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Jillina's Bellydance Evolution



Letters to the Editor
Page 17- Jan-Dec 2009

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12-19-09 re: letter below dated 1-19-09
Hello Lynette,
Please extend my thanks to Mike Fair (Aka Faraz) from the San Francisco Bay area for his kind remarks about my music and our performance together a few years ago at the Desert Dance Show in San Jose.
I do remember him and remember our performance together. It is very kind of you Mike to have said what  you said about me and thank you for your compliments.
All the best to you and yours.
John Bilezikjian
Laguna Hills, CA


12-19-09 re: December SnakeByte
Thank-you for this service Lynette. 
In my busy schedule it is not always the easiest thing to do and read everything that I want to get to.  Snake Byte keeps me up with the newest articles and happenings and serves them up on a platter that is more time efficient for me. 
One of these days I will write some articles about my experiences in Egypt. Wishing you and your loved ones a Joyful Holiday Season.
Always in Dance
Leyla Amir


12-19-09 Re: Naked Belly Dance in Ancient Egypt by Andrea Deagon, P.hD

Andrea Deagon's articles and research have been a great and relevant look into the realities and myths regarding Egyptian Culture, ancient and new.  I very much appreciate all the work she goes into in studying, researching and probing through many of our misconceptions about Dance, Culture ,Art etc. in Ancient Egypt and how it reflects v.s stereotypical concepts outdated and irrelevant.

First , I personally would just like to note that as a scholar on this subject, Andrea's use of the word "Belly Dance to describe Pharonic modes and culture to be an oxymoron.  It would be more appropriate perhaps to use the current usage of Raks Sharqi, "Oriental Dance"  or other phrases, since the title Belly Dance was a contrived name given to the dances of Egypt and North Africa during the World Wide Chicago Fair exhibition.  It was based upon the French interpretation of "Dance du Ventre".  And is really a Victorian , scandalous carnival name given to the dance at the time.

Every time I hear that title used in your excellent research I cringe, since it has no place in describing the dancers of Pharonic, pre-Western colonization Egypt.   Gustav and Flaubert's writings; were primary in coining the phrase "Dance du Ventre"; as they were astonished at the dancers use of isolation of stomach muscles as well as control over other muscles used in the dance.  This in a very restricted Victorian environment , was considered not only titillating and sexual, but also had no prior base in European dance history to connect it's origins to.  Using the word "Belly Dance", has hopefully been upgraded for many years now in the true dancer's vocabulary.  It is used mainly to inform Western audiences, even in Egypt , to the type of Dance they associate with Egyptian style dance as well as any other Middle Eastern dancing; primarily in the cabaret format.

I look forward to many more of Ms. Deagon's theories on the dance origins in Ancient Egypt; but hope that such latitude within a respectable research piece will be given second consideration of usage.   I have also done a lot of research in dance, ethnoregional, desert tribes etc.  I have visited Egypt as well.  Many of the dances were arranged into different categories from what I understand, from tribal groups, sacred ceremonies as well as entertainment.  It is hard to decipher from mere tomb paintings which element is being depicted. 

As evidenced by the Ghazayaa and the family of the Banat Ghawazee stylizing; we see it is indicative of a tribal family and their traditions.  As well as the North African dance styles each representing a particular tribal context, meaning and significance that does not really cross boundaries into being "all Tunisian, all Algerian etc."   Many priestesses were also sexual surrogates,; who represented fertility for the Nile inundation, a prosperous harvest for a farmer, and interpreter of dreams.  Sexuality and the sexual act were not seen as prohibitive as we view it; it was part of the natural proxy of life and all life.  It was given more mystical and symbolic meanings due to it's incredible powers of creating and generating life. 

The dancers of the Saidi people are distinct unto their own tribes, with stories and dance movements that are repeated for millennium, but have lost some of their significance due to different conquests after the Roman conquest.  The moves performed and their specific current tribal attire; reflect ancient roots in meanings associated with Hathor, Isis from the Pharonic times. Gustav and Flaubert on their travels write extensively of the dancers they met, who danced with very little clothing on....

So, I postulate just a bit further that clothing on or off was probably decided by the style and reason for the dance.  As Egypt is a extremely hot environment, it would also seem that dance would perhaps be done in the nude to accommodate the heat, the lotus head decor of scented wax dripping down the dancer's body to make a glistening sheen as well as exert a beautiful scent. Dance is  not static and in such a world as Pharonic Egypt with it's mysterious at times spiritual ceremonies which have been lost in their interpretation; along with tribal affiliations, etc. there is a myriad of fascinating reasons for what any of the meanings of dance, music, ceremony could have meant. 

There are hieroglyphs showing the Pharoah's initiation being that called "the activation", which shows the Pharoah being masturbated by one of the God's.  They don't show these hieroglyphs that often, but it was quite common.

Thank you for your work, Andrea.

Mill Valley


11-17-09 re: November SnakeByte
Yalla! Yippee! You have exceeded my expectations again.  All those videos as well as in depth articles.  I treasure my SnakeByte & have forwarded it to my students.  Thanks for your hard work and Happy Thanksgiving, 
(Lady of the Feather/&other/ Fans)


11-17-09 re: Nicole's pictures on the Community Kaleidoscope dated 11-17-09
In response to the photo and description in Kaleidoscope of the aftermath of the Algerian/Egyptian soccer match that states that the Algerians burned an Egyptian flag on the way from the airport and that caused the problems, please watch the 50 or more YouTube videos that show that a mob of Egyptians threw rocks at the team bus that was supposedly protected by Egyptian security forces.

One Algerian player had four stitches and three others were wounded. The French team doctor on the bus gives a first hand report that is in on USA Today. World newspapers are all reporting that FIFA was not abiding by its own rules and the match should have been postponed and played in a neutral country. Of course, now the emotions are so high that there has been widespread violence and destruction of Egyptian businesses in Algiers. Well, this is why I refer to dance than to compete!!

Linda Grondahl
San Francisco, CA


10-27-09 re: letter below re: Dondi's "Give Credit Where Credit is Due!"
Mr. Copeland, I have stuck up for you in the past about BDSS here and on other sites, but must we split hairs publicly over all the obvious minutiae? Yes, imitators are the reason that products flourish everywhere in one form or another. And imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If a dancer of yours provides a DVD of her dance instruction that would lead one to think that gleaning ideas from stage choreography would be an obvious development. How many Tribal dancers started with imitating the woman, including her choreography who started it all in San Francisco. Secondly, new technology is unforgiving in the current music market; internet technology is currently like the ‘Wild West.’ Until certain technical controls are put into place, to protect musical and performance property rights and jobs, this will be an uncomfortable transition, understandably. There are things going on in this world that are so much more important. This is JUST belly dance and it can be a pain too, all around. That’s why I left so easily, thank God for me – lol.

Good luck to you all in your ventures.
Amanda (formerly Ireena) Volovik
Reno, NV


10-20-09 re: Ramadan in Cairo by Nicole
I loved reading Nicole's article.  I met Nicole last summer when I was visiting Leyla Lanty there just before the Ahlan Wa Sahlan.  Having been to Cairo several times during the summer, it was so fun to read about another season of the year, especially a time as special as Ramadan. 
Nicole, you make the reader feel that they are there with you!  That's a real talent!  Keep the articles coming.... 
Grace "Lennie" Clark
Apache Jct., AZ


10-12-09 re: Carnival of Stars on the Community Kaleidoscope
Yes, I have performed in  the other festival at the same venue....just not my cup of tea I guess. Seeing the difference between  call in  to hand picked dancers was an eye opener.AND EVERYONE WAS SO NICE! Back stage , friendly, supportive...a family! I met so many dancers I have heard of but never performance was met with genuine compliments with no knife in the back when you walk away! I felt calm, accepted.  Meeting Lynette was a highlight!. At 2pm on Sunday, I taught a free mini lesson. THERE WERE STUDENTS WAITING FOR ME! I sincerely want to thank pepper and latifa for a wonderful experience, I am looking forward to next year.

Cory Zamora
Fresno, CA


10-1-09 re: Give Credit Where its Due! by Dondi
So far the most flagrant copies of the BDSS choreography have come out of China.  The truth is that they have no concept of copyright for dance any more than for all sorts of products from cars to every conceivable item one can think of.  That society has not been trained in such concepts and it will take some time to sink in.  Russia too was cut off from Western concepts for so long that respect for intellectual property has not fully developed there either.  Of course in the Middle East it is basically unheard of.  Music rights are completly different from the West.  

Meanwhile Dondi is right to complain and take issue with blatent choreography ripoffs but then again right here in America I bet countless bellydancers (not to mention everyone else) regularly download DVDs and music without paying, or copying from a friend.  The music business has suffered greatly and over 50% of the jobs lost and more going all the time.  Respect for art starts with being willing to pay for it so it can survive and those that dedicate themselves to it can eat.  These days it is getting harder and harder.  In the end all art will suffer but any art that costs money will suffer most as it will not be financiable. 
Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA


9-29-09 re: Give Credit Where its Due! by Dondi
I wanted to write about the article that you have posted here. I just have to say how THRILLED I was to see this subject written up and posted on your site. I had been contemplating doing the same thing after coming home from the competition I had just been a judge at. So many times I have seen dancer after dancer copy or take choreography from another teacher or dance company without permission or at least giving the verbal/written "credit" to the originator of the choreography and it astounds me. Even though I have not been with my dance teacher/mentor for many years, I still credit her for one of the beginning choreographies I teach to my beginning students, it's only proper and I wish was done more by other dancers. 

I want to thank Dondi for writing so eloquently exactly what I had have been struggling with over the last few days. I have very rarely sat and been so shocked than have to judge a well known dance group, I know used choreography easily recognizable from another teacher/director without permission. So seeing this article when I looked at the site just made me feel a ton better with the decision I had made regarding this matter. 

The question is though how do you/I/the general public react to such things? Do we attempt to "say" something to the producer of an event? Do we approach the offending party about it? Do we go to the teacher or director who's art was stolen? What's the right answer? I honestly don't know. In the end regarding my situation, I have approached the teacher/director who's choreography was taken and will be allowing her to do what she wishes with the information. But reading the article Dondi wrote, I felt I had to at least send a letter saying "thank you." 

Warm regards, 
Dalloua Dance Company Director


9-28-09 re: Wiggles of the West, One Dancer’s Foray into Competition by Sonja
Bravo to Sonja for her brave story on the competition circuit. As someone who has competed in many of these contests, I can vouch for her experience and questioning many factors that would likely fall under heavy scrutiny in other events.  I've frequently competed in categories where winners were primary students of judges serving on the panel.  With the breadth and sheer number of fine dancers in this community, I find it concerning that a competition would have a shortage of judges.  I find it even more alarming that some didn't step down or trade categories so no one would cry foul.  It just looks bad, especially when your student of 5-10 years wins a category you are judging.  tsk tsk. 

In Wiggles favor, they were the first competition I asked before hand how they would view the song "Miserlou" with regard to their music rules.  They were the only competition so far that said they wouldn't mark it down and it was acceptable, and they were incredibly professional to me in their response.   All the other competitions I queried said it had no eastern origins or performers, and could potentially rob me of points or disqualify me depending on score.  I find that amusing.  One competition even gave me a 4 paragraph email arguing the ethnicity of Dick Dale (Eastern descent) even though the song existed in other forms before he performed it in his surf rock style.

Just goes to show this isn't a world of ballet and tap competitions where there are strict judging requirements or regulations for receiving points.  I too have been disappointed after spending thousands of dollars to receive helpful critique to read a judge comment of "JKFJKFJKFJKFJKF' or "BAD!" or even better, get a couple of zeros for a thousand dollar Bella in the costume category.  Especially considering Bellas or costumes of that nature are almost the required uniform these days.

It might be a good time for these competitions to do a little homework and sort out the reason they are doing this in the first place.  Are they truly benefiting the dance or the dancers that participate?  What can be done to streamline and make a more even playing field and experience for the people that are paying high dollar to participate?

We had some really interesting experiences this last year.  Maybe sharing them will shed some light and help future competitions correct repetitive flaws.

Pinole, Ca


9-25-09 re: The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron & Midnight Rose by Wendy Buonaventura Reviewed by Bonita Oteri
re: "Maud was an American born dancer who gained notoriety in Europe for performing on stage as Salome, The “evil” biblical temptress." She was born in Toronto, Canada, eh . :-)

British Columbia, Canada


9-11-09 re: A Quest for Beauty: Damn the Torpedoes by Zorba
Well, I suppose one can rationalize whatever one wants to, but in the first and second article by Zorba, and the enclosed pictures, I find his wearing of skirts, and beads, and very female-type attire very off-putting. It's a bearded guy in drag! Do we not have enough problems being accepted as real dancers and artists without having to deal with this? I once saw a fella from the Columbus area, also Greek, come out with veils on, all sorts of glitzy, very feminine costuming on, and my eyes about fell out of my head. Another bearded guy in drag!!!   

Male and female are NOT artificial constructs! They're very real and every culture has its "norms", which might be different from culture to culture. And I will admit, I'm one of those who believe that "la danse orientale" is a woman's dance, period.  Men have performed folkloric dances from time immemorial, but undulating and all the other feminine movements look strange on a male body. I've seen films of Tito and Horacio Sifuentes and they look effeminate when they perform orientale dance movements meant for women.  I understand - they're teaching a female student body, so they must demonstrate the moves as a woman would dance them.   I remember male dancers of past decades, Bobby Farrah, Zeeba, Amir, and even though they danced "butch" (as Valerie Camille used to tell her male students to do) and they danced very well, there was still something a little strange about it all.  And I know there will be a cascade of responses telling me how wrong I am, but I agree with Valerie - dress and dance like a man, not a woman!!!

Pauline Costianes
Ann Arbor, MI


9-10-09 re: A Quest for Beauty: Damn the Torpedoes by Zorba
I had just finished sending Turkish music off to my male dancer in rancho Cordova for his new restaurant job, and I got a heads up to head over to gilded serpent. I have taught many male dancers, including zorba.everyone of them has a different path in their quest for theirs souls dance.i am pleased to see it is being sought with dignity, and matter how you feel about it, men dance! enjoy.

Cory Zamora
Fresno, calif


9-9-09 re: Ask Yasmina #9: Troupes, Different Teachers & MEN by Yasmina Ramzy
Dear Lynette,
I thought Yasmina's article had a lot of sound, clear reasoning on the first two questions regarding teaching methods and starting troupes.  I am puzzled, however, at her logic behind why she thinks men should belly dance, i.e., on the one hand she writes that she was advised to belly dance because "women need spiritual recognition", but then she feels men should bellydance to "balance the Yin -Yang" or male-female roles.  In my view, this is an excellent example of using conflicting theories to make an opinion "work". 

To be clear, the style of belly dance Yasmina is referring to is "Raks Sharki"  traditionally (from about 1930 or so) a very  feminine dance role in Egypt.  We are not talking about men doing folkloric styles, which is traditional in the Middle East, except for the period hundreds of years ago when men dressed as women, even veiled their faces, to dance as females because women were not allowed to dance in public at all.   That cultural history is important and relevant.  When you take into consideration that the West, with it's belief in freedom of personal expression, what you have here is a Western culture superimposed over the Middle Eastern culture, which as we all know, feels very differently about this issue.

 And with all due respect, I don't follow Yasmina's analogy about men taking traditionally "female dominated jobs", well, there are laws about equal rights in employment and housing but we are talking about a cultural art form here, and that means the culture deserves recognition.

I just want to point out that, after all, "bellydance" as we call it did not originate in the West so let's be very careful when we talk about  "balancing" out male-female roles.  Personally, I feel inspired by Tito both as a teacher and performer of Raks Sharqi, not only for his obvious dance skill and charisma onstage, but his costuming is more traditionally male-style gelabaya and hip sash.  What impresses me the most is that Tito's overall  presentation both as teacher and performer comes across as focussed  within the Middle Eastern cultural context.  

Yours in dance,
Pacifica, CA


9-2-09 re: Miles' Article and Tonya's Response
Dear Gilded Serpent,
As a teacher of Belly dance who has been performing and teaching for more than 30 years, and who has also taught dance and other subjects repeatedly in parts of Asia since l988, the certificate situation Miles describes is one which I am very familiar with. It applies not only to the dance classes being taught, but also to other classes…I was hired by an institution in the city where I stay when I am there, and certificates issued to students from my class who could barely speak or write by that institution. They merely attended. I had no control over this. When I asked about why this occurred, there was no answer. It is common.  It is “face”, it is financial, it is networking. Not so foreign to some things done in Hollywood, actually. And culture or no culture, the students are the ones who are kidding themselves and the institution needs the business. Thanks for this discussion, all of you. I have the utmost respect for Tonya Chianis and her work as a former teacher of mine. I have been a judge at her competition. I found judging  to be a legitimate and a great experience. Miles, whose competition/world I would and could never enter, has also accomplished some things with the Superstars, and a lot with Jillina. As the Chinese say,  “If you and I  always agree, one of us is unnecessary.”

Marguerite Garner-Kusuhara
Manhattan Beach, California


8-26-09 re: Najia's article on Improvisation: Method behind the Madness
Hi Lynette,
I'm writing to say I thought Najia's  article described very well the dance improvisation process as an integral part of belly dance, even though she makes it clear that choreography does have its place.   And I just loved Najia's phrasing that improvisation does not "spring from the ether" but is a "plan rooted in the music."    I wish I had thought of that because every time a newer dancer asks me how I can possibly dance solo "freestyle" I am at a loss;  truly they don't know what they are missing.  Now I can refer them to Najia's article!
Yours in dance,


8-18-09 re: Miles letter below in response to Tonya
Dear Editor:
I read the article, A Response to Miles Copeland’s Article, that Tonya wrote in answer to Miles Copeland’s article, Are They Meaningful?

Tonya and I, as well as numerous other belly dance teachers -- certainly those who judge the Belly Dancer of the Universe belly dance contest -- have been affiliated with the belly dance arts for more than 30 years, dedicating our lives to it.  And all of us have seen the growth of this dance industry, including the growth that has sprung from the slice that Miles Copeland claimed for his own, more than 20 years after Tonya, myself, and those other numerous dance teachers began promoting this dance form, which in turn made it possible for Miles to slice a piece off for his own monetary gain.

Miles Copeland may be a great event producer, but would I call him an expert on belly dance?  How many belly dance classes has he taken?  How many miles has he traveled to obtain a network connection and perhaps gain that little something in furtherance of his knowledge of the dance?  What makes him an expert?  What, exactly, makes anyone an expert in this subject dance field, a field wherein even the country of origin prefers to shun it as a bona fide performing art form?  Does Miles Copeland even have ONE to his quoted number of fifty pages of credits in his dance resume? 

By the same token, those dedicated students with fifty pages of credits to their dance resumes, who may not be up to par with Miles Copeland’s requirements of his personal view of what it takes to qualify as a belly dancer, may surprisingly just be that much smarter than he insofar as their dance credits prove it.  And, I would certainly welcome the opportunity to watch these students knowing that they had at least had put a sincere effort into the furtherance of their knowledge of the dance than to listen to all the rhetoric Miles Copeland has to say against the hard and dedicated work of the teachers like Tonya and I.  At least these students are out there busting their asses getting credits.

Sausan Academy of Egyptian Dance


8-17-09 re: Challenging Hypocrisy, A Response to Miles Copeland's Article by Tonya
I have a lot more appreciation for the ins and outs of bellydance than Tonya gives me credit for and I certainly meant no insult to her competition.  I mentioned it only because it was the only one that I know of that I can see has any real support within the community and it serves a useful purpose and has done so for many years.  (If I have missed another one, or gone blank on one I should know about forgive me) My comment was in no way meant to belittle her event.  In fact, I was only noting it because I considered it good event, that I in fact attended for two days earlier this year.

The main thrust of my comments relate entirely to the work that many of us, Tonya included, have taken on to enhance the status of this dance.  Tonya and many others have done it a lot longer than I have and I have great respect for that.  But so far few, if any, face the daily challenge of planting this dance firmly in the mainstream as I do.  My perspective therefore must be somewhat different.  Over 650 shows in 21 countries, and 5 annual bellydance events will do that.  I would hope people would recognize this, even ones who are perfectly happy, or even prefer to see bellydance remain within its own realm outside what the other dance arts consider to be the "mainstream".  (I of course consider bellydance already in the mainstream but there are many who still disagree).

I just returned from several Asian countries and once again faced the constant request for the BDSS  to give "certificates" at the end of the workshops.  When I asked "what if a student just showed up and had no aptitude whatsoever for bellydance does she still get a "certificate"?  The answer was always yes.  On the surface saying on a piece of paper that someone took a workshop does not sound like a big deal, but in Asia, and I believe elsewhere, these are being used as credentials to justify dancers taking up teaching bellydance who in many cases have little if any clue as to what they are doing.  Even I, a relatively new kid on the block knows you cant take a few lessons in classes of 30-40 or more students and imagine you are now fit to teach bellydance.  Yet I know from reading many comments over the past few years on not only Gilded Serpent, but on Tribe and other sites that this is exactly what has been happening.  This does not happen in Ballet.  Why? Because there are known schools with rigorous training over lengthy periods of time that have given credibility to dance diplomas coming from those schools.  With a few exceptions Bellydance is not there yet and the few that do have real programs face the problem of not everyone agreeing with their take on bellydance for whatever reason, competitive rivalry being the obvious one.  This fact, more than any other, helps maintain the image of bellydance as an amateur pursuit or easy dance for anyone to do. 

 On one of my Asian stops  a teacher told me that she had taken a class recently from a teacher who looked so great from her resume.  Names like Raqia Hassan, Mahmoud Reda, BDSS teachers etc were among her "teachers" listed.  In fact, upon taking the class the teacher it turns out, was very low level and the extent of her "training" was having taken a few large group classes with the listed teachers. 

When I recently rejected the idea of giving certificates for the upcoming workshops in Taiwan I was told "everyone else is doing it".  Perhaps those teachers who have already given out certificates do not realize the extent of how their names and reputations are being used to build someone elses credentials, perhaps it does not matter to them as much as it does to me.  Working with so many teachers within the BDSS as well as with other teachers who work with us at our Raqs events, I cannot afford to have the BDSS name used lightly and with little regard for the long term reputation of the troupe and the teachers we work with.  Perhaps that makes me different from most others in bellydance and as such would give me a different perspective but I believe EVERYONE who is serious in this art has a stake in the overall reputation of the art so I am not so different in reality.  It is with that in mind that I was prompted to comment on Gilded Serpent.  Meanwhile I wish Tonya and her event long life and continued success.
Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA


8-17-09 re: Ghawazi Back from Extinction by Habiba
Thank you so much for the article and article list presented on studying with the Ghawazee and the detailed contact info provided. One of the best and most complete I’ve ever seen.   If all of us had this attitude about studying and sharing, how would our corner of the dance world be changed?

Manhattan Beach, California


7-29-09 re: Comments below recent Gilded Serpent articles, Miles' letter below, and dancing atop drums
Dear Lynette,
First, I want to thank you for including a “Comments” section beneath articles published on GS, as it allows readers to directly comment on published pieces and I find the comments interesting to read.

Second, I agree with Miles Copeland’s comments of 7-27-09, as I do believe that practitioners of any art form (including Middle Eastern dance) must expect criticism without reverting to reactions such as pulling advertising.

Third, I’m curious about something depicted in the “Community Kaleidoscope” section (and I’m not sure where to comment except on the Letters page): What is the significance of dancing atop a drum, as Andrea does at the King Tut exhibit? I’m asking because I don’t know. The image reminded me of an alternative dance contest held earlier this year in which a contestant danced on tin cans, so I’m curious as to the origin of the practice.
Barbara Grant
South S. F. Bay Area, CA


7-27-09 re: comments below Certification and Contests by Miles Copeland
My many years in the Music Business made me pretty immune to criticism as throughout the years, no matter what band/group/singer/enterprise one was promoting/working with there was a well established critique environment via the many music business magazines that delivered a regular stream of both good, bad or indifferent reviews.  One learned to take the good with the bad.  Often the reviews were useful pointers to what you were doing right, just as often the appeared to be a momentary whim of some reviewer who thought it was more clever or discerning to be critical rather than complementary.  Some of the reviewers could be merciless in their critique and they thought nothing of it when they were.  It was good to develop a thick skin.  This critique environment exists in all of the arts, certainly in sports and quite definitely in Politics.  It goes with the territory of being in the public eye.  From the reviewers standpoint the old adage of "if you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" is the rule.

I have been surprised that in the world of bellydance there is precious little critique, and when there is it always causes what I consider to be gross over reaction.  I do not include the BDSS nor me in this because we did get harsh critique from the beginning as some people made negative assumptions and since I was not "of the bellydance community" I was fair game for abuse.  I know Gilded Serpent has on occasion published an article that has caused offense to one party or another, perhaps inadvertently.  In any other art such critique would be taken in stride.  In fact such critique would be expected.  In bellydance it is most likely to result in the "offended party" cancelling advertising.  What's more, in bellydance it seems getting offended is quite easy.  I know the bellydance magazines tread carefully for this very reason.  You are not likely to see any remotely negative critique of any dancer or event who advertises.  Unlike almost all other arts publications, there is a definite link between advertising and content.  Gilded Serpent is an exception which is why I read it before any other publication.

Meanwhile I have to say that the negative critique the BDSS got in the beginning did not hurt us in the slightest, in fact it helped.  We became the most talked thing on the bellydance internet because we did NOT get offended, we answered the critique.  If this art is ever to really be take seriously it will have to grow up and accept critique just like every other entertainment art form and the dancers will have to learn that critique is part of the game.  If you think you are good enough to dance in public and get paid for it, you had better be willing to have a few shots taken at you.  If you put on an event and run it badly, you should get called out on it.  That will encourage everyone to do better and learn from mistakes. 

I would say more than anyone out there the BDSS has had the benefit of critique as we were safe for people to critique so we got plenty.  The same is not true of other bellydance shows and they suffer for it.  Without critique an art lives in a vacuum.  In a vacuum an art will never be taken seriously. 

Miles Copeland
Shermon Oaks, CA


7-21-09 re: Certification and Contests by Miles Copeland
Deirdre seems to have missed my point.  Nowhere did I say the BDSS is the only launching platform for dancers.  Essentially I am cautioning new dancers to not be taken in by the ever increasing come ons that are offered purely as a means to get their cash for hopes of stardom and or the illusion of valuable credits.   I get offers all the time from our promoters around the world wishing to do some stunt or other to hype a concert or event so we can get more publicity and attract more to the shows.  The reason is pure and simple, to bring more money into the kitty NOT to elevate the dance itself.  More and more I see this happening in the bellydance community itself.  This is understandable as the competition hots up and dancers/sponsors seek new ways to be attractive in the competitive marketplace, and I can certainly understand our BDSS promoters wanting to hype a show.  My point is such things can in the end be counter productive and continue to deliver the impression that bellydance is not serious, not REAL art.  I WANT if not NEED this art to be taken seriously so when I feel something is happening that will hinder this process I will be prompted to comment. 
To the other comment, I was not referring to the individual filming that is offered to dancers at Bellydance festivals that is for their personal use.

Miles Copeland

Shermon Oaks, CA


7-18-09 re: 2 Sword DVDs- Cory Zamora and Princess Farhan, reviewed by Martha Duran
I was shocked to see a review of one of the first DVD'S I ever made.15 DVD's later, ...all I can say, is thank you. What I teach and share sometimes is the most important, not the production of it .I went into this with out a  dime, just a producer who believes in my gift of communicating, and invested his time and money. I have  3 more to make to complete my teachings to a saved safe situation. Perhaps reshooting this, now with my shamadon should be considered.
[ Cory Zamora, Fresno, CA ]


Comments left below Ask Yasmina Column #8 on Socialising with Your Audience, Relaxing Your Upper Body, and Tattoos
7-16-09 Tanya-

competely agree with the sentiments expressed to the woman with the questions about socializing.
If the owner is asking you to stay for a 4 hour span of time I hope you are being compensated for your night.
Additionally, it can be dangerous to sit and socialize with your patrons after a show. Many times this gives the wrong impression about who you are and what you are really doing.
7-17-09 Debora-
Hi, Wow, I have ALWAYS been taught that the chest shimmy is done with the shoulders, (well, as opposed to so I don’t quite understand how to apply this advice from the article:  ”Dina once told me that a chest shimmie is not correct unless it can be done with your arms above your head. In other words, I feel odd asking, but since the article addresses relaxing the ribcage does this mean the shimmy is correctly done using the breasts? (I can’t see how the stomach muscles could be the catalyst - is there a youtube example of the “correct” way per Yasmina’s article/Dina’s advice?  Thanks!


Comments added below Sharon Moores' article-" Does Modern Media Kill the Organic Process?"
7-16-09 Zammarand-

A dance friend of mine remarked recently that for her, BD is a jewel and she’s too old for junk jewellery that goes out of fashion every season. I think she’s right.


Comments added belowMiles Copeland's recent article on Contest and Certifications
7-12-09 Nepenthe-

I could be crazy but I thought the reasons that DVDs were sold post-contest were for a) the contestants to see their own performance and b) future contestants to watch to study the winners.  I don’t know anyone who buys contest DVDs as entertainment.  Dancers go to BDSS performance videos, Hollywood/Peko, or Cheeky Girls Productions for that.

7-13-09 Deirdre-
There’s also the IAMED contest and their performance DVDs. But what Miles needs to understand is that the combination of Bellydancer of The Year and/or Bellydancer of the Universe competitions combined with publication in the IAMED DVDs has launched a number of dancers to the international stage, giving them the publicity that brings contracts for shows and workshops around the world.

But Miles coming in and denigrating our dancers and institutions isn’t going to help.

Sorry, Miles - the BDSS aren’t the only way to launch a career in Belly Dance.  And cosidering the tiny cookie-cutter of shape, size and age that is applied to your dancers, we’re lucky our brilliant dancers that don’t fit your vision of perfection have other outlets to publicity and distribution. Outlets that were here long before BDSS! You know, you could try working with us, with our contests and publicists, instead of attempting to set your BDSS up as the gold standard.


6-25-09 re:mx letters re: NRADO letter below
Hi Lynette, Dani and Gilded Serpent Readers!
I just found out about this letter to the editor and feel the need to address it since I am one of the instructors in the article mentioned:

Dani Bamberger writes: “I also want to point out, your article "Gypsy…Un, Deux, Trois A Review on the "Journey Along The Gypsy Trail" Workshop with Hadia, Jalilah Zamora, and Amrita Choudhury" you refer to Gypsies several times.  It is disrespectful and inaccurate to not capitalize the "G" first of all.  Second, the reference that this was a "real" Gypsy workshop again, not accurate.  Although you have an instructor from India, where the Gypsies originated, this is still not representative of our culture.  I don't want to criticize but it is very common for people to feel that posting our history on their website makes it ok somehow. Many site have letters to the "REAL ROM" about how they respect us and honor our culture but yet perpetuate all the hurtful stereotypes anyway.”

While the debate is necessary, I find it  upsetting that the workshop Hadia organized is mentioned in the same context especially because both Hadia and I are dedicated traditionalists who absolutely resist  the fusion that we see presented as "Gypsy Dance"! We have both worked very hard and devoted large amounts of our time to learning the various and many forms of dance that are related to Raqs Sharqi and would show no less respect to “Gypsy Dance”. Amrita Choudri is a cultural anthropologist with a specialty in dance, most especially those of India. One of the primary reasons that Hadia organized this workshop was to address all the misinterpretations related to what Middle Eastern enthusiasts label as " Gypsy Dance”.

I did not write the article and agree that there are errors, however I think if any you had been at the workshop you would have seen that we were in no way disrespectful. To begin with, the workshop was not intended to be representative of all Rom Culture. Our education and teaching skills are such that we only felt comfortable teaching 4 of the different types of dances: Rajastani, Ghawazee, Turkish "Romani" and Flamenco. I  taught the Ghawazee. I learned this style of dancing in the late 80s and early 90s by spending time with several of the few remaining Ghawazee, in particular the "Ghawzia" Raja Mottawa who appeared in the Film "Latcho Drom" and is an ethnic "Nawar".   Because I knew the Musicians of the Nile, from performing with them in Europe (many of whom are also ethnic Nawar) I often would visit them in Luxor and was able to experience the "home style" version of dancing with their wives and daughters. When teaching or performing this style of dance, I only demonstrate those movements, which I have seen or been taught by a Ghawazee.

At this workshop, I also brought along an original ‘treasure’ from my collection.  I showed the participants a vintage Ghawazee costume, one I had purchased from a Ghawaze dancer who retired in the 70s, and another in the 1980s style. Neither of these costumes is revealing and do not look like "Belly Dance" costumes. I recognize the amazing diversity of  ‘Gypsy Dance’ and have never advertised myself as being an instructor of "Gypsy Dance” since the only type I do is Ghawazee, although  I have studied Flamenco and am familiar with Turkish Rom.      

Hadia,  the other instructor mentioned in the article, who organized the workshop, is a well known and internationally respected Middle Eastern artist and instructor with 38 years of experience in Egyptian oriental as well as many of the folkloric forms of the Middle Eastern countries. She also had the good fortune to meet and study with the Banat Mazin Ghawazee dancers in their home in Luxor in the 80s and has also studied a wide range of folkloric dance forms in their respective countries of origin. She is also a professional Flamenco Dancer who lived in Spain for several years studying with many of the best "Gitano" instructors in the world. She lived in the “Barrio Gitano” or gypsy neighbourhood in Madrid, Sevilla and Jerez, which are the primary centers of the art form and the Gypsy culture in Spain. She also feels that it is very important to acknowledge the fact that the Spanish “Romani” people refer to themselves as gitanos with great pride and dignity but never call themselves Rom, Roman, Romani etc. She travels regularly to Turkey to continue her studies of authentic Rom dancing and is very happy to promote this vital and little known form of dance within the Middle Eastern community, always giving full credit to her instructors.  She also organizes dance tours to Turkey so that the students who join her can not only study with her instructors, but also to see and respect what “REAL” Turkish Rom dance is. When speaking to Hadia about this she added:

 “We have all devoted many years of our lives to studying and sharing these dance forms with our students all over the world and would like to encourage you to spend a short time reviewing our websites, our experience and qualifications before randomly including us in this group of disrespectful and uneducated “purveyors of false images”.  We would also like to recommend that you take some time to study and research the dance forms in question in this letter before commenting on them. The pursuit of information and education should ideally come from both sides of any story and perhaps your task would be a bit less gruelling; more satisfying and joyful if you put some time and energy in accurately presenting the talent and brilliance of the dance and music of your people from different parts our vast world.”

(producer of “Jalilah’s Raks Sharki” CD series)
Ottawa, Ontario


6-24-09 re: letters re: letter below re: letter from NRADO
Dear Lynette,
You can print this:

  1. THIS is very unusual: I went to Patrin, the most valid Romani website out there & while they have a long, long list of recommended Romani-related websites & those of friends of the Roma, they do NOT mention Dani Bamberger & the NRADO site! It could be a lack of quick updating, but it still makes me VERY suspicious.
  2. I assumed Dani was a woman from the spelling of the name. The picture on their site is not clear on my computer, BUT it might be a man.
  3. Yes, the Romani culture IS very sexist - one of the many reasons I very specifically do NOT live within it. So are the Hasidic & right-wing Christian cultures. So are most cultures, dammit! (quoting Gumbie here!) BUT most of the women in those patriarchal cultures are brainwashsd to think/ believe their guidelines are correct & they advocate for them. As for myself, I heard that "click" when I was 10 - 20 years before Betty Friedan woke up & tossed her apron. The men, enjoying their position of advantage, are also going to advocate for it. HOWEVER, that does NOT take away the validity of what Ms or Mr Bamberger had to say re racist & incorrect portrayals. That sexism is the very same reason I do not live in the Middle East or North Africa - no matter how great the music is. Especially now & WHY it was not one of the areas I would've moved to if Obama had not won the last election. I can be there for just so long before I want to get on my soapbox & start pointing out the error of their ways.
  4. That very real sexism notwithstanding, it is JUST as sexist to portray the "hottie Gypsy woman" characted or the "ignorant, cat-fighting Gypsy woman" character, especially when, whatever the real Romani culture may or may not be re sexism, those character protrayals are *wrong*. If one wants to portray a "hottie" or a "catfighting slut", why not do it as simply a "hottie" or a "catfighting slut"? WHY slander a whole ethnicity with it?
  5. All of the above notwithstanding, & the fact that any sort of racism is plain WRONG, my position against *outside* censorship or "vetting" by others still stands. Especially since Dani of whatever gender has the nerve to *assume* wrongdoing on the parts of sincere professionals like Jalilah, et alia without having been to the seminar that was taken to task. It is up to the individual to listen & learn from the valid parts & reject the invalid ones. You know - like in real life...

New York City, NY

[ed note- is this the Patrin site?-]


6-23-09 re: Ahmed Adaweya, My Introduction to Shaabi by Amina Goodyear
This is to add  to Amina's wonderful article on Shaabi and Ahmed Adawiya. Since I was involved in much of the article and loved the wonderful picture of me and Marsha (Shamira) and can you believe it, we often convinced people that we were sisters! I thought I would add two more tales.

The first was when Marsha, Amina and I finaggled our way into being ushers at the Hilton Hotel Extravaganza where Nagwa Fuoud was the headliner, along with a whole array of famous Egyptian movie stars  and Ahmed Adawiya was also performing. Not only did we not have to pay the $150 ticket (this was in 1984 or there abouts, so imagine how expensive that was ), we also got to sit at the head table because we were friends of Samir and Mona Khoury. We weren't supposed to get dinner, but we befriended the waiters because they had no idea what was going on and we filled them in, so they brought us dinner.

 So, after the show we were sitting in the lobby bar with George Dabaie waiting for the crowd to leave. Sitting at a table next to us was Ahmed himself. George introduced us to him and we broke into song, singing his famous song "Salametiha om Hassan". He laughed and then started talking to George. Next thing we knew George was furious, yelled at us to get up and hurry and leave. He was bright red with anger. We thought he was mad at us because we had embarrassed him by singing in front of Adawiya. We started apologizing. He said, no, he wasn't mad at us, but we had been insulted and if we weren't there he would have gotten into a fight and beaten him up. We said, what could be so bad. He didn't want to tell us. We begged and nagged until he said, that Ahmad thought George was a pimp and had offered some money to him to spend some "time" with us. We asked  how much did he offer and I think it was some paltry 50 bucks or something. We said for all three of us or each. When he said for all three , we said, no wonder you were mad, let's go back and kick his you know what. At that point, George realized we weren't in the Middle East, we were Americans, and we are hard to insult!! He ended up laughing.

Second Adawiya story.
Our very good friend Leyla had a heart attack and was in Stanford Hospital. When Marsha, Amy and I went to visit her she was completely sedated in a deep coma so that she would not move and ruin the fabulous work that her doctors had done. We were so scared and didn't know what to do. We asked the nurse that was on duty, sitting on a high stool, if it was okay if we sang a song to her. The nurse looked at us weirdly and said she thought it would be okay if we were really quiet. So, there was a little stool next to her bed, I stood on it and put my arms around Marsha and Amy and we sang every so quietly but with great conviction the "Salametiha Om Hassan" song. It is basically a song about someone trying to cure his mother's headache and he tries all kinds of folk ways. Later, when Leyla was fully recovered and we told her the story, she swears that she heard us and that it helped her recover.

Oh, yeah, here's a third story. There was a tacky little restaurant on Market street in the Tenderloin area where some of us danced. One night I was walking two friends back to their car and we were standing on the sidewalk talking. A very strange man came down the street talking to himself, he was dirty and dishevled, and had wild hair. He started ranting at us. I just ignored him, but the other two gals were starting to get spooked and started looking vulnerable. The crazy man got louder, so I did what came naturally to me and I started singing "Salametiha" with all the gestures of throwing the demons out. The crazy man recognizing that he was up against someone crazier, walked around us and down the street as fast as he could.

San Francisco, CA


6-15-09 re: The Belly Dancer of the Year pageant by Aziza!
I don't mean to be repeating myself but I received errors when attempting to post a comment through your website, so I decided to do it the old fashion way. I wanted you all to know the smile you brought to my face with the 2004 article, written by Aziza entitled:  The Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant. 

I do remember the first convention and the many that followed.  Sula may be a distant memory in some but for my sisters and I, she still burns bright.  I am glad to hear that Leea still continues with the tradition even today (Well done Leea) and pleased to see that the origin of this pageant/contest has not been forgotten.  As I write this email, I can still hear the tinkling of the cymbals and the rhythmic beat of the drums.  Who knows, maybe someday I will be qualified to participate as a judge at such a prestigious affair. 

Thank you for the walk down memory lane.
Nancy D. Thorpe-Perry
(One of Sula's neices)
(One of Wanda's daughters)


6-11-09 re: letters re: letter below
Dear GS and those who have responded to the NRADO letter,
The strong wording, and strong reactions, to NRADO’s letter can make it all look like one side is negating a plea that Roma culture be accurately represented due to Roma beliefs on women’s rights/cleanliness/position in society and that the other side is asking for Roma requests and values to be automatically held in high respect regardless of troublesome views on women…but I suspect that everyone who has taken the time to respond to the NRADO letter feels that we should be careful about how we appropriate and portray other cultures AND that women’s rights are dear to us and aren't asking us to choose one or the other.

I think the major issue the first letter writers had, but may not have explicitly articulated, was that that they also support raising awareness of the Roma people but that they object strongly against NRADO's request to:

”please consider going through NRADO or RADOC to verify information or the credentials of whoever you are dealing with. “

It's pretty bold to ask that all documents relating to any ethnic group be approved by one or two organizations. I support requests that we try to view the Roma people in an “accurate light” and be aware that the “fantasy is often far from reality” but there is a different between to asking people to fact check or become educated on a subject and another to request submitting items for tacit approval.

If I am getting this right, the objection is to the individual organization at hand, NRADO. The objection is not because Surreyya and others don’t care about the history and current conditions of the Roma people and how they are depicted but because they DO care about Roma culture and are educated enough to know that the Roma people, like any wide-spread ethnic group, are not a monolithic group with a hive-mind. NRADO and RADOC are not the only activist organizations within the Roma community. Indeed Roma women face very particular hardships both due to the outside discrimination of the Roma as a whole, and because of internal views and beliefs held by some communities. They know that there is and internal struggle within the Roma community with regard to equality and that there exist pro-equality Roma groups with whom they would prefer to work with. Sureyya and others are just saying if you’re gonna get educated about the Roma people (even if you’re not appropriating the cultures or names in your dance) be aware that it’s complex and that there are many viewpoints, some troubling, and you owe it to yourself and to Roma women to go beyond the viewpoints of one representative group!

Some sources Surreyya gave me for more information. Wonderful links.


Kashiwa, Japan.


6-8-09 re: letters re: letter below
Dear Lynette:
I must say that I grow rather weary of reading descriptors such as “racist,” “hateful,” “xenophobic,” “judgmental,” “lack of respect,” etc., when one contributor disagrees with another. So weary do I become, that I will often fail to read through an article or letter that begins this way because such works seem like polemics rather than serious writings to me, and are therefore not worth my time.

Unlike Sierra, I fail to see the “hate” in letters from Surreyya Hada and Elaine. Letters filled with hatred and bigotry would read very differently, I think. Finally, it should be remembered that Mr. Bamberger made his point about “women being unclean from the waist down” to a Western audience whose members, in general, cherish and value what we have come to regard as “women’s rights.” Strong negatives should have been expected given this context, and I was impressed by the diplomatic manner in which both Surreyya Hada and Elaine responded to his claims.  

Barbara Grant
South S. F. Bay Area, CA

[ed note- Morocco states that Dani Bamberger is a woman]


6-7-09 re: letters re: letter below
I am referring to the recent lettered responses to NRODO, regarding the fact that they feel the man who wrote the letter , along with the whole Romani culture is misogynistic and comparing it to mutilations, and other worst atrocities.  We as Americans, are in a unique position, that we feel, our ways, our cultural mores are the right and only way to be.  Yet, in America, women are still held in discrimination and overly blatantly sexualized, sterotyped, and socialized into becoming anorexic's.  We portray ourselves as dancers who reflect the cultures and styles of the Middle East in our dance; yet in the Middle East, all the countries are Islamic and have very strict rules for females.  Egypt, one of the most moderate, you will still see many woman wearing the head covering.  It would be racist to comment that we hate their culture or their dance due to their religious beliefs.  This is what you are exactly saying in your opposing letters.  All he said, was that they do not allow their bodies to be shown; just as in Egypt past, dancers also had to wear body stockings so their navels would be covered; everyone here adopted that style.  What is the difference?

In many other cultures a woman on her moon (menstrual cycle), has many restrictions placed on her during this time by the tribes etc. to be separated from the men.  Should we also call these indigenous cultures, backwards, disgusting, and worthless.  Try to see with new respect, that though you may not agree with a person's cultural identites belief systems; please do not condemn because you do not understand.  This is another form of xenophobia....listen respectfully, hold your own opinions and do not participate in their cultural ways, or performances if it offends your sensibilities.  These last two letters were very hateful in their  judgement.
Mill Valley


6-6-09 re: letter below from NRADO
Well, Surreyya Hada took the words right out of my mouth! Cultures that subjugate women and consider them in some way "unclean" and then scream about stereotyping need to take a closer look at themselves. 

It is horrifying that pogroms and racial segregation against Romani peoples continue to this day in certain European countries. It is just as horrifying that women are stoned, beaten, covered up, mutilated, killed in the name of "honor" and denied their legal rights in many parts of the world.

The misconception that they are inferior to men is at the root of this treatment. Perhaps Ms Bamberger should take some time to educate her own people.

New York


6-4-09 re: letter below from NRADO
Dear Lynette - thank you for posting your recent letter from NRADO.  I would like to examine this statement that Dani makes:

"It is interesting you posted this quote because what you are doing and saying on this website is doing just this. Misrepresenting someones culture.  The costumes you wear, implying the sexual nature and suggestive dance is against what our culture is.  Women in our culture don't show their legs or bellies, they don't dance provocatively.  I believe this article also pointed out that most don't like the "real Gypsy" image so they choose to stick with the fantasy.  That is true, because the reality is that women are considered unclean from the waist down and it would be disgraceful for a Gypsy woman to dance the way you imply that we do. Often the reason we get misrepresented is because the truth is far from the fantasy."

I would really like Dani to revisit the statement made, especially with context to "women are considered unclean from the waist down".  If NRADO is starting a mission of political correctness with regard to how they are being represented in popular culture, then perhaps they should look at their own statements and consider how they might offend women.  I don't think ANY woman of ANY culture would like to be considered "unclean" from the waist down - perhaps further explanation is in order.  I am an American-born woman of mixed heritage (and married to a Serbian/Romani I might add).  I am quite proud of my hips and my hygene, my equal rights, and my freedom of speech, etc.  I would encourage anyone who doesn't understand what I am referring to here to google Romani + Women + Unclean.

Regardless of my heritage, this has certainly set me several steps back in wanting anything to do with helping further their cause.  We struggle enough with women's rights and attitudes in this community.  If they don't want to be misrepresented, then neither do I.

I support NO ONE that would believe a statement like that.  Respect women's rights if you want to fly your flag around.

Surreyya Hada
Pinole, CA


6-4-09 re: letter below from NRADO
I went to this organization's first public forum. They work very hard and have opened themselves up to non Romani people, in the main forum to educate, and stop stereotyping of their varied tribes, cultures, etc. I learned a lot and some of that was expressed in the article I wrote on Gilded Serpent, "Nomads of the Spirit". As I said in my article, just as in indigenous cultures of North and South America, who are actually horrified and sickened by the cultural fake assimulation made by the conquering non-indigenious people, it is wrong. The name Gypsy was used to depict them as a negative connetation, it is not their name for themselves. Fantasy is fine, as long as one does not cross the boundries of cultural appropriation. Such as using Egyptian terms or dances that are made up fantasies and called "North African dance", "Ghawazee dance"; when it has no correlation to those ethnic regional dances, styles or culture, music or style of dress....which has occured over and over again.

This is a positive group, who puts on a seminar and festival every year and is inclusive in inviting all, so that people can begin to understand the true cultural and proud people, that are the Rom.

I would not find it offensive from them that they dislike people in our dance culture using the name Gypsy and then dancing something they picked up as a mix of Turkish styling, etc. Yes, they should be able to classify whether a teacher or performer actually is performing real Romani dance, from what area, what region, and the authenticity. This is an alive culture; not a dead one that is being reinvented by others for our burgening Americanized models of titillation such as the form taken regarding American Indian lifestyle as depicted in the many Wild Bill Cody West shows that captivated American audiences with their supposed "real enactements of the regal indian savage". Can you see, the connection and how it continues to destroy and perpetrate lies, stereotypes, and license to bastardize what ever anyone wants to in the name of art. And with that minimalize the horrible diaspera, genocide and brutality that has occured towards these particular groups of people and their true identities as unique indigenous people, no matter where they roots may have begun. In Flamenco dance they are referred to as the Gitanos, and yet I found at this symposium, that again, it is another's name and definition for them, not theire own name.

Perhaps I ramble. I agree with would be nice to share my article with them and see how it comes across to them. They, remember, are the experts. For they are, The People. Even if Edwina, and Pepper write about the Ghawazee in depth and I write about the Romani plight in depth.....we are not representatives from that tradition and if someone from those traditions want's to evaluate what is written about them or writes about their culture...that is the better source. Your magazine prides itself, I feel, on exposing the heart and soul of either a review or a research piece. We can not allow ourselves as dancers in this broad field to continue to take another's true cultural dance and cultural roots and parade in fanciful costumes to amuse our own ignorance, and need to have what we want, regardless of the actuallity of what is being presented. American impudence, disregard and appropriation at it's finest.

Mill Valley, CA

PS-These people are wonderful to work with.....They were generally gracious to me, and explaining their varied worlds, clans, and them allowing everyone to dance together, at the end of the formal panel, all got up to join in with their music and a circle, and everyone was accepted to dance. They are not exclusive....they just want to stop the inherent misrepresentation of their long soul journey and complexity.


6-3-09 re: ? GS has over 200 articles that include the word "Gypsy." Please use our search boxes to find them [Warning LONG letter but very interesting!]
Recently, I was forward your link through our website www.NRADO. com which is for the  National Romani Anti Discrimination Organization.  NRADO is run by a group of Romani Activists and Educators who monitor the media, web and publications for misinformation about our people. 

First, I want to explain a little about our group and what we do.  An ongoing battle we fight on a daily basis, is the false image brought on by stereotypes about our culture.  Some people classify us as a category developed by Disney or Hollywood.  Then there are those who know we are a real minority, but who portray us falsely due to misinformation  that we know isn't intentional.  Then of course there are those who intentionally use this image to make money or draw attention to their product or cause.  We don't try not to make judgments on any one's intentions anymore because it is irrelevant. The end result of whatever the intention is damaging, and it is our goal to just try and stop it by confronting the source and offering to educate. 

It is nice that you choose to post information about the Romani culture.  However, a lot of the information you have is not accurate.  Interestingly enough, one of your articles made some good points:

"Although there are a handful of both Roma and non-Roma performing real Roma dances in America, the majority of women performing "Gypsy dance", as Morocco quipped, "would not know the real thing if it bit them on the butt." The Roma are present in America in great numbers, remain an ethnic group onto whom Americans can still project their fantasies without reprobation.  Our dances can celebrate the freedom and sexual power the "Gypsy woman" archetype stands for, but they shouldn't do so at the price of misrepresenting someone else's culture."

It is interesting you posted this quote because what you are doing and saying on this website is doing just this. Misrepresenting someones culture.  The costumes you wear, implying the sexual nature and suggestive dance is against what our culture is.  Women in our culture don't show their legs or bellies, they don't dance provocatively.  I believe this article also pointed out that most don't like the "real Gypsy" image so they choose to stick with the fantasy.  That is true, because the reality is that women are considered unclean from the waist down and it would be disgraceful for a Gypsy woman to dance the way you imply that we do. Often the reason we get misrepresented is because the truth is far from the fantasy.

I also want to point out, your article "Gypsy…Un, Deux, Trois A Review on the "Journey Along The Gypsy Trail" Workshop with Hadia, Jalilah Zamora, and Amrita Choudhury" you refer to Gypsies several times.  It is disrespectful and inaccurate to not capitalize the "G" first of all.  Second, the reference that this was a "real" Gypsy workshop again, not accurate.  Although you have an instructor from India, where the Gypsies originated, this is still not representative of our culture.  I don't want to criticize but it is very common for people to feel that posting our history on their website makes it ok somehow. Many site have letters to the "REAL ROM" about how they respect us and honor our culture but yet perpetuate all the hurtful stereotypes anyway.

We ask all dance troupes to please reconsider using the term GYPSY in their names or descriptions unless they are actually performing our dances.  And we would also like to ask, that in the future when referring to us in anyway,whether you are consulting with someone who claims to be Romani or are going to post information about our culture,  please consider going through NRADO or RADOC to verify information or the credentials of whoever you are dealing with.  There are many frauds and misinformed people out there, selling their services or marketing themselves as Gypsy when in fact they are not.  You can send messages to any of us at anytime and we would be happy to look into it for you. 

Our culture is complex, and there are few people who really know about us, we spend a majority of the time re-educating.  Our task is a grueling one and we are far from where we need to be in society.  Our people are fighting for their lives in some countries and it is our duty to try and change the perception people have about us, and become a voice for justice when such a voice did not exist before.  In order for us to succeed we need to make sure that we are portrayed in an accurate light. All we can do is share our message and send out requests to people and hope they respect our concerns.  Sadly, only about 30% of who we contact, even respond much less comply.  We hope you choose to support our efforts.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me. I appreciate your time and consideration in this matter.

Naist Tuke (thank you)
Dani Bamberger -


[Ed note- the above letter was forwarded to a few of our advisors and we received a couple of responses okayed to post]

6-3-09 re: letter above regarding use of the word "Gypsy"
Interesting also, how this is a parallel discussion in the Bellydance community about "what is Bellydance", Mid East Dance. Fusion etc. and who is representing correctly etc. as well. This movement contacted me many years ago with similar info because I hosted a monthly open dtage for 6 years and Gypsy dances were advertised (not by Arabesque). Soon after a family of bonified Rom performers performed on our Open Stage...was awesome.

Yasmina Ramzy
Toronto, Ontario


6-3-09 re: letter above regarding use of the word "Gypsy"
You can print this next from me:

1. Rom/ Roma is the preferred & correct general term, but there are also Sinti, Manoush & Luri.

2. What they say is TOTALLY correct, however, in certain countries/ cultures, we DO wear costumes/ do Oryantal dance (Turkey) & *are* Ghawazi (Sinti) because, like Afro-Ameicans here until very recently, Show Biz was one of the very few professions open to Roma/ Sinti/ Manoush/ Luri & those are the "working clothes". In Egypt, the rise in fundamentalism has virtually ended the dance careers of Ghazi women....

I suggest you publish their letter prominently, so that the fantasy-purveyors who have refused to listen to people like ME (whose family went out of their way to "pass" & still refuse to speak to me for "outing" us!) & Artemis & Sonia Seeman & others who care & bother to teach the truth maybe finally begin to understand what they are doing.

It's equivalent to blackface minstrel shows.

However, I don't agree with "vetting" everything with ANY organization - that is censorship & personally, I prefer that we let the fantasists "out" themselves, so we know who they are & can gently lead them back to the path ... by printing articles about the REAL folks & the REAL thing.

Golden Palace: please ask Dani on behalf of this Romnipen, if I can quote the heart of that letter in the Folk/ Roma section of MY forthcoming book (giving the website, of course!)???

New York City, NY


4-20-09 re: Nile Dances, Part 3: Meleya by Gamila El Masri
While the article is well-written & fun & has a lot of valid information, what was left out is that the Milaya Leff DANCE was *invented* by Mahmoud Reda - there was NEVER any such dance IN Alexandria (except on stage, when the wonderful Reda company performed there...), so saying it's one of the "Alexandrian dances" is not true.

It was supposed to be a young, lower middle-class, neighborhood girl from Alexandria, a little rough around the edges, but a good girl nonetheless. Kind of like LaVerne & Shirley (any one out there remember them?).

The costume "dress" was, again, an invention of Mahmoud Reda's designer (possibly Farida Fahmy) - nobody would wear a dress like that on the street - especially with that great openweave "yeshmak" or face veil. There was NEVER a burkha like that worn anywhere in real life - too revealing ...

The milaya & how it was worn, however ARE real, but a good girl would never open in up on the street & toss it around the way it's done in the dance ... but we have artistic license & all that ...Gamila does a fab Milaya Leff dance & that's why I asked her to do it in my concert (first video clip) ...

Yer very own Aunt Rocky,


4-19-09 re:April SnakeByte Email Announcment
Hi Lynette! I met you in Toronto for the first IBCC. I just wanted to remind you that I love what you do on gilded serpent. Keep up the good work.
Nashville, TN


4-19-09 re: April SnakeByte Email Announcment
Wow! I just skimmed through the articles (see my friend C. Barros has written another fine article) and can hardly wait to read them all/ great variety/intriguing.  I love Gilded Serpent. 
Hugzzzz from
Rockwall, TX


4-10-09 re: A Quest for Beauty by Zorba
a sincere quest and outcome! I have had the honor of this dancer in 2 of my workshops, what an awesome human being , straight from the heart and soul! !  a true friend, his dance is just a bonus.

Cory Zamora
Fresno, CA.


4-1-09 So, If You Cut up a Rose, is it still a Flower? by Rebecca Firestone
I had a chance to read “So, If You Cut up a Rose, is it still a Flower?” which brought up some great points about how “Middle Eastern dance” “belly dance” and “fusion” are currently defined. I enjoy watching fusion, though I came from a genre of 1990’s dancers that were influenced by the great Egyptian influence in that decade. In seeing all these changes, something changed in me (well I aged a bit too – lol). I had my time in my genre, had a modicum of success and accolades, and recently decided to hang up my “zils,” “bedlah,” what-have-you. I have enjoyed most of my time in belly dance and will be interested to see how the dance progresses. Thanks to Gilded Serpent for keeping us all updated and informed with these articles.
Love and best of luck to the community,
Amanda “Ireena” Volovik,
Reno, Nevada


Am I missing something? What is everyone's problem - do they not like this Cera person for personal reasons? As far as I see it, she seems to have studied an art from called Bellydance or Middle Eastern dance and then found her own voice through it - LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
If you ask me - as an outsider -  the only person I have ever seen come out of the USA who still resembles real Middle Eastern dance is Sahra Saeeda -  mind you I am not aware of that many American dancers so I am sure there are more like perhaps Shereen el Safy (I am Canadian who performed in the Mid East with 16 piece orchestra on and off for many years who loves, respects and teaches the essence and origins of the dance but have always experimented and explored or I would have dried up).
You should show clips of Amani doing her Flamenco and Modern dance numbers or Nagua Fouad with her Swan Lake / Prom Night Rendition or Mona El Said with her seven drummers and quasi African piece etc. etc.
Am I missing something?
Yasmina Ramzy
Toronto, Ontario


3-17-09 re: letters below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera
once again, an article on GS has nothing to do with our dance.we do keep many traditions handed down from my mentor, jenaeni rathor, was that what we do has nothing to do with choreography.
who I am today, has nothing to do with my dance yesterday, or tomorrow .choreography is why I left ballet for M E dance.

Cory Zamora
Fresno, ca.


3-16-09 re:Quality vs. Quantity, Buying CDs vs. Downloading Music by Mher Panossian and Sherri Wheatley
I hope everyone reads and truly considers Mher Panossian and Sherri Wheatley's article "Quality vs Quantity".  The issues that it raises are especially important in the current downturn in the economy.  I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to Mher and Sherri for giving us the best reasons for purchasing CDs in preference over MP3 downloads and for pointing out that there are issues of sound quality and ease of use and even more importantly issues of ethics in respecting the music makers' right to be paid for their work.

Speaking as the producer of the CD, "Golden Days, Enchanting NIghts", I can say that producing a CD can require an initial outlay of a LOT of money which the producer expects to recuperate through sales.  If people acquire the music from my CD without paying for it, then I will be far less likely to ever recover the cost of producing it.  If I can't make a profit on the CD, never mind just breaking even, I will not be able to produce another CD.  Even a business as big as Hollywood Music Center (Mher's business) can't go on forever if people continue to acquire the music without paying for it.

Leyla Lanty
Palo Alto, CA


3-16-09 re: letters below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera
I read Cera's article and the negative comments about it from the other readers, and I'm wondering what the big deal is about having a general dance article in this magazine. No it was not about bellydance specifically, but it was about choreography and the creative process. Those are things that do apply to bellydance as much as any other dance form. Although Cera is primarily a fusion dancer, I've seen her perform bellydance several times and I know she loves and respects that style. And I believe her thoughts are worth reading.
Thank you, Lynette for running a very inclusive site.
Erica Datura,
Sacramento CA


3-15-09 re: letters below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera
Dear Letter to the Editor,
From what I have read in regards to Cera’s article it sounds as if people are saying that the article would have been accepted if the video had not been included. For heaven sakes! This is an article about choreography. Is no one allowed to submit an article on dance unless they take some kind of prerequisite test to see what degree of Middle Eastern dance background they have? And at what point will they be accepted into the "Members Only Club"? Does 75% get you in or do you have to be at least 99% pure. If performers of Middle Eastern dance are to be accepted in the larger dance community; i.e. Modern, Ballet, Jazz etc, we need to stop acting like a pre-teen clique and start looking at what we have in common, such as the choreography process which this article was about.
TerriAnne Gutierrez
San Francisco Bay Area


3-14-09 re: letters below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera
Dear Editor:
In total agreement with previous letters from Amina Goodyear and Barbara Grant - Since when does wearing a costume with a bared midriff suddenly equate one's performance with "Middle Eastern Dance?"  In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing "Middle Eastern" about the performance (available through link) in this article.
Debora Crockett Bolen
Fresno, CA


3-14-09 Author's response to letters below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera

Thank you, so much, to the two readers who wrote in regarding my article on Choreography.
The concerns you raised about GS's mission statements were the same concerns I raised to Lynette when shen asked me to share an article. I do not consider myself a Middle Eastern performer or Choreographer - while I am a *student* of Middle Eastern dance, that is not where I make my home on the stage, and I'm quite clear about that. There are a couple of issues, however, that your letters raise for me. They are:

While GS is a journal (so it states) of ME Dance & Music, there is a lot that ME Dancers and Musicians can learn from artists and scholars working in other genre's. As an editor, Lynette seems to be working to bring her readership an increasingly diverse base of perspective and information. My article was not about Middle Eastern Dance, per se, it was about CHOREOGRAPHY, which is used across the board for companies and solo artists working in many genre's. Before jumping to defend the sanctity of GS's mission statement, how much consideration was given to WHY Lynette, your trusted editor, chose to invite me to contribute, and then chose to publish my article? Could it be that she see's some value in what I shared that could be applied by ME dance/music artists? If so, where is the support and gratitude of the readership for an editor who is thinking outside the box, and pulling from outside of her niche to get perspectives that may be valuable and applicable to her readers' work?

And that brings me to my second point, that of reciprocity. I am a student of Middle Eastern dance and music. While I am primarily a fusion choreographer, there are dancers of Middle Eastern origin and training in my troupe. I am constantly informed and inspired by them, as, I hope, they are constantly informed and inspired by the training that I bring to them from non-ME genre's. It is through our reciprical respect and sharing that we are able to develop work that we are very proud of, and deepen our training and understanding in our own genre's of study. Though my choreography may not be your particular cup of tea, it saddens me to hear that there is so little information of value in my article, and in my work, for you, that your biggest focus was whether or not it should be here. I have learned so much from traditional Middle Eastern dance and music, and the teachers and artists who have shared it with me. It makes me very sad to feel that because the work I choose to create is more contemporary fusion than traditional ME, traditional artists are not interested in hearing my perspective.

A very wise friend of mine once likened all arts and practices to little wells. You can dip in to any one well, a little bit of middle eastern, a little bit of fusion, a little bit of writing, a little bit of martial arts - but when you go deep enough into any one well, you find that underneath, they are all drawing from the same common source. Some people call that source God, others Love, others Inspiration, others Energy. It is underneath the trappings of style, and from that common source, that I was hoping to share with you.  Deep down, all dance is dance, all choreography is choreography, and there is so much that can be learned by broadening ones scope and perspective.

We have so much we can learn from each other, traditional artists and fusion artists.  And while we're both doing okay on our own, I believe that when we take a moment to stop reminding one another of all of the things we don't have in common, and start looking at all of the things we DO, we will see dramatic improvements in the quality of work produced by both sides.
I'm certainly looking forward to that day.

Your friend in dance,
Cera & DCDT
San Francisco, CA


3-13-09 re: Amina's letter below re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera

Dear Lynette:
For several years, I was a member of a Tucson-based Middle Eastern dance organization whose stated mission was to educate the public about Middle Eastern culture through its dance arts. At the time, I enjoyed performing routines that included the music of rock groups such as Strawberry Alarm Clock and country-western singers such as Faith Hill in the same routine as songs made popular by Om Kalthoum. I changed my performance choices in our organization’s venues when politely reminded that the group’s mission focused on educating the public about the culture and art of the Middle East.

Therefore, I agree with the concerns expressed by Amina in her recent letter. GS is either focused on Middle Eastern music, dance, and belly dance, or it is not. If not, might I expect coverage if I dance any way I please (in an Oriental costume) to Ritchie Valens, the Monkees, and Frank Zappa?

Barbara Grant
South S. F. Bay Area, CA


3-13-09 re: Making (and Re-making) Choreography: Moving Forward, Moving Backward, Moving! by Cera
Dear Editor,
I just read the article Making and Remaking Choreography by Cera. I also watched the entire accompanying youtube video. Gildedserpent's banner reads: Journal of Record for Middle Eastern Music, Dance, and Belly Dance.

Please tell me what this article and video have to do with Middle Eastern Music, Dance and Belly Dance. I thought was a Journal of Record for Middle Eastern Music, Dance, and Belly Dance. This article is about a dancer who does not do Middle Eastern Middle Eastern Music, Dance or Belly Dance. And her video is proof. 

This is a dancer who should be featured in a modern dance or alternative dance forum NOT in a Journal of Record for Middle Eastern Music, Dance, and Belly Dance.
Are you changing your mission statement or are you just hard up for articles?

Amina Goodyear of The Aswan Dancers -
 a San Francisco troupe dedicated to  entertaining and educating the public about Middle Eastern Culture through music and dance.
San Francisco, California USA


3-7-09 re: Ask Yasmina #4
I am a little confused by Yasmina's response to the question regarding dancers asked to pay for the workshop registration in order to be in a "Guest Teacher Gala". I'm not familiar with that particular term, but I am concluding the reference is in relation to the evening show that often accompanies a workshop, featuring the workshop teachers.

Yasmina says, "I have taught at some events where I found out after that this was their rule of thumb, and it made me very uneasy to think that some people were attending my class so they could get on stage, not because they wanted to learn something."

In our area, at least, the reason for the workshop requirement has to do with bolstering the feeling of the dance community. First we all learn from the teacher; then those of us with enough talent and skill dance for everybody. In this case the emphasis is not on selling lots of tickets (though the show is frequently sold out). Nor is the emphasis on letting everybody who wants to perform do so. If a performer hears about a show, contacts the producer, and requests to appear, then the performer should either agree to the same conditions as the other performers or withdraw. I think making special exceptions for people who are "owed favors" would foster bad feeling in the community. If it's the producer contacting the performers -- that's something else. If I were desperate to find dancers to fill out my roster, then it would be silly of me to invite people and then ask them to pay for the privilege of helping me out.

In regard to Yasmina's reaction, I don't think she has to worry. Someone desiring to get on stage without dealing with the workshop is much more likely to pay for the workshop... show up late... and then spend her time shopping the vending tables. I doubt that very many people in a dance workshop really don't want to be there.

Thanks for running the Ask Yasmina series. I find the articles very interesting.

Madison, WI


2-27-09 Badia Masabny, Star Maker of Cairo by Jalilah
I just found this article and I had to write.  <smile>
What a delight this was.  Entertaining, well-written, and so informative, I'm sure I learned several new things about this fascinating woman. Also, I was thrilled to see the advertisement for the nightclub!  How exciting to be able to actually see something that so profoundly affected the evolution of this dance.

I loved it and I thank you for consistently providing such high quality content.
Cortland, N Y


2-27-09 Response to letter below re: BDSS UpdateNew Choreographers Contribute to 2009 Show by Miles Copeland
I can appreciate the facts of Mr. Copeland's comment within his letter below:

 " . . . . I have to deliver on stage what I believe (and can see with my own eyes) will work to a broad audience as well as pure bellydance aficionados and I choose on that basis.  It is not my place to force an audience to like something because it is "historically accurate" or try to be "educational." 

I would love to see the Superstars' shows begin with a fast-moving, 10-minute production number featuring a historical dance montage of several different styles, types of music and costumes that have been part of the history of ME dance (some group/folkloric, some solo).  One style on stage at a time, to give at least a brief nod to each and give the audience a chance to focus and become intrigued, but not long enough that they would become bored.  Maybe just a tad educational (oops!), but in a very exciting, non-stop fashion that heightens anticipation and arouses curiosity, ending of course with darkened stage as the last performer(s) exit(s) and the real show begins.  

Of course not everything can be presented in this short amount of time, but that's a bonus in that it would allow for variety from show-to-show.  It could be a tasteful and respectful, intriguing addition to further the audience's appreciation for the BDSS (and ME dance/music in general), while providing an another reason to discuss the show after they have left the theater.

Debora Crockett Bolen
Fresno, CA


2-19-09 Response to letter below re: BDSS UpdateNew Choreographers Contribute to 2009 Show by Miles Copeland

I also felt a little miffed when I read Miles Copland's statement that seemed to diss the "folkloric roots of bellydance" (never mind that I can't stand the term"bellydance" as being totally inaccurate, American in origin, and even buffoonish way to describe Oriental Dance). I know he thinks the bare-midriffed glammed up Hollywood young thin chickies are what pleases the crowd, and to a point, I can understand that approach - I don't enjoy seeing fat rolls and stretch marks presented on stage either. However, there is no reason that the "folkloric forms" of Oriental dance could or should not be presented in that sort of venue. The troupe I'm Co-Director of has as its base Egyptian style Orientale. However our claim to fame is performing the folkloric dances from the Maghreb thru Egypt, the Gulf States, the Levant, the Middle East, and even Central Asia.
These dances obviously have to be "stage-a-ma-fied" and choreographed to make them interesting to perform and to watch, you can't do the same 3 steps over and over in a circle. But they can and should, be very entertaining if done correctly. So having a dabka as part of the selections is a good start. Next time, add some Tunisian or Moroccan, or Ghawazi or Persian. Educate as well as entertain!!

Pauline Costianes
Troupe Ta'amullat
Ann Arbor, MI


2-19-09 Response to letter below re: BDSS UpdateNew Choreographers Contribute to 2009 Show by Miles Copeland

My name is Rachel . I just want to say that I enjoy the Belly dance Superstars DVD's I have purchased and watched along with a few of my friends DVD's. We belong to a troupe called Jewels of the Desert in Yuma , AZ. Shirley Thompson is our troupe leader. She has taught us well, and we also take workshops and classes with Dahlena who lives here in Yuma. Aren't we lucky? And another professional belly dancer, Esther El Yebb, who has been dancing for 27 yrs. with training in the Academy in Morroco. Between all these teachers we know we will never be as good as they but we know we are getting quality. So, my point is we appreciate belly dance from all sources and especially our other idols from Belly dance superstars. I know they perform close to our city, in Phoenix, AZ . And they are performing today in Phoenix. I am not there because my husband had a stroke last year, very severe. He can walk but is prone to seizures and we are still working on therapy. He is adamant about me continuing my belly dance. It has been MY "therapy" . Getting me thru his stroke . I am glad that I found this beautiful art form in 2001 and have had a love and passion for the dance. I would hope that one day Yuma, Az. could host a Belly dancers Superstars performance . I know there would be an excited crowd here. The best time would be when we have an extra 100,000 people here in the winter. We call them our snowbirds but they are more energetic than any geriatric group I have seen ever.

If there is any chance the beautiful talented women of the Superstars would ever come to Yuma it would be a dream come true. We did have "Jim Boz" here last year in October, 2008. We are hoping he will be back soon.
So, this appreciation letter is heartfelt and hope you will understand.

Respectfully yours,
Rachel Trabue
Yuma , AZ


2-17-09 Badia Masabny, Star Maker of Cairo by Jalilah

Thank you so much Jalilah for the articulate and wonderful article of Badia Masabny's life and especially thank you for the footage of her performance. This was such a treat to find. We are so lucky to have people like you who care about this important and inspiring knowledge.

Yasmina Ramzy
Toronto, Ontario


2-9-09 response to letter below re: BDSS UpdateNew Choreographers Contribute to 2009 Show by Miles Copeland
I will admit that I so have a heap of prejudices when it comes to art but you can also call it my individual taste.  This was true in music as it now is in dance.  However I am always open to be proved wrong if I can see it.  When I saw what Stephanie Sullivan did with the folkloric approach I was impressed as it was what I needed, ie impressive.  So it is now going to be a major piece in the show.  It is interesting to note that the connection of bellydance to folkloric is not obvious to the viewer and I am sure it could be argued by people more historically knowledgeable than me that bellydance or Raqs Sharky is NOT a folkloric dance.  I suppose this would be true partly or largely because it is a solo dance and not a group dance.  Folk dances almost by definition are universally group dances, That is certainly what the Egyptian Ministry of Culture believes is the case.  They do NOT want bellydance included as an Egyptian folkloric dance and I was told this to my face by the then Minister of Culture of Egypt.  Meanwhile the writer is absolutely correct when accusing me of prejudice.  For me it is quite simple, I have to deliver on stage what I believe (and can see with my own eyes) will work to a broad audience as well as pure bellydance aficionados and I choose on that basis.  It is not my place to force an audience to like something because it is "historically accurate" or try to be "educational".  If "glitz", a "Hollywood" approach and professionalism can win the crowd and convert more to appreciating bellydance, the music etc there will be a portion who will want to know more and go to dig deeper into the origins of these arts.  That is a good thing. 

I might also add that the BDSS performances in the Arab world were a huge success and we are negotiating more shows in the region precisely because they like our take on the dance and the respect we bring to Arab arts as a by product of our worldwide touring.  I am surprised that anyone would,  in 2009, after 600 shows in 20 countries suggest that mainstream success has been elusive to the BDSS as we now perform in the same theatres as the ballet, Riverdance etc on a regular basis, are represented by the top performing arts agency in the US as well as the top promoters around the world.  This year will see the "Live in Paris" show on many of the PBS stations across the country and the documentary "American Bellydancer" is aired regularly on the Documentary Channel.  This has taken time to achieve as we faced so much prejudice and preconceived ideas from the marketplace that we had to overcome.  I am glad to say that perseverance and dedication from the BDSS dancers and the great support from the Bellydance community has made this possible.  

Miles Copeland
Sherman Oaks, CA


2-8-09 re: BDSS UpdateNew Choreographers Contribute to 2009 Show by Miles Copeland
Normally, I try to avoid commenting on BDSS and their impact on the larger Middle Eastern Dance community, but I must confess that the statement Gilded Serpent chose to highlight from Mr. Copeland's recent article is one of the saddest things I have ever read:

"I will admit that I have never been a big fan of the more ‘folkloric’ approach to Bellydance, but then again I have to be open to try something new with each show."

I know what Mr. Copeland meant here, and he meant it to sound open minded, but it appears to demonstrate a deep undercurrent of prejudice against the historical and ethnic roots of this art form.  How can you have any respect for this dance when you treat its origins like your embarrassing, immigrant grandmother who speaks in fractured English and tenaciously clings to old-country customs? 

I understand that the folkloric roots of "belly dance" are not always interesting to present on stage.  These dances are meant to be danced, not watched, but that does not mean that you cannot present aspects of them in a way that audiences can enjoy.  Perhaps one of the reasons that mainstream success has proved so elusive for BDSS is that by sanitizing Middle Eastern culture and repackaging it as the-latest-craze, Hollywood razzle-dazzle, audiences are being deprived of something intangible, something universal--how the every-man human heart responds to music.

M. Tourbeau


1-19-09 re: Interview with John Bilezikjian by Artemis Mourat
Mike Fair -FarazThank you for that great article and interview with John Bilezikjian.
I am a percussionist of Middle Eastern drums. I live in the S.F. Bay area.
I had the pleasure of sitting in for John's absent drummer at the Desert Dance Festival in San Jose, Ca. a few years back and it was the most exhilarating experience as a percussionists that I have had and probably ever will have playing with anybody. John's playing is so strong and directive that I didn't have to think about what or how to play. He plays the rhythm as well as the melody so I always knew what to play. I was so taken by the power and fluidity of his music.
It's hard to believe that such a talent would allow one totally unknown to him to play with him.
That's part of what you were talking about when you spoke of the "Old World Charm".
he is a true gentleman and genius.
Thanks for the memory John.

Mike Fair (AKA Faraz)
San Francisco Bay Area, CA


1-12-09 re: letter below re:Coverage of Fusion Contest on Community Kaleidoscope
Hi Gilded Serpent,
In response to TerriAnne's comments regarding modern dance coming from ballet:

Once new ideas on dance had gained momentum (following Ballets Russes, Stravinksy and all that "Sacre du Printemps" stuff) that movement broke from ballet and took its own new course. It didn't think of or call itself "new ballet" or "ballet fusion" and the dancers didn't perform at ballet concerts. The dancers didn't think of themselves as the next step in "evolution of ballet", it was MODERN + DANCE = a whole new approach to thinking about, executing and performing dance; non-aristocratic European, thoroughly experimental, aggressive sometimes, maybe even regressive. Modern dance has cozied back up to ballet a bit in the decades since, so maybe the outsider perception is that it never left the ballet fold. But it did - big time.

And I don't buy into the argument that this sort of Experimental / Hip-hop / Goth / Burning Man / Industrial / etc./ Blood Spewing / In-Any-Event non-Middle Eastern turn of events is "the evolution of belly dance". It IS an "evolution" in dance and it's super kewl that we may be witnessing the birth of a new dance form. But for pity's sake it's moved so far from its origin, surely those involved can see that it needs a new home.

PS. I have nothing against innovation, any dance style or the fact that GS covers such events.
PPS. In my younger days as a modern dance choreographer I used fake blood in more than one of my pieces. :-D Just so everyone understands that it's not that I "just don't get it".cheers,


1-10-09 re: letter below re:Coverage of Fusion Contest on Community Kaleidoscope
Hi Lynette,

I want to comment on TerriAnne's statement that Gilded Serpent isn't dedicated to "pure" forms of belly dance. Of course not, because there is no such thing as a "pure" dance art form! Dance evolves over time being influenced by other cultures but note I am saying "influenced", not dance forms that depart so far from any Middle Eastern elements that is isn't recognizable!

When I attended the "Lucy of Cairo" weekend of Oriental Dance workshops sponsored by Little Egypt in 2006, there was a very lively question & answer session. One of the questions posed to Lucy by attendees was: "Is it okay to bring other dance forms, even Western, into Oriental Dance?" Lucy's response: "Yes, of course, and dancers in Egypt have done that for decades with Latin and ballet, and it's fine as long as the dance is still PRIMARILY ORIENTAL. And you can break the rules if you know what you are doing and orientalize the steps you are including". There you have it, folks, straight from a megastar of Egyptian Oriental Dance with decades of experience and still performing every night in her club, La Parisienne in Cairo.

The problem with the "Fusion Contest" type events is that any "roots" they may claim to any style of belly dance are so obscure as to be negligible. Okay, they wore midriff baring costumes and use hip moves, but this is true of hula and Tahitian ethnic dance forms. And, I fail to see how an event featuring a dancer sitting on stage spitting fake (I hope) blood constitutes "participation in the Middle Eastern Dance community." Please, let's get real here, we are not talking about fusion with belly dance, we are talking about alternative dance art - fine in its own right and genre, but not part of the MED environment.

If anyone doubts this, just ask any Middle Eastern person, dancer or musician for their opinion after they view coverage of the "Fusion Contest". I'm betting my best bedlah they will agree with Lucy of Cairo.

Yours again in dance (belly)


1-9-09 re: letter below re:Coverage of Fusion Contest on Community Kaleidoscope
Dear Editor,
I wonder if readers of the Gilded Serpent might take a moment to read its Mission Statement. After reading it myself I never saw anything that implied that this was an online magazine to promote only the purest form of Middle Eastern dance. I quote,

“Gilded Serpent’s mission is to become Middle Eastern dance’s journal of record.”

I see documenting the emergence of a new dance form that has its roots in Middle Eastern dance, completely worth adding to this journal of record. This is no less exciting (or horrifying) then when modern dance began to evolve from ballet in the early 1900’s. Read this quote from a website on the history of modern dance and substitute the word “traditional belly dance” for ballet and “fusion dancers” for Modern dancers.

“The artists of modern dance have been known to pride their selves on taking the polar opposite road than of ballet. Ballet is the story of organization, symmetrical movement, traditions of companies, theaters as well as individuals. Modern dance on the other hand, is almost entirely the story of the personalities, spirits, quirks and hearts of individual dancers who devise their own philosophies, and set their own unique styles. These styles evolve and are passed down to students who then break away to create something new and just as personal. Therefore, studying the history of modern dance is rather like tracing the story of an extended family through several generations.”

You get my point. I quote again from the Gilded Serpent mission statement,

“Our shared values encourage the tolerance and inclusion of all elements in our community who wish to participate. Together, we can promote our community identity and pride by sharing the resources and ideas, concepts, and history of dance, and the rich music and culture of the Middle East.”

Now I just read, “and” the rich culture of the Middle East, I didn't see anything that said as long as it only pertains to the rich culture of the Middle East. I would assume that the part about “encouraging the tolerance and inclusion of all elements in our community who wish to participate”, would explain the reason Lynette is covering these events. People from the “fusion” community have embraced the Gilded Serpent, so why should she not embrace them back. They clearly “wish to participate”.

Until someone convinces the Gilded Serpent to rewrite it’s Mission Statement, it seems to me, that they have an obligation to continue to give coverage to these events.

TerriAnne Gutierrez
San Francisco Bay Area


1-7-09 re: letter below re:Coverage of Fusion Contest on Community Kaleidoscope
I second Amina's opinion about Gilded Serpent's coverage of this event and coming from me that 's a huge statement since I have spent years performing other styles of bellydance besides classic "Egyptian Oriental" (AmCab, Saidi, Ghawazee, Zambramora, Ouled Nail, Tunisian and yes, tribal!). It isn't the question of whether "fusion" is acceptable in bellydance, my point is that I too wonder why Gilded Serpent is covering a disproportionate amount of alternative dance events and articles. Even the general public isn't so stupid that they think these events are representative of the belly dance community today!

This much coverage will have the Gilded Serpent readership asking, "where have all the bellydancers gone......?" Well, we belly dancers of various styles are still here, and we are teaching, performing and educating the gp and newer dancers/students and our troupes that belly dance traditions are worth preserving and the culture deserves the same respect as any other ethnic dance art form.
Yours in dance (belly)


1-6-09 re: Coverage of Fusion Contest on Community Kaleidoscope
Dear Gildedserpent,
You are OUT OF YOUR MIND to be covering events such as this. We Middle Eastern dancers have struggled too hard and too long to be recognized as a legitimate and traditional dance form. You are already TOO GENEROUS when you cover "tribal fusion" events that only hint of bellydance, but to give any amount of space to a contest that claims to NOT include Middle Eastern bellydance is stupid! What kind of a readership are you reaching out to?

Amina Goodyear
San Francisco California


1-5-09 re: Unveiled Musical Gems, 3 CD Reviews by Joette Sawall
after reading the review, of my "Raqs El Qamar" Bellydance routine CD, it is obvious that Joette never really bothered to take a real listen to it at all. While I understand and respect freedom of speach, and people`s opinions, it is only fair that what people like her put into print should at least be accurate. First of all, she states that when she "hears the Nay coming in on track ONE" What CD was she listening to? It surely wasn`t mine because track ONE does NOT open with a Nay... I am a bit insulted and a bit annoyed, because anyone, who would review my CD the way she has ,obviously never really took the time to really listen to it, and pay attention to it, with reference to it`s true worth and intention, ie: that is that it is a " BELLYDANCE ROUTINE CD", with the intention of providing any qualified bellydancer out there with complete 7,10, 15, 20 minute routines to be used at venues where a live band is unavailable, or virtually ANY venue, obviously something she just "doesn`t get" ... Secondly, my recordings were all pristine in hi def digital quality, and very clear, clean, recordings.. so where she mentions a muffled or unclear, distant far away sound, is beyond my comprehension and I am confused on that count as well, Any decent high quality playback equipment would have probably sounded better to her ears I`m sure, but how do we know what she uses. Thirdly, where she gets the idea that the music on there is anything close to being in the "Easy Listening " category, baffles me as well. I have had three other favorable reviews on the net about this same CD, and bellydance instructors all over the country have placed repeat orders with me over the past year due to the CDs practicality of use, I therefore challenge Joette`s definition of being practical..... I am at this point a bit confused about the validity of your posted review as it pertains to my production, and as evidenced by many repeat orders, and would seriously request that you remove your review since it is not an accurate description of my work, many points are invalid, and untrue by everyone elses opinion (those who bought and use it for what it was intended, as a 7, 10, 15, 20 minute bellydance routine CD product, with two bonus tracks consisting of two different 9/8(karsilama) tracks.... something you never mentioned, as well as never even mentioning that it is a Bellydance Routine CD, much like all the other reviews have mentioned. I know it`s only her opinion, however, I seriously challenge the validity of a number of her points, and her qualifications in making technical and musical judgments.

Hence,in the end, if her review, and MY response have any merit at all, together in their totality, it is because ,together they are a manifestation of the old saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged" I am at this point vindicated :-) Amen

Chris Marashlian
Tom Rivers, New Jersey


1-3-09 re: 8th Annual Blood Moon Regale: Disease 101 Photos and text by Brad Dosland
...well, just when you thought it was safe to return for a good read on MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE AND CULTURE, this ugly under belly , (no pun) comes along. can't this back alley sub culture find its own voice ? venue ?
we used to include this site on a "welcome "flyer for new students.i guess that is still a "used to", just like this site "used to" be about the CULTURE of middle eastern dance .
whatever, maybe we will check back in another 8 months.
Cory Zamora
Fresno, calif.




Click a link below for the previous letters.

Older Letters  

Archives Pg 18- January through December 2009 - you are here

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

Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007
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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