Letters to the Editor
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November 2000 - March 2001
Once before I offered my personal opinion on something that was a little controversial- well, maybe more than once or twice. Darn, here I go getting into it again. I am happy to see people speaking out about things which need to be addressed. But there is a subtext which must also be addressed that is usually a no-talk subject and is part of the game in the entertainment world at large. Politics. When criticising or reviewing an event and dancers at that event, reviewers risk alientating people in the community which could lend support (financially or otherwise) when needed. The middle eastern dance community seems to
trade on this commodity- "you don't mention or criticise what I did to so and so or my weaknesses and I won't mention yours to you." This is the danger of speaking one's mind- carefully or otherwise. If one is powerful enough or has a big enough name not to need the support, then one can speak one's mind usually in safety. Many Middle Eastern dance venues are far from professional, and unless a dancer makes her living mostly from teaching or entertaining other dancers, you will not usually find that dancer sharing
information- especially those on the fast track. Many pros are very open about the fact that they do not dispense information- and they are usually (though not always) the same pros that one does not see at these events. So- history has seen that the best way for us all to get along is smile or say something nice. This cannot hurt business either way. Its the business that makes the world go round. The no-talk rule protects the pocket book. Speak your mind or step out of line and you run the risk of being ostracised- finacially or otherwise. Openly critique a show, cross territorial lines, call someone on bad behavior,
bad business practices or critique a dancer in any negative sense and that's seen as a problem all the way around. Until a group, venue, organization, art form, etc. can look closely at itself and do those things, it will not be taken seriously. And those who do will not usually benefit. Yep.
Thanks for providing a forum.
I agree with Bobbie because I've sat through too many shows where the dancing was, mostly, medicre. I'm glad she had the nerve to do her review. Dunia had some good points to make about allowing those to dance who otherwise may not have an opportunity. However, I wonder if she has considered the performances from the standpoint of the paying customer?
A person need not have been dancing for "umpteen" or more years in order to be able to accurately assess a dancer's expertise and whether the performance is good or bad. Let's face it--we all critique our fellow dancers when we see them in a show. We look at them and based on their performance we judge their level of dance competence. If one has
studied the art form diligently, watch videos of the great dancers, done research, and has common sense, it is not difficult to tell a dancer who practices, who has good stage presence, and who is prepared, from a dancer who does not practice and does not prepare.
If we as oriental dancers want the non-dance community (or the "other" dance communities such as jazz, tap, ballet, etc., etc.) to more fully support our efforts, we are obligated, especially when charging admission to performances, to display only those dancers who are truly the best. How many times have you heard a professional say that when
it comes to public performances, display only your best dancers? Isn't that what Ibrahim Farrah was known to say?
There is nothing inherently wrong with "not-so-accomplished" dancers desiring or even being encouraged to perform. However, when the public is paying for a performance, they expect to see at a minimum a semi-professional performance and at best a real professional performance with polish, class, and expertise. Too often, instructors (who themselves are not immune from mediocre dancing) openly encourage their students to dance for paying venues. The person who is cheated by a mediocre dancer is the paying customer. If an instructor has students who desire to perform in public, yet who are not polished or ready yet it would be best for them to perform at non-paying venues such as
nursing homes, informal parties, haflas, etc. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
And, let's face it, paying venues are places where a lot of people will see oriental dance for the first, and likely the last, time. The reason? Would you want to pay to sit through a 2-3 hour show only to endure one bad dancer after another? No, you wouldn't. Yet it happens
all the time across the nation at practically every seminar held.
So, your DDF review got some people upset? Good grief! I'm not surprised, I do get exasperated with this silly girlie "be nice to everybody and by all means avoid honesty" attitude that permeates the female culture and is so pervasive among dancers. I read that review back when you first posted it, and I enjoyed it very much! I'll admit that at the time I thought it was a bit daring of Bobbie to say things that other people would find incendiary, but it was the first time I've ever read a review of a belly dance event all the way through from beginning to end. I usually start coughing from all the fluff in my throat before I finish the first paragraph and sigh about the waste of perfectly good ink. This review piqued my curiosity ("Who was she talking about when she wrote THAT?") and made me wonder, "Uh oh, am I going to stumble on a reference that's obviously taking issue with MY performance?" (I didn't.) Anyway, I appreciated the courage and candor that it took for Bobbie to write "Hook" and I applaud you for being willing to run a piece that was so likely to provoke opposition.
As a coordinator of different types of venues, I have to agree with Dunia. "Just get up and Dance." These events are promoted as an open stage for all levels of dance and they generously invite the entire dance community to participate. I have coordinated select venues where the performers are chosen for their particular talent and I have also coordinated the "Open Stage Venue." I love both of them for what they offer. To the author of "Get Out the Hook" I can only suggest that you should educate yourself as to what the different venues offer and decide where you want to spend your $. Don't ruin it for the rest of the participants with a narrow perspective. I do agree that if a performer is to present herself to an audience she accepts the responsibility to prepare herself to the best of her ability. Who is to determine what the best of her ability is? Would you have potential performers filling out a medical history, a dance history, a resume? Your suggestion that you eliminate those who have demonstrated a past poor performance is very unkind. A year can mean a lot to someone who has been able to put these type of experiences under their dance belt. As I read your review, I felt very sad that you had criticized a venue that should be shared and experienced by all who embrace our art form. No, we are not all on the same level. But, this is a venue that expands our own perceptions and allows us all to share and experience the joy. The talent is varied, the professionalism is varied but the enthusiasm is equal. If it were advertised as an event with talent only of a certain level, then I would agree with you. The fairs and festivals are not! They are promoted as an open stage, a chance to mingle, buy, share & learn. And personally; I think they offer the most amount of excitement and fun.
Disclaimer: I was not anywhere near the DDF and never have been, but the articles on "The Hook" have touched a nerve with me - as I think you'll see.
I think as long as we charge high prices for bad amateur nights, no one is going to take our art form seriously.
At various recitals and shows, I too have sat through miserable, sometimes embarassing performances. I've seen lazy dancers, terrified dancers, sullen dancers, dance instructors whose students can't help but perform poorly because the instructor herself is clueless (bad posture, sloppy arms, graceless footwork, no stage presence), and even one instructor who performed with her student who was wore absolutely no makeup, wore glasses and CHEWED GUM during their performance! (Talk about killing the mood!)
There is a place for public performance - AFTER the student/instructor is honestly ready for public performance and at a reasonably priced show. I myself get real annoyed when I have to spend over $10 at a non-charity event to see some of the delusional self-glorification that some students and instructors indulge themselves in.
One historical venue for the dance was/is parties where the women dance(d) for their own entertainment, and to entertain each other. If students who are not ready to perform on stage at public venue want to dance, this would be an excellent opportunity for them to try their wings and get a little experience at being the center of attention in a non-judgmental, supportive setting. This also gives their instructors a chance to watch and give constructive criticism, which is a MUST for any self-respecting art form. Why not throw parties occasionally (with cover charges for attendees - or not) just for this purpose, where the local dance community can get together, dance freely, and have a good time?
I think most of us who do dance or have danced or do some other type of performance art realize how difficult it is to get up in front of people and do brilliantly, much less fairly well. It takes practice, a strong stomach, and a willingness to take criticism - and to monitor and honestly critique ourselves with a view towards doing even better the next time. Sometimes it amazes me how many people surrounding a shabby dancer join the conspiracy to make the dancer think she's god(dess)'s gift to the stage; what dismays me even more is the dancer's own willingness to buy into the illusion. Dancers/performers need honest evaluations of our performances. What we don't need are constant, false, gushing, congratulatory comments on poor performances, especially when the performers are instructors or long-timers who should know better and should be doing better.
All art forms - dance, acting, media, etc. - are subject to criticism and judgment in the public eye. We can't expect the public to wholeheartedly embrace someone who presents themselves as an artist but is not competent at their craft -- and if we do, we can't expect that public to take the craft in question seriously.
Until we are willing to police ourselves and our own, we're going to be stuck on that back shelf of mediocrity - subject to ridicule by the public and dismissed as "hoochie dance" or worse.
I finally feel the need to respond to this entire sordid episode. I first read the original article with something akin to horror that one person would be so mean-spirited, demeaning, cruel, unkind and disrespectful to other dancers. I noticed that some of the remarks were accompanied by pictures illustrating the individual. Was that really necessary? How incredibly arrogant! Particularly by an individual who has been dancing for only 5 years. Just enough, evidently, to be dangerous on top of stupid and mean. I thought often of writing about how I felt about this article - outraged among other things - and then decided to consider the source along with the fact that the editor of The Gilded Serpent is rather irresponsible - considering some of the other trash that has appeared on this website. Did you ever hear of slander? What happened to civility and human kindness? The focus of DDF and other festivals, as I understand it, was never to be a "paying performance." None of the dancers gets paid. The festivals are opportunities for shopping, networking and having fun. That's right - good old-fashioned FUN! And it was meant to be all-inclusive so that everyone might have a chance to be on the stage - no matter what the level of expertise. I am wondering, Bobbie, how you might hold up under scrutiny. Not very well I would guess. And speaking of the need for therapy - all this hatefulness from a person who saves fingernail clippings and hairballs? I think you need to be in therapy to resolve your hostile feelings towards others. It is individuals like you, Bobbie, who reflect negatively on the dance community. Did you try to imagine how you might have made anyone else feel? I'll bet you are so self-centered that you never gave it a second thought! Dunia is a wonderful dancer and a lovely lady who has worked hard on DDF through the years - more years than you have been dancing, my dear - and your ugly little article is very disrespectful.
Linda B Roiz
(ed- slan·der (slndr) n. Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation)
Your site is getting even more awesome, every time I check it out! Great work! Ciao,
I can't tell you how much I appreciate the careful and loving job you're doing. "Gilded Serpent" is truly a marvelous web-zine and I'm proud to be publishing in it. I look forward to seeing you at Rakkassah, and send you my love.
I must convey to you my respect and appreciation for all you do to maintain the Gilded Serpent. I maintain our Intenal Website at work, which is NOTHING compared to running an e-zine, and that has headaches enough, so, believe me I do have some idea of what you go through to keep GS going.
You are wonderful. Hang in there.
Re: Desert Dance Festival Review
Jan 15, 2001
I want to congratulate you and Bobbi for having the fortitude to say in public that not all performers belong on stage. I don't think much can be done (or maybe even should be done) about it in open festivals like Rakkasah and Cairo Carnivale, but you are so right that anything that is billed as a "show" or "concert" and charges more than a nominal admission should feature only the best. I get hacked off if I pay good money only to find out the big gala is really no more than a student recital.
keep up the good work!
I read and enjoyed everything in your site. Keep up the great work.
Thank you for your critique of the Desert Dance Fest. At this point I will not return next year. Yes there were a few professional and inspirational performances, although these were absolutely the exception not the norm and it should be the other way around. Any festival that wants to present itself as world class should absolutely hold auditions. I often feel this way at Rakkasah as well. I took some of my beginning dance students and was embarassed as were they at the many unprofessional and unprepared people on stage. After telling them how important disciplined technique is, stage presence, and the possibilities of empowerment are in this dance form, I felt foolish. And I'm more committed than ever to turn out technically precise and artistic dancers who do not out of false ego present themselves on stage before they are ready.
I also appreciated your article on the relationship between drummers and dancers. I want to stress that in my opinion it is essential that dancers learn drum rhythms. How can we profess to interpret music or be professional artists if we cannot either sing or play 5 to 6 basic rhythms? These rhythms are the heart and soul of our medium of dance. Having said that, I also want to say I've experienced alot of uneccesary hubris and downright meaness on the parts of drummers who care more about their train of thought or their improvisations, than making a dancer look good or intentionally communing with her. Drummers and musicians must also pay attention to the dancer, her moods, her style, her intentions and hey if she is a beginner, be nice and make her look good, after the performance you can suggest she learn basic rhythms and musicality. And both dancers and drummers should always have the perogative of choice of who to work with. In the end we must communicate and care to teach other what we know and not withold knowledge, this will truly bring about a genuine and talented drum and dance community.
I'm fortunate to live in Santa Cruz with the likes of Armando Mafufo, Jonathan Kessler, and Rick Walker. I take the opportunity as much as possible to ask questions about rhythms, their origins, or their signature accents, and I've been drumming myself for 4 years now. The more I drum, the more excited I am about dancing to different rhythms and I'm so grateful that my first teacher encouraged all the dancers to learn to drum as well as dance technique.
Palika/Heavy Hips Tribal Belly Dance in Santa Cruz
Thank you, thank you ever so much for this webmag! It is fascinating and wonderful to be able to read and keep up with the happenings in bellydance. For example, I didn't know who or what a "Piper" was last year. However, after seeing the beautiful pictures from the Bellydancer of the Year Contest and reading snippets on Piper, to my surprise she appeared at a Delilah show in October of 2000 and I had an opportunity to see her perform in person. Wow, wow, WOW-WOW!! I appreciated her so much more after seeing, reading and now experiencing her. Thank you. I tell and send your link to all my bellydancing friends. Bless you all, and keep it up.
Luv ya, Faydora.
I just read your last interesting article "I am Neferteri". I am Tanja, another GS contributor, from Italy.
Reading your article I was upset that people can treat you like that; it's not only definitively racist, but just unpolite, rude. Like that woman at the restaurant. I have never understood why many Americans are so concerned with the racial issue, the nationality, the ancestry, etc. Sounds crazy, just thinking USA are the so-called "melting pot". And so wrong. I well understand your instructor was shocked. That question was a
perfect mixture of idiocy, ignorance, racism, and bad education. It's right what you say, that Arabic/Turkish communities do not care, nor do they feel, the need to inquire about nationality. I would say not Europeans either, at least as a rule. In part it can also be connected to the Hollywood/Harem fantasy.
Now I love you say you dance your heart out. You are Neferteri, Queen of the Desert, beautiful and talented. Think a lots of people appreciate and love you. You are all of us.
I found only wonderful people in my visit to the States.
Regarding the mention of "Malibu trim" included in Lynette's review of Magana Baptiste Contest, I believe the correct name of the feathered trim is "maribo" rather than Malibu. Loved the review, and the DDF review. Thought maybe since it was the first year in a new location, many top performers chose to check
it out first and dance next year?
Patrisha of Visalia/Troupe Shahah and Troupe Shamilla
I want to thank you for posting information about De Ann on your site. I was also at the service and very glad to have been apart of De Ann's life
Thank YOU !
Re: Desert Dance Festival Review
Dec 11, 2000
I want to personally thank you for being willing to print a review that is not over flowing with compliment after compliment. I have stoppped reading many because I no longer believe them! I also agree with the author about many details ie: putting on a Festival means there needs to be some guidelines and screening. Middle Eastern dancers are quick to moan and groan about not being taken seriously about our art but the last to police our selves. If we do not demand quality and set standards we will never have the recognition that we want. As the article stated, there is room for a wide range of talents, skills, and perspectives within the dance but there is no excuse for poor costumes (many make me blush!!!), poor preparation for a performance (BOREDOM!!), and repeated failures to do what is expected. We ask audiences for their monetary and physical support -- we owe them a tasteful, interesting, and clean performance EVERYTIME!!
Ellen "Badra" Rehwoldt
-- choreographer and director of Sultan's Pride Middle Eastern Dance Troupe --- A dance troupe in Grand Junction Colorado who has been performing for audiences across Colorado and Utah since 1983. We currently have 30 active dancers and put on our own staged show with new choreography each year in April.
11-12-00 Re: Magana Baptiste contest review
For Lynette, I would have liked to see less talk about tiaras, and such, and more about interpretation of music, what shimmies and techniques were used, etc.! Bozenka's (the winner) name was misspelled, and I am curious as to what a Malibu trim (on her costume) is?
Thanks, Kabi (from Miami - home of 4 past MB Ms. America of the Bellydance winners)
Archives Pg 17- January through December 2007!
What's in a name, self acceptance, Men in Belly dance, Yasmina's new column, MECDA Ellections, Tajikistan, AWS fest, Arabic Idioms, Professional Presence, Suhaila in Phoenix, Music recording, Vegas IBDC, Egyptian Code, Jodette, Journey to Womanhood, New York Dance Scene, Amy Sigil, Tito Seif, Arab Defamation, Gothla, Neon's Keeping your mouth shut, Valizan Ozgen, Toronto IBCC, Burlesque, DVD purchasing, God Bellydanced, North Beach Memories, Princess Farhana fan article, Cabaret to DJ by Nina, Raqia Hassan, Serpentessa, Cover-ups, Criticism, John Bilezikjian, Certificaation, BDSS, East too West?, Vendor's View, Lynn Zalot & Habibi,
Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007
Tatseena's Belly Bully piece, Amina's writing, IBCC coverage, Review on Tirbal DVD's, Barbary Coast and Bellyqueen, Cover-ups, Non-Profits, lifting the Veil by Yasmina,
Mona Said's letter, Music Copyrights, Ethics of Fusion, Egyptians being too Western?
Archives Pg 15- December 2006 through June 2007
Interview with Nakish, Sashi-kabob, How to charge what yo'ure worth,Tribute to Rhonda, Marliza Pons, Party booking, George Elias, "I dance you follow". Ethics of Fusion
Archives Pg 14- June 2006 through December 2006
Ethics of Fusion, Queen of the Bay, Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Greek Flavor, What ME Audiences Expect , Taxsim, Gothic Dance, Gyspy Dance, Sashi Kabob, Wierd Rituals
Archives Pg 13- November 2005 through May 2006
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 you are here
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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