and her commentary to be full of experience and knowledge, which I haven't had the chance to glean first-hand. If camera and videography issues are disconcerting, they can and should be corrected.

My friend Debbie will host Shareen in a workshop show on Feb 4 & 5.
Come decide for yourself! -Ed.
I've concluded that Shareen's instruction--delivered live or on recorded material--is superior to much of the teaching I've received from many U. S. instructors.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


1-7-06 re:Letter below re: Dancing with Snakes by Maria
Dear Nefertiti,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my article. I agree with you about live prey being able to seriously hurt the snake. It was an oversight in the article on my part that I did not mention that I closely monitor the feeding. I watch very closely as I put the live prey in a large box with my snake. If my snake does not strike the prey within 1 minute, I take the prey out and try again another day. If I see the prey going to attack my snake, I remove the snake immediately. Fortunately, my snake strikes within 15 seconds or so! Thank you for calling attention to the oversight in my article.



1-2-06 re: Dancing with Snakes by Maria
I enjoyed your article about dancing with snakes. I too dance with snakes and currently own over 40 snakes. However the one thing I disagree with is the feeding of live prey. It is a dangerous practice,your snake can get seriously hurt. It is true snakes will hunt in the wild and this gives the snake and even playing field. When you corner a rodent in an enclosed area if will fight to the death or possibly injuring the snake. I have seen too many snakes misses chucks out of them or deep battle scares that require surgery, which can be expensive. I have seen snakes with missing eyes. So now you have a snake that you can't use or worst one who may die. So please think before you do this.

Neferteri Baiddou
Ann Baiddou


12-20-05 re:The Zar by Yasmin
To Yasmin
I would like to know where to buy the cd you mentioned in your article on the Zar. I am very interested in knowing more about the music and the practice. However, I take issue with your defining these people as "cults" The word conjures up thoughts of people being zombies, with no will of their own. Brain dead individuals who move through life as if they were under the total control of someone or something. I know it is difficult to the Western mind to imagine that there are beliefs that fall far outside of christianity. But it is just those very beliefs that have created and bound people together to face the hardships of life. People who participate in the Zar are not people fit the above description. They are people who have been heavily influenced by African thought and who have incorporated this into their lives because it works for them. It brings the community together, it bonds them and forms strong communities. I think we need to expound upon this, because dance is not art for art's sake. It is functional. One cannot separate dance from the culture. It is a mistake to do so and reflects a narrow view of the world.

From your article, I ascertained that this form of dance definitely originates from the Africa below the Sahara. We at BOCA maintain that so-called belly dance is really a style of dance whos roots run deep in to Black Africa. Though it has changed in it's delivery, when one studies the cultures and the countries from which it is derived , you can't help but see the connection. You article reinforced this truth for me. As I read it I recognized that in many African societies, this form of purification aka ritual is used all the time to stabalize the people. Especially in West Africa we see numerous ceremonies done for the balancing and well being of the village as a whole, I believe that this is one of the first forms of communal dance that came in to being as people sought out ways to understand and heal themselves and the universe around them. One need not travel all the way to Africa to see this. Dancing in the spirit also can be seen in the African - amercan churches as we strive to rid ourselves of the stress of living in a racist society.Going to church and giving ourselves over completely to the spirit within enables us to endure the daily torture of knowing that the we are hated because of the amount of melanin our skin contains. We leave these gathering refreshed and with the knowing that one day we will be able to live our lives fully and completely without the heavy yoke of racism that we've had to bear for many generations. Right here in this country on many a Sunday morning the same thing is reinacted time and time again.

Thank you for your article and I look forward to hearing from you as to where I can purchase it.

Djenaba Bryant
of BOCA( Bellydancers of Color Association) Washington DC

[ed note- see references a bottom of article for points of purchase]


12-5-05 re:Shareen El Safy Drum Solo DVD reviewed by Mara
Dear Gilded Serpent,
I had a few “issues” with the review of Shareen el Safy’s new DVD. Perhaps I’m just old- fashioned, but to me the quality of an instructional DVD does not hinge around whether each individual movement is chaptered with menus inside submenus, and superimposed graphics over the top of the instructor.

Criticism of the camerawork, and problems relating to the camerawork are one thing. Personal complaints about the structure and organization of the DVD is another.

While this reviewer may not appreciate or enjoy Shareen’s personal teaching style, I don’t feel this should be considered a “fault” in the DVD. The reviewer refers to Shareen’s “tangential, almost stream-of-consciousness” teaching as a “problem” that needed to be fixed. I disagree; it’s a characteristic of Shareen’s unique style and personality, and there are many students out there who enjoy the way her instructional material is put together.

I have used Shareen’s videos for my own at-home instruction, and I can definitely say her videos have an underlying structure and organization. Just because we don’t enjoy or appreciate the organization of someone’s instructional material doesn’t mean there IS no organization.

New dancers seem to be constantly asking the question: “How do I know what moves to put with what music?” I dare say if we would spend more time actually listening to what instructors like Shareen have to say in their “digressions,” instead of fast-forwarding through them or skipping ahead to the next chapter, we might actually find the answers to this kind of question.

It’s possible that Shareen believed these “digressions” were important enough to warrant hearing over and over again. It’s equally possible that her intention was for the viewer to NOT fast-forward through them, but to listen and absorb what she says each time you work with the video. I don’t personally consider her commentary “annoying.” In fact, I consider it to be quite the opposite.

If there are “basic standards a DVD must meet,” as the review implied, I would be interested to know where instructional content fits in. I’ve been misinformed by reviews before – reviews that lauded slick productions with rich graphics and animations – only to find the DVD to contain little or no actual and useful instructional content. The assertion (by another letter-writer) that this DVD is a “rip off” because it doesn’t conform to some unwritten rule about what a “chapter” should contain is unwarranted and unfair. Given the choice, I’d rather spend my money on useful instruction, which I personally think Shareen offers in abundance. Her videos and DVDs are treasures in our marketplace and should be respected as such.

Thank you,
Amanda “Aziyade” Niehaus


12-2-05 re: A Photographer's View, The North Valley Contest 2005, photos and report by Michael Baxter
I just want to take the time to thank Michael and the Gildedserpent for posting the photos of my girls, Samirah and Adrienne and I. I couldnt be more proud of Samirah and Adrienne for both placing 2nd place in their catagories.

Thank you
Dalloua Dance Company's Director


12-2-05 re:North Beach Memories
Dear Lynette:
I'm very impressed with the North Beach Memories section of this website.
Not having participated in the dance during its heyday in North Beach, I'm interested in reading about the experiences of others who did. When the section's construction is suitably finalized, I believe that you should recommend it to the SF Chronicle and City officials. This bit of history is important not only for its dance-related value, but also for a greater appreciation of San Francisco's colorful past.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


12-2-05 re: Shareen el Safy's Exploring the Drum Solo “DVD” by Mara al-Nil
Dear Editor,
When does a review become a rant?
The review by Mara al-Nil of my new video/DVD release, “Exploring the Drum Solo,” in the November 2005 issue of G.S. made several valid points. Mara has a legitimate complaint in that the “Exploring…” DVD is missing a useful tool—chapters that would more easily access content. That will soon be remedied, as earlier planned, and those who’ve purchased the “Exploring Drum Solo” DVD can exchange it for the chaptered version. Incidentally, regardless of method of payment, if anyone is not immediately satisfied with a video/DVD, they should contact me. I am easily reached at www.shareenelsafy.com or phone 805/962-9639.

I am also in general agreement with Mara as to the videographer’s sometimes distracting filming style. His commercial work and background in documentaries in Africa and Central America have predisposed him to the more intimate “tight” shot. He prefers the filmmaking approach favored by some mainstream industry and Indy directors—the image being placed on either the right or left side of the screen—lending elements of freshness and immediacy. But, that said, while watching the footage during the editing process, I, too was distracted by the close-ups and lack of longer full-figure shots.

However, as Mara’s piece progressed, I found myself asking whether the author’s background qualified her to deliver a critical review. She seems to have skimmed the surface of the DVD, focusing mainly on the production details, missing the deeper, more substantial content. She also presumes that I have not organized the material. I beg to differ.

The material (twenty-five or so steps) progressed from posture and breathing to the mechanics of movement—generating, sustaining and layering shimmies, hip and pelvic movement, chest and hip combos, traveling steps, turns and pivots integrated with hip movement, interpretation, timing and emphasis as it relates to the drum solo. My discussion of the cultural and historical development of the modern Egyptian style was also demonstrated with degrees of technical proficiency building just as techniques have been refined during the past fifty plus years. Emotional content and substance also form an important aspect of my teaching.

Some of the steps in the video/DVD are unusual, and not likely to be taught or performed in the States. They come from hours of observation, interviews and studies with highly qualified Egyptian artists. And yes, I intersperse anecdotal comments fairly casually, in a stream of consciousness manner. Please don’t confuse the delivery with a less than serious focus. In my thirty-three years of teaching, I have sought self-discipline when it comes to presenting steps accurately, doing the necessary research and being true to the source. I concede that I can, at times, be too long-winded for the video/DVD medium, assuming that the student may not have heard my particular perspective before. Mara’s point that the philosophical discussions would be better placed in its own section is duly noted.

There are additional statements in the review that I object to. In regards to the improvised performance at the end that “…incorporated several of the moves she had just taught,” virtually all of the movements taught were also demonstrated in the performance section. So that comment was inaccurate and misleading to the reader. Also, in her suggested “bloopers and outtakes” segment, Mara quoted only a portion of my comment when I had stepped off the edge of the dance floor momentarily. This was a incident that I decided to keep in during the editing process because it allowed another opportunity to reinforce a important point regarding balance: that “If I lift from the back, I would remain more centered’—perhaps not perfectly delivered, but helpful none-the-less.

When does a “critical” review degenerate into a toxic tirade by a “critical” reviewer? Objectivity is lost when one’s ability to clearly discriminate with reasoned and careful analysis becomes obscured, resulting in inaccuracy and misinformation. By way of observation, I had the sense while reading the accelerating acid-tone of the review turned rant, that Mara was obviously frustrated—a dissatisfied perfectionist perhaps.

From my years of publishing Habibi, I can appreciate the challenges involved in motivating qualified writers to contribute. There is a risk of being held hostage by poor writers who insist on being published regardless of misleading inaccuracies, graceless premises and (not in this case) grammatical errors. In Mara’s review, eleven out of fourteen paragraphs contained negative comments—only six sentences were positive comments about the content! That seems excessive and unbalanced. She, in effect, dissuades students from benefiting from my teaching as evidenced by the letter from the Australian dancer who thanks the reviewer for protecting her from being “ripped off.” I question whether Gilded Serpent is used, at times, as a platform for controversy and gossip. Where is the necessary editorial direction and promotion of higher industry standards? In my opinion, what is needed is a mutually affirming environment—one that celebrates our talents and diversities, communicates essential knowledge, inspires our artistry and integrates us into a cohesive whole.

Shareen el Safy,
Santa Barbara, California


11-17-05 re: Shareen el Safy's Exploring the Drum Solo “DVD” by Mara al-Nil
Bravo to Mara Al Nil for giving her honest opinion regarding Shareen El Safy's Drum Solo DVD. I haven't seen the DVD but I can well imagine the frustration at having paid $50 for a DVD to discover it was really a video dump...and a poor one at that.
Standards for instructional material have indeed been raised since the 70s and the 80s - the majority of producers in the west recognize this and try to provide quality materials and they should be applauded. Those that don't, some westerners and the majority of middle east productions, need to be aware that their target audience feels annoyed when blatantly ripped off in this manner.
Sydney, Australia


11-17-05 re: Belly Dance Secrets for Fitness and Rejuvenation by Keti Sharif
Dear Lynette
I very much enjoyed Keti Sharif's recent article. It seems she has her finger on the pulse of what could become a new fitness trend, in a similar manner to the belly-dance aerobics pursuit described a couple of years ago by Michelle Joyce. I think that anything the Middle Eastern dance community can do to bring this dance or its derivatives closer to the average non-dancer woman can benefit both groups, and I appreciated that Keti clearly distinguishes "dance for art" from "dance for fitness" within the text.

Here's what I don't quite understand, though: Keti states that taqsim movements must be done repetitively for 30 minutes to provide a muscle toning effect. Is she referring to the same movement or to different movements? I think it would be difficult to run a class of about 50 minutes in length that included 30 minutes of snake arms, for example. Maybe it's just my lack of understanding, but I'd welcome some clarification on this point.

Thank you,
Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ
[ed note-clarification made in the article by author in response to this letter, thanks!]


11-15-05 re:Najia's Articles on Gilded Serpent
What a pleasure it was to read articles that were informative and interesting and not used simply as a marketing exercise for something.

As a dancer from “way back” and now a teacher, I now find it difficult to guide students through the huge variety of current dance styles towards a style that still bears some relationship to what I learned, loved and performed over the past twenty five years. I can never be sure now what is expected when a new student joins my classes and they say they want to learn belly dance. I have to quiz them about where they have seen the dance, who was dancing etc. and this may lead me to advise them to seek out one of the many self styled specialists in cross-over dancing. There was a time in my experience, when women who had never danced competitively or even for school concerts could show up at a belly dance school and hope to learn what they had seen in their local Turkish or Egyptian restaurant. These days the chance is that the dancer they saw spends at least three days in the gym, perhaps with a personal trainer, and had undergone years of classes in many different dance styles which she incorporates into her choreography.

So what can I teach them when they have those sorts of stars in their eyes? Perhaps this is the reason for the growth in popularity of ATS. At least it has some rules, students know what they are getting and it’s probably achievable for the late blooming dancer. I refuse in my classes to succumb to choreography that is simply dancing to counts or “walking with veil”. However I sense the impatience of students to get past the listening to the music bit and get cracking with the club beat. Sadly, my observation as well as the students, is that the most popular belly dance performances are those that incorporate athletic body grinding moves to hot club music. Funk, hip hop, jazz, and Latin techniques and even occasionally some gymnastics are all called into service to pump up the traditional oriental style, and I must admit that the effect, particularly with thousand dollar costumes can (when some subtlety is employed) be dazzling.

It’s interesting to note however that all these other “pure” styles that belly dancers call on have strict rules about how their dance should be performed and incorporating belly dance moves into their performance would definitely lose them performance points with their audience. I therefore applaud Najia’s encouragement to dance students to retain the uniqueness of belly dance. Although it’s probably too late for that for our dance, I’ll keep trying.



11-9-05 re: How MECDA began by Feiruz Aram
This letter is to personally and publicly thank the M.E.C.D.A. officials who decided to put the financial report in the front of the November 2005 Happenings.
Feiruz Aram
Las Vegas


11-8-05 re: My Experience with the BDSS Audition in Paris by Dazzel
I'm Salwa and I was one of the 3 selected girls in Paris...And the only one that have been contacted and that received a contract proposal with them. Dazel was a little bit unfair with her description saying "The girls who were taken who looked like they had only studied bellydance for a few months definitely did not look like they had ever taken ballet."

I personnaly belly dance since 8 years and the two others girls was like also belly dancing for at least 6 or 7 years also...
I remenber her performance...that wasn't so great as she pretended....some others girls that weren't taken deserved more than her to be taken...

Bruxelles, Belgium


11-3-05 re:Belly Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
Hello to all:
First, I want to state that I like the old burlesque style, and I am glad it is coming back into vogue. I even wrote to Princess Farhana to let her know that. The problem as I see it is in mixing belly dance and burlesque. I think this is a BAD IDEA and insulting. Maybe it IS because I am old(er), but I look back over the past decades that I was around belly dance, and I remember how hard it was in the old days, and even now to get respect for this dance. Oh yes, and there were “dancers” who thought that belly dance was stripping, and they had their pimps and sugar daddies, and it was so discouraging and gross, I wussed out and quit taking lessons and performing.

I also see how we still fight an uphill battle. Here is a recent example: Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to line up schools for a presentation of the International Peace Belt. It is a beautiful piece of art, and has been to so many places. I was the sponsor of the belt for Tucson; as I advertised for the show, I made it perfectly clear that I am a belly dancer.

I was turned down by many schools, since it seems that when they learned I was a belly dancer, the whole idea became cheap and sleazy to them. I had one administrator ask me where the belly dancing came into the belt presentation, and said “We don’t do that here!” I made it clear that the Belt presentation was just about the Belt, and that we were indeed having a show with belly dancers to honor it later on that evening. She said she would talk to the school board and see what they wanted to do; and like the majority of schools, they never called me back. And I am quite sure it was the stigma around this dance.

Luckily, belly dance is slowly being accepted as the ignorance falls away. Combining stripping and belly dance is a big mistake. I’m afraid that if this trend picks up, we will be right back where we started... dancing in dives and crummy restaurants, and back alley juke joints. Or in strip clubs. I don’t want that at all. I came to this dance to learn to belly dance, not strip, not act sexual, or teasingly sensual, if we must use that word. I wanted to keep all my clothes on. My students feel the same way. If I wanted to strip, then by gosh, I would take some lessons.

I’m so discouraged to think that just as I began my career so long ago, it may end the same way: watching this dance lose respect from regular folks and from US, the dancers.
Lucy Lipschitz
Tucson, AZ

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 you are here
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
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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