Letters to the Editor-
Archives Page 14- June '06-December '06

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12-29-06 re:Walking the Line: Reflections from a Christian Dancer by Barbara Grant
Dear Editor:
Thank you for the article on your web site. I find it informative and it gives me food for thought. As a Christian, and a bellydancer, I couldn't agree more with what you are saying about striking a balance. My dance came out of my culture. As a Greek, I have seen and studied bellydance for some time. While the first dancer I saw was very flirtatious with the men, I realized that my dance does not have to be like that. I save the provocative costumes for my husband and I put the more conservative ones out there for the public. I still wonder why a cheerleader can be considered ok, while wearing a very brief midriff, showing the navel, and a short skirt..to boot, while a bellydancer is automatically suspect. I look for other Christian belly dancers to work with and communicate with.
Phoenix, Arizona


12-29-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Dear Editor:
I simply loved this article by Naajidah. I couldn't have written it better had I written it myself replacing the word "Hawaiian" or "Polynesian" with "Egyptian" and the word "Bellynesian" with "Tribal Style" and title, "Kumu Hula" with the title "Egyptian Greats". Naajidah hit the nail on the head when she said, " What has been preserved has been done so by the hard work and efforts of the Polynesian people to retain what little of their culture wasn't stolen from them in the name of the almighty dollar, Victorian sensibilities and religious extremism." Bravo to Naajidah for her courageous efforts. Replace "Polynesian" with "Egyptian", and we have the same sentece with an altogether different slant. And who is it that is now exploiting this dance for the sake of the almighty dollar? How long is it going to take to see similarities in how the fusionists have all but destroyed the original form of our dance? Another 50 years? Give "Bellynesian" 50 years to a group with no interest in learning and keeping the history and movement of this dance and in 50 years it, too, will be widely accepted.

Master Teacher
San Francisco, CA


12-21-06 re: Cover photo of Dahlena by Michael Baxter from Carnival of Stars (teaser photo- spread coming soon!)
WOW! I swear, Dahlena must have a portrait of herself hidden away in her attic, because she defies time. i'm looking forward to seeing more of the Great Goddess Dahlena - and of course Jihan and Shareen.
The only consolation for my missing the event, is that Michael was there to take pix!
He has been a very welcome addition to the belly dance community. i wish he were down here in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, CA


12-21-06 re: Queen of theBayContest photos by Michael Baxter
I am one of the promoters of The Queen of the Bay Bellydance Competition and Show. The letter to the editor from Sausan seemingly attacks the credibility of the event's promoters. That would include me. I personally translated the transcript of the interview in question, and may have done so incorrectly due to the language barrier between myself and Zahara. For this, I owe an apology to Zahara. Before we put on our next event I'll make sure to cross-reference all of the interviewees statements with the Official Belly Dancer's Handbook. I'll also make sure to have all of my belly dance certifications in order, and be approved by the Belly Dance Police before we begin our next show.

As someone who is obviously as passionate about the art as Sausan, I imagine that she must have been in attendance at the Queen of the Bay Bellydance Competition and Show, the last two Belly Dancer of the Universe and of the Year Competitions, or at the 2006 Hips of Fury Competition where Shabnam and Zahara have performed. Perhaps a debate with the judges and promotors of these competitions would be in order to clarify why they shared a different opinion of the skills of these two performers. Additionally, Sausan certainly must have attended one of Shabnam's semi-private or group workshops in order to speak so knowledgeably about what she does or does not know about belly dancing. Thanks for the support. :-)

In promoting events with Shabnam, I've had the privilege of working closely with some of the most talented performers in the country. Being in the presence of these beautiful and dedicated women has been a blessing. Providing a stage and audience for them to perform has been a labor of love. Whether they have been of Persian, Brazilian, Native-American, or European ancestry (or just plain ol American), experiencing their energy, drive, and positive attitude has been a joy. Diversity and talent will always be welcome at our events. Even the incomparable Sausan, with her encyclopedic knowledge of Raks Sharki history and technique will be embraced with open arms at our next production. That is, as long as she remembers to Hate the Game, Not the Player.

Oakland, CA
[ed- Shabnam's husband]


12-20-06 re: Queen of theBayContest photos by Michael Baxter
Dear Editor:
I just got your Snakebyte and enjoyed looking at Michael Baxter's photography of Shabnam's production, Queen of the Bay Belly Dance Show and Competition. Michael is truly a gem! Having perused the photos and seeing the winner, Zahara, among these lovely photos, I decided to read more about her background on the Internet. I logged onto Shabnam's website at www.queenofthebay.com/interview_zahara.htm , and found an interesting interview between her and the contest producer. Imagine my fascination when I read Zahara's answer to one of Shabnam's question which asked, " Who/What are your teachers and influences?" Zahara's answer was, "Leea Aziz, Suhaila Salimpour, Najia Marliz, Yosifah Rose and Amina. Plus I attended a lot of workshops with wonderful masters and many famous Egyptian Dancers, including Nagwa Fouad, Tahia Carioca, Fifi Abdo and many more."

What fascinated me about this answer was that she stated she took workshops with, Nagwa Fouad, Tahia Carioca, and Fifi Abdo. I can see that she could have taken one with Nagwa Fouad, but I believe Tahia Carioca would have been dead about the time Zahara started her dance studies and Fifi Abdo simply does not teach workshops; never has, never will. But, aside from that, what fascinating me further still about this question was not so much Zahara's answer but that Shabnam, the producer of this belly dance event and a well-known dance teacher, didn't even pick up on this questionable assertion. Interesting to learn just how much who in our teaching and production circles knows about this dance. Interesting more, however, is that now that Zahara has a winner's title due large in part because of her master classes with Nagwa Fouad, Tahia Carioca, and Fifi Abdo among others, she will, no doubt, be sought after to teach a dance workshop.

Michael's pictures were lovely indeed; the credibility of the producer and winner is questionable.

Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance
San Francisco, CA


12-19-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Dear Editor:

I read the article and I do admire those whom dance to preserve a culture and to not get that culture immersed or confused with another. But, I think there are some valid points to be proven.

Lets look at BDSS first and this girl with the “Bellynesion” dance. All fingers are pointed at her and her blatant disregard for the Hawaiian culture. Did anyone ever think that maybe she was ignorant, or in her eyes, she was paying tribute to a society separate from her own? How about dancing with the BDSS is her job and she has to do what her boss tells her to do…

No offense to you Naajidah. I’m sure you are a terrific dancer and I admire your respect of the hula but…there really is no ground in your “preaching”. You are certainly not Polynesian and therefore, your opinion is pretty much null and void about speaking on their behalf.

Second, Hawaii is America. America is…America. There is no specific culture in today’s modern America. We have the right to practice what ever we wish. I am white. I have no idea what my “cultural” back ground is. Most white Americans are, like me, a mix of every darn country in Europe. That’s the beauty of America! We are a little bit of everything instead of one particular tradition. So, if I want to perform an Egyptian walk and finish it off with an ami because that’s what I feel like doing with my body then I’m going to do so. Perhaps I’ll finish my spins with a Mexican hat dance.

And the whole oppressed culture just always draws a laugh from me. In the past I do wholly agree that this was a tragic problem…but today? No. I seriously doubt a majority of Americans are out to suppress any culture (And don’t point out the Iraq thing either. All Americans that I know personally are against the war, including myself.) We are, as I pointed out before, a multi-cultural When I belly dance, I am technically stealing from another culture. Do I care? Not really. I feel good doing it. It makes me happy. If I was performing a fusion dance with modern hula because it made me happy, then call me selfish because I’m going to do it. Would I learn the meaning behind such moves? Sure. Half the fun comes from the knowledge.

And then..what about us who are not even aware we are doing hula moves in our dance in the first place? Such as the ami… I never even knew. It makes me wonder what else I am doing that is not specifically oriental. But in the end, I really don’t care. Like most I am belly dancing for my own personal growth and for my own fun. It connects me to my own inner spirit no matter what style It is. To me, that’s what it is all about.

Ally Stuckey
Florida, USA


12-19-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts and The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
I have comments on 2 issues....

1st this is for Dee Dee and Ahmad Asad and their beautiful family....
I agree with Farhana Masri. I was greeted with open arms when performing and participating in Little Egypt shows and workshops. Dee Dee always had a smile on her face and treated me like I was family. I don't know when I'll be able to get to Egypt, but I want to thank this wonderful sponsor for bringing Egypt to us. Not only in Los Angeles but all over the country! Please don't stop having seminars!

Also, bravo to all of the ladies for commenting on the whole Fusion issue, mainly the whole 'bellynesian' thing. I think fusion is the wrong thing to teach to new students of middle eastern dance, I think most of tribal bellydance has lost all middle eastern dance elements, and I think there are too many shows featuring nudity. I wholeheartedly agree with Carolyn (of IAMED?), if the wide variety of middle eastern music and dance is not enough for you, maybe you're not a belly dancer. Good luck in your endeavors as an artist, but do us a favor and please stop using belly dance festivals, haflas, etc. to spread your alternative vision.

Tracey Farmer
Simi Valley, CA


12-15-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Kudos to Naajidah for her brave and smart article, “The Ethics of Fusion.” I started in Hawaiian, Tahitian and Maori Dance at the age of 4 with my sister Titanya and we spent many years growing up in Tahiti, Fiji, Rarotonga, New Zealand and Hawaii. Besides fairs and community festivals in California, our first big dance contract was dancing Polynesian when I was 14 in The Cook Islands. When I started studying Middle Eastern Dance at 12 and performing at the age of 20 I diligently strived to keep Belly Dance and Polynesian Dance separate, as well as the cultures and terms. When I toured with BDSS in 2004 I was shocked to learn that only 2 of our 13 performers knew that the term “ami’ wasn’t from Middle Eastern Dance. Even the most popular “star” BDSS dancer thought “ami” was Arabic for “hip circle.” In their workshops (like other workshops I have attended) they used the term “ami’ for inner hip circles with a contraction, outer hips circles without a contraction and all hip circles in between. I find ignorance like this among dancers is the norm rather than the exception. This isn’t a BDSS issue…this was simply the time that it occurred to me how much of the Polynesian culture is being lost when fusing the movements into Belly Dance.

Through the years I have been asked to make videos combining Belly Dance and Polynesian Dance or swing poi while I belly dance. But, like Naajidah I know how hard the Polynesian people have worked to retain their culture and it is a privilege for me to dance and honor the nuances and meaning without fusing it. In my classes I explain in depth the “ami” and any other movement that is Polynesian based but sometimes used in Belly Dance performances. When I teach poi it is Maori poi, not poi on chains swung with incestuous movements around another woman while we belly dance (like I recently saw at a “belly dance” show). When my sister was asked several times to make a poi video she did. When she was asked to fuse it with Middle Eastern dance she said, “No” and kept it strictly Maori. But, in the end our concern for a culture won’t matter (except maybe to me and a handful of people who take Polynesian Dance seriously). Most dancers today don’t care about cause and effect or the meaning of movements. Most dancers are drawn to dancing they can have fun with, dancing that makes them feel sexy, dancing that makes them money, and dancing that has an “ooh-aah” factor. Unfortunately, sex appeal, money, fun and ooh-aah SCREAM “fusion,” not “tradition.”

Dondi Simone Dahlin
San Diego, CA.


12-7-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Najida's article "The Ethics of Fusion" is thoughtful and brings up some important points. I have wrestled with the same things.

Sometimes her language is a little over-simplified. It assumes that a culture is monolithic, and that everyone in it has the same opinion.
Cultures don't want people do to things; people want other people to do things according to their own cultural and personal beliefs.

Then there is the question of who "owns" a culture, who has the right to make pronouncements about what is proper and what is taboo, and even who is considered a member of that culture. Najida herself has studied with recognized Hula masters, and yet there may very well be native Hawaiians who will never accept her and who don't want her to do their dances, even if she learned them from a master. Should she not dance out of respect for their sensibilities? But if she does continue to dance, this means that the master's opinion carries more weight than a regular person's, but why?

I think it's because culture has to be earned, by enduring (not complying with) its negative aspects, and sharing the same risks and limitations that other members have to live with. Being born into a culture gives you a leg up, but sweat equity is equally important.

Suggesting that outsiders using Polynesian cultural elements is analogous to foreign appropriation of the Eucharist or Kaddish is a good point. If some artist took the Jewish Kaddish, which I never say, and did a performance piece with it, my reaction might depend on how good a job they did with it, whether I was able to perceive any understanding on their part of what Kaddish means in a Jewish context, and even the context in which their performance was presented. However, if I saw the Kaddish used in a subway ad to sell ANYTHING AT ALL, I'd be horribly offended, even if the ad had been created by Jews.

But if a neo-Nazi, or worse yet, a real Nazi, from the 1940s, were to put on a "Jewish" show, and I were living in a Jewish ghetto at the time, suffering daily threats and humiliations, now THAT would be a huge insult.

On the "culture shock" front, a friend recently showed me a concert from the Jewish Festival in Cracow from 2005. Apparently the Poles are crazy for Jewish klezmer music and culture. I have never been in a place where Jews were considered cool and exotic. This festival is huge and includes all kinds of lectures, tours, etc. - everything except recent history, like, why aren't there any Jews left in Poland? Reports of attendance indicates many Poles, very few Jews.

Maybe it's easier to appropriate the exotic elements of another culture as long as you don't have too many of the actual representatives of that culture around to bust your bubble (or compete with you for resources like housing and jobs).

Rebecca Firestone
SF Bay, CA


12-7-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Thanks for publishing this very educational article. Have always enjoyed these dances but did not know very much about the history. Completely agree that there is line that should not be crossed in this fusion game with whatever dance forms you are fusing – but especially dance forms that are held sacred in their culture. I deeply appreciate those that dedicate themselves to honoring dance traditions (including MED of
course) -- studying their history and culture and sharing their efforts and education with us.

Seems to me that fusing is acceptable in the name of creativity as long as you call it what it is and don’t dishonor your sources. If you are creating your own dance expression – you can add some flamenco arm and hand movements, or Ori hip circles into your dance, but don’t call it Flamenco or Polynesian fusion, or even Middle Eastern fusion. Those that dance to preserve traditions can call it Middle Eastern, but those that dance to explore new forms of movement should call it something else. I’m all for a new name for the creative branches of bellydance – how about just plain "modern world dance?"

Richmond, CA


12-6-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Dear Editor,
Thank you for opening the dialog on Polynesian dance by printing Naajidah's commentary on "Bellynesian." There are dancers who exploit dance, plain and simple. There are dancers who are dedicated students of dance whose groups also do shows. There are dancers whose groups focus on competition. There are dancers who rarely perform, but study simply to learn and who dance for the joy of dancing. There are dancers who focus on one style of dance, and may experiment with other dance forms without the desire or drive to study them in depth. I like to give the benefit of the doubt to the dancers who have thought they can add Polynesian dances to bellydance to further the "fusion." I like to think that they simply don't know, or have yet to be taught, the meaning and background to the various Polynesian cultures' dances. I personally focus on hula, because there's so much to learn in hula and the culture that is expressed in hula, I truly don't have much time to study Tahitian, Maori, Samoan or Tongan in such depth.

I've also studied bellydance, primarily the Egyptian-based styles that were prevalent in America at the time. I love it and enjoy it. Personally, I wanted to study the various ethnic styles and compare them, rather than blend them, but that was just my take on things. I love attending the bellydance festivals in Florida, Texas and California, and I'm fascinated with the way bellydance has grown in this country. But hula is a whole 'nother dance form. In hula, the basic footwork means more than just a way to get the hips to move, or a way to travel from one area of the stage to the next. Also, many have heard "the hands tell the story," and this harkens to the foundation and sources of hula: the chants. Hawaiian was an oral language, not written. The chants were carefully kept by memory, and were of primary importance, more important than the dance. Dancers "illustrated" these texts with their dances, and thus the recitation became a "multi-sensory" presentation. Thus was the Polynesian "library" kept and preserved.

In this era, we recognize that most audiences go to see hula dancers rather than simply attend to hear Hawaiian music being performed. But hula still is properly performed ONLY to lyrics,not instrumental music. I can't tell you how many times a client hired our dancers and a Caribbean musican and wondered why we couldn't just hula to his instrumental music. The choreography of the hula must match the lyrics of the song - that is as fundamental as the kaholo, hela and ka`o.

This isn't to say one must perform hula to Hawaiian words only; an entire division of music, "hapa-haole," focuses on predominantly-English songs to which hula can be performed. Hula has been choreographed for songs in other languages as well - there is a definite tie to Spanish and Mexico through Hawai`i's paniolo culture.I have seen a hula choreographed by a master kumu hula to a song sung in French, and I am sure there are halau in Japan which perform proper hula to Japanese songs. I see nothing wrong with choreographing a hula to a song in any language, so long as hula is kept HULA - with the proper foot patterns, the appropriateness of hand motions, the Hawaiian feel. Done this way, it can help those who do not speak Hawaiian appreciate the way the motions interpret a song sung in their own language. After all, Hawai`i was not the origin of the ukulele; it's originally from Portugal, although Hawaiians adopted the little instrument and made it their own. Mexican cowboys gave their Hawaiian hosts their guitars, and the Hawaiians developed their own "slack key" style of guitar music. Hula and Hawaiian music is no longer limited to religious chants and temple dances.

Should hula steps be blended into what is called "tribal fusion" bellydance? Even the phrase "tribal fusion" is taking on different aspects, as demonstrated by the variety of dancers whose styles now fall under that category's name. It can mean a portrayal of a village dance, it can include Goth dancers, it can incorporate more South Asian moves instead of Middle Eastern. It, too, is growing and expanding.
But to add hula to this mix without recognizing its importance to the Hawaiian people and the foundation and source of this dance form is to strip hula of its heritage and its meaning. What if I were Jewish and started carrying a rosary because the beads are pretty? What if I were Catholic and wore a Star of David because I was attracted to the symmatry of the geometric design? For some Hawaiians, taking hula and adding it to the "tribal" mix is on par with that.

This article has been published about the same time the courts have issued their latest ruling on the admissions policy of Kamehameha Schools, a private school system that was founded by Princess Pauahi during Hawai`i's monarchy era, funded by her own wealth (still funded that way) and designed to give children of Hawaiian blood an education on par with "white" children at a time when that wasn't happening. When there are spaces available after all the Hawaiian-blood children have been accommodated, others can be considered. This is a private school that predates the Territory of Hawai`i and the State of Hawai`i, and this bit of Hawaiian heritage is under attack.
To many Hawaiians, hula is under attack in the same way, but there are no courts that would give Hawaiians an opportunity to protest how hula is being "used." There is darned little the Hawaiians can call their own anymore, and dancers should not be surprised if they are upset if hula is being added to the "tribal fusion" mix.

Yours truly,
Kaunaloa Mitchroney
Keller, Texas


12-6-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Just wanted to say how much I DEEPLY appreciated Najiidah's description of her concerns about "bellynesian". My daughter was a hula dancer for 12 years and I danced with her for a year and took Tahitian with her for 6 months and my contact with the Polynesian community involved with her "halau" (troupe) in the Bay Area absolutely verifies EVERYTHING Najiidah says in her article. In the Kahiko ancient form of hula, we learned chants in Hawaiian that were not only retellings of actual historical events but were also very spiritual. I have posted on open forums before my opinion that I don't agree with Polynesian dance being "fused" with belly dance because what you get is simply a watered-down version of a Polynesian dance form. I know that dance evolves, but this isn't a natural evolution the way Zambramora evolved in Spain when the Moors occupied that country for some 600 years and brought their Middle Eastern rythms and dance to Spain and an actual "fusion" developed over time. "Bellynesian" ala BDSS, is simply something tossed in for "variety" apparently the theory being that both dance forms move their hips. To me this is an exploitation of both Polynesian and Oriental Dance forms because there is no historical basis for combining them; should we now have let's see, Square Dance Tango because they both walk around a lot? Hmmm, I'll have to ask our Square Dance caller tonight and I will let you know his reaction since there are standards set by the NCSDA (Northern California Square Dance Association).

Pacifica, CA


12-6-06 re:The Constant Grind by Margo Abdo O'Dell
Thank you so much for that article! I have been a Middle Eastern Dancer for 25 years. I was in perfect shape for years. Then due do an ankle injury I was not able to walk or dance or teach for almost a year and gained 40 lb. I look at my body now and I feel so "less than" the other dancers I see. I hate how my body is now. I know I shouldn't but it is so hard to expect getting older and loosing that once "beautiful body." Margo's article brought me back to reality! It's okay to be big and beautiful!

Long Beach, CA


12-6-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah

I am of Polynesian descent and a professional hula dancer for over 30years in Hawaii and now on the mainland, a teacher (kumu) of the hula. I thought that the article was written with a heart for the people and their culture and I see that she understands the preservation of the sacredness of the hula rather than just a form of entertainment. More dancers should have this attitude of respect for other traditional dance forms.

Malama Pono,
Hula Halau O Leilani
Tulsa, Oklahoma


12-6-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Aloha e Hula and Belly Dance Sistahs:
I began taking lessons from Turkish born/raised Ates Altiok in 1974 and progressed to teaching and performing in the midwest. I began taking lessons from Tahitian born/raised Hutia Tekerio Kaanapu around 1989. Never the twain shall meet. Many people who contact you to perform have no idea of the differences and many times assume they are pretty much the same. This article did a great job of explaining why these two venues should retain their own special individuality. It has taken many years for the haole and other non-Hawaiian to be accepted as worthy to be taught and it is our kuliana (responsibility) to respect and keep that trust in tact.

Las Vegas style entertainment has it's place. Goodness know the Super Stars have mainstreamed aspects of Belly Dance but the line is definately blurred between traditional cabaret and folkloric as well as many of the beautiful dances from the Silk Road. There are probably just as many people displeased with the misuse of those cultures as well.

It's always good to make these differences known so people can be educated as to what they're seeing or going to see. I say kudos to keeping the cultures distinct and separate - mahalo nui loa (thanks alot) -
Chesterland, Ohio


12-5-06 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
to Naajidah: word!
i have a lot of issues with most of what passes for "fusion" but Naajidah goes to the heart of what puzzles me most about "fusion":

"I truly understand the interest in Polynesian dance and culture, but if you really are interested why not show your respect and admiration for this culture and art? Learn the dances! Study the history!"

During the average "fusion" performance, i think, i truly understand the interest in Middle Eastern dance and culture, but if you really are interested why not show your respect and admiration for this culture and art? Learn the dances! Study the history!

that is, if you really love belly dancing, why don't you just belly dance? why do you feel compelled to use alien elements (for example, poi balls) and not use traditional elements (for example, Middle Eastern music)?
some fusion dancers are truly artists with a vision, but sometimes i wonder if the need to fuse is simply "hey, look what i can do!", or - more insidiously - a subconscious attempt to distract the audience from otherwise mediocre abilities.

of course, eventually we get to the question of what is belly dance, but although "belly dance" covers a vast umbrella of styles, but if we insist on stretching it to include anything we want it to, it becomes meaningless.

but getting back to the question of why fuse, why not just belly dance? if there is not depth enough and variety enough, beauty enough and emotion enough in the music and dances of the Middle East to feed your dancer's soul, perhaps you should reconsider what sort of dancer you are. be the dancer you are, but perhaps you're not a belly dancer.

Los Angeles


10-21-06 re: Aussies Tour US
I just can't believe that Jamila would refer to finger cymbals as "zils". Maybe in joking she might. But my understanding is that Jamila has a real problem with the use of "zils" as a term and hates it when people refer to cymbals that way.

Samra El Helwa
Santa Rosa, CA


10-20-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
I'm just not surprised at all about the rivalry thing in that general area namely because I grew up in Okla, and started belly dance in Okla. immediately realized that since I was a member of a certain troupe, I was not allowed to dance for any other troupe, nor did I get to promote other teachers events. mainly because I didn’t know about them so, lo and behold, there was hell to pay when I eventually left and went to an opposing troupe, whose leader was afraid she would offend by accepting me. She finally made it hard for me to stay... then, I was blackballed for years, decided to start my own stuff and that is how I survived.

I was held back for as long as I can remember until I decided to head for LA and dive in head first. I took lots of classes and finally got on steady ground. To my knowledge, no one really brought Egyptian stars except Ali of Turquoise and that was about it. When Dee Dee came with her stars, I was in heaven and, as I remember, there were only a few who did not support her, namely those locked into the old territorial mentality and it was their loss and it showed on stage. As I have seen, a lot of these dancers stayed in the status quo and I saw choreographies that were 15 years old, still stale from the earlier years performed. Also,We still have a large Turkish, Armenian and American style community, plus tribal is large here still…

I returned to Okla. in 99 and introduced my new Egyptian style to the dancers, and was treated somewhat as a swami of dance by my former troupe members! They recognized that I had grown!

I support Dee Dee and every one connected with her, without her, I would not have known the joy of performing my classical Egyptian dance in front of all the Egyptian teachers she brought, namely Raqia and Dandasha, Mo Geddawi, Aida Nour, who ran me down and kissed me and that cute Magdy, who dances in the isle if he likes your show..and he did! I was able to entertain a large Arabic group, along with a lot of La's finest, who shows up to her events in full support. Something I could have never done in Oklahoma!

I have never heard anyone say she undermined their events, or they failed to come due to any problem with conflicts with her. I recently performed at a large Egyptian event where I was asked if I was Egyptian, and I owe this all to Dee Dee's opportunities to be as close to the real thing, no American can teach this, sorry but true.

There surly is a way to work this out...Dee Dee and Ahmed are fine people, I wished they has settled in LA, where we would have welcomed their great treasures as we do now, please Dee Dee and Ahmed, I beg you all not to be tainted by the rivalry and conflict, If I overcame the challenges I met in Okla and moved on to better grazing grounds, you can too. Even if not moving out here, please consider that La loves you and welcomes you with open arms!

BTW, a statement made by the Miami lady seems to support one of DEE DEE's statements, just an observation..

"She feels territorial about the Florida area," says Dee Dee.
"Had I been the one to bring Dina to miami, there would have been more than 1000 people there. So it was a losss for everyone I was not the one to bring her." [johara from letter below]

Does this not sound a bit territorial?

Farhans Masri
Los Angeles, California


10-20-06 re:Judging in Germany by Dondi Dahlin
It was very interesting to read this article. I watched this competition twice and I made myself clear: never ever go again to that competition. That is kind of fake. The name of the competition should be: Who can copy Beata as good as possible. Winners are always those dancers who either dance a choreographie by Horacio or are students of both of them (foreign dancers who payd a lot of money through the years).

That is not a cometition that is "selfgloryfying". How many competitors are there from Germany? Question!

What you see is not "Middle Eastern Dance" that is ballett combined with elements of "Belly Dance" and artistic. To watch that competition can make you sick. This is a dance and what is it all about? To interpret the Arabic music with your body. What is most important is feeling. If you watch that competition, I have to say: Feeling is missing completely. Sorry

What ever you say that Beata and Horacio are running the biggest dance school in Germany!! Are you sure? By the way, that school is not very much accepted in Berlin. Sorry to say that.

I often think of Beata and Horacio when I first saw them. And I can say that for many others sorry Beata and Horacio you have lost the feeling for this beautiful dance. For Beata, me and my students love it to see the old videos of yours, that was great.
I consider myself to be one of the greatest fan of Beata, but this time had passed a long time.
I wish them all the best for their life
Dana Saida,
Member of CID and WDA, UNESCO


10-6-06 re:6-29-04 Part 9 & 10, A Visit to my Teacher's Teacher
To Zaharr Anastasia Hayatti:
From Memoir Part 9, on Roman Bert Balladine: "...I believe it is the signature of a gentleman to make a woman feel as if she is the center of his universe, even if it is only for five minutes..."

I just found your article about Bert Balladine on the Gilded Serpent website, and I wanted to tell you that he made me feel the same way. I have treasured a record album he signed for me at a workshop he led in Willits CA about a thousand years ago--when music was still being pressed onto LPs. He made me, and everyone in the class, feel special and talented and beautiful. I wish there were more men like him in the belly dance universe. He taught fabulous veil work and impressed upon me the importance of keeping a regal bearing--while in a pair of old cowboy boots he claimed he wore straight off a farm in Petaluma--and he had no ego or power trip going in anything he did. It was special to dance with him.

Thanks for reminding me.
Rosana Torrielli
Willits, Ca


10-5-06 Rhea: Greek Flavor and Flair by Rebecca Firestone by Rebecca
Dear Lynette:
I enjoyed reading Rebecca Firestone's article on the Rhea/Laikis workshop.
Body alignment and positioning, which Rhea teaches so well, is absolutely fundamental to any dance form. I suspect that part of the reason "belly dance" is not taken seriously by other dance artists is the lack of attention paid to basic body mechanics. Nothing retro about this--it's just good dance practice! Too often, instructors focus on interpretation of ethnic or cultural styles, and ignore the fundamentals of movement.

Carl Sermon's photography added much to the article. The stage show performers, most of them having decades of experience, were properly represented as the professionals they are.
Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


Ed-wrong venus
how about one of these?
10-5-06 Rhea: Greek Flavor and Flair by Rebecca Firestone by Rebecca
Dear Editor,
In a recent article by Rebecca Firestone "Rhea: Greek Flavor and Flair" a VERY embarrassing mistake was made. The article reads, "First, she mentioned the "posture of Aphrodite" which is that rather coy sideways stance shown in classical art, best known through the da Vinci masterpiece "Birth of Venus", AKA "Venus on the Half-Shell".
One does not have to be an art history major to know that Sandro BOTTICELLI, NOT da Vinci created "The Birth of Venus" or "Venus on the Half-Shell." A simple Google or Wikipedia search will reveal that. In addition, in the Wikipedia article we read about Botticelli's Venus, "The anatomy of Venus and various subsidiary details do not display the strict classical realism of Leonardo da Vinci or Raphael."
Kind regards,
Mariya Tarassishina
New York, NY


9-21-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
You are either a very clever or a very stupid person - so, I'll make this real simple and to the point. No matter who calls you or writes you or whatever, the facts are that somehow - you are "Blinded" from the TRUTH that DeeDee is the instigator in this matter. Also, you need to understand this issue will not just "Go Away" - as it is totally of DeeDee's making and your unethical publishing of a non-truth.

I will respond directly to your line "I am amazed that you still have not spoken a word about how to improve practices in the future".This is an assinine and redundant statement - here is my response - We, along with Studio Owners and Troupe Leaders in several surrounding states HAVE and DO and will continue to "practice" considering each others' scheduled events in the same area so we can place them as far apart as possible so that we can attempt to support one another. Why don't you ask your friend DeeDee to contact us and schedule her events so we can all support her? The ball is in her court.

I will give you one more example of how outrageous the subject of this interview is: Two and one half years ago The Chronicles Magazine sponsored a four weekend Dance Competition. We invited some of the leading teachers from a five state area to be judges. From what we've been told, it was one of the most professional competitions most had seen. We (The Chronicles Magazine) were planning to make this an annual event. When we heard that an Austin Sponsor was planning to do the same thing, we chose to "back off" and help support them.

For the past two years we have, along with many other studios from Texas and surrounding States, continued to stand by these good people - The Middle Eastern Choreography Project. What do you suppose your friend DeeDee did? She announced - "Well, we will have a better competition - Egyptian Judges - First prize 'Trip to Egypt'", and now after coming and seeing our original approach, and knowing good and well that a large group of Studios were gathering to hold an annual "Dance Competition", she copies this same idea, and once again, puts it "On Top" of the other in Dallas - this year, the competitions (Austin and DeeDee's) were one week apart - and placed two weeks after Tambra's in Dallas and one week before Yaa Halla in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Most of these Teachers and Sponsors we work with have been around 10 to 20 plus years - and up until this DeeDee thing we were all getting along pretty well. No dancer can realistically support this many large events in the same area at the same time.

I have nothing further to say to you. A lot of people are watching to see what you are going to do, as you are a "journalist". The apology I spoke of was one that should be made to the entire community for the slander you knowingly chose to print, as we did verbally rebut DeeDee's allegations when you contacted us and gave you numerous names and numbers of involved sponsors and vendors to contact before publishing your slanderous "interview".

Del Bartlett
The Chronicles Magazine, Yaa Halla, Y'all - A Gathering of the Stars in Texas, The Isis Foundation


9-26-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
Hi Lynette, In order to consider a fair journalism, I think facts should be stated onlyand not by here say. Your interview with Dee Dee and her stories about Del & Isis, with distortions, half truth and lies, and you publishing them does not give you credence as a fair journalist. How sure are you that Dee Dee was telling you the truth? Are you sure those are the facts?[Ed- personal comments heard from unrelated 3rd person edited out] I have read the whole interview and all the letters. As you must see, you have upset a lot of people. You are asking me what to advise you to do. I emailed you my comments and I expect that to be published as a "Letter to The Editor" on the same page with the rest of the letters, then you should be kind enough to publish Del & Isis' letter as well, because you have upset those people very deeply. You are a smart lady and I expect fairness from you.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Harry Saroyan
Riverside, CA


9-22-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts

I noticed your ed/note stating that you had discussed this story with Isis' husband and that would be me.When you called me, I remember spending an enormous amount of time, giving you facts, names and phone numbers of various people who had knowledge of this subject.

I was greatly surprised to see you run this ONE SIDED interview, where in several leading and well respected persons were being attacked with no opportunity to rebut any of these false claims.The facts, as I told you were that DeeDee decided to become a sponsor, which is wonderful and her right to do. I told you from her first event and even until this year , for whatever the reason she has continued to ,against everyone's advice purposely planned these events ON TOP of others, this very year 2006 is a good example. This was our sixth year in a row at the exact same time and place.

Of all the falsehoods from this lady , I am especially outraged at her accusation that we ,at our magazine , refused to sell her ad space "always" and because she was a competitor. In the first place, the Chronicles magazine is part of a non-profit corporation, and we do not do business like that, anyone in this business that knows us knows that to be a fact. And as the the number 1 med magazine on the market today , would be a stupid thing for us to do.

I am formally requesting that you apologize for printing this FALSEHOOD , I hold you personally responsible for this untruth, and as I told you when we discussed this story several months ago, do not print things that you have no nowledge of or proof .

I personally think that DeeDee is a very charming person and in the beginning we did what we could to help her. I am totally surprised and very sorry that she would say these things,

and more importantly that you would print same. I am ashamed of you , I believe by printing this story the way that you did, you have driven a larger wedge between so many of us who are trying to make difference.

Del Bartlett sec, treasurer Isis Foundation


9-21-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
Dear Gilded Serpent
As a journalist, I was dumbfounded when I saw the DeeDee Asad piece on Gilded Serpent. I am frankly astonished that you would allow DeeDee to run at the mouth, making arguably defamatory claims against people and citing them by name, and then print the transcript. It's bad enough that Gilded Serpent didn't bother getting responses from the people she named, or even pretend to present a balanced piece. In many ways, it's worse that you've failed to protect your interview subject by printing everything she said, regardless of the backlash against her that you must have known would occur. Where are your ethics?

The quality of the articles on Gilded Serpent is always variable, but at least most of them are not harmful. With this article, you lay yourselves, and DeeDee, open to legal action. Any credibility Gilded Serpent had with me is gone with the publication of this "article".

Brigid Kelly
New Zealand

[from the editor-
• Interviews, are, by nature, one sided.
• The Letters to the Editor page gets more traffic than any of the article pages. Your viewpoints are being read.
• This would be a good time to suggest guidelines of courtesy among competing camps in the same territory. This would encourage more business and community support for all.
• I called Dell earlier this year, not to get his viewpoint within the same article, but to let him know it is coming and that he would have a chance to respond, which they only now have. See below.
• These same problems are happening everywhere and need to be addressed, not glossed over.
• A free press is a central component of a healthy community.
• The different parties need to open lines of communication.
• We will be posting updates of their progress.
• Since Dell and I talked, I have not heard of any progress of anyone attempting to work out conflicts. I have heard additional confirmations of the intense rivalries and unfair restrictions made on local dancers if they support an opposing camp.
• GS waited to post this interview until after everyone’s summers fests were over.
• We checked back several times with the person being interviewed to make sure that statements were recorded correctly and that this is what she wanted to say.]


9-19-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts [Warning- looong letter (1369 words), but read it anyway!]
Dear Gilded Serpent,
We have read the article posted on Gilded Serpent titled Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts and wish to reply to the lies, mistatements and inuendos included in the article. We would like to see our rebuttal listed on the front page as an article and not put in the letters section where it will be overlooked by most readers. We wish to thank you in advance for your courtesy of including this rebuttal on the front page of Gilded Serpent.

We agree that promoters, studio owners, and/or seminar sponsors should make every effort to support each other in a positive manner. As an organization that makes every effort to stay positive, and support and promote ALL events, inside and outside of our own studio, we are offended for both ourselves and others mentioned in the DeeDee interview who were maligned.

1) Both Isis and Del talked with Gilded Serpent about this article when contacted many months ago - not just Del as stated in the letters section of Gilded Serpent. Many rebuttals/clarifications were made to Gilded Serpent during the conversations between Gilded Serpent and Isis and/or Del - none of which were included in the article. In fact, names and phone numbers were given to Gilded Serpent to enable Gilded Serpent to check and verify facts/ clarifications given during those conversations.

2) DeeDee contacted us a few days before our deadline early last year (January 2005) and was informed that The Chronicles was unable to give her the 2 full pages of ads she wanted in the April issue due to the closing of two belly dance magazines and the high number of new advertisers that had contacted us because of their demise - most of
whom bought ads in 2 or more consecutive issues. We also mentioned in our email to her that we would make a half page spot available in the following issue and to let us know right away if she wanted it. In fact, Isis was giving up her Belly Dance Treasures ad space to make space available for DeeDee as that issue was also already full. DeeDee did not reply. Several weeks BEFORE the next issue, we sent an email giving her the deadline date...again no response from DeeDee. The Chronicles has NEVER told DeeDee that we were full and couldn't accept ads for an entire year; DeeDee has not contacted The Chronicles about ad space since January 2005 -- how would she know we are "always full"? We have a very limited staff, and we do not have the time or staff to call all of our advertisers -- we send out a quarterly announcement by email as that is the most efficient way of letting our advertisers and writers know of our deadlines. Because we had to decline numerous advertisers during this period, we increased the size of The Chronicles in hopes of minimizing turning away ads. These facts were relayed to Gilded Serpent.

3) A quick search of our files turned up the following list of issues that DeeDee's ads were in:

  • half page 03October (pg25);
  • outside back covers: 04January and 04April;
  • and a 2 page spread in 05January (pgs 19-20).
  • Also, DeeDee contacted us about placing an ad in the July 2003 for her Dina show after we already had the magazine back from the printer. Despite our general rule of not inserting non- Chronicles related flyers into our mailing of The Chronicles, we made an exception for DeeDee this one time as the opportunity to study and see Dina was of great importance to our readers, and The Chronicles agreed to insert a flyer promoting Dina in Dallas in all copies of that issue being mailed or sold prior to the event.

4) Isis has told DeeDee on numerous occasions that the comments she hears from her students when Isis promotes DeeDee's events (in front of the entire class), is that they can not afford the high cost of Dee Dee's events. There is a finite number of dollars that students have to spend - especially in this economy - and very few are able to spend money at DeeDee's when they are taking 3 days of instruction (and performing!) at Yaa halla a week or two later.

5) Isis has never said or implied to her students that they could not attend other Belly Dance events, in fact, she has encouraged her students to attend as many as they can afford, so they can learn as much as possible "as no teacher/performer knows it all."

6) Isis, Del and numerous students attended the very first event that DeeDee sponsored in the DFW area. A review of this event - with lots of photos - was published in the January 2004 issue of The Chronicles; reviews of Tambra's events have also been published in several issues of The Chronicles over the years. This same weekend, many of Isis' students also attended Tambra's seminar and show, and a few also performed in the evening show -- Isis and her students actually supported BOTH events being held on the same weekend. Isis herself has also performed in one of DeeDee's events. Every time Isis and Del attended an event at DeeDee's they were at a front row table -- hardly "hiding" as stated by DeeDee. Isis and her students would love to be able to attend more of DeeDee's events as she does bring in some very well-known and exciting performers/instructors; however, the first two weekends in August is our crunch preparation time for Yaa halla -- sadly the Isis Studio Staff and students are busy working on and/or rehearsing for Yaa halla and cannot afford to take time off to attend DeeDee's event held one or two weeks before our big event.

7) Isis was unable to see Nagwa Fouad in Los Angeles and was excited when she heard that Nagwa would be coming to Dallas. When the dates were posted Isis made tentative plans to attend, but with unexpected, last-minute rehearsals and problems to be resolved for her event the next weekend, she was unable to attend DeeDee's Nagwa event.

8) Contrary to the statements in this article, the dancers from ALL the troupes in the Dallas area would love to support DeeDee's events if they were not scheduled directly across from events that have been in effect for years - and in some cases, MANY years.

9) Isis/Del have also suggested that DeeDee would get more attendance if she picked a weekend that had no events, and to make sure that there were at least a month on BOTH sides of DeeDee's event that no one else is holding an event, to guarantee the highest attendance possible -- DeeDee has chosen to disregard this sage advice.

10) DeeDee should have called TAMBRA to find out when Tambra's events are taking place, NOT Miabella.

It seems to us that a good share of DeeDee's problem is her very selective memory and her decision not to follow helpful suggestions when it is freely given in the spirit of friendship and co-operation so that she (DeeDee) will get the support that bringing in these wonderful Egyptian dancers deserves.

We would like to close our rebuttal with the following mission statement from The Isis Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and owner of The Chronicles....A Belly Dancer's Oasis; it is also the code by which Isis, and her many students and employees also strive to abide by:

*To preserve and promote the ancient art of Middle Eastern dance.
*To educate and enlighten the community with all related cultural aspects of this dance art form.
*To create and provide opportunities for teachers, dancers, and musicians to study, to educate and to perform.
*To encourage the growth of self esteem, talent, harmony and ethics, in an ethnically diverse family-friendly atmosphere.

Thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight.
Chris Hilbert
Managing Editor, The Chronicles
Executive Editor/Publisher/Writer, The Chronicles Owner, Belly Dance Treasures Director, Isis' Star Dancer Studios Artistic Director, Isis Performing Companies Producer, Yaa halla, Y'all President, The Isis Foundation


9-19-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
Dear editors and owners of gilded serpernt..I am in Joharah in florida, that your article on DeeDee referred to...I received some phone calls outraged by my clients, demanding i take a look at what you printed online about me....It is highly slanderous, and false, and I am currently discussing with associates whether i should proceed forward with legal actions.I would first like to begin with a request that you take all the untruths that you printed about me and my company off of your site.
In response ,I would like to say that I am a designer working with more than 200 people in Egypt, my reputation there and here in USA is highly regarded.I have been in this business more than 10 years, and everyone who knows me and know about my company knows that i am fair and highly supportivie of women in business.
About Deedee she never once contacted me about coming into MIami,and proceeded with complete disregard by planning a show on the same dates as mine.She never made 1 phone call to me nor email nor any form of contact.....
Regarding Dina, i was asked by a VIP in Egypt to call her, and at that time Dina asked me to combine the shows and I said it was impossible.Not only impossible, Had I been the one to bring Dina to miami, there would have been more than 1000 people there.So it was a losss for everyone I was not the one to bring her.
I have deisgned for major stars in the music and dance world, and also design for huge theatrical productions with more than 150 people .I have helped so many women in Egypt and USA in business.I do not get caught up in gossip or story telling, but when my client starting calling me outraged at what you had reported online, I find it neccesary to take action.Again I ask you to remove all untruths online about me and my company.


9-19-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
As a friend and ally of Tambra I would like to speak in her behalf.
Tambra never declared war on anyone and in fact many dancers and teachers made an effort to attend both workshops so that the sponsors would not lose money. When all this was happening I remember Tambra telling me that she had offered Ahmed her venue- the Best Western Motel in Carlton, Texas, and Ahmed turned her down because the Best Western was too small!
As far as Isis 'hiding' you have to meet Isis only once to realize how silly this statement is. Isis is gracious and initially supported Little Egypt. In addition many dancers and teachers from Texas and nationally have attended their seminars and shows.
As an event sponsor myself I can say that I would never tell someone not to attend another sponsors workshop. It would invariably alienate them and they would probably blow me and my event off and attend the event I tried to dissuade them from! After all everyone is a grownup here and does not like being dictated to.
I think it's good that famous Middle Eastern dancers are being brought to the US and that local dancers have the opportunity to study with them here. I would also like to point out that Tambra has been bringing Mahmoud Reda over for almost 20 years and deserves the courtesy of a call before such accusations are printed about her on an international forum.

Rick Fink


9-18-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
I am a member of the dance community where Isis, DeeDee, and Tambra sponsor events. I find the whole article very sad and disappointing, especially when considering how it reflects on my home. I find the rivalries sad, and I also found the article to be written in such a way that might bring more problems. It can't bring positive resolutions when names are plastered as they were.

1. DeeDee experienced an unfortunate situation, but we didn't get the other sides' story
2. Poor journalism is going to unleash more hellfire

In 2001, the North Texas Middle Eastern Dance Association (NTMEDA) was created. http://www.ntmeda.org

The NTMEDA mission statement reads:

The purpose of the North Texas Middle Eastern Dance Association is to provide a common meeting ground for persons with an interest in this dance form. By educating and serving our community and providing artistic, educational, and cultural opportunities to our members, this organization strives to create an environment that supports and fosters excellence in Middle Eastern dance.

I feel we do have a rivalry with some of the matriarchal studios and promoters. My hope is that we have a new generation of instructors/promoters coming up with the desire to work together for the benefit of everyone. Five years ago, we simply did not have the number of events we do now. In some ways, it seems like we have a crazed hunt going on for the perfect workshop on the perfect weekend...by both the promoters and the participants. I can't see that this is beneficial when we have 52 weekends each year to spread the workshops out among.

I'm very proud of the work that NTMEDA is doing to bring our community together. I hope that we can soon have an article that shows the good works of the DFW bellydance community.

Flower Mound (Dallas- Fort Worth area)

[ed note- FYI- Dell, Isis's husband, was notified many months ago that we were working on this article.]


9-18-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts
It is hard to be a seminar instructor in an oversaturated event market. Dallas has become oversaturated in the past few years, this everyone knows. There are some serious things to consider when you are an instructor, especially if you are an event sponsor on top of that. Here, we all “try” to communicate and “try” to publicize our events far in advance to hopefully “stake out” the spot/weekend your workshop will be on. Does this mean that you will be the only one to pick this workshop date? Will it matter to the sponsor who only has availability of venue or star availability the exact weekend or the immediate weekend preceding your event? Probably not on both counts, at least that has been shown in our local community over the past few years. Good business should indicate that putting your $300+ weekend right before an established $300+ weekend event in the same immediate area would not be good business for either of you and might possibly feel to the established sponsor like you invaded their “territory”. Therefore, how would a new sponsor/business owner decide where to put their weekend event? I would say that if the other event has an established weekend, and has been doing that event for years at approximately that time, why put your event the weekend before theirs? If the intention was to force the local dance community to choose what/who they want to see and support by using this tactic, then kudos, it worked. The unfortunate side effect is political lines drawn in our community. Why would the studio support your event, an event that will certainly take money away from their event, in an already stated oversaturated market? That wouldn’t be good business on their part. I would recommend having your event as far away from other large events in this area. This would make it feel less “territorial” for the sponsors who are trying to eek out a living in this business in your area. This would make it easier on the dance student who just wants to take the best classes available and have money to live on after the fact. This would also spread out the wealth of talent that comes through DFW at almost the same time each year and will ultimately boost your attendance which in turn makes you and your event more successful. I am a tribal sponsor in the area, but I see tribal following in the footsteps of cabaret seminars in DFW. I wonder if I be able to keep sponsoring because of situations just like this one.

Dallas- Fort Worth
[ed note- The scheduling of events in our community is one of the reasons GS created the self-posting event calendar]


9-16-06 re: two articles- see below
Dear Editor,
Again I am enjoying the articles- Najia Marlyz's very useful article "The Taxsim from a Dancer's Perspective" and wish to add one comment about a passage:

"Often these days, a current dancer ignores the short taxim passage that begins many arrangements, preferring to make her grand entrance with her sagat ringing out and her veil ablaze with movement. "

Actually- there is an aesthetic function behind choosing to enter on the rhythm and not the beginning taqsim - and I am sure it is not a new idea, but here is what I have been taught and found true in experience with entering on the rhythm: the taqsim functions as an appetizer for the show- setting mood and building anticipation in the audience for the appearance of the dancer. The high energy entrance is intended to make a strong impression on the audience- letting them know the dancer is there to bring them with her on a journey and that she has the confidence and artistry to do so and thus she has the right to demand their attention for her show. As Najia has said an effective show musically has tempo changes- breathing room- perhaps it can be effective to use the taqsim at the start to begin a show but I prefer the safety of bursting in on a high note and saving the taqsim for later- when we, both dancer and audience, need the " relaxation and ... retreat from bombardment by constant, irritating high-energy musical sound and dance movement."

Also I am so impressed with the interview with Dee-Dee Asad you published "Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts" and thank you for doing it and for publishing also the preceding explanation.

It is often those who have the first hand knowledge of the costs and risks involved in such huge ventures as producing events- bringing famous performers in from far-off lands and renting entire hotels to create such events- who are the most offended when someone else steps into the arena and takes even bigger risks than they. Heaven knows Aida Nour and Dina and Lucy didn't fall from the sky onto earth 5 years ago and could have been brought long ago had someone had the vision and courage to do so- now there is someone with the cultural connection and the deep-pockets and the DESIRE to bring these living legends to the US so we don't have to shlepp to Egypt to see and study with them and she is being dissed by our "community leaders"?! Why it makes me think some among us are JEALOUS!? How surprising. It makes me sad to think that ingratitude and ignorance on the part of other dancers would make Dee-Dee stop creating these wonderful opportunities for us in the US . No one will EVER become rich or famous bringing big Egyptian dance stars to Miami or LA or Dallas- it is love and pride of one's culture and desire to share it that motivates Dee-Dee. Do the math for yourself.

This statement also was disturbing: "Other teachers tell me that Americans follow Americans. “You should have American teachers!” they say. "

There are wonderful American teachers who respect and teach respect of the cultural heritage that birthed this dance
what is disturbing is that It is further evidence of a growing xenophobia within the dance community which reflects trends of opinion in American culture at large. Why would anyone NOT want to hear about an ethnic dance form from a highly respected performing artist from within the culture? Because it is a growing belief that we need to disconnect this dance from messy Arab world which we think hates us and we don't have the courage to enter. Somehow this distancing is viewed as an artistic advancement. Not to digress but there is a statement to this effect on the back of the Gothic Belly dance DVD which was reviewed recently in the Gilded Serpent. Hmmmmm.....

Thank you.
Susi in Boston



9-16-06 re:Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Interview Dee Dee Asad
Dear Lynette:
Like Nisima, I'm sorry that Dee Dee has had such negative experiences promoting her workshops in various areas of the U. S.. I also agree that it' s nonsense that "Americans follow Americans." I've certainly been thankful for opportunities to study with Middle Eastern dancers brought to the U. S. for workshops, given that Middle Eastern dance originated in the Middle East.

I think you've provided part of the solution in your introduction to the article, noting the power of the Internet for disseminating information on local happenings. Dance students should also understand, if they don't already, that they are not indentured servants bound to specific instructors. True, instructors may have locks on certain performance venues, but there is nothing to prevent an enterprising dancer from seeking out a venue that hasn't been tapped before. We live in a free market society, not a controlled prison system!

Territorialism seems to be part of the human condition, and I doubt whether it will vanish any time soon. Continued publicity about upcoming events, and diligence in seeking one's place in a crowded market, seem to be the best solutions.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


9-14-06 re: Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Interview with Dee Dee Asad by Lynette
Hi Lynette,
I was very saddened to read about DeeDee's problems with other event producers/directors in various locations in U.S. Well, let's face it, unfortunately event promoters all over U.S. have been feuding like squirrels in a sack hung over a clothesline for the past 20 years; DeeDee shouldn't feel singled out! Good for her to have documented and retained an attorney! Having said that, I do find it appalling that someone apparently told her she should be featuring "American teachers" in her workshops. Hello folks, we are swimming in American workshop instructors here!!!! Whether the Americans are fine dancers and talented teachers isn't the point, they haven't danced for years and years in Egypt, and were not born into the culture. DeeDee is providing a rare opportunity for dancers to get immersed for a whole weekend with these classic Raks Sharqi stars of Cairo. It's a lot cheaper and easier than a trip to Cairo!

Given all that, it will be such a distinct loss to the MED community if DeeDee discontinues bringing Cairo stars here for workshops! Because as far as I'm concerned, videos are NOT an effective "learning" tool, I buy them to REMIND me of what I learned from a real-life workshop experience. So, color me kinda bummed by this,


8-28-06 re:What ME Audiences Expect from a Belly Dancer by Leila
I wanted to thank Leila for so eloquently putting into words what I have been trying to teach my students since I returned to the USA 15 years ago. Her 7 point article covers the essence of everything I learned when I worked with Egyptian audiences 25 years ago. I was relieved to know that these are still the requirements of a good dancer over there. Perhaps I am not a dinosaur after all.

Our dance community is lucky that your on-line magazine has so many gifted writers who contribute from all over the world.
Washington, DC


8-25-06 re:Gothic Bellydance DVD reviewed by Amulya
Art is simultaneously objective and subjective, as are the interpretations of Art by its viewers. I wholeheartedly look at belly dancing as an art, specifically as in how I craft, present, and perform my work. Some may disagree on this point, and ponder the question of belly dance as art vs. entertainment vs. cultural display, etc argument, and that’s fine. But I know where I come from (a life-long devotion to and study of the visual arts), and that’s pretty much how I look at life and experience it.

For me, Gothic Belly Dance is the best way to describe what I wish to express and convey through my dance, in all its drama, complexity, and aesthetic. And I know this to be true for numerous other dancers who practice and perform GBD. Due to the varied nature of the Gothic subculture (http://www.sfgoth.com/primer/), there’s a wonderful variety that can experienced and explored---yet, to those who know and understand what Goth is, they can see the relation among the diversity—even if they’re not Goth themselves.

The Gothic Belly Dance DVD offers a variety of interpretations on “dark fusion”—whatever each artist perceives that to be. Different pieces will affect the viewer in different ways, depending upon their own experience. I think it is truly created to be a personal encounter---a real artistic experience for the viewer, and have discovered that favorite/disliked pieces vary immensely from individual to individual.
While no static medium is truly ever perfect (once something is committed to a medium, it’s there forever, meanwhile, the art and artist are continually growing and expanding, and myriad ways of expressing the same idea can be reconsidered and are compared back to the source), I believe that the DVD offers a unique visual journey that is currently unparalleled in it’s vision and execution.
Sunnyvale, California


8-23-06 re: 1893 World's Fair DVD reviewed by Shira
I just wanted to clarify. Shira reviewed the movie "Expo: Magic in the White City" for you, and in her review, mentions how appalled she was by the costuming. I was wondering if there was any way to point out that it was NOT me who was reponsible for the costuming, although some pieces of it do belong to me: it was Mark Bussler and the production company. The warddrobe artist and I both pressed for more accurate costuming and were told that they were looking for a more 'James Bond 1970s look". For any professional film, there is a warddrobe artist who is responsible for costuming; I have actually already received rebukes from people who assume that I was responsible for it, and that is no fun at all.

So, PLEASE, if there is any way to let people know that I was NOT responsible for this, can you do so?
Thank you,
Claire Litton
Pittsburgh, PA


8-19-06 re:
Dear Snakebyte from the Gilded Serpent,
I would just like to say that I look forward to receiving your E-mail each month. The articles and stories are right on, real and informative without the hype. Everything is just great! Love it! Thank you very much!


8-19-06 re: Gothic Bellydance DVD reviewed by Amulya
I am Divyana from New York City . I now have lived in CT for the past 2 years. I am a GOTHIC belly Dancer as well as Flamenco, Indian, Brazilian, African and Jazz for over 20 years now. I have been into Gothic music since 19. To me Gothic dance is a eclectic mix of Emotion, Mystery, intrigue and artistic expression. I do not label myself Tribal just because I like a mix of music. Although the costuming is nice. I consider my self a GOTHIC GYPSY. As I started doing Ethnic dance with my own renditions of Jazz/Ballet to Rock band music in the mid to late eighties. I was a back up dancer for Gothic , Punk even Metal bands. I choreographed 2 dance groups of my own and many rock group shows. I also started designing my own as well as the musicians stage wear. I had always been GOTHIC even back then. I didn't always wear Black I wore Red, Purple even white. It was not the color but the emotion, intrigue and artistic view in it.

Even now My costumes are a mix of my many taste, styles of dance and interests. My dance is GOTHIC ETHNO_FUSION as I called it in 2001 as I started in ME dance again after a long hiatus from it. I do perform to authentic GOTHIC songs , even mixed eclectic fusion blends with Arabic, Dark ambient, Flamenco, Indian beats in it. I even have a few Gothic tunes with Brazilian/African beats in it.

I pick a song I really like and learn it inside and out before performing to it. I feel the song then I visualize the look and expression I want to perceive. My shows vary if performed at traditional parties, weddings, gatherings I will do classic " Raqs Shaki" if I will be at a Hafla, Event that is Pagan, Gypsy or Gothic then I will be my own true self. I am part of the GOTHIC community in CT, NYC so I am around it always. It is in my blood as is my native music from my family( Flamenco, Indian) When I dance even to GOTHIC music I dance what I feel is what I give. I have been a dancer since 3 and never stopped the passion for what I do.

These are my views and comments about GOTHIC dance, you do not have to agree as everyone has their own opinions . But! this is how I feel and Perceive GOTHIC DANCE like any other culture music and dance you must know it, feel it, live it in order to perform it.

" The Gothic Gypsy"
New York City


8-19-06 re: "Gypsy" dance in America by Caitlyn
The article on the reality of Gypsy Dance styles as opposed to Fantasy "Gypsy" performances also spoke to me a great deal about the current social situation of the Roma around the world. One can only hope that such prejudice and ignorance will disappear as more people become attuned to what can best be called the Heartbeat of the World--that of the myriads of dance forms and folk cultures of this planet.

Most Americans haven't the chance to travel the world and experience watching actual Romani dancers; the quality and accuracy of such dance in travelogues tends to be spotty and Hollywood's take on the Roma has definitely been concocted from the darker side of the dance spectrum. They don't know what great experiences they will miss by closing their minds to the exciting possibilities of learning and new experiences.

Having been privileged to study Spanish Flamenco with Rosa Montoya, who ( like her uncle, the great guitarist Carlos Montoya) is a Gypsy "de cuatro rincones" (literally "of all four corners"--a full-blooded gypsy), I appreciated her dedication (and great patience!) as a teacher. These many years later I still feel a deep love for the passion and dedication she gives to the world as a human being and a spectacular performer.

Let us all hope that the universal quest for communication and understanding through art, dance and music will wipe away the misunderstanding and mistakes of the past.

Luise Perenne


7-21-06 re: Hurrah for Najia
Perhaps the main problem with the trends in music and choreography of current Oriental Dance has to do with a lack of appreciation for subtlety and nuance; the pulsation of drum machine-based music doesn't leave a great deal room for lyricism of movement when one's ears a pounded by thumpa-thumpa-thumpa mechanical percussion.

Perhaps that's why a number of dancers go for the flashiness of frenzy rather than the sublime glow of the full sublime flowing of a the physical expression of the music.Some dancers seem to feel that dancing to slow music is "too hard", the slow movements seem much more demanding to perform. The soaring music of a taqseem: the intense feeling poured forth from the superb artistry of a well-played nay, flute, oud or quanoon reaches deep within one's soul and brings forth a glowing beauty of movement.

Perhaps in this increasingly aerobics-obsessed world, there no longer seems to be time to truly understand the importance of lyricism and the slow-hand phrasing of sensuality that has always been an integral part of Dance Orientale.

But I feel an audience can sense that special soul-beauty of a dancer embodied in mesmerizing veil and/or floorwork Slow sensuous dancing reveals much more of a performer's inner being. Let us hope that such beauty of line and grace will be given more of a chance to flourish once again.

MORE from same writer- A Comment about Sashi's presentation and her rebuttal:
Not having seen the event in person, I'm somewhat at a disadvantage. My first reaction upon reading of it and seeing the photo? "Ouch!"

Because I have lived with vivid and chronic physical pain for many years (for which there is no really effective control), it seems a bit strange that someone would deliberately pierce the sub-coetaneous flesh of her upper back, and then have the determination to perform dance moves. One must congratulate her for sheer guts and mind-over-matter control of the pain receptors in her torso.

It's hardly news that cultures some cultures and religions practice such rituals for spiritual enlightenment.. But these "performances" have been limited to appropriate venues: (in ritual caves) and an occasions (festivals of metaphysical/tribal events).

The mortification of one's body as a right of passage is certainly acceptable in some cultures: male or female circumcision, ritual piercing, scarring tattoos, etc.; even a "graduation gift" rhinoplasty and breast augmentation might be an acceptable "sign of adulthood" in more affluent neighborhoods. But personally (if given a choice) I'd just prefer NOT to witness the happening onstage with lights and mood music. And looking at photos of such things feels a bit gut-clutching. But that's perhaps my own aversion to pain (or photos of the same) speaking. If that makes me a cowardly custard, so be it.

Allah knows there's more than enough torture, pain and agony in this world to keep both sadists and masochists busy. But that doesn't make it entertainment.

More from same reader- re: Om Kalthoum article by Yasmin
Thank you so much for the article on the Queen of Egyptian Music.I have long been curious about her life story; so much heart floats in the timbre of her songs. Her vivid individuality and great spirit lives still in the recordings of her singing. I feel lucky to have seen a brief film clip of her in performance.

Although I don't speak her native language, she communicated from the depth of her soul with her charismatic presence and magnificent voice. All the world is grateful for her contribution to Middle Eastern musical heritage.
Luise Perenne BFA.


7-9-06 re:"Gypsy" dance in America by Caitlyn
I loved Cat Schwartz's article as it was articulate, well-woven and well-informed, but I want to add weight to the irony in the quotes: "The Gypsy Dancer appears to be free from societal constraints.... To Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, the Romni was a symbol of sexual assertiveness, passion, and free-spiritedness" as it is my understanding that in many of the Roma cultures (because they do vary, place to place), women are quite the opposite, as suggested by the reference to Polish Romani women holding their skirts to dance. Having a groom's mother make sure the bride is 'intact' by breaking the hymen with a white cloth before the wedding does not speak of being free of societal constraints, nor of being sexually free. All the more reason to reitertate Schwartz's final quote!

Heléna Melone


7-7-06 re:PURE Dance by Dhyanis
I loved Dhyanis article. Art and dance touch people on such an emotional level, one can only hope that it will help bring some insight, understanding and peace to this planet. It was great to see the photos of the dancers--they really looked classy. Sorry I wasn't able to see one of the performances live.

New York


7-7-06 re:Sashi-Kabob WARNING graphic photos
I commend you for your excellent reporting on Sashi and her intriguing "costume." Having not been there myself to see it, did she actually do any eastern inspired dance or moves or bellydance anything? I imagine it wouldn't be easy to do too much in that contraption.

Sometimes it's almost laughable, the human's inherent need to compartmentalize, gather, label and then shun things that aren't carbon copies. Sometimes "our dance" feels stale to me and more like a bunch of ladies that should be doing the same moves in line dance at a country western bar. That said, I would have probably found Sashi's performance a bit extreme for my taste, but having not seen it, who knows.

I guess what I am addressing here, are the dance Nazis. If this is not your taste of dance, and you are shocked and offended, be glad you have been informed so you can steer clear of this, warn your students or protect any younger eyes from something disturbing. To shoot the messenger is appalling. I read your mission statement Lynette, and applaud you for making the community aware of Sashi's style of dance, be it progressive or offensive. In no way did I find your article wrong or slanted in any direction - that's excellent reporting. There are so many views and opinions it is impossible to please everyone.

If I were to question something, it would be TribalFest's mission statement on dance. From what I understand (and I may be wrong), Tribal is a progressive area of dance, a fusion of many elements and styles. I would definitely be curious to hear what Carolena or Rachel Brice had to say about emerging trends. I am in no way saying anything poor about Tribalfest, as I have never been there, but with all the hubbub, I'll definitely be in the audience next year!

Thanks, Gilded Serpent for letting me know what is going on out there, ugly or beautiful. It can all be so subjective.
Much love and respect to all who love "our dance,"
El Cerrito, CA


7-7-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
For anyone to refer to Barbara Grant as a "so-called" Christian because she dared to express a viewpoint that was (in one letter-writer's mind) "extremely Christian" and so, by implication, negative and judgmental is to not understand Christianity. There is a wide variety in Christianity but all Christians are allowed to express opinions, to have viewpoints, to raise questions. In the original context and language of the New Testament (which is not always perfectly expressed by the old King James Version), to judge is to condemn. Ms. Grant expressed herself in a very thoughtful, intelligent and considerate way that was not really different from what another writer of a different background who was also disturbed by a dancer's radical performance might express (as evidenced by some of the other letters on this subject). Ms. Grant was open about her cultural/religious background because she knew it had some bearing about why she felt the way she did, and she preferred to be honest about that. She also preferred to see the performance for herself, an act I see as being far more open than avoiding it. To anyone inclined to condemn another's "narrow-mindedness" I would gently suggest another admonition: "Look to the beam in your own eye before you rush to take out the mote in your neighbor's."

Charmaine Ortega Getz
Northern Colorado


7-4-06 re:Rom article, from a Rom
As a full blooded Rom woman, owner of a Middle Eastern and Roma dance studio, and bara of my clan, I must admit I read your article with hesitation on the Rom people. We are often misrepresented, and our art glossed over.

And while I do not agree with some of the points stated in your article, I do wish to say one thing, which I am glad was pointed out: Roma dance varies greatly from region to region. I am Czech Roma, and my dance differs from my Kalderdash neighbors, and was indeed passed on through my family. When I see Eva Cernik dance, the amazing Artemis Mourat dance (whom I am VERY surprised was not included in your article), while they are not doing the dance of MY ancestors, they are STILL performing authentic Roma dance. Having said that:

What we see in America is “Fantasy Roma.” It is often what the gadje want us to dance like. However, for as much as I am against “Fantasy Gypsy/Rom” I also, in a way, have to thank it for bringing more attention to my culture and our struggle to keep the art form pure. It sparks debates, and not always pleasant ones, but every explanation of true Roma dance educates SOMEone, who will hopefully pass that information on.

I also want to thank you for the implied statement that one must be careful, and respectful, when fusing Rom dance with other dance forms. Many of us do not touch our skirts, so it would be disrespectful, for example, to combine my regions’ hand motions with the skirt touching steps of the Spanish Roma, or with flamenco.

I would also like to ask the author her opinion, since she mentions only select Roma dancers, why not Monique Monet, who has written for Gilded Serpent, Artemis Mourat, or on the seminars in the US that Simona Jovic has offered?

Opre Roma,

Rom Deussen
Owner of Rom Deussen Studio
St. George, Utah


6-30-06 re:Sashi's Response
Thank you very much, Sashi! While I found the pictures of the piercing process fascinating in the Sashi-Kabob article, the "humor" was inappropriate and misinformed. I wanted to applaud Sashi's explanation of the differences between self mutilation and body modification. That was a very accurate and succinct differentiation that I'm sure many people will appreciate! I also applaud Sashi for knowing the roots of what she is fusing. We fuse so much in all aspects of our lives, which are not acknowledged. If you have chocolate, eggs, and bunnies during Easter, you are fusing. If you dance with a double veil or use Isis Wings, you are fusing. I believe it is inevitable to fuse at least something.

Oh, and to C. Outre, you'd better video tape that!!

Denver, CO


6-27-06 re:Sashi's Response
Dear Lynette,
It is so exciting to witness the clash of ideas on the Gilded Serpent. This is so much more interesting than the drivel of back patting that generally passes for discussion on most belly dance forums.It is exciting to have Sashi rebut the criticism leveled at her. Dissent is exciting and healthy.

In that vein , I am tired of the feIminine "anima" Jungian label for the supportive and communal aspects of human nature. The most delightedly, insightfully critical and competitive people I know are women. I really think it does all women a huge disservice to say that their critical faculties are somehow deviations based on patriarchal dominance throughout the eons instead of powerful aspects of their feminine nature?! It is common knowledge now that Carl Jung used the feminine and masculine generalizations based on the thinking of his time and we still use it it today largely out of convenience
rather than truth. Feminine and masculine natures are so much more deliciously complex and different than Freud ever imagined.

Why can't the genuine frustration of dancers who have witnessed the dilution of a body of knowledge be acknowledged for the outrage it is instead of dismissed as supportive or competitive?? Is it too much to accept that boundries have been not only crossed but flown past and some people are really really upset about it?! Is this unfeminine of them?! Nonsense. Just because we are women doesn't mean we have a political obligation to blindly accept and support everything we are offered by other women.(You don't have to print this if you don't want to)

Susi in Boston


6-29-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Bellydance festivals like TribalFest and Rakassah are like professional conventions - you expect to see demonstrations of exciting, controversial, experimental, unusual methods or presentations. You are not expected to incorporate them into your own practice, and they are not meant to be taken by the general public as an example of common practice. Professionals of other professions may return from their conventions shaking their heads and saying, "Well I'm never going to try that!" while still being impressed with what their colleagues may have developed.

Some of the controversial performances would have been quite shocking if they had been done at a local restaurant or community fair and advertised as "belly dance". But they were at a festival FOR bellydancers - for us to learn from. They are new, exciting, strange, and perhaps inspiring as well.

TribalFest 6 also had the Indian Odissi dance performed by Colleena, as well "gypsy" dances, and ones that drew from jazz, geishas, hip-hop,
cheerleading, or Xena. They all added something.

And I don't notice anyone complaining about tattoos (done with piercing), high heeled shoes, or the obscene display of shoulders, ankles, calves, knees, and even thighs shown by some dancers of various styles! And even though there were men in the audience, there were even women at TF6 who were displaying *their real hair* (though this was rare, I'll grant!). What might be offensive to one person is acceptable to another. It's okay to be offended - but please don't get huffy about it. Take what you want from each style and dance your own idea of the beautiful dance.

San Jose, CA


6-28-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
I just have something pointed to say about all this brou-haha over the pierced wing performance at Tribal Fest, which raised a rash of responses here in the letters to the editor.

Really, folks? Out of three days of straight performing, with hundreds and hundreds of women (and men) dancing their hearts out on stage, showing the skill and talents they have honed over the past year (or more), and you decide that this ONE PERFORMANCE is representative of tribal bellydance as a whole, and tribal should somehow be tossed out on its ear and Tribal Fest renamed and blah blah blah? Whether or not you think that performance was appropriate for bellydance, why on earth would you use ONE performer (or even 10 performers) as the posterchild of the "let's git those tribal dancers
once and fer all!" movement. Why would you use the judgement of one event promoter as a representation of the entire spectrum of opinions--for, against, or neutral--of the many attendees and participants you have not had the chance to talk to about how THEY felt about certain performances being included in the festival, under the name tribal? You do know that tribal bellydance is a HUGE collective of artists, made up of thousands and thousands of
performers, and a wide range of skills and interpretations, right? Just like all styles of bellydance. Oh I see...you chose to ignore that?
Could you be any more dismissive and ignorant?

I was not a big fan of the pierced wing performance, myself. And as a burlesque dancer myself, I was also completely unthrilled at seeing burlesque on that stage (to give you perspective, I was invited to perform by the same promoter the year before, and at another bellydance festival in the coming year, both which I turned down on personal principle). But that has nothing to do with the issue here. I don't give a rats @$$ if you liked these particular
performances individually--what I take umbrage with is your painting every single dedicated tribal bellydancer with a single brush. I can't tell you how disgusted I am with the reaction expressed in many of the letters to the editor which have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Should we rename Rakkassah "Slut Fest" because of the Kaya and Sadie performance? No--we all recognize that as the error in judgement of a pair of ladies, which does not represent all the other dancers who performed on that stage that day!! Why is this any different? Likely because these letter-writers have been threatened
by the tribal bellydance popularity in recent years, and you have just been searching for the perfect length of rope to try and hang us by...

Ask yourself: Why does tribal scare you so much, that you are willing only to point out and lynch the entire genre based on the bad examples, and never accept and encourage the GOOD examples? Why let a few bad apples (in your perception) spoil the barrel?

Envelopes, buttons, and boundaries are being pushed all over the place, in every style. To point to a small number of radical performers and use their example to label and entire genre of hardworking, talented, and amazingly creative performers is ignorance and idiocy wrapped up in a big ribbon of stupid.

Sharon Moore


6-23-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear Editor,

I’m going to go to the next Tribal festival and do my new ultra-modern/80’s retro/fusion act. Nothing 'cabaret obsolete' here! I will perform a frontal piercing lobotomy with an Aboriginal spear while doing a Riverdance-inspired jig alternating with a Vampire Akasha-inspired taqsim, and close with a Whirling Dervish trance dance (to Bryan Adams 'Summer of ‘69').

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Gotta push the envelope!

C. Outre
San Jose, CA


6-20-06 re:"It IS About the Food!"by Margo Abdo O'Dell
Thank you for this delicious recipe. I am always looking for a new recipe. With Gilded Serpent, I can combine my passion of belly dance with cooking!

Thanks again,
San Francisco, CA


6-19-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
It's impossible to expect agreement about what's acceptable or not amongst a group of practitioners of an art that in its current state of evolution attracts highly creative individuals...so why pass judgement?

Personally, I find dancers' awful color combinations in their costuming much more offensive than rare personal rituals....if we are going to standardize the dance, may I request that dancers be required to pass a test for color blindness?

Richmond, CA


6-18-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear Editor: I have to wonder how Barbara Grant feels about circumcision. As a christian, she is probably a defender of the genital mutilation of our infant males who have no choice. It is also typical monotheism to define the "right" spirituality of another. She is conveying a purist viewpoint and America is a melting pot. Hell, this sister could start a bellydance jihad! Piercing and body scarring/tattooing are far more ancient paths to spiritual expression than Christianity. I'm not judging whether her beliefs are appropriate for her. I am saying they are obviously not appropriate for everyone in the bellydance community. And as our constitution states, we have freedom of religious expression here.

As for the burlesque vein of some current bellydance performances....dancers are not revered in the middle east. They are often seen as whores and lower class citizens. Seems burlesque catches that flavor. I feel it ties us more deeply to the sisters who suffered sexism to keep this art alive. I am not saying we should all run out and become strippers. Because of the dominance of christianity in this country for 200+ years, we have developed the opinion that it is wrong to associate ourselves with sex/sexuality. The image of sexuality is not respected. I applaud those dancers who see raw sexuality or sexual humor as sacred and I have no problem with the combination of sexuality and the sensual art of belly dance.

More power to creative spiritual expression!!

Florence, Colorado


6-16-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
I am so dismayed that Middle Eastern dance is now a vehicle for everyone’s psycho/spiritual/sexual deviances. I think a lot of the reason this has emerged is because no one wants to put the effort it takes into developing astounding dance technique! Hence, they rely on sensationalism to cover up the fact that they are, in most cases, marginal dancers. I, for one, have had enough! Tell them to get back to class, and get real!

Diane Adams
Company Mezza
Atlanta, GA


6-15-06 re:Sashi - Kabob by Lynette
For me, Pierced Wings paints an existential stigmata. It's her visceral reply to "our world". Her bleeding talisman, her sacred/psychic protection against the brutal "Kawanis Club" intrigues that are the building-blocks of our civilization. Pierced Wings - - desperate flight toward transcendence.

Monique Monet
South SF Bay, CA


6-15-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear Gilded Serpent,
I am absolutely fascinated by the controversy being discussed on gilded serpent and I appreciate your coverage of it. Here in Mississippi, we are just really beginning to expand the "locals" to bellydancing so our controversies are more like "will our bellies be showing?" (sounds so 50's sitcomish but true). We are enthalled by all varieties of this dance and we wish we could see the entire controversial performances instead of a single picture to make a better judgement. Since we are currently "pushing the envelope" in our community just by performing and dancing (we do tribal & cabaret), I wonder where we will be in a couple years? Will we be trying to get "out of the box" like these individuals? As we continue to keep the performances fresh and exciting, I wonder how dance here in the MS will change- if at all?

For our part we are seeking out venues for traditional dancing as well as other venues for the more fusion versions of BD. I will continue to watch and read GS to keep up with news in the BD community and to get new ideas - even the crazy & controversial.



6-15-06 re:letter below re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear Editor,
Allow me to butt in for your defense: Ashara, if you read the top of the editorial page:
"Please keep your letters concise, under 500 words , If that isn't possible, consider writing an ARTICLE".

Most of the articles on this web-site are at best 50% academic anyways. This is a web-zine for passionate belly dance afficionados not solely an academic forum. If you don't agree with Barbara Grant's article then that's OK but don't get on the editor for publishing it.

While I'm at it, I 'm weighing in on the side of the Judeo-Christian outrage. I am tired this dance used for everybody's gratification. Crotch grabbing and faking sex on stage and dancing around with big needles stuck through the skin on your back is nasty and gross and tiresome. This dance has been co-opted for every fad that comes down the pike from goddess worship to witches to body art to soft -core porn . As well, the proponents of the aforementioned have publicaly proclaimed their use as legitimate to it's origins in some way- which is at the least ignorant and at worst racist. This is the dance we can all do with ease, take what we want from and leave the rest and do what we want with, right?! This isn't an art form like ballet or flamenco or Irish-step or even hula?! There's no history if we don't care about history or place of origin (like the cradle of civilization) or music (funny sounding songs with all those words we can't understand) if we don't care about that or times and places and appropriate uses or even manners?! No standards of quality either. Hum...This is fabulous! Instant ART!!! And we can all be ARTISTS!!!!

Barbara has legitimate concerns with how belly dance fetishism influences the behavior of girls- and we should be concerned with how our behavior and what we present affects others- is it far-fetched to say that children reflect what we give them and show them? If not then let's let them fend for themselves after giving birth to them like the reptiles do with their young. Why not abdicate our responsibilities to one another in the name of the first amendment ? Hollywood and the internet have long ago told us that all we have to do is pull the plug?!

Barbara- please know that there are many, many more dancers out there who are saddened too by the excesses of the belly dance craze. Know too that many of those who produce events have their commercial interests placed highest on their agendas and the fads SELL tickets and related products as well as fill workshops.
Susi in Boston


6-15-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
While I understand the fact that our dance is constantly evolving and adapting styles and techniques from other styles of dance, if it means turning what I consider to be a beautiful art into nothing but a filthy peep show or live porn, then I want NOTHING TO DO with those perpetuating these new "styles"...such as Sadie and Kaya seeming to have sex with men on stage while fully costumed or Suhaila Salimpour and her troupe with their interpretations of lesbian orgiastic thralls. I don't give a DAMN how famous these people are! We should be shocked and ashamed of their antics and STOP SPONSORING THEM...STOP GOING TO THEIR WORKSHOPS...STOP BUYING TICKETS TO THEIR SHOWS and STOP BUYING THEIR VIDEOS! Let our actions tell them we have had ENOUGH! If we don't stop this trend in it's tracks now, where will it end? "Artistic" nudity? "Spiritual" sex acts? I am SICKENED by all this nonsense.

We are always trying to convince the public that that we are respectable "artistes"and that our dance is fine family entertainment. If we continue to let these dancers misrepresent our art and perpetuate the stereotype of bellydancer/stripper then we have no one but our own dance community to blame when the public jeers and sneers at us and we are no longer allowed to perform at schools and family festivals!

Fellow dancers: do you want your young daughters to view this trash and want to not only copy it, but push the envelope even more? Anything for fortune, fame and notoriety? Will we be raising a generation of bellydancers for whom a career in stripping will be a natural progression?
Saddened and Sincerely,
Babs "Noora" Flowers
Lexington, South Carolina


6-13-06 re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear GIided Serpent,
I am yet another dancer sending a letter to the "editor" about Barbara Grant's article on controversies in belly dance. While I'm bothered that Ms. Grant attempts to hide her dislike for Sashi, Suhaila, and Kaya and Sadie behind a statement of her "Judeo-Christian" beliefs (which she never returns to once in the article, making it completely irrelevant), I'm more bothered that this article is more opinion and, forgive the term, a rant than it is an article worthy of being published on your site. The title, "Weird Rituals and Beyond: Exploring Controversies in Middle Eastern Dance", suggests that she will explore recently performed controversial pieces academically and objectively, possibly using historical examples in a thought-provoking manner. However, she merely rambles on and makes illogical arguments (one example being her statement that performances such as Sashi's "pierced wings" will lead to theatrical performances and glorification of female genital mutilation) that take the reader no where but to Ms. Grant's own concerns and fears about how these recent acts represent belly dance in a broader context.

While I acknowledge that Ms. Grant prefaces her piece with a statement that the rest of the article is merely her opinion, I do not see why Gilded Serpent should publish it at all. We all have opinions about what should and should not be on stage; why should this particular woman's opinion be highlighted? Additionally, if Ms. Grant is so concerned with how our dance is perceived by outsiders, then I suggest that she take more care in crafting her arguments and that the editors at Gilded Serpent do more than just proofread and read submitted articles for content before posting them online.

Best Regards,
Washington, DC


6-12-06 re: letters re:Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Hi Lynette,
Well, I knew that Barbara Grant's article decrying the current sleazy "dark and edgy" trend in belly dance would elicit some strong responses, but the one response that struck me as particularly naive was the one that claimed that "cabaret style dancers do suggestive moves in skimpy costuming and no one says anything about them". What planet has that dancer been living on for the past 20 years? American Cabaret style dancers have ALWAYS taken a beating for issues of costuming, choreography, not being authentic (meaning not Egyptian style), playing finger cymbals, dancing with swords, veils, trays - you name it and they got thoroughly thrashed for it! Yet, now that we have newer generation of dancers who claim they want to present their artistic visions "out of the box" and "pushing people's buttons" as some sort of quasi-political and/or trance religious belief statement, woe befall anyone who dares to ask, "but what has all this to do with belly dance"?. It is a cop-out for performers to blithely assert that it the audience or dance community is uncomfortable with their "out of the box" performance, it's their narrow-minded, meatloaf-consuming bland and prudish fault! And that the dancer has no responsibilities, utterly none, to ensure that what they are presenting is appropriate to the venue.

Because, let me assure you, "back in the day", we were exhorted by our belly dance teachers of both "cabaret" and "ethnic" styles that it was OUR JOB as dancers to NEVER offend an audience with inappropriate music, props and costuming, let alone actually intending to "push their buttons". And, a couple of years ago, a dancer was asked by a Bay Area restaurant owner to "please do not use your sword for balancing tonight, due to recent beheadings, the Middle Eastern clientele here would be very uncomfortable with a sword dance at this time; balance anything else, a pot or tray but no sword for now". And the dancer complied, because it was a valid objection of appropriateness to a venue, and she was being asked to be sensitive to clientele at that venue. There is no, absolutely no, reason why this doesn't also apply to festivals and/or staged concerts as well!

You know, I can only imagine what Tahia Carioca would say to all of this............... because the great dancers all knew and still know, that essentially, belly dance, or Raks Sharqi, or ATS or Tribal, or any of the varied interpretations of the catch-all term "belly dance" is in essence a dance art form for ENTERTAINMENT. Historically, we all know it is performed both socially and professionally in the Middle East at weddings, parties at clubs and on dinner cruises but never at funerals! So I think gvien these facts, it defies logic for dancers to decide to abdicate their responsibilities to this dance art form and blame the audience, their dance peers in community, society, and meatloaf for gosh sakes for their OWN bad judgement in presenting performances that parents need to usher their children quickly out of the audience, covering their eyes.........
P.S. I love a good spicy meatloaf and tattoos,


6-11-06 re: Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Dear Editor,
Well, I just stumbled upon this controversy living way out here in New York City. All the articles and letters have been very interesting.

American Tribal "bellydance" has finally arrived to the East Coast. It has taken on more of the flavor of the goth; dark and creepy favored by the performances I've seen in BDSS. Luckily, we haven't yet been subjected to an outlandish freak show as portrayed by the "ritualized, sado masochistic piercing" episode portrayed on the pages of Gilded Serpent. Something like this would probably make a huge splash at Coney Island. The photos kind of reminded me of a Burlesque performer I saw a year or so ago. The girl first slashed away at her mouth with an enormous butcher knife then made her way down to her wide open crotch. Blood was flying everywhere. Of course, after the first gasp from the audience one realized she was sporting well placed blood bags. I guess this was her own personal ritual not unlike that of the winged lady. Are these kinds of events really ment for the stage or for the office of a really good therapist? What irks me about the piercing show is that it's dubbing itself as art and dance. That is utter bulls---!
As for the other performances; hmmmmm crotch grapping and cunnilingus. Why not!!! It seems bellydance is now the umbrella for just about anything placed on the stage. Our art form will never gain any serious recognition outside our small community with shows like this feeding the general public's view that we're not really trained dancers; but merely exhibitionists flaunting our bodies. I'm all for experimentation and seeking a modern and rejuvenating approach to this dance, but I don't understand why "modern" always seems to be drenched in literally, in -your-face-sex, and above all with no sense of humour. A lot of people think Dina is way over the top too, but she dances with a sexy, tongue in cheek enthusiasm and glamour. How else could she get away with dancing in a tea cup size brass bra??

I ask where is the elegance in these performances that makes this dance so beautiful and such a mystifying thing to watch? Are elegance and beauty now old fashioned concepts that are simply out of date with the times?

Brooklyn, NY


6-11-06 re: Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
A few words from the 'Psych major' peanut galler. From a group psychology standpoint – I see a whole lot of projection and symbolism going on from all sides.

As far as piercing and mutilating one’s own body, how about the piercing and mutilating of the female psyche/self-image trying to compete in this world of Belly Dance? One can’t claim that it isn’t absolutely terrible at times.
Perhaps this Sashi lady and these “nouveau” tribal dancers are symbolizing the dark, predatory female personality that belly dance really can be under the surface.

What has recently developed out of the relatively young tribal 'movement' are young tribal dancers that wear gothic, ghostly make up, war-like, masculine tattoos, and pierce themselves (also on stage), sport primitive-inspired headdresses and costuming, and dance in severe isolations with an air of remoteness. This is kind of a hard-edged, dark and wicked persona.Cabaret dancers that favor the style of the pre-Tribal era, classically wear bright colors, chiffon-like materials, sequins, dance soft yet effusive, and try to project a happy-go-lucky and flirtatious personality.

Newer generations taking on a form of artistic expression (for example, the latest Tribal fusion generation) generally rebel and shock by calling out the taboos and mimicking the hypocrisies of their elders. Yes, this all may sound like an elaborate "reach" on my part, but looking at this on a mass unconscious level, I believe it to be true.



6-11-06 re: Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Oh my.. so many readers have their knickers in a twist, and over what? Sashi and her metal wings? which is somethihng you don't understand? By all means, then, attack and kill it immediately. It might hurt you. Is it something that is different from your own experience? then hate it, crush it, smash it..

This brouhaha reminds me of how "visual controversy" has worked in my favor.. being alternative, if you will. First, I really am not.. I am quite middle of the road in some ways, and liberal in others, and VERY conservative in other ways.
One of the reasons I have tattoos is to filter people out. Those that are paranoid and close minded will take one look at me and probably IMMEDIATELY dislike me and leave me alone. Fine, let them eat meatloaf.

There is an enormous population of folks, from all walks of life, who LOVE originality.. who love the spicy life. Here in Tucson, the audiences we have had at our shows are always so pleased to see differences among the dancers. And all our shows have children attending with their parents. These children will NEVER be afraid of spicy or new or different. They might tremble at meatloaf and peas, but there are plenty of folks in the REAL world (snicker) who eat them. It will always be this way, there will always be some ass tight person, even a dancer, who is frightened, and probably a bit jealous, because we are out of the box, and having fun!!

Geez... I'll be down to one eye soon, and will be wearing a patch with my costumes (all color coordinated, of course). and I expect meatloaf folks to freak out on that. I look forward to it with pleasure.

Now, about Sashi....1. it was TF!! that venue is known for its cutting edge, extreme performers...2. Ie. one will see "cutting edge" perfoirmances.. fusion style 3. There will be NO Tribaret, or cabaret, or American Classical style.. it will be TRIBAL FUSION. If you don't like "different" then by all means, you may want to check out each venue beforehand, so you won't be disturbed.

Sashi's performance sounds perfectly acceptable to me for that venue. She has been doing this for awhile.
Personally, I would love to see her do it at any venue, it would be fine with me if she did that at a show where my grandchildren were... they would enjoy it, I think. But. I'm a bit weird, so if I put on my June Cleaver hat and pearls, I would think venues frequented by bland folks would not be where Sashi would want to be.. She was with her "people" so to speak, who pretty much "got" what she was doing at TF.

Ah well, think of it this way. Jesus was crucified in the end.. by the bland folks. Crucfied because he was different and disturbing and out of the box. Those folks just didn't understand him. I think crucifixion is the ULTIMATE piercing for spiritual purposes and for the good of all. Sashi just had hers in a different place, that's all. And she has never claimed to be anything more than she is.

So, unwad those panties, take a deep breath, live your meatloaf ways, and let us have our spice. We aren't trying to push ourselves and our lifestyle on you bland folks. We WANT you to eat your meatloaf. Please, I beg you: eat it.

Lucy Lipschitz
Tucson, AZ


6-11-06 re: Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
Thanx to Barbara Grant for addressing these controversies! I cannot comment on the piercing controversy as I wasn't at the performance in question.

However, I was at Rakkasah West 2006. I'm so glad someone has had the guts to call a spade a spade and call sleaze sleaze. I am most definitely NOT a Christian, but I found both the Kama Sutra show, and Suhaila's performances offensive.
I'm not easily offended, but as Barbara so succinctly asks, "What does this have to do with Belly Dance?"

Even showing a non-dancer co-worker the infamous pictures of "Kama Sutra" prompted him to ask "What does this have to do with Belly Dance?".

But the real problem is that this sleaze spreads faster than a wildfire in an oil refinery. I have personal knowledge of other dancers spreading sleaze in the name of well known dancers who perform it at large shows. I hear tell of Belly Dance festivals with pole dancers being featured. I see dancers showing off their underwear in performance. I know of event sponsors/promoters who I thought "knew better" and had more class - promoting sleaze. Blah, blah, blah! This is ALL post-Rakkasah - its spreading and its spreading FAST. Again: What does this have to do with Belly Dance?

We all know Belly Dance goes through peaks and valleys of popularity, and that we're in a peak period now. Could it be that Belly Dance wanes in popularity because each peak involves dancers, trying to push the envelope ever farther, turn to sleaze and thus usher in a decline? I don't claim this is necessarily so, but it bears some thought...

Be Blessed,
"The Veiled Male"
Monterey, Ca.


6-9-06 re: Weird Rituals and Beyond by Barbara Grant
I needed to comment on this article, which I feel is being written from an extremely Christian viewpoint. I was there for Sashi's performance and it was powerful and unique. The comments of "where does it stop" are extremely uncalled for, as the Tribal Fest sponsors gave fair warning for Sashi's performance AND for Princess Farhana's Burlesque number on Friday night.

~I've begun to wonder whether this community should even consider including the "Tribal dance" among its many and varied forms

I am offended at this statement as I, myself, am a tribal fusion dancer. The vocabulary of movement I use has the SAME movements as Cabaret dancers. AS to "controlling" the tribal dancers, I see Cabaret dancers doing bawdy, suggestive movements, wearing costumes that are almost non-existent and no one says a word about it.

If this writer doesn't appreciate what Sashi is doing, she isn't obligated to watch. As I have said in the past, people are so terrified of ANYTHING that forces them to think outside the nice, neat little box they want to keep bellydance in. A narrow mind will never flourish, merely flounder.

And frankly, as a single parent, it isn't a dancer's JOB to base her performance on what my child MIGHT think. It's my job as a parent to decide what is appropriate. If people were more active in their own lives and less judgmental of others, they MIGHT see that.

This writer, as a Christian (so called), seems to have forgotten the rule "Judge not lest ye be judged."

Tracey aka Obsidia
Dallas/ Ft Worth, Texas


6-1-06 re: letters below from Susan, Nisima....
Our studio looked through Gilded Serpent to see if there was a mission statement.
It has always been our impression the you are decicated to MIDDLE EASTER DANCE.
Did we not decide that east indian anything, was not under that umbrella after the kama sutra fiasco last March ?
We respect those who have taken what they want from our culture/art , and gone their way to "American fusion" and call it such. Call all this what you will, DO NOT CALL IT MIDDLE EASTERN BELLY DANCE!
blessed be,
cory zamora, zamoras,
fresno ca.


6-1-06 re:Sashi - Kabob by Lynette
Dear Lynette,
I was both angered and saddened, once I got over my initial shock, by Sashi's performance (as documented by you) at Tribalfest for several reasons. I'm writing now in response to Ms. Justine's letter supporting her and demanding you rewrite the article. I don't see any reason for you to do so; you DID post a link to Sashi's site, and you DID remark in the article about her statement regarding the Malaysian rituals. You didn't have to do either and yet you did.

First, this is NOT bellydance; it is something else. Gothic, body piercing, trance or pseudo trance dancing performance, I'll buy. Bellydance, no.

Second, this performance does not do any justice to the origins or purpose of ME dance. It doesn't even really seem to have anything to do with it as the music is Western even although it has an "oriental" flavor to it.

Third, this smacks to me of profanity, as in the profaning of a sacred thing; the rituals she is 'honoring' are not done as a performance in the context she did, they are part of a community religious ritual in which all take part, either physically or vicariously through watching. There is no "audience" vs. "performer" as there was in Sashi's performance, which lacked a purpose other than the mere performance.

Fourth, this seems to me the worst sort of cultural appropriation. It's not seen as disrespectful at all by an apparently large minority of our community to take traditions from other cultures and bend, shape, and downright twist them to suit our purposes and then scream about others' narrowmindedness when anyone dares to complain or point that out. These people need to think very carefully about their assumptions regarding the traditions of other peoples and our 'rights' to them.

Sorry folks; this isn't art to me, in the same way that the bucket of human feces that a National Arts Foundation grant recepient displayed isn't art to me either. Perhaps if her performance had had a purpose in the same way as the original rituals have I would feel differently; perhaps if she had not pulled both the dance and the piercings so completely out of context for her own purposes I would feel differently as well.

Anyway, Lynette, on one hand I could have done without the article, but on the other hand you have pointed out one of the end points of an evolving trend in the bellydance community. When does it end? At what point does it become obvious to everyone that it's just not bellydance anymore?

And by the way, I am NOT an employee of the "Authenticity Police". In fact I have been on their "wanted" list a time or two myself.

Northern Arizona


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