Letters to the Editor Arhives
Page 17- Jan-Dec 2008

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12-27-08 re:What’s in a Name? Orientalizing Oriental by Paola
My comments are in response to Paola's Article, What's in a Name? Orientalizing Oriental. Just some observatios:

- I'm sure that any "belly dance" performer and teacher nodded her/his head when they read about you being labeled an exotic dancer; we've all heard it before in one form or another. I once told a man that I taught Middle Eastern dance. He had a puzzled expression, so I said, belly dance; then his face lit up, and he said Oh! You're a stripper! I calmly explained that no, I am not a stripper because among many other reasons, I simply do not remove my clothing when I dance. He argued, but you are a stripper. I said no, I am not. He said, yes, you are. At that point I gave up.

I continue to define myself as a teacher and performer of Middle Eastern dance, which, when time and audience permit, typically results in a long explanation of the myriad of dance styles, music, costuming, and common Western misconceptions. Still, it would be so convenient and informative to have a single word that anyone could understand which would evoke images not of sultans and harem girls, but of this ancient yet evolving, legitimate yet generally disrespected genre of dance. I agree that we need to discuss, debate, and brainstorm, in the hope of discovering or creating this magic word.

One of my pet peeves in the world of Oriental dance is that women want to claim it as their own, to somehow mystify it, make it a goddess dance, and therefore, whether consciously or unconsciously, make men in the dance "the Other". As though their historical and contemporary contributions and participation in the dance were ingenuine. Just look around and see the many men who are so passionately expressing themselves through Oriental dance: Horacio, Tarik Sultan, Jim Boz. DaVid, Serkan, Jamil, Valizan, Mark Balahadia, and the list goes on. If the outside world attempts to defame and trivialize the dance form as a whole, why can't we women in the dance see that in restricting it to ourselves, we are commiting the same error of denying reality in response to our own need to create a fantasy image, that of Goddess Mother.
In my opinion, which comes from professional experience and a lifelong desire to stamp out stereotypes and ban societal limitations imposed on artistic expression, Middle Eastern Dance/Oriental Dance/Belly Dance is not only legitimate, it belongs to any and all who answer its call.

Shaia Fahrid
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


12-25-08 One Dancer, A Journey of Self- Acceptance by Melodi
Thank you for your article. Your story echoed mine perfectly. I too struggle with self-esteem issues and wondered if I should keep dancing. With all of the featured dancers being curvy, skinny, little girls it is hard to have confidence. I watch them and wish I could lose a few more pounds so that I was closer to their size. I will never be small, skinny, or tiny. I am a big girl and I love to dance. I have come to some sort of terms with myself due to this and so I keep dancing. I have been dancing for over 12 years now and still have the passion for it today as I did when I first started. I LIVE to dance and DANCE to live. I just wanted to let you know that there is one more dancer in the world that will stay....again thank you.

Azizah Yasmine
Isis and the Star Dancers of Texas


12-23-08 re:Whose Dance is This, Anyway? Where Do Men Fit into the Belly Dance World? by Lara
Having done this art form since 1983 I feel that I have seen a great deal in the Middle Eastern "Belly Dance" arena. My comment about male dancers is that they should be recognized for their talent, technique and hard work not just the fact that they are one of a few males dancing in a mostly female art form. I have studied with awesome male dancers mostly from the middle east and I have sat through dance performances where the one male dancer was applauded for horrible dance work while the females were "one of the crowd." Male dancers should be recognized for the same excellence as the women in this dance form. Sexism runs both ways.

Badra from Sultan's Pride,
Grand Junction, CO


12-19-08 re:What’s in a Name? Orientalizing Oriental by Paola
I read Paola's piece on using the word "Oriental" to describe our dance and about being called an "exotic dancer". I am a classic movie fan and find it interesting that in the silent and early talkies there was a distinction between exotic and erotic. If you did a foreign dance you were an exotic dancer and if you did a striptease, bubble, fan or feather dance you were an erotic dancer. Years ago I met an older striptease artist and we had a conversation about the use of "exotic" to describe stripping. She confessed that the word erotic made what they did hard to sell, especially to the local authorities. However, the word exotic, got them around the morality laws.

I have my great-grandmother's journal from her travels to Turkey, Tunis and Egypt in the 1920s. She did not use the word Oriental, because that word was used by Americans to refer to the Far East or Asia. She did say exotic dancers when she wrote about the performances she saw in Turkey. On the other hand, most Europeans have called anything from the Near East to the Far East, Oriental. My grandmother, who was born in the late 1890s, also used the word exotic for anything that was foreign or alien. When consulting Webster's Dictionary, I found the archaic meaning of exotic to be foreign or alien or something introduced from another country not native to the place where it is commonly found. Today, it usually refers to something that is excitingly or mysteriously different or unusual or the striptease.

Without knowing what the gentleman was really thinking--if he was using the archaic form of the word or implying we were strippers and erotic dancers--it is hard to know how to take his remark. By definition, if we take ballet, modern or jazz to Indonesia, then ballet, modern and jazz become exotic dance forms. This does not take away from their legitimacy.

Whether we are exotic or Oriental or plain old belly dancers, we are practitioners of an ancient and legitimate art form. I agree that we are set apart because our dance is not in the male domain. That fact that Modern dance was created by women may have made it a hard sell in the early years. Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan had their detractors. In some ways, Ruth St. Denis, a pioneer of ethnic dance, gained more credibility when Ted Shawn began teaching with her and formed the Denishawn partnership. Ballet never experienced this because it was created by a man.

All we can do is educate people. After 30 years in belly dancing, I've learned that most people are tolerant and appreciate what we do. They respect us for keeping a dance tradition alive and sharing it with the world.

Marjorie Malerk a.k.a. Sallamah Chimera
Ethnic Dance Expressions
Gainesville, FL.


12-16-08 re:What’s in a Name? Orientalizing Oriental by Paola
Couldn't agree with you more! I detest the term "bellydance" because the belly - "she does not dance". Limiting and insulting - makes us a joke and objects of scorn by other dance forms because it is so buffoonish a name. I know the West Coast and lots of people elsewhere have given up the fight and just embrace the name.
Not me or mine!! We always educate folks that the Arabic term "Raks Sharki" has nowhere in it the word "belly". That alone should make us abandon this incorrect term.

And the Middle East is NOT the entire region from The Maghreb to Pakistan, unlike the geographically challenged Americans like to think. The NEAR East includes the entire north rim of Africa through the Holy Land and Syria and Jordan, and the Middle East is between there and India. But one hears news broadcasters say Middle East for everything south/southeast of Europe, and we dancers, who should know better, don't correct folks when they do this. (well - exception - I do).

That said, yes, there are several forms/mutations within the dance. Oriental dance/Cabaret/Folkloric of many countries is to my mind what is included in "oriental dance. Like you, I agree that Tribal/Gothic, all that stuff has mutated so far away that it no longer can rightly label itself under the "Middle Eastern' dance fold. But unfortunately, people will call it what they want to call it, and we can only educate those we come in contact with.

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


12-16-08 re: Where Do Men Fit into the Belly Dance World? + Men Gallery!
I agree on the usual comment of a new son who most assume will become a drummer. How many drummers do we need? My brother switched from drumming to melody barely a year ago. He now plays Arabic keyboard in our band, and shows a real gift. I wish he would have pursued it sooner.

Sean Blanck

Wind & Fingers Mid Eastern Band
Sachse, Texas, USA


12-3-08 re: Ask Yasmina, column by Yasmina Ramzy
I read Yasmina Ramzy's answer to the Oum Kalthoum question. I am very impressed by her knowledge in general regarding the Egyptian Culture and how accurate she is in all her answers.

I am Egyptian and at times, I have learned about my own culture from Yasmina!! I always thanked her for that. There is nothing worse to an Egyptian other than to see a misinterperation of our culture. Yasmina definitely has the knowledge to represent it as it is..

Alberta, Canada


10-27-08 re:MECDA's Missing Elections by Doyne Allen
I am writing this because I feel I have to express an opinion about what has happened with Mecda. I have been a member for about thirty years now and it saddens me to see this great organization fall apart, which is what is slowly happening. I know many members haven't renewed their memberships and I don't know if I will renew mine next time it's due. Mecda was formed to create unity in the dance community and to support each other. This is not what is happening now.

I personally was against any Mecda funds going toward a lawsuit against Marta Shill, one of the founding members of Mecda. However, myself and other members were never asked our opinion. The Mecda board just went ahead with the lawsuit and used our money for that instead of having an Anniversary Party or continuing to print the Cymbal for members. I feel very badly about this whole mess as I have friends on both sides of the issue. I may not after this letter is printed, but I feel it's important to stand up for what you believe in.

I was asked to add my name to the letter that Harry Saroyan and Doyne Allen presented to the board initially, asking for an accounting of what our money was being used for. I did believe that members should know how the money was spent, so I agreed to add my name. That is as far as it went. It seems after that things just got out of control. There were unfounded accusations and mud slingling going on, and then I heard rumors of a lawsuit against Marta. Petitions were passed out at Mecda's Carnival to stop the lawsuit and I know a lot of people signed them, including myself. Apparently it didn't make any difference how the members felt.

I have been a dancer and instructor for more that thirty years now and have made many wonderful friends in the dance community. Belly Dance has been a very positive influence in my life. I hope we can all rise above this pettiness and become united in dance once again. With so many bad things happening in the world, we all need something positive in our lives.

Shannon Griffiths (Shahira)
Upland, Calif.


10-24-08 re:One Dancer- A Journey of Self Acceptance by Melodi
What a beautiful, touching and inspiring article by Melodi! Thank you - your eloquence brought tears to my eyes! I would like to print it and read it to my classes, if that is okay with Melodi and GS.

British Columbia


10-18-08 re:Tajikstan:The Land of Dance P1 by Robyn Friend
I read the article : "Tajikistan. Land of Dance" and I really enjoyed. I am from Tajikistan myself and I study at The University of Montana in Missoula. Tajikistan is a land of dance indeed. Throughout my studies at the university me and my Tajik female friends have been performing dance performances on different events. People in Missoula seem to love our performances:-). I really loved the article, but I have a small comment. It is said a lot about Badakhshoni dance in the article and it sounds like this type of dance is representative of all dancing culture in Tajikistan. It is not true at all. There are at least two other types of dances in the North and South of Tajikistan which have significant differences from one another in style, clothes, music. I though you might be interested to make some research on that as well.

Thank you very much for posting that article,
Best Regards,
Montana/ Tajikistan


10-12-08 re: AWS 08 Not So Welcoming this Year by Yasmin
Dear Lynette:

Aleena's recent letter to the editor prompted me to go back and re-read Yasmin's recent article on the AWS Festival. I am glad she wrote it. What stuck with me was Yasmin's take on the hardships faced daily by ordinary Egyptians, juxtaposed with the high if not outrageous prices paid by foreign dancers to attend, or take classes at, AWS.

Unless I am mistaken, Egypt has no "safety net," no "welfare system" as we have in the U. S. and in Europe as well, to take care of those less financially fortunate who cannot make ends meet. As a result, every bottle of water sold to a tourist, every beer, every soda, etc., is important to the seller as it will help an Egyptian feed his or her family. If big name Egyptians promote a festival and price-gouge foreigners, who is hurt? If foreign tourists don't come back to Egypt, the ordinary Egyptian will be the worse for it.

If American and other western dancers don't get good value for the money they pay to attend AWS (or any other festival) they will not come back and spend their money in Egypt. Doesn't this place a higher burden on Egyptian festival organizers, to ensure that their festivals (and their contests) are fair and balanced? Incidentally, I'd be curious as to whether Raqia actually did set out a table for the poor during Ramadan, as Yasmin suggests in her article.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


9-28-08 re: AWS 08 Not So Welcoming this Year by Yasmin
Dear Yasmin
First of all thank you very much for writing this article. I have never been to Egypt so some people may think that I have no right to talk about the Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2008 competition.

I am not an Egyptian but I know that the AWS contest winning Taiwanese girl doesn't dance like a belly dance champion and that she is not even close to one.

When she came back from Egypt to Taiwan after the contest, she represented her dance as how Egyptian dance should look. She went on all the TV shows in Taiwan and in some of the TV shows and said she beat over 200 contestants from 40 countries.

You might believe that I am just a fellow dancer that is being jealous of her but I am just a person who loves Egyptian dance too much, and I can't stand that she is letting people think this is how Egyptian dance should look. I mean she is representing the best of Egypt? We belly dancers try so hard to let people think bellydance is an art form but this is how she dances on the Taiwanese media again and again....take a look you will know what I am saying.

Just be patient and finish the whole clip.
[Ed note- this video has now been removed, though we were able to grab a screen shot before it was taken down]

This is just the last straw. I know a lot of competitions are fixed, some of them I have heard about, some of them I have witnessed. I have never thought that the AWS competition would be similar to those.

I can try to forget about what happens at other competitions but not AWS. This is because it is held by Raqia Hassan in Egypt from where Egyptian dance originated. I’ve never meet her but my friends told me she is like the godmother of Egyptian dance and if I love Egyptian dance, I have to meet her and “learn” from her. Until now I have tried so hard to save my money so I can achieve one of my biggest dreams: which is to take as many private classes with Raqia Hassan as possible. After I saw the Taiwanese crown holder dance on the Taiwanese TV show, I know something really is wrong with the competition, and this truly breaks my heart. I have been trying so hard to go to Egypt to learn from this woman who some people say represents Rak Sharqi, but in the end it seems she has chosen something else over the dance.

I just want to say thank you, Yasmin, for having the courage to speak out.
I love this dance form too too much. I want it to be about the dance and not the politics. It should never be just about the politics.

Taipei Taiwan


9-26-08 re:MECDA's Missing Elections by Doyne Allen
I am writing in response to Doyne Allen's letter "What Happened to Democracy?". I would appreciate it if your publication would be generous enough to post this response in some manner along with his letter as a response to it. Unfortunately, in belly dance we deal with many people who do not adhere to business ethics. Writers and Publications are required by law to fact check prior to printing unless a publication is advertised as entertainment. With the age of the internet, I'm not sure how well enforced these things are, however, Allen's letter is slander and will be treated as such by the organization. My letter follows below:

People should gather all of the facts prior to making accusations.
Unfortunately some people act before they think.


The Nomination form for the Central Board of 08-09 went out in the March edition of the Happenings.
2 nomination forms were received from the entire membership by the deadline.
The board voted (as a Parliamentary Board as stated in the charter) that they would allow more time for nominations to be sent in.
By July, MECDA still only had the 2 nomination forms on hand.
The board voted to keep the current officers in their positions until the election was completed.
By August, MECDA had received several new nomination forms.
The Elections Officer notified the nominees.
As of the August meeting, the officer was waiting for 4 responses from nominees.
As of September 26th, 2008, there are not enough nominees for all of the positions.
If anyone would like to run, please notify MECDA immediately. You must be a current member, in good standing to run for office.

Ballots will go out the moment that we have a nominee for each position.

Allen's statement, "In most organizations comprised of paying members, only a vote of the membership can enact any change in its charter", is fear mongering. It does not matter what "most" organizations do. This organization was built on Parliamentary rule (a founder of the organization would know this) and continues to function as such, per the charter that Mr. Allen is so fond of "quoting". Reading the Charter prior to making such statements might have been helpful.

Another fact, in regards to Allen's statement further in the article, "No person or persons that are members of a non-profit organization may, in any way, make a profit from this organization, (other than a salary paid to the officers, and this must be approved by membership)", is that Janet Thomas is NOT making personal profit from the organization. Bids have and continue to be sent out for printing by the Editor of the Happenings. Thomas' company continues to hand in the lowest bid. Anyone paying attention to the matters of MECDA over the past 6 months would know that we have "Gone Green" and are no longer paying to print the Happenings at this time.

Lastly, ALL MEMBERS ARE INVITED TO BECOME INVOLVED. Attend meetings, share your thoughts through the Happenings, send letters via email and/or snail mail. Anyone who isn't interested in the FACTS, doesn't care for MECDA. If Allen had even taken the moment to email the current officers, he could have received facts almost instantly. Unfortunately, Allen chose the unethical tact of using slander to hurt the organization.

If you care for MECDA and want to see it's future succeed, please write us at info@mecda.org.

Thank you all for your attention and for your repeated dedication to MECDA! You are all the best part of MECDA, the members.

Blume Bauer
Happenings Editor, MECDA
President, Desert Communities Chapter, MECDA

Editor's reponse-
Sitting in this chair I often feel that I am hearing only parts of the story from many different people. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit together quite well. If I am confused, so must be the readership and community. Perhaps this is why you may feel that the community doesn’t care or is apathetic. A non-profit built to serve a community needs to be as transparent as possible. Communication is part of MECDA’s mission. That is not happening for whatever reason. Now is the time to fix this. Anyone who stays in power longer than their term is automatically suspect. Why not tell us what happened behind closed doors? Where are the minutes and the financial statements? Where is the information for members and chapters? Where is the accountability?

Let’s also state the obvious. Gilded Serpent is not a democracy, it is a web magazine! We try to give voice to as much of the community as possible. We share news. We publish a variety of articles from the informational, how-to, travelogues, product reviews and editorial statements. We published Doyne’s article because he had a strong and important statement to make and he was willing to put his NAME on it. It is an opinion piece and as such represents his opinion.

Blume's response is not quite official and directly from the organization. I could keep posting everyone’s angry responses or we could bring closure to this scandal. We need an official response signed by the president and ratified by the board. Perhaps Blume should spearhead an official statement that is approved by the board that addresses the points made. What is the future of MECDA? Your audience awaits your leadership.

Thank you,

Editor and publishers of GildedSerpent.com


9-24-08 re: Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2008, Not So Welcoming this Year by Yasmin

Dear editor,
Actually I was surprised with this article as Yasmin is never been a problem maker for AWS festival before and I think that if she is in connection with Mr. Khamis Henskesh does not give her the right to talk about an international festival without sending this comment to the organizers of the festival so if there any mistakes it should be solved but this way I think I can just say that I am so surprised to read such a lies

Thank you for your time
Yasser from Cairo Egypt and I am the son of Raqia Hassan and the organizer of AWS festival.


9-1-5 re: A Story Written with Arabic Idioms; Why it is Difficult to Translate Arabic songs into English, Story by Annonymous, Translations and interpretations by Rima El-Mouzayen, Introduction by Najia Marlyz
Thanks! I'm learning Arabic and this might be very helpful when I come across one of these in something I'm reading or listening to.
Shukran jazeelin!

Jennifer Rosen
Denver, CO


9-1-08 re: Professional Presence by Aszmara
I was at Folk Tours that year as well and saw the ideal of professional presence in motion throughout your performance. Despite the facts that you had to take Souren to the hospital, returned to camp late, and had a different musician than planned, you went on as if nothing had ever happened. You embodied the music and performed flawlessly. Artemis and Dalia, who I am sure were also stressed by Souren's illness also gave amazing performances. Thank you so much for your insights.
Westchester NY


8-28-08 re: Professional Presence by Aszmara
I was at the Folktours show that Aszmara describes in this article. I have to add it was one of the most incredible belly dance shows I've seen in my life (and I've seen a lot of belly dance shows!). The music put everybody in a state of pure ecstasy. (I notice in the photo the clarinet player wasn't named. It was Ismail Lumanovski - look him up on YouTube, he is one hot, hot clarinet player. Also worth mentioning, is Seido Salifoski on Tabla - missing from the photo at that particular moment.) Dalia Carrella was so on, I was wondering how anybody could follow her performance, but then Aszmara came out and totally blew me away. Tayyar and Ibrahim did their great manly Turkish Folklore (including a really great Black Sea dance that has become a favorite of mine). Again I was left wondering how anybody could follow this line up of performances, but Artemis finished off the evening with such grace and a great sense of humor. I laughed I nearly cried, I about fell off my seat, and jumped up to give about 5 standing ovations that night. I truly feel bad for the people who weren't there to witness it.

Baltimore, Maryland


8-19-08 re: Suhaila in the Phoenix, photos by Susie Poulelis, video by Lynette

I'm writing to comment on the issues around Youtube's pulling the performance videoclip material of Suhaila's "Phoenix" show that Gilded Serpent was invited to attend and cover. First, the footage was accurate and only recorded parts of performances during the show, so the reaction of Youtube in response to the "infringement" complaint seems over-the-top to me; you were press invited to cover this event! Suhaila, and many other performing dancers in the ME community, disallow videotaping during workshops and/or performances, but that strikes me as being directed at attendees in general, not press.

Still, Lynette, I've read your updates and am very glad you have consulted an attorney well-versed in copyright issues in the entertainment industry. I did view the all videoclip material on Gilded Serpent before it was taken down, and while it was fair and accurate footage, it was also the unvarnished reality and this is where the problem lies. Most performance artists work very hard at maintaining and controlling their "image". When they perceive that control of that "image" has somehow been usurped, they will intervene any way they can for "damage control".

At the end of the day, though, it's show business; this means ALL publicity is good! There are a myriad of ways Suhaila, can, if she chooses, put a very positive spin on the video clips/article on Gilded Serpent. After all, Suhaila's event was themed "Phoenix", and the mythology of the new phoenix that always rises from the ashes would make a very intriguing parallel to a life-long performing dance artist currently struggling to cope with major life changes and how that has affected their growth and representation of the dance.

Pacifica, California


8-18-08 re: AWS 08 Not So Welcoming this Year by Yasmin
Dear Lynette,

Re: prices for the 2008 Ahlan wa Sahlan Festival
I was in Cairo on a buying trip this year and was also privy to some shocking prices. Since 2001, the price of a hotel room in the Hotel Victoria has gone up from $18/night with breakfast to $39/person. Costumes are up 35-40% in the last 2 years. Taxis are double. This is not true for non-American countries. Their countries are doing very well.

We are dropping our currency within the confines of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the gas war and our manufacturers' sending all of their business to outside countries. Because of our cheaper economy, foreign investors are coming here and buying mortgages from banks and hiking the interest rates to whatever fantasy prices they want and hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their homes and are forced to declare bancruptcy.

We need to nationalize American fossil fuels, keep our political noses to ourselves, heavily tax imports and reopen our factories. And we can drop out of OPEC.

OR, we can continue to support our own festivals right here in America where a dollar is still a dollar. And we can look forward to a different administration in Washington.

Thank you for your Snakebyte.
Best Wishes,
Kathe Alkoudsi
D.B.A. Cartouche


8-17-08 re: Making Recorded Music Memorable by Chandani
Thank you for your article on making cd's on Gilded Serpent. Great ideas! Please extend my thanks to your recording tech.

Love T
Tina Enheduanna
Orange County, CA


8-12-08 re: IBDC Vegas Part 3: Dream Big by Betsey Flood
About the IBDC- Behind the scene view from Delilah.

I got the invitation to the press party in the mail the week after I met Alex by chance in Long Beach at another unfortunately floundering belly dance event (not his). I found the idea of a press party curious, but didn’t take it too seriously at first. It was more like, huh? I wish, but no one does this up-scale kind of stuff in belly dance world these days. But I took another look when I found out from a mutual friend, that Amani and Lucy were really going to be there. Erik and I had a show I wanted to see in Vegas anyways so off we went.

I must admit I had fun at the press party. We were wined, dined, entertained and treated like Hollywood celebrities. What’s not fun about that? It could have been really cool, but unfortunately it was not very well attended. So it had a sort of lonely feel to it even though it was good to see some old friends. It was not a cheap party to put on either. Alex had a vision. It looked like he had some nice people working with him, but gosh not much time!

I told Alex if I was going to perform at his event I wanted to do a real show, not a 5 minutes dance by to a CD. I played him the sample CD of “House of Tarab” a six piece middle Eastern ensemble. We signed a contract to include vending space, all expenses paid, plus very generous pay to bring the entire band plus vendor helpers so I could teach and judge contests. It was way beyond what anyone in the belly dance contest and concert business has ever offered to do for judges, teachers, vendors, musicians and dancers. I must admit we thought his visions were off the chart (who didn’t?) but who are we to pooh pooh any one else's dreams? After seeing so much deterioration in belly dance world we wanted it too work out. We wanted some one to raise the bar and care about our realistic welfare as professional artists for a change.

We performed on Monday night and did a great job. The bands moral was high. The workshops were low attendance, but the contests were a delight to watch. Vending was dreary. When the weekends show was obviously falling apart, Alex came to me and asked if “House of Tarab” and I would perform on Friday or Saturday night again, but the band had just taken off on the plane back to Seattle.! Alex flew them all back the next day and Karim Nagi sat in. Laura Rose, the award winning Dahlia Moon performed with us on Friday night. We flew back Saturday morning to do a wedding in Seattle .

All our expenses were paid up front of course. Alex kept in close contact about the dilemma each month. We did eventually all get paid, but we did give him a brake given the fiasco of his situation.

Seattle, Washington


8-11--08 Editor's update on the fair use law and video reporting-
Just an update on the situation with our coverage by the fair use law. I took your advice and consulted a copyrights lawyer I was referred to by the California Lawyers for the Arts.
This is what I learned:
This is a classic case of why the fair use law was created. The fair use law definitely protects Gilded Serpent in using video for newsreporting, critique and commentary. There is no law about the length of a clip that is allowed. The lawyer said it has more to do with not filming the whole performance. She said the only thing that she might have grounds for complaint is regarding protecting her choreography and that would be if I had filmed the whole dance. This performance was billed as opportunity to improvise to the band so this should not be a factor. It is helpful that I have the ticket they sent me that says “press” and “gildedserpent” on it. It is meaningful that both Vashti and Suhaila are familiar with how we have covered events before. They cannot invite me to cover the performance and then retroactively revoke permission. She did say that parents have the right to control the coverage of their children. She was not clear about the issue if the parents have placed a child on a public stage. She recommended that we reedit the footage to be as short as can make our point and remove the kids. She said that I should definitely file the DMCA counter notice at YouTube and not be afraid of the legalize that it contains. She suggested that I also contact other online news reporters and let them know of this case.

More additional information:
I also received a note from You Tube today stating that it was Suhaila that asked for the video to be taken down.

Here also is a link to the Code of Ethics adopted by the Society for Professional Journalists
GS embraces their policies as well as hundreds of other journalists.

We have taken your suggestions to heart and are attempting to remedy the situation. We will reedit the footage, removing footage of the children and may or maynot repost. Your further thoughts would be appreciated.

For those of you who missed seeing the video, we have added the timeline breakdown of what it contained to the original article page.


8-9-08 The following is a letter from the editor posted in response to a discussion thread on tribe.net regarding the video hosting site YouTube pulling our video from their and our site. This video was part of our GS photo and video report on Suhaila's recent show

Please excuse this long winded response-
Thank you Shira for pointing out that the role of the press is different than that of a fellow artist and that representatives of the press are generally invited to performances BECAUSE they will report on what they have seen. Over the years GS has tried to fill the need in the community for objectivity. This is very difficult in such a small community and very few of us actually have journalistic training. We are doing the best we can. This means that the subjects of our reports are not always shown in a flattering light. It is our belief that critique will help the community and our art to grow. Sometimes it is enough to post pieces of an actual performance or people's own words to best impart information. Then individual readers can make up their own minds, without a journalist's opinion as a filter. That was my goal for the Suhaila piece. I wanted the performances to speak for themselves.

This was not the first time Vashti had seen my camera. I interviewed her with the same camera before. I believe the video clip was pulled for reasons other than copyright issues. The unaltered footage I posted contained information she and Suhaila did not want the public to see. Photo spreads are safer. They can be chosen, or altered, in a way that video can not.

My job is to report what I see as objectively as possible. There is no better tool than video for that. As for the copyright issues themselves, I am still learning what they are and how to apply them. It was not my intention to take away the value of Vashti's footage or hide behind the Fair Use law. I doubt that the official videographer's footage on that night will ever be made public. I just wanted to show our community's famous artists as they are today. In the past, Vashti has appreciated reports and reviews of her productions. A producer takes a risk when they invite "unimbedded" press to their shows. I spoke with Suhaila before I even started working on the review. She knew that we would be posting a video collage. She invited me to come do a video interview of her at her new studio. I spoke with Vashti after the review was posted. She tried many strategies to get me to take it down. She even tried blaming me if Andre (S's ex) took Isabella away from Suhaila. It was only after this that she tried the copyrights angle.

Concerning copyrights in general: aren't there other rights here that Vashti and Suhaila should address if they release the footage on DVD? I learned a lot from this article - Music Copyright Law for Belly Dancers

What about the rights of the artists who wrote the music and the lyrics of the songs the musicians played? Synchronization Rights ought to be paid to them, right? I wonder if the producers or Vashti are concerned about cheating those artists out of their income.

As for respect and ethics ... I respect any artist who gives 100% of themselves to their audience, who works hard to represent their art form and who does not rest on past laurels. Everyone has an off day, an off week or month or year. But at what point does respect become a veil to hide behind?

Is it then ethical for a journalist not to report a change? Are not the ethics of objective reporting at odds with respect under these circumstances? Would our community prefer to have a magazine that only publishes positive reviews - out of respect? Or perhaps no news disseminator at all? Over 300 members of our community have published articles with GS in the last 10 years, with more volunteering their time to edit, proof, advise and to teach me.(Thank you!) It seems that most have enjoyed the large audience it has given them to voice opinions. Would you miss it if it disappeared?

I do not think it necessary to make personal accusations about my integrity, values or ethical ideals. I felt GS's ability to report objectively was at risk and voiced my concern in the magazine. Judging by Ashara's posts, I must have hit a nerve in the community, or reopened wounds that hadn't quite healed.

Thank you for listening and for your discussion. I have learned a lot from your debate and it is helping me to sort through my confusion.

Lynette Harris
editor and publisher


8-8-08 re: Suhaila in the Phoenix, photos by Susie Poulelis, video by Lynette
Dear editor,
You don't give us very much information about the situation, but it seems to me that unless you were specifically invited to videotape portions of Suhaila's show, you shouldn't have done so. The Gilded Serpent is not a television station or video news outlet, but an e-magazine. Print and photographic coverage would be what most people would expect when inviting GS staff to an event. Every bellydance show I've been to that's more than a casual hafla has announced "no video cameras please."

If, however, a member of the organization gave direct permission for the GS reporter to videotape, then the organization's behavior seems baffling.

Thank you for your hard work at GS. I very much enjoy your website.

Madison, WI
[ed note- this writer is not the same Vashti that produced Suhaila's show]


7-28-08 re: Professional Presence by Aszmara
What a joy to find a feature written by one of NYC's gifts to Middle Eastern Dance! I loved Aszmara's article and her wonderful insights from her past and present as a performer as well as her advice to dancers about dancing live shows...every student of dance should read and every pro should review her suggestions! Aszmara has long been touted 'The Best Kept Secret' in Belly Dance...why...we'll never know! In the NY Metro area, she is known as a master dancer, instructor and the Sultana of Synchopation! Anyone who has the opportunity to watch or study with Aszmara should LEAP at the chance...her dancing is electric, uninhibited and her technique perfection!

Gia al Qamar
Northern New Jersey


7-20-08 re:The Egyptian Dance Code by Sausan
Hello There !
I read the "Egytian Dance Code" and like to post some comments on it:

First of all, isn't it some kind of arrogance to post that the Egyptian dance is the most perfect dance in the universe ? The Egyptian dance is, like every folk-dance (and it is the product of some kind of "folcloric evolution") the heart and the soul of the people who dances it ! This post implements an valuation which is from my point of view unacceptable!

So think about this: What we (not-Egytian/Arabian - as the rest of the world) learn ise pure dance-techniques......so to say "sports". And what you see on the thousands of dance-contests are "Sports-Competitions". And like we try to anatomize the different movements into there components we destroy the heart of the dance. And so we like to define the egyptian style. Well, of course, there are some charactaristics which are typical for egyptian style like "not hitting ervery drum beat" and introversive movements instead of the spacious dance style of the turkish dancers. And of course there are some dont's which arise from the evolutionary history of the dance and the role of women in this society. Should an Article like that better be written by an Egyptian Dancer ? This article describes like the different egytian dancers show there different way of dancing and also the diffenten personal styles. For me, a dance style has some basic style elements and then pose a challange to get the feeling. That does not mean the try to copy a style, that means to get personally into it - the music and the movements - and make it yours, and than be able to look authentique. In this case Authenticity is the concruancy of your inner feelings and your outer agitation.
What you are talking about is the soul of the dance. The soul of the dance has to be brought in by the dancer.
Why are we always trying to depart everything in dead single components?

Greetings from Germany
Dahab Sahar / Sabine Baumann
- Gaiberg -
Board Member ot the German Association of Oriental Dance


7-18-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
I just love Artemis soooo much. She has been an inspiration for me, she is a great person, a great teacher. Everytime I speak with her, I feel like I am part of her life, that we are very good friends. She makes me feel good as well as she is sooo generous of her knowledge. I learn so much from her, she is a wonderful woman.

After reading this article, it brang back a memory of my first bellydance show/competition where every judges, even my own teacher, said that I should not have done what I done because my choreography was not "bellydance" by their standard. I was beginning my third year of bellydancing and choreographed on The feeling begins of Peter Gabriel - soundrack of Last Temptation of Christ. In 1998, I was the first one, it seems, to do fusion. 3 years ago, another bellydance competition came and I went. This time I was disqualified because the judges said it was not "bellydancing" (this time I danced on Tablat Bassem - a drum solo - but did it in a tribaret costume). Artemis was there for me when this happen. Even though I was proud to "still be there" even after all those people said I should not, I am the kind of people who likes to "fit" somewhere so this situation made me feel very bad. Her faith in me and her encouragements had an impact, I was blessed to have her to talk to.

My 6 years old daughter often ask my who is my idol and I always answer that I don't have any. But I would have to change my mind right now because Artemis is my idol, she did so much and did it with so much love, I only hope to grow just like her all my life...

from Saint-Hubert, Quebec, Canada


7-14-08 re: Jodette: Undeniably Authentic by Sausan
Dear Editor,
Sausan's article was rich with information and glimpse of a successful and intriguing career. But, I'm confused. The article starts out with what I thought was an interview and ends as a kind of obituary when it says "Survived by three sons, three grand daughters, one grand son, and four great grand daughters, Jodette enjoys the fruits of her teaching labors watching her own grand daughters dance."
Could Sausan clarify this, please?
Lynnae Kelly
Ephrata, PA
[ed note- author's response- "Jodette is very much alive. She is, in my opinion, a survivor; hence, the statement, "Survived by three sons, three grand daughters...." Apologies for the confusion. It should have been written differently."]


7-13-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
I just finished reading some articles, I wanted to say I especially loved the article by Artemis Mourat. It has really inspired me, and made me feel great about my current place in my own dance, and life. Thank you so much for publishing her article as well as others.
Okinawa Japan,


7-10-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
Anyone who has seen you dance can see that you realize your childhood dreams of being Betty Boop, a gunman's moll draped across a piano and a can can dancer in a Western saloon all rolled into one - every time you perform.
While dancing, researching, traipsing around the world and doing all these fun "non-mommy" things- you also have fostered the hearts and dreams of so many women. So even with the conscious choice of not being a "mommy", you have indeed played "mommy" to many, in the warmest, richest way possible- helping us through adult things, womanly things and sometimes of course issues with other women.
Thank you for this wonderful inspiring article.Thank you for inspiring us with your dance, teaching, integrity and research, but most of all, thank you for being an inspiring woman, "mommy" and friend to look up to and to turn to. Beautiful article. May we all feel such peace.


7-10-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
Dear Artemis,
Thank you for your beautiful and inspirational account of what it means to be a woman (in her 50s). As a woman who too made that decision not to have children it really hit home. There is so much food for thought in your commentary and it bears revisiting often.

Maria Celado
San Francisco


7-10-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
I just wanted to say a very big thank you to Artemis for her beautifully honest and inspiring article. For me, her article is something to be printed and re read many times in order to absorb all the richness of wisdom it contains. I LOVE it when someone else is able to articulate the myriad of thoughts and feelings for which I have no words. Everything she said held a deep resonance for me.
Again, thank you!
Bobbie Barry, 44,
Victoria, BC Canada


7-9-08 re: Journey into Womanhood by Artemis Mourat
Ms. Mourat: I found your article both beautiful and inspiring. I am 56 years old and I entered this wonderful world of belly dance just 1 year ago. Not only is it fun, but it makes you feel good at any age.
I was raised here in the West at a time when it was not commonplace to celebrate our female population.
This dance is fulfilling and empowering and I am proud to say that both my 13-year-old granddaughters are taking their first classes.
Ms. Mourat you are beautiful and I wish you all the happiness that this world has to offer............

Loretta (Fatima) Sulieman
Washington, DC, USA


7-8-08 Re: When Two Doors Close Two Doors Open by Sarah Skinner
Great Article, Sarah. I understand what you mean when it feels like the end of an era when a great venue with awesome live music shuts down.

Out here in Southern California there was a great place for entertainment called Wahib's Middle East where Roxxanne Shelaby had her Pure Sharqi show in January of 2008 (
A Night at Wahib's Roxxanne Shelaby's "Pure Sharqi" ). Mouhamad Salem had the most kick-ass band with himself on vocals and keyboard, Nazo on bass guitar, Vartan on drums and Amir Sofi on tabla. For various reasons, Wahib's decided not to host live entertainment anymore and you can still feel the void. Mouhamad and the guys are going to another venue that will supposedly open in a few weeks, but it will be in a trendier area and may not have the same friendly and comfortable atmosphere as Wahib's...nor will it have the fabulous food at a reasonable price or Maitre'ds Samy, Rico and David. Oh yeah, and free parking!

My friends and I have felt lost ever since, like, what will we do on the weekends? Where else can we go to get that same vibe? At Wahib's, we also made lots of friends from the Arab American community and even became known as "regulars". Like Sarah said, we have to try and get used to the newer venue. Wahib's is still a restaurant with great food and a friendly staff. I'd hate to go elsewhere where the food and staff are foul and due to a trendier environment, more pricey, but we might have to make that sacrifice as long as Mouhamad, Nazo, Vartan and Amir stay together for that camaraderie and sound. Wherever they decide to go, it will be our new "home" and my friends and I will make the best of it.

Tracey Farmer
Simi Valley, CA


6-19-08 re: A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letters below
Even though I feel Amy's dance is not belly dance, she is a dancer.in art I feel to know the artist is to understand their work.
so, I did not find any of the info "too much". in fact, I just might look her up on you tube ! I feel an artist has their life to nail on the stage every time they express from their soul.your life IS your dance/art. without "life", the dance is just wasted movement, a hollow prayer.
Cory Zamora
Fresno, CA


6-19-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letters below
WOW! Barbara Grant’s letter was scathing to say the least! Ms. Grant’s assessment of Ms Sigil’s life offended me deeply. Why must women continue to judge one another so harshly? Ms. Grant’s comments sounded so bitchy and jealous. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so un-Christian, un-forgiving and judgmental. I think the old platitude applies, “walk a mile in her shoes”. Of course, that’s how Ms. Grant “reads it” and she has a right to draw her own assumptions, but beware the concept of assume. I was intrigued by Ms. Sigil’s dance and so pursued some of the postings of her on You Tube. I have to say, I was knocked out! How creative, innovative and fun! I call that real talent. I look forward to being able to catch a live performance. While I don’t consider what she does “belly dance”, it was, no doubt about it, great performance and excellent technique, some of the most exciting dance I have seen lately. Personally, I don’t care about her love life, her child-rearing arrangements or much else. I applaud her triumph over adversity and I appreciate the fact that she is in the public eye to contribute to the world of dance.

Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela
Bellingham, WA


6-18-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letters below
I saw Amy and her group perform when I was teaching at Tribal Fest last month and I have just read her interview on here. I am thoroughly impressed by her dancing and choreography. I loved the artistry, the athleticism, the humor and the skill. I also appreciated her candor in the interview. It takes courage to tell one's story in such personal details and I am sure that this has touched and inspired many people. Many great artists have had a difficult journey and once they have dwelled in the belly of one beast or another, they never see life quite the same again. I believe that those who have come out the other side are supposed to help others in their struggle. Some do it by words, some by art, some by how they live their lives. Amy is doing all three. If she had spoken of her lover and "she" had been a "he" nobody would have batted an eye. Her journey is about overcoming adversity, learning valuable life lessons and becoming triumphant in the end and I found it well worth reading about. I am sure our paths will cross again and I look forward to getting to know her better then.

Artemis Mourat
Washington, DC


6-18-08 re: Tito Seif: Moment of Eternal Shimmy by Stavros
I have to say that this guy is one of the most amazing dancers I've ever seen.His command of melding the movement and music into one is unparalleled! I should be so lucky to dance half as well as he does!

That being said, I still find, despite all the over-florid overdone style of writing in the article, about how he maintains a masculine style, that when he does "orientale, his style is that of a female oriental dancer. When he does tahteeb or the balancing stuff, it's definitely male folkloric. But the minute a guy starts to do orientale, despite how fantastic they are (and this guy IS!) I start to feel like "there's something wrong with this picture". My dance upbringing is such that I was taught that this is a woman's dance.The movements, like us, are curved and rounded. The "homeland of the dance" is the pelvic girdle. There's a reason men never did orientale - it just looks too feminine on them. Doesn't matter who they are - Bobby (Ibrahim) Farrah was one of my main teachers, and when he was teaching us orientale, sometimes he'd have one of his female protegees do the same move. On her it looked great. On him, despite how well he did it (and he was a great dancer), it looked out of place.

Now I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of dissenting opinions and kaka thrown my way for expressing this,and not for one minute am I saying this man (or other men) aren't good dancers - but there are moves that look better/fit more naturally on a man's body and moves that look better on a female's body - vive la difference!!

Pauline Costianes (Ghalia)
Canton, MI


6-18-08 re: Arab Defamation in the Media by Najia
Dead on target & well written - as usual. Been saying the same things for over 47 years...Now: how many dancers do you think will even listen to us?
The Truth WILL Set You Free,


6-18-08 re: Arab Defamation in the Media by Najia and Not for Cinderella- The Glass Dance Tasha Banat
I found it ironic that the two articles I chose to read tonight were "Arab Defamation in the Media" and "The Glass Dance". The first one pointed out the horrible insult in some Arab cultures of showing the soles of your feet. The second one had a picture demonstrating the dangers of dancing on glasses - with a bleeding foot pointing at the reader! An interesting irony....

San Jose, CA
[ed-note-- Shall I take it down? Its a dumb picture anyway...]


6-18-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letters below
As an out and proud lesbian bellydancer, I truly enjoyed reading Amy Sigil's refreshingly candid interview and I found the strongly moralistic reactions of certain readers' to the disclosure of Ms. Sigil's orientation and lifestyle choices quite ironic considering the attitude that our society holds towards bellydancers' is very similar to the ones held about lesbians (it's not something that good girls do).

The only objection that I had to the interview was Sigil's assertion that more gay women are attracted to the "more rebellious" tribal style than cabaret because they can "put more of their lifestyle into tribal dancing". Every woman's life experience plays a part in the dancer's path that she chooses and each is unique and beatuiful in it's induviduality. Raqs Sharki speaks to my life experiences as a lesbian woman of color and a woman with curves and it dosen't make me weaker in strength of character and inner fire than my tribal sisters.

Albuquerque, New Mexico


6-17-08 re: Arab Defamation in the Media by Najia
I am more than a bit surprised that in Najia's discussion of " The Arab Mind " she neglected to mention that this is a controversial book in both the academic and political sense.

Academically, the basic premise (that there is a generic " Arab Mind " and a generic "Western Mind " and that the members of each group think like all other group members regardless of factors like local culture, level of political power, and economic situation) the methodology (heavy on anecdotes and hearsay, short on academic studies) and the author's conclusions (for instance, Patai took the child rearing practices of one Bedouin group and extrapolated them to all Arabs) have come in for quite a bit of criticism.

While it's understandable that Najia may not be aware of the grumblings of academics, it's strange that no mention was made of the book's recent history. During the Abu Ghraib scandal it came to light that much of the prison's policy was based on the picture of Arabs painted by Patai's book. In the introduction to the 2001 edition the Director of Middle East Studies at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg writes: " At the institution where I teach military affairs, 'The Arab Mind' forms the basis of my cultural instruction ". Patai's book was mentioned a great deal by commentators on both sides of the political fence, and the accuracy of " The Arab Mind " was hotly debated. Najia's statement that Hollywood Arabs "may encourage our leaders to promote unrealistic expectations and erroneous assumptions while negotiating with the various predominantly Muslim countries" before recommending " The Arab Mind " as a guide to cross cultural understanding seems bizarre given its recent turn in the news.

There is nothing wrong with recommending academically controversial works. But potential readers should be made aware that the book they're reading is controversial, and the conclusions are still up for a great deal of debate.

Bremerton WA


6-16-08 re: Arab Defamation in the Media by Najia
“The stereotypical Arabs that Hollywood most often presents are embarrassing and harmful because they may contribute to some of the errors in judgment that some of our key political leaders make. These erroneous images, seemingly funny to some, may encourage our leaders to promote unrealistic expectations and erroneous assumptions while negotiating with the various predominantly Muslim countries.”

Wow. Although these statements are very qualified with many ‘may’s, I have to disagree. I would be horrified if any political leader based any decision or negotiation on Hollywood images. While the average news anchor may not be educated in Arabic and Muslim cultures, our “key political leaders” certainly are. What may seem an ‘error in judgment’ is far more likely to be a very calculated and fully conscious decision. I won’t even touch on Ms. Marlyz’s comment about women in politics, except to say that I absolutely disagree.

That aside, I agree that it is important for dancers to learn about the origins of the dance, as well as the culture. I also agree that some dancers unknowingly offend their audience due to their lack of knowledge. I am lucky to have an instructor who has taught me much about Arabic cultures, including what would be deemed offensive to an Arabic audience. “Know the rules before you break them” is something she says frequently. I will definitely read the book Ms. Marlyz recommends.

Emily Andrews
Salinas, CA


6-14-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letters below
Dear Lynette:
Though I understand the objections of the correspondents, below, who argue that too much personal information was offered in the piece on Amy Sigil, I don't agree that it is irrelevant to the discussion. The artist clearly wanted the audience to know of her personal background; otherwise, she would not have discussed it in such detail.

Here's how I read it: Woman flops down with two men, gets pregnant by each, and (effectively) throws both children over the wall for someone else to take care of. As a free woman, unencumbered by the lives she has created, she pursues her business--cutting edge art, by all accounts--while the father of her second child is busy looking after not only his own biological daughter, but Amy's first child, as well. What an arrangement!

While Amy's beau plays "boi" and holds doors open in the gentlemanly fashion of a bygone age, Father #2 does the real man's work as he is the only one in this narrative who appears to take responsibility. He alone demonstrates any manly characteristic, or indeed, any courage, worthy of mention.
Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


6-14-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos
Thank you so much for your candid article and the wonderful videos. It's refreshing and important for the bellydance influenced world to have honest and open dialogue across genres. Your readers deserve your commitment to the precious diversity our dance-style cultivates not only in technical and historical knowledge, but in the dynamic living cultural experience of our shared dance and lives.
Utah USA


6-13-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos and letter below
Hi Lynette,

Like Pauline, I waited a while to respond to Gilded Serpent's article interviewing Amy Sigil. Like Pauline, I think it included way too much personal information unrelated to Middle Eastern Dance. Unlike Pauline, however, I AM into Tribal in its various forms, as well as AmCab, Egyptian Nightclub, Egyption Folkloric and Zambramora forms of belly dance. And I lived, worked, and belly danced in San Francisco for two decades and I sport no less than five tattoos and one belly ring! With all that, I still have to agree with Pauline's assessment of the article, although she's incorrect about Bay Area not having any laws about public nudity!

Yours in dance,
Pacifica, California


6-12-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos
I've waited a few days after reading this article before I responded. I have to tell you that I found it distasteful. If you wanted to have her talk about her dance journey (even if I can't stand tribal/goth all that ugly/black stuff) OK. But when it started going into her personal life, talking about how her girlfriend acts the "boi", that's when it crossed the line into Too Much Information - and totally irrelevant to dance. I suppose those who live in San Francisco and are used to the naked parades (guess there's no laws against public obscenity there) and all the gay culture have to problem with this. But being that this site is viewed nationally, you have to remember that some things "don't play well in Peoria". Not to say that metro Detroit is a small, closed-minded town. But there's just some things that need to stay private, ya know?
Pauline Costianes
Ann Arbor, MI


6-12-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos
I have always been a very big admirer of Amy and Umata and was thrilled to get some insite as to who she really is as a person and how she developed into the amazing performer and artist that she is. I am now even more impressed that she was able to pull together some really hard times in her life and step out into the world with such a wonderful gift. I wonder if her daughters will ever join her in dance…ahh…maybe another chapter in the future.

Salima Sisli
Lafayette, CA


6-7-08 re:A Moment with Amy Sigil, interview and videos
Thank you for your powerful and inspiring interview with Amy Sigil. She is by far one of my favorite dancers, and it was refreshing to learn more about her through both ink and film. I had no idea what personal challenges Amy has over come, and she truly is a shining example of triumph over tragedy.

Amy is a true dance pioneer, and I hope that others striving to achieve her level of success, will also follow her lead with regard to professionalism and will just stop with the bitchfest. Nobody likes a whiner.

Amy, thanks for being so honest and open about your past, present, passion and perseverance. You are a true inspiration!

Pinole, CA


6-6-08 re:The Egyptian Dance Code by Sausan
I have noticed how arabs accent the beat differently, saidi especially. this is really going to help me in my dance!
by the way- The video clip hides text.


6-5-08 re: Welcome to the Gothla! Dancing Along the Sulk Road Review of 3 DVDs by Rebecca Firestone
I'm writing to let you know how deeply offended and disgusted I was with the review by Rebecca Firestone on three Goth Bellydance DVDs. It was poorly written, lacked any objectivity whatsoever, and showed a thorough lack of knowledge on bellydance, gothic art and culture, and frankly how to write a review. Most of it seemed like self indulgent personal attacks on individual dancers, which is a black eye on the Gilded Serpent that you would allow such unveiled and unprofessional rudeness to be published on your site.

If your reviewer had said that the DVDs weren't good, that would be fine. If she had said that the performances weren't good, that would have been fine too. But instead she made childish remarks about fast forwarding, the choice in backdrops, the dancer's diets, their skin color, and the very genre itself that only displayed her own ignorance and incompetence. I have to wonder with all her over emphasis on plots and storylines if this woman has confused bellydance with pantomime.

I'm not a goth. I'm not even Tribal. I'm one of those well trained Cabaret dancers with all of the requisite technique and traditional background that Firestone considers paramount. And I am sickened by this article.

I hope you realize that one of the dancers on this DVD was Asharah of Washington DC, who is teaching at Spring Caravan this Saturday. I wonder if your reviewer was aware of the fact that not only is she well trained and certified in the Suhaila Salimpour technique, she minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton and understands Arabic and spent most of her childhood as a highly disciplined figure skater. Her artistry is exquisite, her technique impeccable, and yet because the genre of goth is where she's finds her inspiration, she has been clumsily mocked by your inept author.

From the storm of anger that I have seen online already, it appears that this article has done more damage to the reputation of the Gilded Serpent than it would have ever done to three goth DVDs.

Philadelphia PA


6-4-08 re: Welcome to the Gothla! Dancing Along the Sulk Road Review of 3 DVDs by Rebecca Firestone
I LOVED Rebecca's witty review. So refreshing instead of the blah blah blah that we usually read. Perhaps the objectionists are right though, maybe we need a review written by a participant. I for one was intrigued by her comments and thought she did an admirable job. It was a fun read. Its very difficult to review bad videos and find something redeeming to say other than "Bad DVD" and leave it at that. Such a fuss, but that is to be expected. The newbies to an art form seldom have time to develop a sense of humor or a thick skin. I myself am always jealous at Rebecca's reviews that I didn't write them. Clever clever clever. I can't help but agree about the bad modern dance analogies and also wonder why some of these "forms" choose to call themselves "xyz bellydance" when they don't even have basic technique. As I have said before, even Picasso knew how to paint in the conventional form before he broke the bounds. And good showmanship is not self-absorbed nor is it so exclusive and obscure that only a few chosen initiates can understand or perceive it. And you can print this if you like...or not!
Bellingham, WA


6-4-08 re:The Egyptian Dance Code by Sausan
Hi Lynette,
I'd like to comment about Sausan's article where she says that "Egyptians can't really teach" their style of dance. Does this mean that all the weekend workshops in Dallas I have taken in the past two years with Lucy of Cairo,Fifi Abdou, Randa Kamel, Bebe and Dr. Mo Gedawi - all very well established Egyptian dance stars and teachers and each with their own signature style are not going to provide me with the skills I need to learn to dance in that style?

The fact is learning from an Egyptian IN PERSON was so much more effective than any video I've ever watched because a) it is 3-D image, not the two dimensions of a video, and you see the complete movement and b) each one of these Egyptian teachers provided direct and immediate feedback; whether through an interpreter or their own English skills. This feedback was immediate, personalized and warm; even when "correcting" a step, posture or combination, they exuded that famous laid-back charm and sense of humor that I have grown to love about Egyptians. I never felt left out even with more than 100 attendees in a workshop and even if I didn't ask a question, they were quick to observe the students in a workshop and would come right over anyway!

I agree with Sausan when she says one can spend decades watching videos to learn the "Egyptian style" and I'm not sure how long it takes to learn Sausan's "Egyptian Code" but one thing I am sure of is this: There is no substitute for learning directly from an Egyptian dancer; the culture comes across so much more powerfully in person. If I can't go to Egypt and immerse myself for a year in the culture of this dance, then I will continue to take as many workshops from Egyptians when they teach here.

Yours in dance,


6-1-08 re: Welcome to the Gothla! Dancing Along the Sulk Road Review of 3 DVDs by Rebecca Firestone
I just want to express my feelings after having read Rebecca Firestone's so call reviews on gothic bellydance DVD:s. She only said one good and true thing, that being she shouldn't have been the one writing those reviews. She obviously has no adequate knowledge of the phenomenon she's trying to describe.

Such contempt and malice poured over an art form disguised as "reviews" is not very commonly seen, thank goodness. The article reveals either total ignorance or a personal agenda against gothic bellydance, or perhaps the dancers themselves. However, this was a really poorly written and badly conducted review. Rebecca hasn't bothered to make a background check on facts, thus making fatal errors such as going on about Tempest "calling herself the Gothmutha" (which is totally wrong, OTHERS call her that). The remarks on the artists' looks and technique are really embellished personal opinions poorly disguised as "critisizing an art form". One could say "I didn't like these DVD:s" in many ways. Rebecca has chosen the worst way ever seen. I'm not saying she's not entitled to her opinion. I just can't see the point in expressing it the way she did. She obviously seeks to offend the GBD community with this strange and mean "review". Well, she didn't really offend me, but she made me wonder how low one can sink and still get published. Perhaps you should go for someone who can write critisim and still not sound like an angry teenager.

Callisto Utriainen
Gothenburg, Sweden


5-19-08 re: May 11 letter below
Dear Lynette,

I would like to comment on a Letter to the Editor written by Frank Farinaro on May 11. In this letter he makes the claim, "I am Colorado's first professional male bellydancer. I have been dancing for over 2 years now & have loved every minute of it!!!" He also mentions that he will be auditioning for Bellydance Superstars for the second time this year, which means the first time he auditioned he had only been belly dancing for one year!

It is appalling that one can claim to be a "professional" dancer (in any dance form) with only 2 years of training. Is this a reflection of the broad definition of the word "professional" in the belly dance community, where hobbyists of only a couple of years can be booked for paid performance jobs? Is this a reflection of the low standards of our dance form as a whole (because one could never make the claim to be a professional ballet dancer after only 2 years of training)? Or is this a reflection of the lower standards for men in dance? Most dance forms like ballet, modern, and jazz have exponentially higher numbers of women than men. Due to their low numbers, men are a commodity in dance, and often men are able to get positions in dance companies and roles in various types of shows and other performance venues when they are much less technically skilled and experienced than scores of females. I sincerely doubt that any of the Bellydance Superstars have been belly dancing for only 2 years.

Although most Arabs think it is culturally unacceptable, I am not opposed to men belly dancing. After all, America has indeed appropriated belly dance as its own; it has thus evolved into an art that reflects American cultural and aesthetic values. However, I can only hope that we will hold men to the same standards that we hold our female belly dancers and not allow a man to perform in a situation where his technique, artistry, and understanding of the dance does not reflect the MANY years of intense training and study that this dance form requires to achieve a true professional standard. Rather than men being established as important contributors to the community, they will be resented for lowering the standards and simply viewed as a novelty. And we all know that novelties do not last--they simply fade away when the next fad emerges.

Dallas, Texas


5-15-08 re:Opening a Bellydance Studio, Tips for Success by Keti Sharif
I just wanted to take the time to tell you thank you for some excellent advice on starting a dance studio. You have pretty much covered all the basics to getting started. Tampa Bay Ballet is an emerging dance studio and company. We appreciate Keti's thoughts and advice and just wanted to say thanks!

Lindsay Latham
Director, Tampa Bay Ballet


5-15-08 re: news item on front page
Hi Lynette,
I wanted to comment about the news item submitted by Catherine about men applying for permits to perform belly dance (in nightclubs) in Cairo that were turned down, flat by the Cairo Dance Guild. And I want to make it clear that we are talking "Raks Sharqi" or "Oriental Dance" - not any sort of folkloric style such as Tanoura or traditional stick dance.

I am constantly amazed that we in the West feel free to criticize another culture for operating on it's own standards. Why are we so surprised that the Cairo Dance Guild flatly turned down all the applications from male bellydancers, when in fact the female bellydancers in Egypt have all sorts of legal requirements of covering midriff with body stocking, risk being fine for choreo that is considered too risque, etc.etc. More controversy is only going to make things tougher on the female bellydancers in Egypt.

And, I'd like to point out that we in the West should look to our own "glass houses" before throwing any stones; after all,when is the last time anyone saw a male ballet dancer in a tutu and pointe shoes performing the lead in Swan Lake?????? Unless it was a comedy or advertised as a total counter-culture type show, the ballet world doesn't present ballet as a genderless, androgynous dance art form. And other Western ethnic dance forms have clearly defined gender based costuming, moves and roles; Flamenco, Tango, Irish step dance. And Polynesian dance forms are firmly rooted in their cultural customs, roles and standards. So I ask, why isn't it okay for Egypt to hold to their standards for THEIR dance art form in THEIR country?

Yours in dance,
Pacifica, CA


5-13-08 re: The Ancient Art of Keeping Your Mouth Shut by Neon
While I agree with the initial premice that on-line groups often sharpen their claws too often at meow-fests, I believe that Neon went farther than necessary into the murky waters of freedom of speech.
As I understood her article, she would like to put Gilded Serpent out of business ;) No peer-critiqued product reviews, no thoughtful discussions of trends in style by those in a position to judge. Do readers only want to read bland positive "Atta girls?" I thought they wanted to see both sides of a subject and hopefully learn something.

If all the big name artists take Neon's words as gosple, anyone with experience worth listening to would lay down their pens and go into verbal retirement. Heaven forbid we might offend someone, somewhere, in a future near or far. Being a good critic - or journalist - takes time, practice and experience in the field. She says we are insular - so who else to impart knowledge than the ones who have "been there and done that"? Apparently commercial considerations are more important than passing on knowledge.

Oh well. My future is screwed... but I knew that anyway.
Washington DC


5-11-08 re: Valizan Interviews Ozgen for the Gilded Serpent
Dear Gilded Serpent,

My name is Frank Farinaro, & I am Colorado's first professional male bellydancer. I have been dancing for over 2 years now & have loved every minute of it!!! Bellydance has truly changed my life. As I'm sure you know, men are the minority in the bellydance scene, so support & recognition are a very important & appreciated gesture that is sought by us from the bellydance community.

I have been following the YouTube interviews lately & I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing such a service to the male bellydance community by doing the interviews on male bellydancers at the International Conference in Canada. It really encourages male bellydancers to keep working hard at what we do.

This year, I am auditioning for Bellydance Superstars for the second time, & I am as motivated as ever. Although I am dissapointed to be missing out on what would of been my first Tribal Fest this year, I am so excited to be auditioning again.

What the future holds for me... time can only tell, but I do (someday) hope to be the first male signed to Bellydance Superstars & support from Gilded Serpent as well as the bellydance community keeps my backbone strong & my head held high! I will keep bellydancing & making a good name for male bellydancers for as long as I live... or at least posses the ability to dance.

With respect,
Frank Farinaro
Colorado, USA


4-27-08 re:
Howdy Lynette, re:The International Bellydance Conference of Canada. Thank you for being so cutting edge! How I enjoyed viewing these clips. Keep up the good work.
with love,
Berkeley, CA


4-27-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
To The Editor of The Gilded Serpent:
Miles Copeland's enormously self-important declarations on The State of Bellydance and The Enslavement of Arabic Women in his recent article in The Gilded Serpent--and then his follow-up letter to The Editor--would be laughable if they weren't so very dangerous to Bellydance, artistic development, artistic freedom, and womens' equality.

Mr. Copeland posits himself as a wise Pasha who sits at the center of the Bellydance world, and he presumes to predict many other peoples' behaviours based on his vast knowledge of the intricacies of The Arab Mind--which he apparently believes is a single, evil entity, still trapped in ancient times. The truth about what's going on in all the Arab countries is, happily, radically different than Mr. Copeland's understanding.

Yes, many Arabic women are still gravely oppressed; certain ancient practices and beliefs keep many women in religious, social and economic servitude---but for every knee jerk Jihadist, every Muslim traditionalist, there is an equivalent member of the population embracing the Western values of equality, liberty and justice for ALL. This is true in the economy, in education, across every level of society, and in the arts. Jihadists and extremists get all the press, but one has only to stop for a day in Dubai to see the way Western values have taken hold, of which concrete manifestations are literally being carved out of the sea and sand. This is true across the Arabic society, mentally and physically.
Great leaps forward in art are always thought of, on some level, as shocking and/or obscene. Picasso's paintings were shocking and banned. Lizst was considered shocking and insane. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for obscenity before he became one of the most famous playwrights in the Western world. Henry Miller was banned for obscenity before he became a bestseller, and so on. Because dance is an art form that is enacted by bodies in motion, it is always, on some level, shocking and provocative, even when the dancers are fully dressed. And dancers who truly expand the boundaries of the art are the most shocking, because they are doing something with the art that has not ever been done before, whether it is a triple piroutete a la Barishnakov, soaring for so long and so far across the stage that the audience believes the dancer to be on wires, like Najinsky... tapdancing up the side of a building, like Fred Astaire. Isadora Duncan was also considered shocking and obscene before she became wildly famous and influenced generations of dancers and choreographers. So, too, were Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse. Now, they are Icons of Western dance.

Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman), who has been an international ambassador for American Bellydancer, and who has influenced thousands of people with her art and craft and talent around the globe, stands in this long, glorious line of path-breaking dancers who have elaborated upon the boundaries of their art, and of artistic expression in general. But because we live in an age in which performers engage in far far more provocative behaviours on stage and on screen than Princess Farhana ever has, no one would dare call her--or any other traditional Bellydancer or Burlesque dancer--obscene. But Mr. Copeland seems to have some kind of a vendetta against her, although it's unclear why, exactly, he believes himself to be the one individual who should decide what is "appropriate" or "correct" for Bellydancers. To try to censor Princess Frahana, or any other dancer who is engaging in any kind of dance, or creating new forms of dance based upon ancient principles, turns Mr. Copeland into exactly the kind of Oppressor he claims to be protecting Arabic Women from. And excusing his absurd position by claiming to protect dancers for both economic and moral imperatives is patently absurd. This is a slightly more innocent version of the kind of dangerous false rhetoric Terrorists engage in.

Mr. Copeland is conducting his Own Private Jihad, and it is being aimed at everyone in the Bellydance world in general--and Princess Farhana in particular--all of whom have done nothing but tirelessly promote Bellydance and Freedom of Expression, and through this, the equality of women.Pretending that any little linkage of Burlesque and Bellydance will have grave deleterious effects to Arabic Women Artists, and believing that audiences are phenomenally stupid and can't make any kind of distinguishing artistic judgments on their own, Mr. Copeland takes many steps backward in time, and hurts everyone: Dancers, audience,
and, yes, his own credibility.

Respectfully yours,
Sammi Khouri
London, UK


4-25-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Miles, while I'm sure you have the best of intentions, the idea that you can support freedom of expression for women in the Middle East by limiting the freedom of expression for women in America is a ridiculous assertion. If women in the Middle East are permitted to practice and perform bellydancing ONLY if it is seen by the powers that be as "respectable," then that is not truly freedom. Women in America have true freedom because we can choose our own forms of expression, regardless of whether other people consider our expression to be "respectable" or not. As soon as there is some outside force acting as the respectablity police, deciding for us what is tasteful or vulgar, that is the end of our freedom of expression. Putting ourselves in cages here will not help women elsewhere, but it would certainly hurt us.

Bombshell Betty
San Francisco, CA


4-25-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
A performance artist of any kind is capable of multiple diciplines. An artist must maintain freedom. What I find most offensive about your article is the suggestion of blacklisting any seasoned performers/producers within our community. It's bad policy in general. It's unAmerican! It's McCarthyism! It's Victorian repression. Miles just wants to control

After my years of experience and service to bellydance and the empowerment of women, is Miles going to blacklist me because I am sponsoring a day of burlesque with Princess Farhana at my Belly Dance Retreat 2009? I believe in freedom and education. I am sponsoring that day because I want dancers to be educated, not weak and meek minded. It?s women?s history.

I'm not a burlesque dancer and don't suggest mixing the two in traditional Middle Eastern bellydance forums. A professional knows to gauge for specific venue or audience. I think Aphrodite-minded women who are attracted to bellydance may also be attracted to burlesque. I've come to realize it's as much an art. Independent minded, wild spirited, feminine women are important to the universe and, really, could you live without us?!

I always thought the one ingredient the BDSS show lacked, was the Super Star. They needed a diva to bring the house down! You bring us well executed, behaved dancers, but where is the edge? I always pictured someone with curves, pizazz and the charisma of Tina Turner.

Clearly, Miles has no idea what neoburlesque is. I found it disarmed my preconceptions. Acts were done by women of all ages and sizes being sexy, funny, and very adept at holding the audience's attention. This wasn't about being nude - it was celebration, creation, dance and the art of anticipation. Moms were in the back room helping daughters get dressed! The audience seemed a lot like a bellydance audience but with defiance in the air. These women would not have
flocked to the stage 10-20 years ago! What?s going on? They crave personal empowerment and control over their body and life - very much like bellydance!

Additionally, the 4 year BDSS tour isn't the root of bellydance growth. It's taken generations. Miles did not discover bellydancing the day he walked into Rakkasah, and perhaps hasn?t discovered it at all. He still doesn?t get why so many women love this dance.

The culture at large misses the fact that bellydance is deeply personal for women. Within its subculture, we are released from the slavish edict our popular culture dumps. ?Women are only valuable if they are young and skinny? - a repressing myth BDSS still perpetuates. Women will always be repressed as long as men dictate and manage our physical power.

We have had over 30 years of proving to the Middle East that bellydancers are not prostitutes. Bellydance has become a beloved art form worldwide. The attitude in the Middle East remains largely the same.

We are not going to liberate women ANYWHERE by blacklisting (black cloaking?) the freedoms of our own.

Seattle, WA


4-25-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Having just finished a tour of Guatemala as the Bailarina Zaina Zahesha, I can say that I agree with Miles on how important it is to be careful how we present our dance. This past January I was seen auditioning at the Ethnic Dance Auditions in San Francisco by a representative of the Arte Cenro Cultural of Guatemala City. They invited me to go to Guatemala to perform and teach for 10 days, which I did with Susu Pampanin as my accompanist on percussion. I was treated as if I were a prima ballerina, which after so many years of performing in this genre, made me want to cry from the accomplishment. For those of you new to this dance, 10 years or less, you may not know what those who have gone before you have had to put up with. I have made my living as a Belly Dancer for many years and have never had the respect that other professional dancers receive. In Guatemala we were presented as accomplished artist. We performed with concert pianist and modern dance companies. (In fact we were the headliners of these). Why is this a novelty instead of the norm? How is it that we are, at last, achieving some level of respectI feel it is because we have fought for many, many years to earn the respect that other artist and dancers enjoy. For to long we have been perceived as Middle Eastern flavored strippers. I am not saying that stripping and burlesque cannot be an art, because I believe that it can. I am saying that until you see burlesque dancers on posters with ballerinas; let’s keep it separate. I, for one, am grateful for at last getting the respect that dancers from classical dance forms have been receiving all these years.

TerriAnne Gutierrez
aka Zaina Zahesha

San Francisco Bay Area


4-22-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
I truly find it fascinating that elements of the bellydance community that has so often offered criticisms about me and the BDSS that are totally without merit from people who never even saw the show, take offense at critique put forward by me about the dangers of advertising a show linking burlesque and bellydance. I can assure Pleasant I have no way of judging the specific show and was not doing that. But I did see the advertising and therefore I can comment on that specific aspect of the show which is what I did. If the inferences were in fact misunderstood by me and the show itself harmless that is indeed the point I am making. Advertising that can be misinterpreted negatively will be and that is the danger.

I am the first to encourage creativity in artistic pursuits and breaking the rules and I have done this as a career. But unlike any other dance form, Bellydance is in a unique situation as many people, if not most, in the community recognize. That uniqueness comes from two directions. The longstanding public perception of the dance in the Western world and the low esteem the dance has been held in generally and the wish of may to see its status improved for the good of all. Secondly the extremely low esteem it is held in in the region of the world that it started and the detrimental affect this has on the art and the women who do not engage in it is a career pursuit because of this. With the ever mounting conservative pressures in the region we are in danger of witnessing the termination of the art as something Arab women can pursue even in Egypt.

The most important point is this fact. The Arab world, for good or ill, gives value to something that succeeds in the West. Bringing Saad al Soghrier to the US to perform, and the videos I did with Hakim dueting with Western stars saw both artists have huge increases in their fees for their shows in Egypt BECAUSE there were perceived to have been accepted in America. The same can happen for the art of bellydance in Egypt. As it rises in status in the US so will its status in the Arab world. But the Arab world is now caught up in the age old dilemma of what is "proper" and what is not for women. The trend is unhappily not towards liberalization but the opposite direction making it all the more difficult to affect change. One thing for sure, if bellydance in the west is associated with anything remotely connected with nudity (true or not) then bellydance will suffer in the Arab world and we will see no new Arab dancers enter the business.

The BDSS just performed in Dubai with great success, and on this weekend in Cassablanca, Morocco. We have become very aware that the image we project must be very precise and we have a responsibility that goes beyond our one show. We feel that the art of bellydance CAN in fact rise in respect in this part of the world and we will all benefit from it. It is only fair that Arab women should one day have the freedoms of women in the West when it comes to artistic expression. They do not have this now. I simply ask dancers like Pleasant and others to be careful how you use the word bellydance in your advertising which is where most people will see it. Advertising reaches far more people than ever see a show and advertising is 100% about leaving an impression. If it does not it is not good advertising. You can complain all you like but there is a price to pay for the linkage of burlesque and bellydance. Admittedly it is a price that is more likely to be paid by Arab bellydancers than Americans but it is a price we should at least admit and try to do the right thing. It is unfair and I agree, but it is a reality and it is a subject of valid discussion and Gilded Serpent did the right thing delving into the matter for us all to think about.

Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA


4-21-08 re: To Buy or Not? Guide to Mass Market DVDs Yasmin
One of the best articles I’ve ever read in my life. I couldn’t agree more with Yasmin’s comments. She is truly an expert on buying bellydance videos. Having purchased a lot of horrible videos and only having given them to friends, I am more determined to follow Yasmin’s advice. Those videos were a waste of money and very disappointing. Now that I have such good advice, I’m now prepared with my next video purchase. Thank you Yasmin and Gilded Serpent.

Gilded Serpent fan,
Marie A.
Los Angeles California


4-19-08 re: MECDA Breaks its Silence by Rachel Soto and Just the Facts:Response to MECDA by Doyne Allen
Marta Never Had a Silence To Break!
In my forty years of involvement with Middle Eastern music and dance, I have come to know many, many of you, both professionally and personally. One of the proudest achievements of my life has been the co-founding of MECDA, and the building of that organization into a national association, serving dancers across the country.

If I had wanted to ‘make money’ from MECDA, I would have done so long ago. My sole intention throughout the years was to make money for MECDA, so it could continue to thrive and grow.

In the past two years, there was divisiveness in the organization on a scale unheard of in the past. The last election was enveloped in a bitterness that threatened to fracture the unity of the community. The results of the elections were decisive, and it was my hope that we could move forward. These hopes were soon shattered, as I outlined in my letter responding to the MECDA Breaks Its Silence article by Rachel Soto.

I feel it is very important to make the public aware that MECDA is suing me! I was served with a lawsuit accusing me of stealing ‘trade secrets’ from MECDA. No one signed the summons to identify themselves as the individual(s) who verified the ‘facts’ given to the attorney serving me. Since that is the case, it is as if the entire organization of MECDA has brought the lawsuit – yet, when I speak with members, they know nothing about it. I want MECDA members to know this is how the Board is spending their money, instead of providing the Cymbal Digest in the Chronicles, an Anniversary party, or the annual MECDA Directory.

I have come to consider nearly every MECDA member my friend, and a companion upon the journey to unify and to gain deserved respect for our beloved music and dance. My heart is made very happy by those of you I see at various venues, and the ones living too far for us to meet, I miss dearly.

I am now embarking on fresh collaborations with promoter Miles Copeland. Please know that although the circumstances are new, my intentions are absolutely the same; Our festivals will welcome all levels of ability, all dance styles, all age, size and gender. We are inclusive, not exclusive, and will create venues to celebrate all aspects of Middle Eastern dance arts.

I hope we will all be together soon.

… One remaining issue from my previous affiliation with the current MECDA Board: I would like to publicly apologize to anyone who somehow believed that Doyne Allen was involved in the “Concerned Committee’s” alleged acquisition of the MECDA membership list, which is confidential. There is proof that the “Committee” had used the list, but I never said (nor imagined) that Mr. Allen was responsible, simply because he had no access.

Marta Schill
Sierra Madre, CA


4-18-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles & When the Hip Hits the Fan by Princess Farhana
This is a very interesting conversation. There was recently one very similar to this in one of the burlesque message boards I belong to, only it was talking about the association that burlesque has in the eyes of the public with strip-club strippers, i.e. poledancers. I wrote about this in my blog here: http://bombshellbetty.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/stripping-vs-burlesque/ In the burlesque movement, we are seeing some fusion between burlesque and poledancing (for example, the duo called Gravity Plays Favorites). Some people like this, and some don't. I consider it to be the inevitable result of a creative and innovative movement. Everyone adds their own style and flavor to the mix, which then inspires more people to add their own styles and flavor, which then inspires more people...

The burlesque "bump-and-grind" dancing in the 50's was taken directly from bellydance moves. You can call this cultural appropriation if you wish. I call it human nature and an inevitable part of growth and creation. As creative humans, we see something we like and wish to emulate it, and then we add our own creative influence to what we are doing and soon enough a new style or even artform is born. This happens in music, in visual art, in dance, in architecture, in literature... you name it. Burlesque as it is known in America (and as it is spreading internationally) is an American cultural tradition that drew from European theatrical traditions and later developed into striptease (often comedic) with bellydance inspired moves and costuming themes.

It is pointless for traditionalists to bemoan the changes and new interpretations that people create in these art forms. Everything changes. People will always innovate. All I can recommend is that traditionalists stick with the style they enjoy, the innovators stick with what they enjoy, and everyone just worry about your own act, your own reputation, your own success, and leave everyone else to their own business. Or you can bang your head against the wall, but I promise you that won't change anything anyone else is doing, although it might give you a headache. And dismissing someone else's success by calling them "sleazy" while excusing your lack of success by blaming it on them is just a cop-out. If you want to be hired (to perform or to teach), work on your skills and presentation and stop worrying about what other people are doing. If you stand out, you will be successful. If you don't, you probably won't.

To the people who are afraid that "bellydancer = callgirl" in the eyes of the public, keep in mind that the people who would look up a bellydancer in the phone book and harrass her are the kind of people who automatically think "woman = whore." Disassociating burlesque from bellydance won't iradicate that kind of ignorance and sexism. Any employer who would fire a person for practicing or performing burlesque in their off time deserves to be slapped with a law suit.

And anyone who claims that associating burlesque with bellydance is undermining their efforts to "legitimize" bellydancers in the countries the art came from is just fooling themselves. The dance forms will be respected in those areas when women are respected in those areas, and not until then.

Public dancing and performance in general has only recently been seen as a respectable activity for women in our culture, and there are many places in the world where it is still seen as indecent. For hundreds of years in Europe and America, "actress" or "opera dancer" or "chorus girl" were synonymous with "prostitute." The bias against women showing their independence and flouting cultural strictures is not new to striptease, and cultural ideas of what is "vulgar" or "tasteless" or "indecent" change from generation to generation. Expecting the norms of yesteryear to apply today is not only unrealistic, but it would also paint even the most "traditional" and "respectable" of dance forms with unflattering associations.

Blaming burlesque for dance's "sleazy" associations isn't going to fix any of these problems, because burlesque is not the problem, just as pole dancing isn't the reason burlesque has a bad rap. The problem is that so much of the American (and hello... Middle Eastern... or even the world's?) population is afraid of stong, earthy female sexuality and artforms that express it. Fix that problem and the rest will go away. Until then, you're just putting fresh frosting on a stale cake.

When in doubt, "Shake it!"
Bombshell Betty Dance
San Francisco, CA

[ed note- read Betty's blog linked above- valuable content to our discusssion!]


4-18-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
(divorcing belly dance etc)
Just thought that I would put in my "Two Cents"
Read your article, I believe that you made your point clear, and by the response, I see , as usual that you have brought out many diverse opinions.
I think that the biggest problem (possibly) we ( males ) have in voicing ANY OPINION in regards to the subject that you wrote about or things like ABORTION etc,
is that we are NOT WOMEN........
I have been around dancers all of my life, (including strippers) and in my younger days played drums for them. In those days, (burlesque) was not a nude show but appropriately named 'TEASE' ...
It is a real hard thing for most MEN to understand that women want to be admired and RESPECTED at the same time.........so, I wish you luck in trying to figure it out. I believe that I have gotten to know you pretty well over the years and I sincerely believe that when all is " said and done " , that you truly have a PASSION for what you believe is an ART FORM, and I also believe that you are trying the best that you can to PURSUE EXCELLENCE., . one thing that I think is really clear, is that since you came ":on the scene" .the interest in this area has certainly increased. Good luck in all that you do.
Your friend,
Del Bartlett
Dallas, Texas


4-18-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Dear Editor,
As a photographer my views on Miles' diatribe:
To be sure I am surprised and dismayed that the ever so illustrious Mr Copland has such an issue with all of this. Does he feel threatened? Maybe.
After all he is using Fans in his shows and at his tender age should be a tad more secure about his creation. The FACT that Miles (bless his cottons) feels threatened by this innocuous fusion is risible.
He is probably loving the controversy. Let us all not forget that Mr Copland is 1st and foremost interested in his wallet and not the feelings and emotions of hard working dancers. As he sits there in his suit of armour (not amour) we should all remember that dear old (very old) Miles is only protecting his purse strings.
Move on old man. Let's not be a slave to history - let's progress. As a friend of mine, Bill Shakespeare, said - "What is past is indeed prologue". Not any more my fine feathered friend.
It's easy to belittle what you have not thought of. It's much harder to open those wide shut eyes of yours and see progression.
The BDS are beyond amazing but that does not give you carte blanche so suddenly turn critic. After all - "A critic is a man who knows the destination but doesn't know how to get there".
You are not an artist - you merely profit from their sweat.
Love and kisses,
Maani Vadgama
United Kingdom


4-16-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Dear Editor:
I am a traditionalist. I don't and have never agreed to Miles's presentations of belly dance, and I don't think I ever will. Yes, the shows are done tastefully; and no, they are not about sleaze. For that, I am grateful. But, hey, Miles is a classy guy even if to acknowledge that he has to deal with being a moving target among us traditionalists.

I, too, do not know why burlesque or stripping has to be associated with belly dance. But then, I also don't know why ballet, hip hop, jazz, funk and all the other dance forms have to be associated or put into belly dance either. I read a lot about how burlesque should not be associated with belly dance and I COMPLETELY agree. But I don't read about any resistance to ballet being associated with belly dance. Ballet and burlesque are two entirely different and separate forms of dances unto its own...one is acceptable within the dance we call belly dance and one is not. I think both are unacceptable....period.

I applaud Miles for bringing to the forefront MECDA's condoning of burlesque -- one reason why I never became a member of that organization, as well as the publicity of Farhana's involvement in burlesque. But I have to take umbrage to his statement that belly dance is an art form. Belly dance is first a cultural expression; a dance born out of a culture unlike ours; namely Egypt and the Middle East. Ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop and perhaps burlesque or striptease can be considered art forms; done artistically, they are fun to watch. And you'll never see a five year old native Middle Eastern girl dance a perfect or artistic ballet, tap, or jazz number (unless you happen to be Feiruz) let alone do an artistic strip tease dance. But, she is always fun to watch.

Belly dance seems to have become a mish-mash of dance movement ranging from pelvic grinding to turns-on-point. The Hula -- another cultural expression -- endured years of association with burlesque and the term "hootchie cootchie" until the natives stepped up to the plate and put end to that. I don't believe that there is any ballet, jazz, tap, burlesque, or striptease associated with Hula any longer in the more respected communities who embrace that form of cultural expression.

I'm a purist -- obsessive/compulsive. While I agree with Miles's thoughts on the burlesque issue, I do not agree with the issue of associating or infusing other forms of dance to belly dance that he has presented in his shows. But as an advocate for elevating belly dance and keeping it from the Red Light District, I think he is "right on".

By the way, Miles looks quite the dashing knight in shining armor -- a fitting outfit, I think, for saving belly dance from falling into the depths of hell and damnation.

Master Teacher
Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance


4-15-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
In regards to Miles Copleands recent dismay at the inclusion of "burlesque" in the fusion style of American Belly Dance; I have to say that he himself has been producing similiar styles in his BDSS shows. Perhaps he has no real concept of what burlesque involves or it's many facets. I remember clearly, his 2007 show, featuring a dancer in a costume that resembled either a stripper/flash dancer or could be considered burlesque. She wore a top hat and her only routine seemed to be reminiscent of a burlesque parody of "Flash dance" the movie, complete with chair spotlighted on stage, her posing upon the chair with a finale of water cascading over her. Miles, if that isn't classic strip or burlesque, then you do not have a clue. As well as your finale pieces where dancers parade ala Buzby Berkeley or the Ziegfield Follies, which had premises in burlesque; with huge fans in a dazzling display of pure schmaltz. I do think you put on a incredible show with the tribal/fusion and American style belly dancers, but you are not above putting 'burlesque" into your own show. I find it hypocritical, that you assume burlesque is about nudity and strip shows. Look at your own programs and see that you yourself have incorporated the very "evil" to bring down Middle Eastern culture, within your own venue. I found it ridiculous, but not offensive when you performed it. I see as usual you have great tunnel vision.

re: When the Hip Hits the Fan by Princess Farhana
Hips getting caught in a fan (I know this is not the direct title Lynette): I would just like to make one small comment that the author included in her outstanding article regarding the history of fan dancing and it's beautiful and hard incorporations into forms of current American bellydance. She connected the fan dancing used in various forms of dance with the use in Native American dancing. I quote : "In North America, folding hand fans are used in Mexican Ballet Folklorico, and flat-feathered fans with rigid handles are sometimes used in the traditional shamanic dances of various Native American nations". This is a grievious misnomer of the use of fans in traditional regalia and ceremonial work in the Native American /First Nations people's culture. First and foremost, the fan is considered a sacred object, which has many different aspect attributed to it, depending on it's use, the tribe connected with it and is taken quite seriously. It is not used in their traditional dances as a prop or an accessory. Great time is taken and blessings and ceremonies are used to accompany a fan that a dancer or anyone who is using a fan for spiritual practices is done. The use of the word shaman is considered an insult to the Native and indigenous peoples of North America and South/Central America. It is not used by Native peoples, it is a bastardization encorporated by the anglo's who have appropriated it's name from the Siberian medicine people. It in no way has an appropriate usage here and is considered quite upsetting by traditionalist of the Native America, for anyone to use that term so loosely in context with their cultural, unique soveirgnty and sacred beliefs. There is no connection what so ever in the context of her article that should include this reference; as it brings up grievious insults to those of Native and First Nation people. I speak on their behalf as a member of the Lakota nation as well as the Mohawk nation. I do this only to educate and to preserve the language and integrity of our ancestors. I hope in all honor and reverence that you will take this in the manner it is given....especially to educate.

Marin, California


4-14-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
I am writing this letter in response to a letter written by a commenter on the article, “Divorcing Bellydancing from Burlesque" by Miles Copeland. One reader stated that she could not “support burlesque given her Christian faith.” My question is: what does religion have to do with it? Apparently the commenter failed to understand that burlesque is not just about stripping, although it plays a large part in it. Burlesque also included humor and comedy, usually in a satirical and mocking nature. Some of the greatest comedians got their start in burlesque; Milton Burle, Abbott and Costello, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope just to name a few.
Granted, I am not trying to change people’s ideas about burlesque, because after all, burlesque has never been wholesome. I just don’t understand why the hard core belly dancers have such a prudish view of burlesque and view it as “sleazy”. In my mind, belly dancing is certainly no more wholesome than burlesque. For some of the commenters to say that bellydancers suffer because of the link to burlesque is highly hypocritical. It’s not the burlesque that gives bellydancers a bad name. It’s the stereotype that bellydancers are courtesans and women of “easy virtue”. Vilifying burlesque is not going to solve the problem. If you are tired of being associated with a negative rap, then perhaps you should not be belly dancing.

Best regards,
Dallas Texas


4-14-08 re: God Belly Danced: Biblical Accounts of Belly Dancing in the Ancient Near East, Part 1, by DeAnna Putnam Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Part 5
I loved your articles about Biblical belly dancing! Every time I read Psalm 150 v 4 “Praise him with the timbrel and dance” I will mentally substitute “Praise Him with the zills and belly dance” – but then I go to a Charismatic church that encourages dancing and I get to use a lot of floor and veil work.

You left out a few of my Biblical favourites that I’d love to know more about:

  • Judges 21:19-21. What is this feast of the Lord where the women go to the vineyards at dawn to dance together? Sounds lovely!
  • The “Dance of the Double Camp” mentioned in Song of Songs 6:13

Will we see a part four on these?
Megan Foster
Christchurch, New Zealand


4-13-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Just one small point, which I believe needs to made clear, and I perhaps didn't do so adequately in my earlier letter: There is a war going on. From my perspective (and it's just my opinion) an illegal, unconstitutional invasion of a sovereign country (Iraq) which did not aggress against the United States.

As we in the belly dance community debate "art," American kids are dying in Iraq, and so are Iraqis. Might we at least be correct and clear about terminology? Might we at least divorce "burlesque" (an American art form) from the broader "tent" of Middle Eastern dance? No matter how "artful" burlesque might be, it does not represent the dance forms of the Middle East. That is what people are looking at; and it wouldn't surprise me if Americans conflate "strip" with "Middle Eastern dance." One cannot perpetually finger "the ignorant American public" if such acts are presented within a Middle Eastern dance context--or festival, like MECDA's.

To be forthright, I cannot support burlesque given my Christian faith, though I do not doubt that it is art. But the point is, why make Middle Easterners "pay" by association with "stripping" if that is not one of their art forms, as well? If MECDA wishes to promote the art of striptease, they should at least change their name to dissociate themselves from the Middle Eastern arts, cultures, and the people represented, who really have no voice at all in how they are portrayed by Americans.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


4-13-08 re:I loved the Old Days at the Bagdad by Habiba
Dear Lynette,
It was great to read Habiba Nawal's article. I remember her (as Nawal) from my early days at the Greek Taverna, where I waitressed. We both had hippie boyfriends, which drove the Haramis brothers a little nuts, so we got along well. I remember stopping into Tosca with Nawal on one occasion and maybe Hippo before heading home to Marin. North Beach was so exciting then, especially if you worked in one of the clubs, you were "in" and could get in anywhere without paying a cover! Anyway, both the audience and the staff at the Taverna adored Nawal. She was fairly athletic in her approach to dance even then - meaning the energy, the great muscle tone, etc., so it is no surprise that she continued on that path. Karisma (who danced for many years at the Casbah and the Greek Taverna) once mentioned that she had seen Nawal dance and that was what had inspired her to become a belly dancer. I am happy things turned out well for Nawal because she was one of the nicer girls. I remember when she left to work for the airlines, as I wrote in my article for GS, "The Greek Scene."


4-12-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
wow this article stunned me!!
  i attended this 'sleazy' show in london having never seen belly dancers before but having seen many burlesque dancers (who are never naked as you seem in infer...you never see a nipple and the girls never take their underwear and sometimes even corsets off)!  anyway, i was slightly aprehensive about the crossover and whether it would work together but was astounded by the skill of all the performers, in particular the bellydance routines, they were absolutely beautiful!!  so much so that i went home and researched good teachers/classes in my local area and have just started a bellydance class which i have to report i am enjoying thoroughly.  so i have to agree with and defend 's choice to combine the two as i would never have discovered this amazing artform without her unusual fusion!!

Brighton, UK


4-11-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Hi Mr Copeland, I attended the Shimmy Shake show in London which you assert used sexual innuendo to lure an audience with 'nipple tassles' and the even more offensive 'fascinator' (which, by the way, is an elegant feathered cocktail hat, reminiscent of 1950s style).

Well, your ignorance extends beyond a basic grasp of millinery as the entire article on 'Divorcing belly dance from burlesque' goes on to prove. The show was put together by an Australian burlesque and belly dance performer Sapphira who organised the show and performed herself AND it was outstanding!

As a belly dancing student, I went along with a group of fellow students as our belly dancing teacher heard about the event and sent an email around. I had little experience of burlesque but my curiosity was piqued as a favourite instructor, Princess Farhana was to be performing and I wanted to see her burlesque routine and belly dancing show.

Well, I just want to say this to Mr Copeland - The show was great. This was nothing short of professional and the standard of performance was fantastic! Mr Copeland could not be further removed from the truth with his assertions that the show linked sleaze with belly dance and nudity. It was very clear which acts were belly dancing and which were performing burlesque. The burlesque entertainers were so polished on stage and caused us all to hoot with laughter with their comical antics, inspired us with their glamorous costumes and commanded the stage with feminine prowess and authority! (and the audience was a majority female!)

I am attending the next Shimmy Shake show AND the beginners burlesque workshop Sapphira is putting on with some other students from my belly dancing class. I think poor burlesque dancers have the same work cut out for them as belly dancers once did and are beginning the painful process of educating the general public that their work is art and should be accepted and treated as such on a wide scale.

Sally Long
London, UK


4-11-08 re: GS formatting
Hi Serpents,
I really like the articles you post on Gilded Serpent - they are usually interesting, well-written, and well illustrated. But it seems like someone - the editor, the webmaster? - selects random paragraphs to put in bold face print. I see magazines do this all the time but it usually to call out a particular passage as important or thought-provoking. It seems that in most of your articles it is random, or maybe just every third or fourth article. It does help break up the text and make the overall page seem easier to read, but I find it very distracting!
Just my opinion,
Stacy Braslau-Schneck
San Jose, CA


4-11-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Hi, the name is "peter von sleaze" not dj sleaze that just sounds...erm ...sleazy!
being an outsider to the bellydancing world. and only being involved with the burlesque crowd for about 4years. Maybe my name puts across a sleazy tone, but then again i've never dj'd a bellydance night before. i.e. the shimmy shake at madame jo jo's in soho, on the 14th of feb 08, which seems to be causeing a fuss, i had a great time was fantastic to see bellydancing close up. as i'd never see it live on in carry on where's my camel.....anyway,

Don't you think that mixing the two will just open up an wider audience!!
maybe thats just me give me more.
Anyway i'm avaliable for parties, weddings, club nights, cheap rates!!!!!!!!!
pipi pip 'n' tally ho olde boy!

Peter Von Sleaze!! (it's a play on dita von tease)
London, UK


4-11-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Bravo to Mr. Copeland on a well written article. This is definitely a topic that affects all of us involved in the art form. Please understand our viewpoint is not a personal attack against any one dancer in particular but is instead directed at any dancers combining these two forms.

Anyone in this country who has been an Oriental Dancer for any length of time has struggled with the stigma attached to our art form. In the public mind there is a connection between burlesque dancers, strippers, and belly dancers, which can often make it difficult for all belly dancers to be taken seriously. We know how hard we all have worked to convince the public of the legitimacy of our art form. However, all it takes is one dancer doing something vulgar to completely erase all of our efforts.

Dancers who combine both burlesque/stripping and belly dance and teach/write articles/create videos stating it is perfectly acceptable are the reasons that our cell phones ring at three o’clock in the morning because some sleazebag checked into the airport hotel, saw our ad in the yellow pages and think belly dancer = call girl. Dancers who combine both are the reason that an acquaintance of ours who was in the education field felt pressured to give up her dancing once she was promoted from teacher to principal because parents didn’t approve or understand. Dancers who combine both are the reason that a dancer we know has had to seek other employment for her day job– because once her boss found out she was a belly dancer he wanted her gone.

Like it or not, the “art” of burlesque is equated with obscenity in our culture. If you wish to work to remove that stigma from your art form – go for it. We wish you luck. However, when you combine stripping/nudity with Oriental Dance, when dancers perform sexual positions in a belly dance costume, when you encourage other dancers that this is a wonderful thing – EVERY Oriental Dancer pays the price. While you may find that it enhances your career/boosts your profit margin and gets you the attention you crave, the rest of us suffer.

Just yesterday we received a flyer from a new dancer hosting her first workshop. In it she states that she was inspired to learn belly dance after seeing a video of the Kama Sutra dancers. She has no clue why that is so abhorrent to legitimate Oriental Dancers! New dancers do not often understand the stigma or what it can cost them during their dance career. They see someone on a video or at a workshop combining burlesque and belly dance, using Sally Rand fans, or performing the Kama Sutra and think that it’s perfectly acceptable to do this because the dancer doing this is a big name dancer so it MUST be okay. Since they are calling it “belly dance” it must be legitimate.

Dancers also need to start looking at themselves as well.. We can’t even remember the number of workshop shows we've been to where the audience (made up mostly of fellow dancers) screams and applauds loudest for the most outrageous dancers, dancers who use vulgar moves or dancers who use vulgar music. How many workshop flyers have you received touting the teacher that is someone who is objectionable? Why are dancers attending and hosting these workshops? Workshop sponsors who bring in teachers of questionable taste and attendees who go are encouraging this to continue.

As long as you put two dancers in a room together you'll get at least 3 opinions about what is correct, what is appropriate, what is vulgar, etc; and fortunately here in America we don't have the "Belly Dance Police" watching our every move, editing our dance steps and costume choices. But we do owe it to ourselves, the audiences who watch us and the art form itself to not sink into vulgarity and tastelessness.

We are all free to do what we want. BUT when one dancer does something vulgar (strips as a belly dancer, dances without underwear, uses vulgar music and/or moves) it hurts EVERY dancer and their chances for future performance opportunities. As long as we as dancers continue to not speak up, continue to applaud vulgarity and continue to purchase videos, attend classes/seminars by vulgar teachers then we are going to continue the downward spiral of tastelessness.

If you want to be a burlesque dancer, a stripper or whatever that is your choice Why is it necessary to combine the two art forms and paint all of us who are tasteful, legitimate Oriental Dancers with your brush? Make your choice and then stick with it. Belly Dancer or Stripper. Oriental Dance or Burlesque. But then call it what it is and do NOT blend it.

Naajidah & Ashiya
Lincoln, Nebraska


4-10-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Against my better judgment, I once again feel the need to weigh in on the current article by Miles Copeland. I'm not sure how I feel about Mr. Copeland’s article. It certainly piqued my interest. Living in an area of the country that is stunningly beautiful, relatively pristine, I have seen an influx of people from other areas rushing in to buy up houses and land, cut down trees and remake it in the image of other suburban areas, not realizing that the very “improvements” they were making destroyed what they had come here to celebrate. They are the most strident opponents of new building and urban spread. I’ve got mine; now stay away. It is reminiscent of the national immigration issue...kind of like locking the barn door after the horse is gone...all of these things run in my mind.

I find it rather astounding that Miles Copeland, whose Las Vegas style revue of dancers gyrating in skin-tight costumes with bouncing boobs, piston hips and trance thumping renditions of classical musical pieces from another culture should question the ethics of burlesque or even comment on the inappropriateness of Middle Eastern dancers crossing over. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s ludicrous that the man who sponsored the tour of Le Serpent Rouge should have the balls to complain about burlesque when that show was so close to a burlesque/vaudeville crossover it was hard to tell the difference! And, by the way, I thought it was a brilliant production, far more entertaining than the Superstars. Are sales for the Superstars flagging? Did you need publicity? Or do you have some hidden ax to grind with Ms. Farhana that eludes those of us who simply reside on the fringes of the scene. What is your problem? You sound like a prudish Aunt. People will think what they think. Some people find burlesque both artistic and great entertainment. Some people who see the Superstars will think they are a burlesque show, and some won't.

Art schmart...art is in the eye of the beholder, and in the art of the performer. Or are you prepared to be the arbiter and give us the rules by which we should proceed? Lets get away from the art, from the ridiculous statements that you made about changing the perceptions of raqs sharqi or whatever you want to call it. Really...I haven't read such hubris since I read a comparison of the alleged “persecution” of Tribal Style dancers with the persecution of the Rom people in the Tribal Bible. Would you get your head out of your pocket book for a second and smell the coffee? You are not going to change the status of dancers and perceptions of an entire culture by playing Sol Bloom to the world. Western “orientalism” placed belly dancing squarely where it resides today. Dance itself is still regarded as an “outré” profession by many in the west. By being the patronizing uncle who purports to understand all the complexities of this question you simply provide more grist for the abuse Miles Copeland mill…or more publicity. If that is the reason you wrote the article, you are more clever than I thought at first read through. Better to keep your mouth shut sometimes…I know, I know, follow my own advice. Besides, Miles, you sound so humorless. In the greater scheme of things, Art will sort itself out. Either embrace it all...the seedy, seamy steamy side of it AND the gracious, heartfelt genuine artistic expressive side, or GET OFF THE BUS.

Shelley Muzzy/Yasmela
Bellingham, WA


4-10-08 re: Cory's letter re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
If I was presenting bellydance with a "Las Vegas" approach I would probably be all for a bit of nudity or indeed the whole show in the nude. Vegas operates under the adage that "sex sells".

Meanwhile I am not a promoter of a stagnant or should I say "static" view of what bellydance is or was. As an art form that is primarily a solo dance it is as varied as those who do it. There are no standards that are universally or even generally recognized and certainly not in the Middle East where each teacher is as catty about other teachers as we see elsewhere in the world (and in other art forms too). Besides it is not a successful dance as the word "success" is generally applied in our world (or the Middle East for that matter) so even more reason to question the idea of a "right", "correct" "culturally accurate" form existing at all. Those teachers in the West who claim they are doing it "properly" - the "right way" are usually doing so as a means to promote their school and technique over their competitors.

The BDSS strive for excellence in presentation, physical and technical ability, creativity, beauty, and generally high entertainment value to a broad audience. We use fusion for three very simple reasons. First is to bring necessary variety to the show to hold attention for the full one and a half hour length of the performance. Second I use association with other dance art forms as a means to both surprise the audience out of preconceived ideas about bellydance that may not be entirely complementary and/or to uplift it by attaching it to recognized successful mainstream dances. Sabah's excellent fusion of Ballet and Bellydance makes that case admirably to the point I have had ballet dancers express amazement, admiration and new found respect for our dancers in general. Third, I believe the BDSS should be a forum where all our dancers can express and contribute their creativity and skill to the show by offering unique aspects of what they do and to why they got into dance in the first place. Sonia's experience and love of Polynesian dance, Petite Jamilla's spinning, Adore's gymnastics and of course our Tribal dancers are all assets that add to our show and allow our dancers to feel fulfilled as broad based multi talented dance artists. We do this maintaining bellydance at the core of what we do and the fusions we incorporate. We will always maintain bellydance as the core as that is what makes us different from all the other mainstream dance shows out there.

Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA (ed note-I think he is in Italy at present)


4-10-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Whereas I do not care for your Las Vegas approach to our art, I never thought I would say this to you sir: great article! you hit the MECDA dilemma nail on the head. Here's hoping THAT nail was the last in their coffin, and mecda representing ANYTHING Middle Eastern, is...ah..dead!
thank you,
Cory Zamora and zamora'd
Fresno, CA


4-10-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Dear Editor,
Mr. Copeland speaks like he alone has raised the art of belly dance to new respectable levels. Another Mr... Full of himself. Frankly, I don't spend too much time worrying what the people of the Middle east think about either of these art forms. The governments of the Middle East are allowing this art form to disappear from its own soil due to extreme religious constraints. Do you really think they spend a lot of time thinking about the difference between the two? I don't believe they do. My business partner just came back from the Middle East. She traveled through Oman, Jordan, Dubai, Yemen and Egypt for 3 weeks. In all the photos she took, there are no women visible anywhere. Cloistered away. So I don't really think they care, because they would not know what is going on anyway with the BDSS on any given day.

When he allowed Rachel Brice to showcase her style he took a chance on offending Middle Easterners and rocking the boat. That was not "belly dance" as we knew it then. However, it sure has caught on. Now we even have Goth belly dance. What do you have to say about this Miles????

I think he is just worried about his bottom line as always. I don't think he pays the BDSS what they may be worth anyway. I believe he fancies himself as a modern day Svengali or a knight in shining armor??? Nice photo, real credible. His attack on Princess Farhana was uncalled for. I don't believe she deserves this one bit.
People need to look at burlesque as the true American art form it is. People need to educate themselves about it before shooting their mouths off. I find it awesome that the revival of it included intelligent women such as Princess Farhana and Dirty Martini. What the hell are people so worried about? I would rather watch a professional burlesque act any day than watch someone who holds themselves out to be a belly dancer and then she rolls around on the like a moron or is less than graceful in her presentation or just does not know how to belly dance period. We know there are tons of those folks out there. Eight week wonders holding themselves out to be belly dancers. Possibly inspired by the BDSS???? Who knows.
At least Princess Farhana is the consummate professional no matter which hat she chooses to wear on any given day. Mr.. Copeland you owe her a public apology.

Susu Abdo
Ontario, Canada


4-9-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
The article entitled Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles Copeland was recently brought to my attention. Being a trained classical dancer and star of the burlesque stage, I couldn't help but comment. I am used to hearing the opinions of closed minded people, but this article seems to be a blatant attack on Princess Farhana and other Middle Eastern dancers who also choose to perform in shows that feature variety acts including burlesque performers such as myself. The sheer fact that the burlesque revival is so popular with women - my audiences on any given night are over 70 per cent female - and that most articles in the press about new burlesque are written with a heavy post feminist point of view ought to not only help the world of bellydance to be accepted by a wider audience but to elevate our forms of art together. Why fight the connection to burlesque that was made by Little Egypt in the turn of the century when there is clearly a high and low expression of both art forms. Burlesque is made by women for women and enlightened men, and it is as much about the intricate costuming, comedy, parody and flat out glamour as it is about the nudity that is so taboo in our country. This feigned morality is detrimental to women and I take personal offense.
Miss Dirty Martini
New York City, NY


4-9-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Dear Lynette:
I thought that Miles Copeland wrote a great article. I also find it fascinating that during this time, the "Cover Photo" on GS showed a scantily-clad "Nawal Habiba," who looks as though she is dancing in her underwear, not exactly the type of photo that I would choose to represent Middle Eastern dance. Here's my question: If belly dance is all about scantily-clad, beautiful girls, why should it matter whether a dancer takes off her bra during a performance? Why criticize Princess Farhana if she should take off hers during a belly dance/Burlesque routine? The audience is seeing almost everything, anyway.

I believe it's an unfortunate trend among some belly dance performers and associations (MECDA) to promote artists whose claim to fame is sexualizing Middle Eastern dance in an American context, though that is surely their American right. But that does nothing--nothing!--to promote the art form as legitimate, and wreaks havoc with public perceptions of Middle Easterners and their cultures, as Miles correctly noted. At this time, more than any other, it behooves westerners generally and Americans particularly, to have a legitimate understanding of Middle Eastern cultures. The sexualized representation of Middle Eastern dance does not do that; further, it does not represent me as a dancer/teacher in any way, and does not comport with the manner in which I introduce this art form to the public.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


4-9-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
I am a huge fan of BDSS and I applaud Mr. Copeland efforts to educate the general public about bellydance. However, I disagree with Mr. Copeland in that I do consider burlesque a valid art form. Performers like Dita von Teese certainly face their own challenges in defining their art and presenting it to the public in a manner that is seen as art and not as ‘just stripping’. I also wonder where BDSS draws the line between bellydance and burlesque. Adore’s solo on the “Solos from Monte Carlo” dvd certainly crossed a line in my mind. I felt her costuming (fish net stockings, a bra, and a belt) was far too revealing for a bellydance performance. I agree that the public still needs education as to what bellydance is, I do this everyday with my family, co-workers, etc. But I think artists should have the freedom to express themselves. If a bellydancer wants to also perform burlesque, that is her right. I just hope that she would make it clear to her audience that there IS a difference.

Emily Andrews
Salinas, CA


4-8-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles
Bravo to Mr Copeland for a very well-written letter! While I have not necessarily been a fan of the acrobatics and Brazilian and other fusions in the BDSS show, and am vehemently NOT a fan of tribal at all, the BDSS show that I attended was well done, and certainly contained nothing which sullied Oriental dancing as such. I too, am horrified that "Princess" Farhana would associate herself with a show that had Burlesque and someone named DJ Sleaze. What is she thinking? You cannot be an island unto yourself. Every time someone steps out in the name of "belly dancing" (a name I detest, by the way) what they do, how they're costumed, the whole 9 yards, makes an impression on its audience, who then make judgements based on what they see. If something in bad taste, or bad form, or just plain bad dancing is done under that title, we all get smeared.

I was even hoping that perhaps the BDSS could get featured in a "Macy's Stars of Dance" piece on a results show for "Dancing With The Stars". They have a better chance than any of us out there, simply because of the name recognition and the publicity machine behind them. When acts of questionable taste continue to happen (esp.by those who should know better), we need all the positive publicity we can get!

Pauline Costianes
Canton, MI


4-8-08 re: When the Hip Hits the Fan by Princess Farhana
Oh please, enough!....re read your mission statement! this womans shows and flyers are a big part of our leaving what was once MECDA, which needs a NEW mission statement.Perhaps Ravensmoon's letter said it best.

Cory Zamoras


3-26-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
A bit late, but I would like to thank Amar for her wonderful article on the NYC dance scene - and the demise of the cabarets there. I was fortunate to work at the original Ibis in 1979, before I left for Europe. I learned a great deal from the musicians there, particularly Youssef Kasab. Samiha, the owner, chose her band carefully and brought in very talented people. It is tragic that new dancers do not have the same live experience that shaped our dance training in the past. Part of the job description "in the old days" was "be able to improv to the band." That is a hard skill to learn without live music. But that was the essence of what we did. Now the only way a dancer can hone her improv skills is to play a CD she has never heard before.

Yet the community is fortunate someone with your writing skills and experience has brought this era to life - and laid it so eloquently to rest. It was a bittersweet eulogy. R.I.P.

PS. Minor fact correction - the Chicago World's Fair was 1893, not 1863. A typo, I'm sure.
Washingon, DC


3-26-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
I read your article to the end, eyes blurry and all. It was fantastic, so well written and very impressive. You obviously has a great deal to express and if I could have written such an article it would have stated all the same. You captured many of my own thoughts and I felt my usual "sisterhood" with you. Thank you for writing such great wisdom for all to read and even hopefully for some to grow from.
Until we meet again...........Blessings,

New Jersey


3-26-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
Thank you for an excellent article which so eloquently describes what has happened to the Middle Eastern dance form in the last decades. I am looking forward to sharing it with my students--I hope it will help them understand where they fit into the world of Middle Eastern dance today.

Best wishes,
New York City


3-26-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
Hi Nina,
What a wonderful article! I am giving this to all my students. It is very nostalgic for me. Boston was very much like NYC. Of course we thought we had better music in the late 80's and early 90's. We actually had music to die for.

Here in Southern California I have always felt that the new dancers lacked an integral part of their education by not having access to places where they could go and even listen to music and possibly perform to live music. I have tried for years to make our own venues at great expense.

Guess we are kind of lucky. We have one place that offers live music. It is Greek and has an arabic (Iraqi) keyboard player, Greek bazouki player, a Lebanese oud player and sometimes my husband a Lebanese drummer. All exceptionally good. My girls get to work there once a month. We produce a different theme every month for a floor show and have two Orientale dancers. True their shows are 10 minutes each. We use CDs for our show as it is Folkloric in nature.

I try to keep what Bobby taught us in the forefront. We were so lucky. Even have had to offr an Improv class so they can learn to dance this way. No where to just boogie and absorb the music. A shame. Thank you for sharing this piece with me. I am posting it. It hit so many cords. Has made me think things out again. You know, sometimes, one feels all alone in this battle. You have brought it to me that all of us from days gone by suffer the same situation and how can we hang in there and handle things as they are today.

San Diego, CA


3-26-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
Superb article, Nina - a marvelous historical overview of the dance, with an astute analysis of the current "scene". The best I've read. It's an article that should reach an even larger audience.

New York City


3-22-08 re: Love Stories, Choreographies of Raqia by Astryd
This is not an objection to anything in that article - I really like it. I simply wish to clarify one specific thing, which I'll get to later on.
I have been saying for eons that Oriental dance is the music made visible *within the movement vocabulary that goes with this dance form* - you ARE the music: the ears hear it & the eyes see you BE it. It was one of the first & most important things ecplained to me by the wonderful old ME musicians when I first started in 1960. The quality of the instruments, the phrasing, the meaning of the song (BUT you are not a mime, illustrating the actual words). This is the simple truth. This is what the dance should be.

I also agree that Raqia Hassan is a fabulous choreographer & even when teaching a seminar, she always repeats the phrases with intense emotion. It's a pity she was never a professional Oriental dancer - what a fabulous dancer and star she would've been! I told her as much myself.

What does need clarification is in the phrase: "Within this choreography Madame Raqia trained me to feel and sense how each opposite camel...". " Opposite camel", is what Raqia calls the movement she adopted & I, much earlier, dubbed the "California Roll" (think sushi: in regular sushi, the seaweed is on the outside, in the California Roll, it's on the inside & the rice is on the outside - opposite to the REAL thing, an American invention, but a tasty roll nonetheless).

Whatever we call it in order to distinguish it from the CORRECT undulation/ "camel", "opposite camel", "California Roll", whichever ... IT IS NOT A REAL ORIENTAL MOVE - IT IS YET ONE MORE AMERICAN "INVENTION" (like "ribage circles", "upper body camels", *anything* with the ribcage except a slight lift for accent!!!). Raqia, herself, knows this & very specifically & clearly stated as much when she taught a great & very well-attended seminar in my studio in April 2007. "This is an American move. I take it from you!"

I just want to make that fact very clear, so you know where it comes from. Kind of like using a foreign word in your own language - like "shtik" or "shlep" or "rendezvous" ...



3-20-08 Re: Serpentessa DVD Review by Surreyya
I wish to express my gratitude for being reviewed recently by two well known belly dancers with extensive experience with snakes under their hip belts! The first review is by Zaina Hart of iShimmy. Coverage by knowledgeable people contributes to my goals as a 21st century Snake Priestess: disseminating the wisdom of the Serpent and teaching how to dance with them as equal partners.

However, I am dismayed and must correct the following statements by Surreyya as they impact my professional reputation.

“There is not enough newbie care and handling instruction.”

The Dvd prologue clearly outlines its goals as an educational source beyond current newbie care and handling instruction: covering bonding, handling, entrainment and dancing with snakes. This material has never existed before in a viewable format. Increasingly, there are more snake dancers without this necessary knowledge and who don’t have teachers. TempleBellyDance.com lists health, care and feeding sites.

“Overall safety advice was lacking from this video”

This is absolutely untrue! Throughout, I have specifically covered safety as pertains to all the content presented as instruction or performance. But don’t take just my word. Both Zaina Hart and Eva Yaa Asantewaa, a reviewer for Dance Magazine review my comprehensive coverage of safety. (Oddly enough, at her review’s end, Surreyya lists several safety considerations already within my dvd.) In addition, Zaina and Eva Yaa attest to the fact that, throughout the various rituals and performances, never once do I forget they are equal collaborators as implied by Surreyya here:

“There is a lot of contradiction with regard to statements made by Serpentessa, (a self-declared “Snake Priestess”) about snakes not being used as ritualistic props, however, ritualistic dances are being performed, and snakes are in the dances.”

The following is one of the most disturbing statements I have ever read.

“All in all, there are not enough of the real possibilities presented nor how to deal with them.”

Dvds feature captured footage: in this case, living animals. Were I to present “real possibilities”, I would be abusing my serpents in the most inhumane manner possible. The mishaps presented happened by accident only and I demonstrated how to deal with them appropriately.

I appreciate that Surreyya acknowledges my expertise, engagement, involvement, love, care and respect for my animals. She says she “came away with some added insight”, but doesn’t elaborate. Too bad. I imagine GS readers would appreciate knowing. In the interest of furthering knowledge, I respectfully suggest she write an article that speaks to that and to this statement: “snake dancing is such a rewarding and special experience”.

Finally, my dvd was created to address my target audiences of belly dancers, snake enthusiasts, women’s empowerment and earth devotees. The extensive content reflects their diverse interests. I am in business as a Snake Priestess and professional belly dancer who performs and presents workshops nationwide. I am that “goddess <who> gets <and deposits> cash out of the ATM”!

Rifton, NY
[ed note- more info on snakes available here]


3-19-08 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Thanks for such a great article on wearing caftans/cover-ups. I have been in the teacher, performer of Middle Eastern Dance for over 28 years and my first teacher taught me, right from the very beginning, that dancers should always be covered before performing.

I have been sponsoring 2 workshops a year for the past 15 years and my biggest pet peeve is the lack of respect of many dancers. I have seen dancers parade around and even going over their dance routines in their costumes. They have worn everything from husband's shirts, terry cloth bathrobes, raincoats, etc. I have had to add that all performers MUST wear a cover-up when not performing, on my flyers, and still, some dancers insist on not covering up. I think it is just takes away from the mystery of our dance, as well as showing disrespect.

Lancaster County, PA


3-19-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
? or Michelle's article about teaching in a gym? or Certifying the Certifiers by Najia?
Hi, This was meant as a Letter to the Editor, but please feel free to use it in any way that you'd like. It's my rant against the loose usage of "bellydance" and how it reflects on us all in the long run.
I have no problem with fitness places incorporating "bellydance moves" in their workouts, but I do have a problem if they're showcasing the class/session/workout as a "bellydance class" and the instructor has no actual background in this artform other than a few fitness BD classes. When I first read "well, it's one of our elite fitness instructors teaching the class" I almost laughed. I can't tell you how many aerobic professionals, weight lifters, and hardcore fitness ladies that have taken my class and had a hard time with it. We all start from "zero" and learn from there. Doesn't matter how fit or not fit you are. And elite? See me after a few classes. We'll discuss it then

There is a forum that has now stepped on my toes within the local area and I was curious as to what everyone's else experience has been in this aspect and the best tactic to apply in dealing with this situation.

There is a certain local workout gym in the area, that is established nationwide. One always thinks in the typical sense of a gym; weight area, aerobics room, treadmills, bikes, etc. One typically does not think "Bellydance Class". While I have approached local gyms to run BD classes, I have always been given the brush off. After so many attempts, I just gave up and continued on my merry way in the venues that I do teach at.

Now I'm receiving phone calls from different areas excitedly asking if "I'm the person teaching class" at the local ****'s? Hmmm....I decided to investigate this new tidbit of information.

My query, via phone, resulted in another brush-off when I started asking too many questions. I was promptly directed to the fitness coordinator, who in her busy day, has a blackberry and can be reached via email at any time. (well, I'm impressed) I do have to say, I did receive a response right away.

Without getting into too much detail, amongst the few emails that flew back and forth, here is what I have discovered: Yes, they are going to be having "Bellydance Classes". No, I did not ever get a direct answer as to "who" the instructor is other than "she's an elite fitness instructor". (we're just chock full of impressiveness here) The end result; "well, they'll be wearing hip scarves". (oh no, I did not just hear that) Needless to say that after my last email to the fitness coordinator outlining my concerns with a non-bellydancer teaching "bellydance" and my invitation for their "elite instructor" to visit and take my class or just to observe, I have not heard a peep.

So, I do have a few students that are fitness members at this facility that are just dying to take a class and give me a report. I can't wait to hear about it. Excuse me while I brush up my resume.....

an Elite Bellydance Instructor *grin*
Zahira Zuhra
(Nancy E Frye)
Nashua, New Hampshire


3-19-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
What a wonderfully well-written article! This is what I miss about some of the magazines no longer in production - thank goodness for the Gilded Serpent!! Being from southern Michigan, I never knew the dance scene as Nina experienced it. It was so engaging to read her description of it. Here in Detroit it was mainly Greek clubs with flash and style over substance, for the most part. Arabic clubs are few here, the Greek clubs are gone, and I haven't checked the dancing there because I'm hideously allergic to smoke. But Nina's description of the ethnic family atmosphere, along with Morocco's article regarding her first days in the clubs, sounded like a wonderful time to be a dancer. I too, am not thrilled in the least with the Middle Eastern electronic techno music. A little goes a long way. I understand that the Arabic teens and young people need a modern expression of their popular music, but I still like the Egyptian" big band" orchestral sound. Guess that makes me an old fart, eh?

Pauline Costianes
Ann Arbor, MI


3-18-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza

I enjoyed "From Cabaret to DJ". The author's experience mirrored mine in Los Angeles, where there was a booming Arabic nightclub scene in the late 1970's through the mid 80's. There were approximately 8 nightclubs with live Arabic orchestras, and probably 10 more with Greek or Armenian orchestras playing Arabic music for dancers. Places such as Ali Babas, Kokos International, Omaar Khayam, and Sahara. This was such a golden age, as the musicians would keep abreast of the new music coming from Egypt, and would add to their repertoire often, keeping us dancers on our toes, learning beautiful classical pieces such as Hammouda 1, 2, and 3, Maschaal, which was originally called "Al Arrouse", Sahara City, Mahrajan, etc. To hear the opening strains of those songs as one waited in the wings to enter the stage was exhilarating. I plan on doing some interviews with the few dancers and musicians I can find from that era. Here in Los Angeles, it's now about the Vegas style shows with CDs and beautiful young jazz dancers who've been taught some oriental choreography. The shows are beautifully produced, and very entertaining, but somehow, it feels something has been lost.

Kamala Al Manzar
Los Angeles, CA


3-18-08 re: From Cabaret to DJ, NYC '88-'07 by Nina Costanza
That was a great article on the demise of the cabaret. I could have written it myself.

Washington, DC


3-18-08 re: Enduring Open Criticism by Najia Marlyz
Dear Najia,
Your advice to Shylah was indeed excellent and well thought out. Indeed, many students use dance class and many similar self-improvement classes as a means of working on their inner selves in a very personal way. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.

Where things go wrong is when they treat their teacher as their own personal therapist and hold their teachers to unreasonable standards. Dance teachers and other artists of all forms are in touch with their inner voice as much as they have managed to successfully channel energy in a creative way and are making money at it. They are not therapists by any means and should not be liable to coddle, shore up or support the inner sanctums of their students.

Since Shylah has already admitted that regardless of the slight she felt, she has learned much from her teacher, hence, her teacher has provided what she is fundamentally responsible for - a good educational forum and good curriculum. As for myself, I am an unconventional teacher. I tell my students that I will not coddle them, rather, that if they take my class they should be prepared to work hard on the inside and out.

Indeed, developing a thicker skin is paramount to any form of visual art, and all forms of expressed creativity. Indeed, it is fundamentally important to learn to laugh at yourself. Why? Because the ability to laugh at yourself when you have not lived up to expectations, yours or others, is difficult and is an invaluable coping mechanism.

From teaching students to look up, teaching them to hold another's gaze when dancing, not crumbling at fumbles in choreography, student's must endeavor to find a good learning environment where they can channel their energy into something beautiful; something that feeds their soul. Note, this is the student's responsibility to themselves... this is a work of self-investment.

Teachers are conduits or guides, showing you a means to regain communication with that inner expressive you. We are not perfect and should not be put on pedestals to worship or be held to a higher unearthly standard. No one can stand up to such unreasonable expectations. Give your teacher a break. She is not Superwoman.

Ottawa, Canada


3-17-08 re: Enduring Open Criticism by Najia Marlyz
I think Najia was way off-base with her advice to Shyla, whose teacher had compared the way she moved to "a certain animal" (an elephant? a hippo? what?) Najia's advice was basically to toughen up, stop being so sensitive, and to work on her technique. While in general I don't think this is bad advice, it ignores the fact that Shyla's teacher said a really inappropriate thing to her. I would never negatively compare a student's movement to that of an animal and am horrified that any teacher would. Shyla's teacher (unlike Najia) apparently realized her gaffe and apologized to Shyla which I think speaks well for the teacher. We all put our foot in our mouth at one time or another and it takes a big person to admit when they've done that. In terms of what Shyla should do now, I think she might tell the teacher that she was hurt by the comment, but appreciate's the teacher's apology, and that Shyla should forgive her teacher for the momentary lapse in judgment and continue taking classes with her. I suspect that having made this faux pas once, the teacher will be unlikely to do so again. If it does become a regular pattern of behavior, then I think Shyla should find a teacher who can offer criticism in a more constructive and appropriate way.

Renee Drellishak
Seattle, WA


3-16-08 re:Inteview with John Bilezikjian by Artemis Mourat
I just now went back and read the article about John Bilezikjian and all of his accomplishments and fascinating life. Thank you so much for this opportunity of a closer look at the life of this incredible man.

Apache Jct., AZ


3-16-08re: letter below re: Certifying the Certifiers by Najia
Dear Lynette:
I agree with Pepper Alexandria, in her letter below, who states that just about anyone can offer a certificate, suitable for framing, stating that one "knows how to belly dance."

While certification may come cheaply to some, emanating from teachers of dubious quality and background, I'd add that not all certification processes are equally facile. I greatly appreciated the teacher training certification program organized and taught by Baraka, which I took as a potential student-teacher in the mid-1990s in San Francisco. Baraka, of course, had been trained by Jamila Salimpour.

Even today, I benefit from the substantive teacher training that Baraka offered. Students had a lot of material to read. We had homework to do. We had exercises to design. Baraka gave us opportunities to student-teach, before we fledgling teachers ventured out on our own.

Currently teaching in Tucson, AZ, I still utilize principles taught by Baraka in that rigorous class so many years ago. I greatly appreciated her insights on "how movement happens," and I communicate that to my students. The bottom line, from my perspective, is that while many can offer classes that provide a certificate and little else, there remain competent teacher-trainers who provide their student teachers a learning experience that lasts. More than a decade later, I remain grateful to Baraka for all the hard work she did training me to teach.

Barbara Grant
Tucson, AZ


3-7-08 re: Certifying the Certifiers by Najia
Hello My Belly Dance Friends...
Many of you know me and I really never say too much about what is happening in our wonderful world of belly dance. But this thing with the expensive certificates, is just becoming funny!

When a few qualified teachers were doing it, well that was their thing. Now... and I laugh out loud, Anyone can do it. What a freaking scam... This is so Lame and Funny at the same time... No wonder people don't take this dance form serious. I guess, It looks good in a frame on your wall. Yes, please write to me... or if you are the people who give these certificates have your students write, because I am sure you will not have the nerve to write me yourself... I love hate mail, o, just kidding you guys. I will be using the information in my next Belly Dance Comic Book.

And yes... I would like to certify myself, that I know how to Belly dance.
Pepper Alexandria
Berkeley , CA


3-6-08 re: Letter below and "Come with me to the Casbah" by Nisima
Dear Lynette,
As a former "North Beach" and Bay Area restaurant dancer for years, Ellen's letter made me remember all that she is talking about very vividly and yes, it is with a poignant feeling of aching loss that once again I'm reminded sharply that the club format doesn't exist anymore. Yes, I feel so very fortunate to have worked with Arab musicians and other dancers in the club format with lots of Middle Eastern clientele - 3 dancers a night, and we each performed three (yes 3) shows 35 to 45 min. (or longer, depending on what Middle Eastern clientele was celebrating). I once did an hour on stage, before going out for tips and finale drum solo when a Saudi groom and his friends showed up to celebrate at the Casbah in North Beach.

Yes, what a time to be a belly dancer, what a fabulous "training" period, either dancers learned to really dance to the live music in those clubs or they didn't last - it was "sink or swim"! And, I swam in that music, oh yes, I did and didn't even get home until 3 a.m. and then up at 8 a.m. for full-time day admin job, still "high" on that gorgeous Arab music, could hardly wait for my next regular performance night, not even tired.

I don't mind saying I miss that club format and so I share my experience with my students whenever I can because I think it is an important and rich experience they missed. I too, am hoping that the "evolution" of dance and culture swings back around to add more classical Middle Eastern themes into the myriad of ME dance styles or it will be lost.

Yours in dance and thanks for the memories this morning,
Pacifica, CA


3-5-08 re: Feedback on the latest Bellydance Superstars show- March 1 2008, Marin Civic Center, San Rafael, CA
Dear Miles,
As former designer of Superstar's backdrops, and member of the MEMD community for 14 years, I wanted to give you some feedback on the recent show I attended in Marin County on March 1. Sometimes, critical feedback can be incredibly valuable because "fresh eyes" have a perspective that is not observable from within your production unit. Are you ready to hear it?

Your show was dynamic and professional, as always, but I was disappointed with several key elements.

1. Evolution of a story line. The show seems to be carrying the same story line year after year - "showcasing the talent". I think that it is time to move beyond that simple premise and create a theme that tells a story WHILE showcasing the talent of the performers. Think Cirque-de-solil. Your show needs to evolve into a series of story lines that capture pieces of the vast history of the dance and the cultures represented, and then showcase the differences that exist in within that cultural history. A new story each year will attract larger audiences and more repeat attendees.

2. Music: The music is too loud. Middle Eastern Music is not rock and should never be presented above 95 db. Your audio tech has obviously been swayed by the influence of loud rock, and may even have progressive deafness as a result of working in the field so long. I could tell that he was delivering the audio consistently above 100 db and with peaks near 120 db. Sound presented at this level distorts the subtile instrumentation of middle eastern music and is damaging to the listeners. With all that visual talent, you do not need bounding music to drive the interest of the audience.

3. Backdrop: Well, obviously, I was disappointed to see that you were no longer using my backdrop, but my disappointment is founded in an even wider perspective. I was actually thankful that you were no longer projecting your video images onto my backdrop, as I never intended to have it presented in that way. The projected video backdrop may be easier to set up and change with various venues, but it competes with the dancers and costumes and, like the loud music, reduces the overall impact of your show. Once again, borrowing a concept from the rock genre is not appropriate. Your backdrop needs to be static, theme and mood generating, and decidedly secondary to the dancers and costumes. If you had a theme - the drop could reinforce that theme.

Question: if you are no longer using the latest backdrop I designed for you, I may be able to find a buyer. Are you interested?
Thanks for considering my input!

David Ludwig
Larkspur, CA


3-5-08 re: Egyptian Dance - Has It Crossed the Line? by Amina Goodyear
Is this the end of an era? Is belly dance being inalterably changed from its pure Middle Eastern inspiration?

The era I speak of was the golden age of belly dance in Egypt and the Middle East and all its influence brought to America in the 20th century. Middle Eastern musicians opened clubs and played for and hired dancers. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the fun of the North Beach scene, Pasha and all of the Arabic peoples influencing music and dance brought so much authenticity and authority to the scene. We can read about it here on Gilded Serpent.

New videos and dancers coming out of Egypt and the Middle East brought a pinnacle of cabaret influenced dance that seemed to fade into fusion backlash at the cusp of the 21st century. I see dancers from the golden era sitting in the wings watching in dismay as belly dancers dance to rap music on stage and sylph-like, white skinned dancers with black gothic make-up create an industrial music influenced performance art act called Tribal Fusion. Regardless of its current popularity, this new development of Tribal Fusion dance does not have Middle Eastern audiences flocking to it as they did when traditional cabaret belly dance was king.

This era was a time of magic with true Middle Eastern influence and consistency. If belly dance as we knew it in the twentieth century dies into Tribal Fusion dance and musical obscurity in America, the sad thing is that this new generation will never experience the magic of that time. And those of us that did are the true “fortunates.” Today, there seems to be an absence of the strong Middle Eastern cultural influence that infused itself into every aspect of belly dance life “back in the day.” You could feel it in the air. Remember?

Even if traditional cabaret belly dance dies, and let’s hope not, thank goodness for the times and experiences all of us from the golden generation had. It was the best time to be a belly dancer! The new generation in the Middle Eastern countries may not encourage and support belly dance right now as their forebears did, so with things in such a state in the Middle East, the future of belly dance from the Middle East may fade in the next twenty or thirty years. Or, maybe it will have a renaissance!

I am willing to let go if necessary and be satisfied that an era may have inalterably changed and all I will have is memories. I would prefer memories of the most magical of times in Middle Eastern dance in America, than aspire to a pop-culture, American belly dance fusion rebellion (which some young dancers have euphemistically termed a belly dance “evolution”).

I am sure there are those who will maintain the traditional dance, as many are representing in the Belly Dance Superstars, which I am happy for. However, the culture as a whole has lost something in the last years and it has greatly saddened many. It is not the fault of any one particular development, rather just the fault of societal change, which is usually inevitable. Having the “wheel turn” in the direction of favoring classicism in belly dance would be welcome. The true fusion needed is the fusion and influence of the true Middle Eastern culture and lore and magic back into our belly dance world, as it once was….

Ellen Yicano
Daly City, CA


2-14-08 re: MECDA Breaks its Silence by Rachel Soto
You Know,
The New Mecda should change the Name from MECDA to TAWDA- " Tribal And World Dance Association" because they are straying away from what was started 20+ years ago.

Now, we are dancing on skateboards, throwing knives, swallowing fire, swinging on poles, flying through the air etc. etc. etc., which is good, and exciting, and very diverse, but it is NOT Middle Eastern Dance!!!

That way they have covered ALL forms of dance, instead of going under the blanket of Middle Eastern Dance, and dancing every kind, but MED dance. Think of something productive.

Anniitra E. W. Ravenmoon a Concerned Member
Long Beach, CA


2-13-08 re: MECDA Breaks its Silence by Rachel Soto
Sometimes I wonder why anyone would make a statement regarding a situation when he or she is not aware of all the facts. In this case it is about the statements that Rachel Soto posted on the Gilded Serpent under “MECDA Breaks its Silence”, presumably by the request of the president Janet Thomas. In one of her statement she says:

“two long time MECDA members launched a personal campaign to persecute Marta Schill for their grievances. They attended a Central Board meeting insisting that she had misappropriated funds from MECDA’s account for her own personal use, and called for her resignation".

"Launched a campaign to persecute Marta Schill because she had misappropriated funds from MECDA's account for her own personal use"?

As intelligent as Rachel Soto is, I'm surprised she has made such a gross statement. First of all, those two long time members are Doyne Allen and I. Why was Rachel afraid of mentioning our names? Even though she was at that Central Board meeting, obviously she does not have the copy of my letter that was read during that meeting.

Neither Doyne Allen nor I launched a campaign to persecute Marta Schill for our grievances. We simply stated the facts. We never said that she had misappropriated funds from MECDA’s account for her own personal use. We simply wanted to know how the funds were used because, year after year we asked so many times for the Board to print out a summery of expenses and it was never done, up until we and the concerned members strongly demanded it. After 28 years of not posting budget and expenses and giving all sorts of excuses, finally, MECDA started telling us what's happening to the funds, however, short of critical details. Any member should be able to ask how the funds are being appropriated.

One of the reasons MECDA suffered a setback in recent years is because, Marta Schill surrounded herself with some incompetent people and she also made some bad decisions. MECDA lost too many great members and Board Members, because of the way Marta was running the organization. All those members we lost were truly dedicated to the organization but they would not rejoin as long as Marta was still on the Board. Fortunately, (after "The Concerned Members" brought the matter to the attention of this Board) the Board Members we now have, realized that this is not the way to run an organization. A few days before the meeting, when the Board was getting ready to vote Marta off the Board, Marta found out that she was going to be asked to step down, so she resigned to save face. As for her upcoming endeavor, Marta should remember that MECDA has been very tolerant, good and gracious to her and not hurt MECDA further.

About this law suit, yes, I tried to stop it by having a meeting with Janet Thomas (the president) and her husband Paul, asking them to print out an apology letter in the “Happenings” to clear our name, because we were falsely accused of stealing MECDA’s mailing list. Janet Thomas said that she never said that we stole the mailing list and she was sure that we did not, and that they were not even aware of that statement being posted on MECDA’s web site. Therefore, they are not going to apologize because they felt that it would be an admission of guilt. I said fine, in that case, I suggested to her that there's no need for an apology but they needed to print a statement that we did not steal MECDA’s mailing list, and that they knew nothing about it being posted on their web site. By doing so, Mr. Doyne Allen would drop his law suit for slander. Well, to this date they have not posted anything. Now I am wondering if they were listening to me because this law suit could be very costly for them.

Finally, I am very glad that Rachel Soto is giving us a positive message that MECDA will survive and I am truly hoping so. Just a reminder to all future officers who will be elected for office; Most organizations go by “Robert’s Rules of Order” and the rules of order should be taken under serious consideration and studied as a guideline, so the future of MECDA would be more successful.

Harry Saroyan
Riverside, CA


2-12-08 re:MECDA Breaks Its Silence by Rachel Soto
July, 2007: At MECDA’s Budget meeting I was shocked to find that the new Board had concluded they could not afford to continue providing our members with the quarterly Cymbal magazine, nor the Annual Anniversary Party. Additionally, the annual MECDA Directory, usually out in the autumn, has not yet been published.

Instead of discussing how we could afford these services which we had promised our members – it was simply determined we would not provide these items. For myself, after being part of the creation of MECDA, and creating the Cairo Carnivale, this was truly heartbreaking news.

In response to my inquiry of where the money from the 2007 Carnivale was going, I was told that MECDA needed to keep a ”pad of money” in case of threatened lawsuits. Why would anyone sue MECDA – a service organization? The sole event with any real funding connected to it was the Cairo Carnivale.

In August, I submitted a proposal to personally take on The Carnivale, converting it into a MECDA fundraiser, but not a MECDA event; therefore, freeing MECDA ‘s funding from litigation.

This proposal was initially met with positive comments, but later with great animosity. No negotiation was ever in place. Since I (with the approval of President Janet Thomas) had trademarked the name Cairo Carnivale, a dispute arose regarding the name and location of that event. During that time, I wrote vendors saying that funds sent for spaces may not be guaranteed for that area, that date, or that name. At the time, it was the truth.

I later made the decision to allow MECDA to use the name ‘Cairo Carnivale,’ and provided their attorney with a document saying so.

I am now involved in several new projects serving the ME Dance community, and only wish MECDA the best in their endeavors. Please go to www.raqsla.com for more information, or email me with any questions at marta_schill@yahoo.com.

Marta Schill
Sierra Madre, CA


2-11-08 re: MECDA Breaks its Silience by Rachel Soto
What a journey this has been. I have seen companies hide earnings or records before. This one takes the cake. Everything we said in that “Concerned Letter” was true. What did any of us have to gain by lying?? Contrary to some of the hate email, and accusations; we were not, and are not “Disgruntled members” The many slanderous emails, and name callings were pulled after it was found out that Doyne, and the rest of us were possibly going to sue for slander, but not before we got copies of them for evidence.. Well, it is probable now, that we are going to court. I was approached by phone by Doyne Allen’s attorneys, about my liability suit. The only answer The Members have was accusing us of stealing a list! WE ALL THAT HAVE BUSINESSES, HAVE MAILING LIST!! DUH!

*Note I am an Oilfield Tradeswoman, and a Pace/Oil Atomic workers union member. When we voted for officers, our ballots were always numbered, or coded so there could not be duplicate ballots inserted into an election. The last Mecda election, the vote ballots were not numbered or coded, leaving it easy to insert extra votes where wanted. I never said anything about that but always wondered.

The issue of what we were asking never came up. The accusations were a smoke screen to hide from the issue of mismanagement. Mecda, is a wonderful association, formed by our membership dollars over a period of years, and any of us have a right to ask how the funds are spent and where are they, without being met with slander. Even now an out has been offered out of the suit being filed, but I guess they didn’t understand what Doyne was talking about. We even said that we would drop the suit if they put it in writing that they know that we didn’t steal a mailing list. I have heard from Doyne that it was said that they know we did not steal a list, but they refuse to admit it, so to court we go.

I have been a Mecda Member off and on since it began. I remember when Feiruz Aram gave us a small piece of paper to sign to join. I had to work that night that she and others picketed. It was 5.00 dollars at that time for membership. (telling my age now)I am writing this letter and breaking my own silence because I don’t want it to seem like Doyne is alone, because he is not. I definitely am not disgruntled; I have no reason to be. An institution like Mecda should be fair, and open to ANY member! So those of you Board members, whoever you are old or new, when running a business as large as Mecda, dealing with all types of people, and cultures, don’t be so quick to slander anyone that asks you questions you don’t like. In my own opinion, I KNOW that Doyne Allen and Harry Saroyan would have been /are great assets to Mecda. They have been since the beginning.

Anniitra E. W. Ravenmoon
a Concerned MECDA Member in Los Angeles, CA


2-9-08 re: John Bilezikjian, Where Old World Charm Meets Musical Genius by Elizabeth Artemis Mourat
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed Artemis' interview with John Belizekian. I've known John for years and performed with him many times. In addition to being able to play stuff that would knock my socks off, he was always warm, funny, and gracious, even putting up with my weird sense of humor - which, if you know me, can be quite a chore. The article captures a lot of his many attributes. Thanks for publishing it.

Mark Bell
Fairfax, CA


1-31-08 re: A Vendor's View by Artemis
Artemis was right on!!!!! As a newbie 1-2 table vendor, I had my first experience vending at Hala's Tito event last weekend and I left with a true respect for vendors that do this on a full-time basis. It was a wonderful experience! I got to chat with dancer's I've communicated via email only and the networking opportunities with both dancers and the other vendors were well worth it. But vending is hard work!!!! I can't even imagine what I would do if I had a larger inventory to deal with. I knew exactly what Artermis was referring to when she mentioned the "hauling in" and out of inventory and the rain!!!!! I really appreciate my friends for helping me that weekend. And I learned so much by watching veteran vendors like Diamond Pyramid and Dhyanis who were were set up and broken down within a blink of an eye!

I can't echo enough how important the support of the promoter is. It has such a huge effect on the entire experience. Hala and Ali were so incredibly accommodating at their event. I also really appreciated the reasonable vending rates. I agree that the trend is moving towards smaller events and am really looking forward attending more events like these in the future. Well done Artemis!

Emeryville, CA


1-22-08 re: Bellyqueen vs Barbary Coast. Review/ pics by Surreyya
Dear Editor,
I wanted to write to say that I loved Surreyya's review of the Bellyqueen Barbary Coast show. It was interesting, fun, and written with a light heart! I really enjoy well-written reviews that are honest, positive and not too snippy.

Rachel Lazarus Soto
Los Angeles, CA


1-11-08 re: Remembering Lynn Zalot & Habibi by Sadira
I was one of those writers for the early Habibi (my column was called "Beledi 101" and was targeted to newer dancers, with tips on costuming, music selection, getting and keeping a job, and similar subjects) and Lynn was always warm, helpful, knowledgeable and gracious to a fault. When Habibi printed, in serial form, my article on "Dance as a Means of Achieving an Altered State of Consciousness", Bob told me it was the first time they had paid for an article. I think I got $100 for it.

I have an archive of Habibi editions going back, if not to the very first issue, certainly to the first year of its publication, and extending through the end of Shareen's editorship. While I don't read through it often, every time I clean out the closets and re-find it, I page through and recall all the wonderful times we had.

Thanks so much for giving space to the roots of Habibi and the loving spirit Lynn brought to it - and to all she touched.
Beth Baraka Youngdoff
Menlo Park, CA


1-8-08 re: Where Have All the Cover-ups Gone? Ashiya & Naajidah
Fabulous article! Every time I'm at a workshop or show and see what you describe; You put into words so well exactly what I am thinking! Maybe some of the dancers will see themselves and take the appropriate action.
Yours in Dance,
York, Pa.


1-3-08 re:God Belly Danced: Biblical Accounts of Belly Dancing in the Ancient Near East By Qan-Tuppim (DeAnna)
The series on the biblical accounts of belly dancing was fascinating! I have done a lot of reading about the roles of men and women in scripture and how poorly they are understood in today's church. (I don't like the word roles. We aren't acting in a play, we are living a relationship.) I have found that most of the references about women are mysteriously twisted to make women look bad or unimportant. The effects of the Fall are amazing - men have been "lording it over women" since the beginning.

Like you, I have both a high and low view of scripture. I believe that it is inherent, therefore it can withstand the stresses of disection. The truth holds up no matter what you do with it. I am so disgusted when I speak of biblical equality and people don't want to listen because they are afraid that what the bible really says is not what it has been manipulated into meaning.

Well, I am getting babbly here, but I really do appreciate these articles.

Ann J
Walworth, NY


1-2-08 Dynamic Belly Dance, The Joyful Journey of Dancemaking and Performing by Ramona Reviewed by Dina Peace
Although I can relate to the sticker shock reaction, Dina has a great sense of humor that makes her great quality review a laughing good read. She also convinced me to start saving my pennies to buy my own copy, because I'm a sucker for gorgeous photos of beautiful dancers as well! Thank you, Dina, for a most effective review.

Luise Perenne BFA
Fountain Valley, CA


1-1-08 re: North Beach Memories
The pictures from North Beach bring back so many memories. I was in Nakish’s dance troupe. We also danced at the Casbah and the Bagdad. I can remember celebrating one of my birthday’s at the Bagdad. We performed in many shows with Vince Delgado, Mimi, and Devi as our musicians. We also performed at a Greek Restaurant with John Compton. I loved reading the stories and seeing the pictures.

Thanks for bringing back so many wonderful memories. I have a scrapbook filled with them.
Diane (Atesh)
San Francisco, California.


Older Letters  

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

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

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

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

Archives Pg 12- May 2005 up through October 2005
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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