Letters to the Editor-Archives pg 16
June 07 to December 07

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12-29-07 re: Belly Bully by Tatseena
I appreciate the sentiment that we should be working together to promote this dance form, and also agree that communication and simple courtesy are key to achieving success for all of us, however I do not see how perpetuating certain missconceptions can serve us.

First off, there is no evidence I have ever been able to track down to a reliable source that belly dance "springs forth from ancient times and was used as a connection to honor gods and goddesses, and the divine feminine principle of creating life" Belly dance was based on a folk dance with many influences over time, danced by men, women, children and grandparents, later adapted to specific performance venues.

Second, competition is hardly a uniquely masculine trait. Having worked with youth, I would honestly rather deal with the young men who butt heads, cool off and get on with life than with the inner simmering of vengeful and never forgetting girls. You never know when some of these gals are offended in the first place, say nothing of when they are going to blow their top.

The author states "The word prejudice comes to mind, even though most of us say we are not prejudiced." I find this an ironic statement in an article which places the blame for all warlike qualities on men. I think it far more productive to recognize that yes, we all have to deal with our human nature, which includes fear of not making it and a sense of competition. Knowing what I have to deal with in my own personal challenges enables me to choose to act differently, especially if I see the benefit which does exist when we cooperate.

I think it also valuable to point out that even in small tightly knit communities, classes can accidentally overlap, either through lack of communication when ads are going to print, etc. This has happened to myself and a friend just recently.

Further, "what was the real role of the harem?" It was not to bring men back to their sensual side, as suggested by the author. It was primarily to create a safe place for the women of the household, away from the public eye.

Finally, is there enough room for everyone? If we are talking about room for everyone to find their niche, to dance & create, then yes, I believe there is. If, however, we consider the business aspects of dance, whether it be classes, workshops or performances, then the answer is no. There is such a thing as market saturation. Only so many people in a community are willing to take classes, attend workshops, hire dancers, etc. A business needs to look at the actual feasibility of an event or other services, even if it means an individual does not get to fulfill a particular goal.

Fairbanks, Alaska


12-18-07 re: Macedonian Bellydance CD Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone

This review was excellent and I plan to check out Macedonian Bellydance and some of the other bands referred to in the article. However, the author made some mentions about a band called Gogol Bordello that I'm not sure were accurate. She said:" Another band that came to mind while I was listening to this CD was Gogol Bordello, who are a kind of Russian Gypsy Punk band (yes, Gypsy in the sense of being ethnically Roma)."

I absolutely love Gogol Bordello, but they are not Russian, or ethnically Roma, per se. The lead singer Eugene Hutz, is Ukranian, and they have band members from Russia, Ethiopia, Israel, Ecuador and the US. The band is based in NYC. While they are heavily influenced by Romani music from the Ukraine and are very active to raise awareness and funds for social issues affecting the Romani people, I have never read a claim by any band member that they are of Romani decent or that they are performing authentic Romani music. I have seen some negative responses online from Romani people who dislike them for incorporating their culture but mixing it with Punk, Ska, Rock n' Roll, etc, but for the most part the Rom seem to embrace them as much as any Rom embraces any gadje (non-Romani/non-gypsy person)!

Just wanted to clarify since the issue of what is "gypsy" is a touchy one and many well-intentioned belly dancers present what they call "Romani Gypsy" music and dance that is not authentic. I think this is ok as long as they specify that it is Romani-inspired, which I think is also an accurate description for Gogol Bordello.

Thanks for your time, and for publishing such a rich resource for the belly dance community.
Washington, D.C.

PS- I just found an interview with Eugene Hutz on NPR where he said that he has Romani relatives on one side of his family, but that he is not attempting to produce authentic Romani gypsy music with Gogol Bordello.


12-14-07 re: IBDC- Part 1 by Amina and Danza Del Vientre by Devorah Korek by Gregory and Amina and Egyptian Dance- Has it Crossed the Line? by Amina
Dear Amina & Lynette,
Thank you for the wonderful articles ...:)

Amina is one of the best Egyptian Teachers in the country and she is very humble ..everything she says is 100% in anything I have seen printed on Gilded Serpent and elsewhere Bravo !!!!!!

I love your honest approach and ethics ..we need more people like you to survive!! and thanks to the Gilded Serpent for printing articles that make sense ..there is so much garbage out there it is unreal ...sometimes I feel like I am part of a circus instead of an artform!

Thank you both!!!

Happy Shimmies!
Nourhan Sharif
New York City, NY


12-5-07 re: Bellyqueen vs Barbary Coast. Review/ pics by Surreyya
Dear Lynette:
I'd like to comment on two of the photos Surreya included with her review of the show.

First, I disliked Photo #4 in the sequence, depicting Bellyqueen dancers in a circle in marionette-like poses. What was the point of this dance? It wasn't clear from the text, and even more murky from the photo. Though Surreya referred to a "carousel number where each dancer was donned in caricature (mime, clown, etc.)" I found neither the mime nor the clown in this photograph. To me, they all looked like nightclub dancers posing as puppets, to no purpose.

But second, Photo #1 in the sequence, of the Barbary Coast Allstars, is one of the best I've seen of a troupe, ever. It showcases the dancers' beauty and their theatricality, leaving the reader the impression that these ladies are actors as well as dancers. They look like individuals who mesh well together as an ensemble. Were I to see only this photo of that group, I'd be eager to attend their performance.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


12-5-07 re: Tribal: Fusion, Bedouin, What's the Difference? by Rebecca Firestone
I have to add my voice to the cacophony of thanks for Rebecca Firestone's reviews of a handful of folkloric and Tribal Fusion videos recently. I feel her overall tone is just what is lacking in so many other reviews: that of a genuine desire to understand the content, and unafraid to be tactfully honest in her assessments. I tire of sycophantic gushing with no real constructive critical content. I really enjoyed her detailed assessment of all the nuances of the video and the dances within from her perspective. Some of her observations were ones I had not been able to articulate myself, and she put words to my thoughts, for which I am grateful. If only more reviewers were this articulate and detailed in their reviews! I fear our community is damaging itself through the inability to give and receive honest critique. Why else would so many dancers be fearful of being directly quoted in the review? Because the repercussions of telling the truth as you see it, no matter how tactful and thoughtful in content and delivery, are usually some form of "being driven to the edge of the village and stoned"--being branded "jealous" or "misinformed" or "judgmental". Rebecca's balanced and intelligent reviews were a breath of fresh air! May this be one of many steps toward improvement of our community in this area.
Sharon Moore
Seattle, WA


12-5-07 re: letter below re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Hello Pauline;
You seem to be more worried about how the dancer looks than how she dances. As a large dancer myself, and instructor, I beg to differ with you on ALL counts! This artform was not born of women of small size, or of large size. It is not size prejudice as you are.
Some dancers would like to re-define this artform to suit only certain size, ages, and types of people, but that will never happen.
I, personally wear power net. That is what I feel good in and like. I applaud any dancer of size that gets out and dances to her best ability. There are, as I am writing this, master instructors out there, who turn women off and say hurtful things to them, such as,
" You don't have a dancers body", while taking their money at the same time. You know, there are ALWAYS going to be critics on both sides of the spectrum, small and large. My classes consist of both small and large women, and I would never make any of them feel that they have flaws when it comes to dancing. Everyone is NOT looking at a dancer of size through your eyes, and I am glad of that. We instructors are somewhat like therapist, when women come to us, who have never danced before, and if they are large, we should welcome them and make them feel good, because it takes a lot of courage to dance, especially if you are large.

I am comfortable with myself in public and private, and that is what I teach my girls. I teach positive attitude, first and foremost, no matter what your size, or age. If they feel good and positive about themselves when going on stage, or anywhere, regardless of what they are wearing, than that is what I want them to feel.

Anniitra Ravenmoon
Long Beach, California.


12-1-07 re: Tribal: Fusion, Bedouin, What's the Difference? by Rebecca Firestone
Bravo to Ms. Firestone to writing a real review and not just a mishmash of fawning over every dancer, stating the obvious and not talking about the negatives. I am tired of reading "reviews" that gush over every dancer regardless of skill or talent and don't utter one actual critical comment.

How are we as a dance community supposed to grow if we don't hear honest and real critique of our luminaries as well as ourselves? Answer: we won't.
I certainly hope this review spurs other reviewers to be less concerned about offending people and more concerned about keeping a critical eye on even the biggest names. We shouldn't be afraid of criticism...good critiques keep the art form sharp and ever-evolving.

Gibson Pearl
San Francisco, CA


11-30-07 re: Tribal: Fusion, Bedouin, What's the Difference? by Rebecca Firestone
Oh goody! Finally a realistic set of reviews. One of them even made me think I might want to take a closer look, and I don't even dance anymore! I love real analysis and I appreciate a sense of humor, though I'm sure those who take their dance over-seriously will take all kinds of offense. If you read closely, Rebecca did a great job. I laughed out loud at some spots, nearly spitting my morning coffee all over the keyboard. I'm jealous! I wish I'd written it! Well written, engaging and very very helpful.
Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela

Washington state


11-24-07 re: letter below re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
As far as cover-ups, in general, I had good teachers who taught me that you should always wear a cover up when not performing. You don't show off your costume until you are on stage. There are a lot of students who just haven't learned or they have teachers who began teaching too soon to refine all aspects of this dance, like performance etiquette, dancing to live music, matching appropriate music to style of dance, etc.

Now, I am a plus sized dancer. Because I have respect for myself and have been taught by world class instructors (who have NEVER told me that I had no right to perform), I know what's inappropriate and what's not. I personally would never where an outfit that would embarrass myself , not fit correctly or make me look like a caricature. I personally wouldn't purchase an outfit that shows a lot of leg or basically looks like a bunch of appliques sewn onto fishnet. Just because I can get it made in my size doesn't mean I should buy it. I'm really into the beledy dresses and my costume of choice recently is a gold paillette dress that I wore to perform for Aida Nour and Magdy el Leisy when they came to L.A.*

During my dance career I have received compliments from students, teachers and professional dancers. I have also performed for non belly dance audiences (general Americans) and have received compliments. I've performed in professional shows, festivals and showcases. And as far as any costume issues, believe me, my instructors and mentors are honest, plus they know that I know better.

Instead of attacking large dancers, you should attack any dancer who gets up in something too tight, too loose, wrong color, too skimpy etc, who can't dance or performs in an inappropriate way. I've seen all kinds of people wear things that they shouldn't. It only takes 1 trip to Rakkasah to see everything. I've worn bedlah but only in troupe numbers where we were all wearing the same thing and it was the required costume. This costume consisted of bra and belt, body stocking, long sleeves, vest, harem pants and 2 skirts. I would say I was covered, wouldn't you?

Now I can't help it if some jackass in the audience makes a comment. But, why should I give that person all of the power in my life when people will always find a way to talk about you. I've spoken to blonde dancers who've had comments made to them because they don't look middle eastern. I have a friend who is very petite be told by an audience member that she would be too skinny to be a dancer in his country, which I thought was rude. And I can open up a whole can of worms regarding the treatment of African American dancers in some areas of the belly dance world.

Now in all fairness, you didn't say that larger dancers shouldn't dance or have no right to perform. If you did, then I would suggest that you don't accept their money for any lessons or shows since they have no hope of performing.

In closing, I've seen the rolled eyes and "what were they thinking?" expression on people's faces during BAD PERFORMANCES.

*note to editor - Lynette , please feel free to link the photo you took of me performing at the Aida Nour/Magdy el Leisy show in February 2006 as an example of my gold paillette dress.

Thank you!
Tracey Farmer
Simi Valley, CA


11-22-07 Re: my letter below re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Well, I received a couple of the expected hate mails on my private email. We Americans! We think we have the right to do anything we want, regardless of whether it's tasteful, smart, intelligent or not. That's Americans for ya - all "rights" and no responsibility. Rationalize away bad behavior and horrible taste on the grounds of "I have a right to wear what I want and express myself as I want" even if it makes our beautiful dance form a thing of scorn, a caricature, and makes those inappropriately costumed dancers look like buffoons. They must think I made up the rolled eyes, and turned-away faces with looks of "what WERE they thinking?" when a too-heavy and not-enough clothed dancer takes the stage. What a pity!

Have a great Thanksgiving
Ann Arbor, MI

PS-Oh, and by the way, I'm currently a size 12, and have fought weight problems all my life. When I graduated college I was busting out of a 16. So it's not like I'm unsympathetic to the struggle with weight. I have pictures of me when I was first dancing, and there was no other costume except the 2-pc bedlah. I just wince and choke looking at them, thinking, "why didn't anybody tell me how bad that looked"? It's much worse than having spinach in your teeth and thinking you've been perfectly charming all evening because nobody would be a TRUE friend and tell you!


11-21-07 re:Nonprofits for Middle Eastern Belly Dancers, Is a 501c3 Right for You? by Dawn Devine
Hello, I am the artistic director of a dance group also in Canada. When we formed our group, about 18 months ago, we decided to go the nonprofit way. It was a big decision because you no longer have one leader at the helm you have a Board. This can make decisions take longer and it means more collaboration and negotiation and sometimes going along with a decision that you may not be completely in favour of. It also means getting some great points of view that you may not have thought of yourself either. It doesn't work for everyone. However, I think it was the right decision for us. It is just too much work to go it alone and if you have a good group on the Board you can get lots more accomplished in a shorter window. We do have special tax status and we do get reduced rates on some services and venues. There are community resources available to us as a non profit group to assist us too. We do have special legal requirements that we need to comply with. We also have lots more work to do for sucession planning, and amending bylaws. So far so good but it is a process and not an end.

Denise Leclair
Raq-a-Belly dance!
Edmonton, Alberta
[Ed note- don't miss Denise's recent article on her adventure in Tunisia!]


11-1-9-07 re: Ahmad Asad Obituary on GS cover page
Tears come to my eyes every time I visit Gilded Serpent these days and I see Ahmad’s smiling face. He was a dear man who with his lovely family contributed so much to the belly dance community.
Seeing Ahmad and darling DeeDee was always as important a part of Little Egypt events as the stars they brought in.
Rest in peace, Ahdmad.
We will all miss you,


11-17-07 re:Nonprofits for Middle Eastern Belly Dancers, Is a 501c3 Right for You? by Davina
Even though I am in Canada, I really enjoyed this article. I have been struggling with that question for the last year. I have a studio in a small town, it is going well but not great because I am all alone to do everything... This article gave me answers and lots to think about.

Thank you!
Marthyna :)
Quebec, Canada


11-17-07 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Bravo!!! This was an excellent article…in the days of “let it all hang out”, it is difficult to get my students/performers/troupe to see the advantage of not showing off their costume at all opportunities…
Thanks for explaining it with such creative visualization…

Joyous dancing,



11-17-07 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Thank youAshiya and Naajidah for writing this article. There are a couple of additional points I would like to add. Wearing a cover up is also a sign of being respectful of your fellow dancers. If someone is performing and you are walking around in costume, then you are distracting the audience from the show and the dancer currently performing.

I've also witnessed dancers showing up to a performance in almost a full costume or student costume attire who aren't even performing. (Needless to say without a cover up!) Better yet, some of them do it to promote their own belly dancing. Cover ups are definitely a sign of professionalism and respect. So thank you for reminding dancers the importance of wearing a cover up.

Virginia Beach, VA


11-16-07 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
I enjoyed Ashiya and Naajidah's recent article on cover-ups, and I agree. People hire us for performances and enroll in our classes because they want us to bring a taste of beauty, coolness, or glamor into their lives. However, as the saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt." If we do mundane activities in our costumes, we erode that aura of special "something" that sets us apart, leaving people with the impression we are merely ordinary.

Iowa City, Iowa


11-13-07 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Bravo Ashiya and Naajidah!
I couldn't agree more. When I was in theater, we were never supposed to show ourselves to the audience in our costumes and makeup, and I held the same views when it came to dance performance.

However, while we're at it, let's to a little further and talk about proper costuming, period. Why oh WHY do I keep seeing women who are obviously and sometimes, painfully overweight still wearing the 2-pc bedlah outfit?? And wearing a power net bodysuit does NOT make up for this. There's only so much that spandex can do! We should do nothing that distracts from our dance, be it odd costuming, badly fitting costumes, or not dressing ourselves to our best effect. I would never let any student of mine out in public in an outfit which did not flatter her and show her in her best light. Yet time and again I see women who are as wide as they are tall, huge bellies, rolls of "back bacon", stretch marks or scars, performing in costumes which only serve as an awful distraction to what they're trying to accomplish.

And don't give me that malarkey about "accepting our bodies" as they are. We can accept all that we want in private. But once you set foot on a stage, you're forming peoples' opinions about an entire art form. Dancers, do yourselves and your art form a favor and wear a full dress-style costume. That way they'll see you, the dancer, instead of body flaws that should not be for public consumption.

Pauline Costianes (Ghalia)
Co-Director, Troupe Ta'amullat
Ann Arbor, MI


11-3-07 re:Four Bellydancers... I AIN'T SCARED! Bellydance Superstars Introduction to Bellydance DVD review by Dina
I just wanted to say that I took a workshop from Sonia last January, and though I agree that she is very low key (to say the least) she was also very helpful when someone asked a question and didn’t hesitate to pause and go over moves we didn’t understand. Though she was slated to teach us Egyptian technique, for some reason, she chose to teach us some of her Polynesian dance instead. It was still very informative and a good workshop. We were having an after workshop performance and she was expected, by us, to perform, though she somehow did not get that message. However, she very gamely borrowed one of my instructor’s costumes and gave a very heartfelt and energetic performance. I felt that she was not only professional, but as you say, someone who could have very happily given you a lesson in your own living room with just as much panache. Petite Jamilla gave the workshop the next day, and she was just as sweet and as good an instructor.

I agree that BDSS are quite “perfect”, but I find them inspiring, rather than intimidating.

Crawford, CO


10-17-07 re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
Hi Lynette and Gilded Serpent Gang -
I was going to write you a long letter in response to the "Ethics of Fusion" article but instead I think this swifter response is "ma'a."

I wince at the thought of "Bellynesian," but want to point out emphatically that all cultures borrow from each other's dances. Check out Amina's article on the state of belly dance in Cairo, for a start.

I'm a long time belly dancer, student of Amina and Alexandria, in fact. These past six years I've been studying hula in San Francisco with the kumu hula that Nisima mentions in her letter, Patrick Makuakane.

My adored Kumu Patrick teaches a very traditional class, as Nisima mentions. However, his performance company Na Lei Hulu i Ka Wekiu is famous for its "Hula Mu'a" ( hula moving forward). Kumu likes to set some of his dances to heavy metal, opera, house, and modern disco music. He set a number to Cyndi Lauper's song, "True Colors," and the company later performed it at one of Cyndi Lauper's concerts. One of my favorite Na Lei Hulu numbers is called "Hale Krishna," which fuses hula with Indian classical dance. Bellynesian? How about "Bollywoodnesian?" And it's the choreographer who's the Polynesian.

Although everyone in my class would love to learn Na Lei Hulu's signature version of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," Kumu instead teaches us the au'ana oldie "Hene Hene" and the kahiko "No Luna Ika Hale Kai," the oldest extent hula. He saves the hula mu'a for the professional company.

- Ekepepania (aka Stefania)
SF Bay Area, CA


10-14-07 re:Traveling with the Touareg by Linda Grondahl
Hi there,
I loved visiting your web page and reading about Linda's trip to Algeria. It was so refreshing to get a positive account of visiting that country. I am going early next year to visit a friend who lives in Bejaia and most of the things i am finding on the internet seem to discourage visiting Algeria.
Anyway, loved your pics,

Elderslie, Scotland


10-6-07 re:Learning the Language of Belly Dance by Shems
WOW! Many thanks to Shems for this wonderful article!! She has given us a clear quide as well as a clear explanation of what it takes to be a professional dancer. It should be read, maybe memorized, by ALL dancers who are serious about performing and everyone else who wants to know what a professional performer of this dance needs to know and understand. I have often thought about the parallels between dance and language and Shems has expressed all my thoughts and more. I will say no more except anyone who hasn't read it, should!

Leyla Lanty (aka Lois White)
San Francisco Bay Area


10-6-07 re: Egyptian Dance - Has It Crossed the Line? by Amina Goodyear
Many thanks to Amina for writing this well thought out, well written, timely article on a difficult subject. I agree with what she has observed as the trend, but I'm a bit more optimistic about it.

As she pointed out, those who teach foeigners usually teach a balletic, formal dance in the classroom and then perform in traditional Egyptian "express the music through the body" style. I have been going to Egypt almost every year since the mid 1990s to study dance and see dancers perform. Over that time, I have also seen the changes in what many Egyptian dancers are teaching and the growing disconnect between what a dancer teaches and what she performs, especially since the big dance festivals began.

Warning to the reader: I'm going to speak in generalities. I know there are exceptions, so please turn down your flame thrower!

In the "old days" (before 2000) when only a few of us went over there for some private lessons, those who taught dance to foreigners used their tried and true teaching method - "I dance, you follow". The student was expected to get out of it what she wanted to get out of it. Now, the Egyptians have realized that there are many, many western dancers who are ready to go to Egypt and learn, which is both a source of pride in their art and a source of income.

The Egyptians have also found that westerners seem not to be contented with learning technique and style and then applying it on their own to their own dance. Most of them want CHOREOGRAPHY so they don't have to think about what they're doing. All they need to do when they get home is play the same music and do what the instructor teaches them to do without understanding the "why's" of it. In other words, westerners want a PRODUCT. They want it fast. AND they want a big bang for their buck. They bypass learning a method for producing their own product on the way to instant gratification for the lowest price per dance step. "Look at me, everybody! I learned to do Egyptian dance in only 2 weeks and 26 lessons in Cairo and I didn't have to spend ALL of my life's savings on it!"

The Egyptians, entrepreneurs that they are, now give us what they perceive that we want. It's sooooooo Middle Eastern to "say what they want to hear", "give them what they appear to want", "do whatever it takes to make them satisfied". I've learned from discussions about this phenomenon with Arabs that in everyday societal relations, it is important to be polite, to make the other person feel good, and to avoid confrontation.

I think the changes we've seen apply mostly to the teaching of dance to foreigners and probably will have little effect on the majority of Egyptian dancers. As Amina said, most of the festival teachers are trained as highly-choreographed Reda style dancers, not the more "natural" style native dancers with little or no formal dance training who perform in the clubs, parties, etc. I would also guess that "choreography" is associated with ballet in the minds of the troupe trained dancers so choreographies they teach in class tend to incorporate more formal western ideas of dance.

We westerners have influenced what they teach us by demanding something which stems from a western concept of dance - structure placed on the dance which is placed on the music, rather than dance inspired by the music, and from our need for instant gratification rather than long term deeper understanding.

Like Amina, I would hate to see catering to western dancers carry over into the non-theatrical performance scenes in Egypt but as long as their audiences are primarily Arab, I don't think this will happen. Dancers and other performers give their audiences what they want!

Leyla Lanty
East Palo Alto, CA


10-2-07 re:Lifting the Veil by Yasmina Ramzy

Interesting, well-written article by Yazmina. I think the ideal is somewhere in between. Our Western culture is too free and sleazy - pre-teens dressing like hoochie mamas, people like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears getting way too much attention and news coverage. We could use a good dose of modesty - not ignorance about human sexuality - but modesty and self-respect for our bodies.

The Brit who veiled because regular life was too much for her is a cop-out. But there are those folks in this world who like others to tell them what to do and what to think (fundamentalists of any faith), and it's a shame. I had a woman like that in my beginning Arabic class. She was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian home and converted to Islam when she married a Yemeni. It was just trading one extremely patriarchal setting for another!

The Quran only tells men and women that they must dress modestly - which any Christian or Jewish faithful would agree with wholeheartedly. The veiling is a tribal thing - men keeping their women "possessions" out of sight of other men. Early Christian women were veiled, for modesty and to keep the dust of the street out of their faces. Orthodox Jewish women keep their hair covered - the Near Eastern attitude that a woman's hair is a sexual object.

It always rankled me that a woman had to be completely covered in order not to rouse a man's passions. Well, perhaps the wrong gender is under strict control . If the mere sight of a woman, unveiled and in regular clothing makes them lose their minds, then perhaps the men's coming and goings should be strictly monitored, they shouldn't be allowed to drive or leave the country without their wives' permission. yeah----that'll happen.

Pauline Costianes (Ghalia)
Co-Director, Troupe Ta'amullat of Ann Arbor, MI


9-29-07 re: re:Lifting the Veil by Yasmina Ramzy
The problem, I think, lies in the veil being a choice vs. being something expected of you, or forced upon you.

I have no problem with a woman wearing a veil. However…should she be allowed to have her driver’s license photo taken while wearing the veil? No, of course not! Should she be required to unveil in a situation where identification verification is required? Of course! A woman wearing the veil is still a resident and bound by the laws of the land.

Part of the problem is that a certain segment of people are coming here to America, and the West generally, looking to enjoy the opportunities the West affords, yet expecting to impose their cultural mores and laws from the very places they left, on the rest of us. One cannot have it both ways; if you come here to enjoy the freedoms, then realize that part of those freedoms means adhering to our laws AND realizing that other people do not share your customs and mores. Nor, in many cases, do we want to. If I were to go to a country where those mores were in place, however, I would certainly adopt the veil for my time there. That is simply common sense.

I am glad that the veiled woman in Yasmina’s story finds peace, comfort, and a sense of place in her choice of lifestyles. I find comfort, peace, and a sense of place in my choice of lifestyles as well; I also find comfort in realizing that ultimately I am the author of my choices and how I feel about them. I am responsible for my actions. No one in my life has the right to tell me how to define myself. I am saddened to read that this woman allowed others to tell her how to define herself for so long. However that is her choice, even if it seems to me that she chose the ultimate way to allow others to define her.

And another letter writer’s comment regarding the wearing of high heels: If you will look around, you will notice that worldwide, there are no religious groups requiring that women wear high heels as a token of modest womanhood and religious purity. There is a big difference between high heels and the veil.

Mayer, Arizona, USA


9-27-07 re: Elaine's letter below re:Lifting the Veil by Yasmina Ramzy

"Yasmina claims that men find the wearing of the veil "enticing." I believe that is because it clearly puts women in a subordinate position to men, thereby not challenging male dominance. Sexy, no? Some men find a collar and leash enticing, but not a lot of us are willing to go that route, either."

If one subsitutes "high heels" for "veil" in the above it changes nothing but the cultural context. Think of how high heeled shoes are treated in "Sex in the City" - as weakening, hobbling devices that put women in a subordinate position to men and unable to flee unwanted pursuers? Nope, they're SEXY. :-)

I think Yasmina did a great job opening the door to an alternative cultural expression. One doesn't need to agree with, or adopt, a different culture's values, just understand and appreciate them for what they are.



9-26-07 re:Lifting the Veil by Yasmina Ramzy
First of all, let me say that I have no doubt that there will be a multitude of responses to Yasmina's article. While she presented a well-organized and interesting view of "the veil" and one woman's decision to wear it - the main point of article, "there are too many choices out there...so it is therefore logical to choose to wear a veil and that will solve this problem of too many choices.'" This crisis of decision-making is what motivates this woman of Western origins to don the veil? Well, sorry, but I don't buy that.

While I have a great disdain for the artificial enhancement that is becoming so common in Western Culture, which, in itself, one can argue is demeaning to women - more likely this particular woman married a Muslim who would actually prefer that she wear it. Yasmina claims that men find the wearing of the veil "enticing." I believe that is because it clearly puts women in a subordinate position to men, thereby not challenging male dominance. Sexy, no? Some men find a collar and leash enticing, but not a lot of us are willing to go that route, either.

There is surely going to be a lot of dialogue about the veil, with so many fundamentalist Muslims coming to the West for the opportunities that are lacking in their own countries. I live in Bay Ridge, in Brooklyn, and there is a large Arabic community here. Veiled women are becoming more and more commonplace. There are tensions, but they are rarely voiced or acted upon. The problem is, at some point there are the inevitable challenges to our own democracy and Judeo-Christian values that will have to be dealt with. This is not a reactionary statement, but a fact. Whenever any ethnic population grows in size, it grows in political power as well. If you look at what is happening in the United Kingdom, where Islamic fundamentalists are demanding that the Shariah be implemented, you realize that there is an abyss between Middle Eastern and Western cultures that is difficult, if not impossible, to bridge - even through the arts and the best of intentions.

Conversely, I found two other articles, "The Passage of Time" by Amel Tafsout, 9-20-07, and "Roots Raqs - An International Belly Dancer Goes Home to Macedonia" by Paola, 8-23-07, to be extremely eloquent and highly inspirational. They, as do many articles on GS, truly demonstrate how women can seek out that "golden thread" that starts somewhere deep inside of them and follow it on an incredible adventure of self-discovery, self-actualization, and self-respect. Womanhood, in all it's phases, is something to behold - not hide.
New York


9-21-07 re:Egyptian Dance- Has it Crossed the Line? by Amina
Dear Lynette:

I greatly appreciated Amina's article. I recall that in 1992 or 1993, Mahmoud Reda came to the Bay Area to teach a workshop. He was a very nice guy, but I didn't particularly appreciate his dance, finding it too modern and balletic for me. It was highly choreographed, and not the Egyptian style I'd longed to learn. Even if I'd received a detailed print-out of the steps he'd taught, I wouldn't have been assured that I'd be "dancing Egyptian." As a Westerner interested in Egyptian dance, my goal was to dance like the natives!

Teachers like Amina, well-versed in Egyptian rhythms and styling, have increased my knowledge of the dance by teaching music interpretation.

How can choreography teach that, particularly if a choreography is based on Western-style standards? I don't think it can. Music interpretation is not taught by many dancers and is likely to fall below the radar screen; yet it nevertheless can be a valuable element that makes the difference between an inspired and an uninspired performance. The balletic style currently favored by some Egyptian dancers is simply not going to capture the complexities of Egyptian music; however, if Egyptian music changes to the point where it eliminates such complexities, then I guess the Western balletic style will work. But at what cost to traditional Egyptian rhythms and dance styles?

I'm reminded of the seminar I attended on Middle Eastern dance in 1997 at Orange Coast College in California, sponsored by Angelika Nemeth, Sahra Saeeda, and Shareen el-Safy. The foreign artists were Mona el-Said and Amani. Many workshop participants disliked Mona's teaching style ("I dance, you follow") but those who'd already had training in this style loved it, as I did. Conversely, many dancers who relied on choreography in their performances appreciated Amani, but disliked Mona Said. Lebanese dance has incorporated Western-style choreography for quite some time; but according to Amina's article, Egyptians are just now "catching on."

That's not a good thing, from my perspective. Egyptian dance is wonderful precisely because of its non-Western elements. I'm another who hopes it will continue to maintain its integrity, its uniqueness, well into the future.
Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


9-21-07 re:Egyptian Dance- Has it Crossed the Line? by Amina
I enjoyed reading this article.

"Namely – The Egyptian dancers now, for the most part, are turning their backs on their own dance and are teaching watered down theatricalized westernized folk ballet."

I couldn't have said it better. I, myself, have said the same thing numerous times. And with the advent of the media, the Internet, and the faster modes of travel, there is little wonder how the Westernized forms have filtered into Egyptian dance channels.

The problem lies primarily in the fact that there are no bona fide definitions to the dance -- defined by the Egyptians. And the Egyptians won't define their dance because they seem too consumed with either stamping it out or Westernizing it to make it more legitimate.

In trying to learn a dance outside of our own culture, we need to look at it through the eyes of the culture from which the dance comes. Unfortunately, that's almost impossible as Western culture is completely different from Egyptian culture. We also have to look at who was the first to introduce the Western influences in Egyptian dance as well as who were the students of the first who followed in their footsteps.

I firmly believe that it will be the West who will ultimately preserve the real and authentic Egyptian style of dance. And those especially able to preserve it here in the United States will be the ones who were least influenced by those Egyptian dance teachers/choreographers who adopted the Western influences, who have been studying the dance for the better part of their lives, and who have been around since the initial craze of the dance in the United States.

Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance
San Francisco, CA


9-17-07 re:Egyptian Dance- Has it Crossed the Line? by Amina
Amina Goodyear's article set alarm bells ringing. This year I completed my third intensive with Aida Nour in Brisbane. The first year I was mesmerized. The second I approached class with less worship but was still delighted despite mismatches in teaching style and personality.

This year, well I got lots of "nice" combos to teach my students. But, the fire and passion had gone from the teaching. Mostly choreographies (or a little technique) but no more "follow the bouncing butt" where I could study Aida's transitions and interpretation; everything carefully broken down and "fitting" - variations, yes, but predictable. It would be sad if the Western dance student finally manages to kill off the dance the fundos have maimed.
Christchurch, New Zealand


9-17-07 re:Egyptian Dance- Has it Crossed the Line? by Amina
I would like to thank Amina for writing such a well thought-out article. I was at the same 2006 festival (after not having visited Egypt for a long time as well), and was struck by the same issues she has so eloquently put into words.

I, too, am under the impression that Egyptian dance has been hijacked by folkloric troupe experts and is being denuded of all its spontaneity. A recently re-released film "Gharam fi Karnak" (1965), which stars the Reda troupe (rashid.com), illustrates the folkloric movement's affinity for ballet and choreography. I experienced a very different dance form when I worked overseas in the 1970s and 1980s. It breaks my heart to see the art of improvisation being exchanged for the discipline of following the beat of someone else's drummer.

Washington D.C.


9-12-07 re: How to Avoid the Executioner by Najia Marlyz
BRAVO! Once again, Najia has put into words the intangible and exhorted our stale and trite dancers to become more than they are. We seem to be stuck in the techincal mode. So many dancers, so little art. I am always impressed by her articulation of the finer points of art. Grand advice. The first rule for all my years of teaching was to "listen to the music", night and day, dance music or not, poetry, emotion, FEELING.
Thank you for the reminder.
Bellingham, WA


9-6-07 re: letter below re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah [ed note-- its time to write a full article!]
Why are the Polynesian dancers and their supporters so sure that the interpretation and imitation of their dance is motivated by the intent to disrespect and insult? That is very unlikely. A gesture in one culture never translates directly into another without loss of meaning and significance. But then the non-originator culture doesn't expect or look for those gestures so it understands them in its own way. We do not live in isolated pockets and as long as people are stimulated and creative they will use ideas and cultures around to spark off new ones. I don't see how anyone can even attempt to police such a natural phenomenon.

As for Hollywood – it makes light of everything, not just Polynesian dancing and culture. But I think the world at large is pretty aware that Hollywood isn't the ultimate authority on the "true" culture of any place and that it's just about what people are entertained by. Unfortunate that they often have such silly tastes, but well, that's how it happens to be. Personally, I have nothing against grass skirts or coconut shells in the first place. It's their world too!

It also occurs to me that when something that should be expressive and enjoyable crosses over into requiring strict codes of conduct, it's no longer natural – it's just enforced.

Mala Bhargava
New Delhi, India


9-5-07 re: letter below re:The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
I just wanted to point out that Irina's comment that "it would be different if a dancer put on a grass skirt to insult and denigrate Polynesians" ignores the historical fact that for decades, that is precisely what the Western world did - in movies, staged shows, over and over these tacky skits with guys in coconut shells and grass skirts, in tasteless comedic presentations at the expense of the Polynesian culture. And it took three decades of Polynesian dance halaus promoting and working to emphasize the culture of their dance art before the negative Hollywood stereotype was changed. This involved setting strict standards by the kumu hula (teachers) of what was acceptable choreography and costuming for "traditional" hula. Just a year or so ago, a kumu hula, Patrick Mckuakane was awarded a "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the S.F. Ethnic Dance Festival Committee for his work in promoting the culture of hula. I took hula from Patrick for about a year, traditional style and I can assure you, he taught the Hawaiian language, we had to learn the chants and the history of every hula we learned. When interviewed on TV, Patrick said that his main concern was "educating the general public so that they don't think we are "guys in coconut shells and grass skirts". He is not the only kumu hula, or Tahitian otea to express that concern about dancers not trained in the dance art who take a few steps and just pop them into another dance form.

Another point about this is that we all know that hand gestures mean different things in different cultures; what is acceptable in one is a coarse insult in another. I do not, ever, mix hula with my belly dancing and my daughter who has been a hula dancer for 12 years, feels the same way.

So, let's dare to be a bit more cautious when talking about how fusion is so inevitable and recognize that serious study of that culture needs to happen first so that growth in dance does not result in the insulting parodies of a culture as has happened in the past.

Pacifica, California


9-2-07 re: The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah I'm not sure whether this is a case of behalf-ism or whether the Polynesian people are really that threatened and upset by others trying to dance in their style. But either way I find the whole idea that dance, music or art gets depleted by someone other than the originator expressing it, shocking.

Culture isn't a little drink in a glass, getting emptier by the second. In fact, the more anyone at all uses it, the more it will grow.

I come from India and find that many aspects of my country's culture are adopted all over the world. Not necessarily in its "pure" form (if there is such a thing) either. Yoga, classical dance, and oh yes, so much of India's music, is fusioned all over the place. What did any of that do to deplete India's culture? Nothing, by the looks of it. What disrespect did it show us? None. I for one am perfectly delighted to have anyone experiment away with whatever they like – and they do.

To have aspects of your culture imitated is a complement, even if that imitation isn't perfect and is mixed with the taker's own culture. What it's saying is: I love what you're doing and want to take a little of it with me into my own world. What's so wrong with that? Rather than being exploited, the culture of the Polynesian people is at least seeping into the awareness of others. Before I heard of the Belynesian video, I wasn't even thinking of Polynesian dance. But now, were I to pick up that video, at least I will experience something of it. If that makes me curious enough, I may well want to see "the real thing". If not, it hasn't stopped the Polynesian people from dancing the way they want to.

For that matter, belly dancing or raqs sharqi doesn't "belong" to America. No matter what you do, an American dancer can't possibly do as exact a cultural fit as the people from the Middle East can. Isn't it lucky they're more generous with their culture?

If there were no fusion – no dance would ever grow.

Mala Bhargava
New Delhi, India


8-31-07 re: The Ethics of Fusion by Naajidah
I respect Naajidah's desire to honour the cultural background of Polynesian dance. I even agree with her in the sense that I think it's valuable to study ethnic dances as they are danced in their original lands.

At the same time, her article shows some of the problems that arise when we assume that members of a culture have the right to determine what happens with their dances and art forms. Her point is, essentially, that no white people should fuse Polynesian dance with other forms, because it is imperialist, exploitative, and offends Polynesians (or at least the ones she's talked to). But she admits in her own article that some Polynesians resent the fact that she has been taught Hula. Why does she continue to dance it if she knows it remains offensive to even a few people in the culture? What percentage of Polynesians gets to decide who can and can not dance the dance, and in what way?

On the flip side, what if a Polynesian dancer decided to fuse Hula with oriental dance? Would that be acceptable, even if the end result looked similar?

My point is that, while we can admit that people of a culture have a special, even priviledged relationship to the art forms their culture produced, they do not own these art forms for eternity. The tangueros of Buenos Aires and the Raks Sharki dancers of Egypt might be the most renowned in their fields, but they do not own the dances. The dances will develop both within and outside of the home cultures, and no group of people can control that.

Finally, I think the comparison of fusion Polynesian dance to blackface was completely off the mark. Blackface is offensive because it was used to promote and continue racist stereotypes, not because it is some sort of "fusion" of disparate art forms. If a dancer were to put on a grass skirt in order to insult and denigrate Polynesians, then it would be a comparable case.

New Haven, CT


8-19-07 re:Tamalyn's DVD reviewed by Barbara Sellers-Young
First, I want to thank Barbara Sellers for taking the time to review the two DVD's of the musical documentary collage "40 Days and 1001 Nights", and the dvd of the dance concert by the same name, featuring myself, Bellyqueen, Amar Gamal, Bozenka, and more.

Regarding the concert DVD, she comments that the dances and choreographies don't reflect the cultures I visited. The music from Zanzibar is based on Taarab, which has never been danced to in Zanzibar. The band, Ikhwani Safaa adapted some of their music especially for me as an Oriental dancer. The premise for this concert, as stated on the cover is an exchange, where I would send the DVD's back to the musicians who created the music so they could see our interpretation- not neccesarily an immitation of what they do, rather a long distance collaboration. I recently returned to Zanzibar, spent time with the band, and received wonderful commentary about the dancers interpretations of their music.

The second half of the show featured some ethnic pieces, which were interpreted as such. "Zaar", was a well executed theatrical rendition depicting catharsis rather than dramatic head spins at the end of drum solos as is usually asscotiated with the Zaar. I had recorded that piece of music live, and brought the DVD to the singer, Madiha when I returned to Egypt. It was also highly appreciated. Montserrat's "Bowl Dance from Xinjiang" is just that- the traditional costume, specially made for me in a market in Xinjiang, and a traditional milk bowl dance as done by Uyghurs, the largest Turkic speaking ethnic group of that region. I have studied Uyghur dance since 2004 and did the choreography. The Dabke was done by a Palestinean dancer and his partner to represent Jordan. "Siwa, an Oasis in the Sahara" was choreographed by Francesca after traveling to the Siwa Oasis with our women's exchange/retreat last summer and spending time dancing with the women. All of the dancers in the piece were also on that trip and shared her experience. I also recorded that music live in Siwa, bringing the best known Siwan singer out of retirement.
There were three modern dances, which were done to modern music. Two of them were to the music of Rafly, the singing star of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. This is modern music with folk overtones and when he uses dancers in his videos, they are modern dancers, trained at the university in Banda Aceh. It would not have been appropriate to try and reinact folkloric dance to Rafly's music.

Tamalyn Dallal
I hope this clarifies some of what was behind the scenes of this dance concert.


8-1-07 re:Costuming before Egyptian Costumers by Najia
Read your latest article yesterday. You always have beautiful photos to accompany them. Like your flowered skirt. Was just thinking how it must be like dancing in a field of flowers (that then get trampled by floor work [Just kidding ]).

I wonder if you'd ever consider creating a book containing your photos, along with a history of your career, costume making through imagination, and the people you've met. Hope life is treating you well.
Take care.
Bennett Snyder
Hometown, State


7-31-07 re:Unchained! by Monique Monet
Kudos to Monique for writing what SO MANY of us have been thinking! I find it a travesty that Miles Copeland bills these girls as bellydancers. Many of them have less than 5 years under their belts. Most of them come from ballet and other dance backgrounds. Why not be a *tiny* bit honest and call them what they are? FUSION dancers!

Us bellydancers have been trying to live down the stereotype of the wanton sex pot for decades. We *almost* succeeded! Then Miles comes along with his travelling show, and we're all back to square one. Personally, I'm sick of it.

I think it's high time the true bellydance community created standards for the dance. If we wish to be taken seriously as the artists we have worked so very hard to become, we can't sit idly by and let the likes of Miles Copeland and the Bellydance Superstars speak for us, or define who and what we are to the general public.

Warmest Regards,

Fresno, CA?


7-31-07 re:Costuming before Egyptian Costumers by Najia
Najia, thank you for your article on costuming and sharing your tips and secrets. In a melee of prefab and designer costumes, your words serve as a much needed reminder that there is more to a costume than it's price tag or designer emblem. I also appreciated your notes of where you collected the items that went into crafting your various looks - you are a vision in all the pictures.

There are many glorious, luscious costumes by amazing designers - but there is something to be said for creating your own work of art, something you can truly appreciate and wear like second skin. All of
your costumes look very professional, and I bet the little "treasures" icing an ensemble must have given you quite a high when dancing or receiving compliments.

It's funny how many of us get caught up in the name dropping of designers - so much so that many potential employers soliciting dancers insist a designer costume is the "required" uniform. What's a girl to do without a patron, wealthy partner or hefty bank account? Also, what happens when you get that super expensive delight and it's not right for your frame or not quite as snazzy as in the picture? What a great way to develop the skills to enhance an already done deal or add an edge to something. Some of the coolest most amazing costumes I have ever seen were made by the dancer. If tastefully done, who in the audience really knows it isn't "designer"?

Thanks for the great ideas - I hope I can channel your inspiration and creativity to craft my own costumes. Can't wait to see more of your creations!

El Cerrito,Ca


7-25-07 re: Music Copyright Law for Dancers by Yasmin
Yasmin's article has brought up a popular, or at least common subject of late- musical copyright.
She realistically paints a clear picture of music rights for DVDs and performance use. I'd like to add if I may, support for this information as well as other pertinent details posted on tribe at:
Both Miles Copeland (who contributes greatly to the tribe thread) and Yasmin have long been involved in international video and music distribution for many years. I believe we can all benefit from their research and experience. It may not be a perfect system, but it is important to know the system in order to work within it and support other artists.
Thanks so much for posting such informative articles.
Washington, DC


7-25-07 re: Le Serpent Rouge Reviewed by Yasmela

"Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes and Mardi Love have moved beyond the somewhat self-absorbed, audience-oblivious hocus pocus that marks most of what is offered in the name of Tribal."

How on earth Yasmela get away with a comment like that? Usually I'm very impressed with the material that the Gilded Serpent puts out but now I'm not so sure that I'll bother anymore. As a tribal dancer I'm completely appalled that she would be allowed to make such an inaccurate, offensive blanket statement like that. Why on earth would you think it a good idea to insult half of your readers? Next time you want a review of a tribal show perhaps you should have it written by someone without such biases.

Milwaukee, WI


7-21-07 re: A Star Remembered, The Maturation of a Career in Performing by Najia
Hi Najia,
Throughout my childhood, I didn't grow up dancing or learning about music and I feel a little deprived. I started taking up belly dancing at the age of 31. I'm 32 now and I am constantly wishing that I started sooner. I was wondering how old were you when you learned to belly dance? What other dance backgrounds do you have? Thank you. By the way, your articles are very touching. I love your writing style.
Los Angeles, California


7-21-07 re:Chapter Five:Listen to the Music, by Amina Goodyear
Dear Amina,
Thank you so much for your article, "Listen to the Music" ! It brought back so many memories of what was a magical ( if somewhat mind-boggling) time. All the many lovely dancers, amazing musicians and the experiences (good, bad and life-changing ) that was the more ethnic side of North Beach.

The "secret" of any dancer in any dance form has always been to tune in to the great inspiration of music and the wondrous feeling of making the musical moment come alive within one's body. And that feeling can still live long after one has departed form the stage; in fact it after glow can (with proper care and .encouragement!) last for decades!

Asfoor al-Noor
aka Luise Perenne BFA

Fountain Valley, CA


7-19-07 re: Music Copyright Law for Dancers by Yasmin
While I agree with the writer that using unauthorized music for DVD may be illegal, I believe there are many sides of this equation. A DVD which is sold to make profit while teaching or performing to a particular piece of music would certainly fall within the purview of copyright laws. But a DVD made of a student review where students performed at a recital, which will not be distributed for profit—that is another story. If no dancer could ever perform to music without authorization from the composer and others involved in producing that piece of music, then why isn’t every DJ in the country held legally liable for allowing people to dance at a party to recorded music—dozens of pieces of which he has been put on a loop? Are the party goers to be held liable? What determines exactly what is a dance “performance”?

I think the article is conveying the impression that no one can dance to a piece of music without permission from the composer. While it is alarmist in its tone, and someone overblown in its presentation, I don’t believe the information in it is accurate for the majority of students who may want to perform to a particular song at a party or dance recital. And while we may be living in an ever more litigious society, one has to put the brakes on being obsessive compulsive about the law! To the writer, I say, relax, put on some music and just dance, don’t worry!

Diane Adams
Company Mezza
Atlanta, GA


7-19-07 re: Music Copyright Law for Dancers by Yasmin
I found Yasmin's article very informative, and evocative. However, I do have one question--she states that all illustrations are done by the author. However, the image of "An Almeh Performing the Sword Dance" is by Jean Gerome, from 1870, and is currently in the possession of Cornell University. There is no credit given to the painter, nor the collection it is from, nor does it seem proper reproduction rights have been obtained, according to her bibliography. While she may have altered the painting, she is not the painter, and since it is next to the paragraph concerning giving credit to fellow artists, I found the lack of credit ironic.

In dance,
Nadiraah Shenin
TOWN, STATE needed


7-18-07 re: The Venues of North Beach
I remember that lady jamila! I remember all her costumes. I was 17 or 18 and had a false ID to go see the dancers and hear the music. Dear Jamila was not at all like her students, much more stunning and intimidating. No one like her. I danced for many years also later when I grew up! East coast, never the overwhelming feel of exotic excitement as 12 Adler or GiGi Port Said.

Southern Oregon


7-18-07 re: Music Copyright Law for Dancers by Yasmin
Dear Lynette,
Copyright Law for Belly Dancers by Yasmin is the best article I've read to date on the subject, but still leaves so may questions unanswered. First of all, if copyright pertains to just composition and lyrics, does this mean you can hired a live band to play traditional tunes and sell the video of yourself? What if you pull songs like Rompi Rompi, Sali, or Ya Mustafa off a CD. Because the musicians didn't compose the music or write the lyrics, they can not sue for using it, it's not theirs to begin with?

Finally, how do we contact the copyright owners to use music fairly? I've actually sent registered letters to about 16 mailing addresses, sent some emails and made contact through websites when available. I was completely IGNORED! Meaning, It left me to feel "Now we know who to sue, keep using our music . . . . . . . . . but we've got our eye on you!" It left me with a very bad taste about the music business. I got one email response months later from a guy in Greece who wanted " 3.000 $ US " to use his music. $3.00 seemed fair, but $3,000 was more than my whole budget!

This is now my position. Go ahead, use ANY music you want, but be prepared to get a letter in the mail from a lawyer. Don't ignore it. Make them an offer. Tell them at the end of the year you will pay them a few cents for everytime you used their song. Seems fair since at the most, it's 99 cents to download.

I am withholding my name because I am still waiting for my letter.

[Ed note-GS doesn't normally post anonymous letters]


7-18-07 re: Music Copyright Law for Dancers by Yasmin
The sad truth about getting your favorite artist paid for the music you dance to.

BMI called the owner of a very small coffee shop that I dance at once a month. I live in a very obscure town (pop. 32,000) in Southern New Mexico. They asked him if he had any entertainment or music played at his establishment and he answered truthfully, yes he did, and explained the circumstances. Now BMI is insisting that they are owed $600 per year because he has been playing enhanced copy right material. That means people are dancing to CD’s (me) in his establishment that would be otherwise exempt from such requirement because his shop is less than 3700 square feet and he plays only radio at other times. End result…what little free live entertainment there is for people in my remote corner of the world has just been placed in jeopardy.

I began a quest for knowledge about this topic which led me to research just who held the copyright of the very limited repertoire of the music I dance to (12 songs a month) and how the actual artist might be compensated for my use of their material. Well, it turns out that the PROs monitor thousands of hours of US radio and pay those people (songwriters and composers and publishers) that are being played most on the radio. Unless the composer of Salaam Alay (which is both in the public domain and claimed as copy right material according to BMI’s catalog that can be searched on their web site) is played on your favorite top 40 station…they receive not a dime.

Claudia/ Anala
Alamogordo, New Mexico


7-17-07 re: Fifi Reloaded by Catherine Barros
Dear Lynette:

Thank you, Catherine Barros, for this review! Fifi is one of my favorite dancers, as well. I often re-play the video you enjoyed, in which Fifi descends to a desert stage and delivers a remarkable performance. Because I have the video, I can easily view her "smaller" movements.

I was not pleased to read that it was difficult to see Fifi when dancers were rotated. If I'd paid not only to study with a "great" like Fifi, but also for travel to and accommodation in her workshop location, I'd be pretty unhappy to miss a portion of her teaching due to my position in the room.

I realize that some workshop promoters limit the number of attendees; but I' m not sure this practice is shared by the majority. I'd wonder, also, whether it might be a good idea--if not too pricey--to set up video screens in the room/auditorium so that dancers at the back can see the teaching. If I were to state, on my resume, that "I've taken a workshop with Fifi Abdo" I 'd want to make sure that I followed the entire teaching, not just the portion that my position allowed me to see!

Best regards,
Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


7-13-07 re: Ad on GS regarding Little Egypt's event in August
To all my students and fans,
I wanted to let everyone know that, due to a misunderstanding between Little Egypt and I, at this time I will not be coming to Dallas to participate in the upcoming August workshops. This was a difficult decision to make as I was very much looking forward to coming back to the States to see all my friends and students. I apologize for any inconvenience and I hope I have given you all sufficient notice. I will miss you all until we meet again...perhaps in 2008 in another city...or at the next Ahlan wa Sahlan festival in Cairo.
Much love,
Mona el Said
Cairo, Egypt
ps. If you are interested in classes or private study, please feel free to email me at monaelsaidflash@yahoo.com


7-10-07 re: Rhea’s Travel to Syria, Part 5 –Sex and the Single Girl
I laughed and nodded the entire way through Rhea's article. Damn, if she hasn't pegged the middle eastern man precisely! Anyone who gigs at an Arab establishment should read this as well, as it holds true for every Arab gig I've ever done. Bravo!

Washington DC



7-2-07 re: North Beach Memories
I send you my warmest regards, hoping this email finds you in the best of health!

What a pleasant and an enriching feeling it was to view and read the memoirs of the "casbah and "bagdad". As a professional drummer who performed in the Royal Morroco and Sharazad restaurant from 1986 to 1991, I would only hear of the glorious memoirs from the likes of musicians, such as Khalil Abboud, and Fadil Shahin. Those times were not from my era.

I applaud your staunch work and effort in producing such a splendid site. I'm sure it's viewed and appreciated by many across the country.

Jack Haddad
San Jose, CA


Older Letters  

Archives Pg 17- January through December 2008
What's in a name, self acceptance, Men in Belly dance, Yasmina's new column, MECDA Ellections, Tajikistan, AWS fest, Arabic Idioms, Professional Presence, Suhaila in Phoenix, Music recording, Vegas IBDC, Egyptian Code, Jodette, Journey to Womanhood, New York Dance Scene, Amy Sigil, Tito Seif, Arab Defamation, Gothla, Neon's Keeping your mouth shut, Valizan Ozgen, Toronto IBCC, Burlesque, DVD purchasing, God Bellydanced, North Beach Memories, Princess Farhana fan article, Cabaret to DJ by Nina, Raqia Hassan, Serpentessa, Cover-ups, Criticism, John Bilezikjian, Certificaation, BDSS, East too West?, Vendor's View, Lynn Zalot & Habibi,

Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007 you are here
Tatseena's Belly Bully piece, Amina's writing, IBCC coverage, Review on Tirbal DVD's, Barbary Coast and Bellyqueen, Cover-ups, Non-Profits, lifting the Veil by Yasmina,
Mona Said's letter, Music Copyrights, Ethics of Fusion, Egyptians being too Western?

Archives Pg 15- December 2006 through June 2007
Interview with Nakish, Sashi-kabob, How to charge what yo'ure worth,Tribute to Rhonda, Marliza Pons, Party booking, George Elias, "I dance you follow". Ethics of Fusion
Archives Pg 14- June 2006 through December 2006
Ethics of Fusion, Queen of the Bay, Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Greek Flavor, What ME Audiences Expect , Taxsim, Gothic Dance, Gyspy Dance, Sashi Kabob, Wierd Rituals

Archives Pg 13- November 2005 through May 2006
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Sashi's piercings, Sex shows on Rakkasah Fest stage, God Bellydanced, Sima Bina, Devi Ja's passing, Jamie Miller's Passing, BDSS reviews and Mile's reponse, Michelle and Sandra's Adventures, Turkish Baths, Muslim Cartoons, Working together, Review of Shareen El Safy's DVD, Spokane's Festival Coverage, Articles by Keti, Michael Baxter, Zar article and racism, WHEW!

Archives Pg 12- May 2005 up through October 2005
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Competing Cairo Fests, Israel Fest, Untaught Teacher

Archives Pg 11- December 2004 up through April 2005
Copeland, BDSS film and auditions, GS kicked out of Rakkasah, Zaheea's dancing for the blind, Christian dancer, the THONG, Luxor club review, Miles vs Horacio

Archives Pg 10- May 2004 through November 2004
Mena in Iraq, AWSF, Desert Dance Festival 2004, Biblical Accounts of Bellydance in Ancient Near East, Bellydance in Israel, Festival of the Nile review, Suhaila’s Sheherezade review


Archives Pg 9- December 2003 Through April 2004
Myopic view of BD by Sadira, Belly Bus, Queen of Dance Contest, Rakkasah West photo teaser, Comparing and Contrasting, Jillina DVD review, Dancing inside out

Archives Pg 8- May 2003 - November 2003
San Leandro Fest photos, Reflections on North Beach, BD and healing from sexual trauma, Dina in Dallas, Searching for your new dance teacher, BDY pageant

Archives Pg 7- October 2002 - April 2003
Najia’s Real Critic article, Back in the Holy Land, Glass dancing, Casbah and Bagdad Club, Reflections on North Beach

Archives Pg 6- March 2002 to September 2002
Vendors, Dance certification, BD and strippers, Jamila Al Wahid video review

Archives Pg 5- March 2001 - March 2002
My uncle Yousef, BDY pagent 2001, Dancer attitudes - BD gossip and back biting

Archives Pg 4- November 2000 - March 2001
Criticizing and reviewing events, “Where’s the hook when we need it?” Desert Dance Festival review

Archives Pg 3- March 2000 - October 2000
Entertainment or art? Sicilian bellydancers, Rhea, Review of Giza Academy Awards

Archives Pg 2- November 1999 - Febuary 2000
Living Goddess review, Fred Glick travel, Fanana of Bellydance

Archives Pg 1- Febuary 1999- September 1999
Shira’s advice to “Offended”, North Beach memory, George Elias & Bagdad Cafe


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