Letters to the Editor

Email the Snake--editor@gildedserpent.com

March 2002 - September 2002


Thank you for Shira's article on Vendors. We all appreciate it, I'm sure. I love to hear people talk about the old days when competition in the market meant dancers were competing to see who could get to the vendors and buy things up. These days are long gone, but I see prices dropping as vendors have silent go-out-of-business sales. Or to compete, they buy from shoddy sources and their costumes fall apart on the table.

On the whole, however, belly dancers are the most honest of customers. There are a few areas where this is not the case, or the haggling goes on to an insulting extent. I have quit going to such places. Life is too short. When I have dealings with someone, they can go on my good list or my bad list.

I have really gone out of my way to get things for my customers. One of them drew up an elaborate Assiut costume which we had made up for her in Egypt, just as she had drawn it. When we sent it to her, she hated it and sent it back. Tahseen sent it to someone else the same day who showed it to someone from her troop and she fell in love with it immediately.

No one costume looks good on everybody. People can have issues with size, color and cut of costumes. I am always glad for everyone who has found something which suits them. Sometimes I have an unreasonable desire to buy a costume which is "iffy." But I will go somewhere and someone will pounce on it and say, "I have been looking for this EVERYWHERE!" This always makes me happy. It is what keeps us in business.

Kathe Alkoudsi


Hi there. I frequent GS and published an interview article on your site some time ago. I was excited to get my "Snake Byte" e-mail alerting me to the Review on "Satin Rouge." The movie is not yet in release in my area, and so I'm very curious about it.

I usually find the caliber of writing/reviewing on GS to be outstanding. But I must say, even after reading the disappointing review on "Satin Rouge" twice, I'm more confused than when I knew nothing about this film.

From the reviewer's descriptions about the film's heroine "shakin' it for the boys", and pole-dancing, any reader's guess would have to be that the film is about a woman who discovers erotic dancing. If what she discovers is some perplexing hybrid of erotic dance and belly dance, then it's odd to me that the author would not comment on or explore that particular cinematic treatment of bellydance, especially given that the review appears on a web site designed for belly dance enthusiasts!

I do appreciate the fact that the heroine discovering herself (in contrast to a specific dance form) is perhaps the more important point to be gleaned from the review, and from the film itself. But this review might as well have been written by someone who possesses not even so much as a passing interest in belly dance. I'm puzzled beyond puzzlement about that.

My minimal expectations in reading the review were to learn just three things about this film... 1.) Is this film indeed about a belly dancer? 2.) How extensive is the role of belly dance in the film? 3.) How is belly dance portrayed?

To say that the review did not deliver any answers to these three obvious questions ( let alone offer up any insights related to the questions) would be an understatement.

Maya Hallmark


9-26-02- re:"I am Neferteri" I love this article,...my comments
I am very impressed and touched by this article. I am an African-American Raqs Sharki dancer myself and boy can I relate. I have been dancing for 5 years here on the East coast. I had a few negative experiences similar and not so similar.

What is sad about women of color in this dance form is that we have dance harder than anyone else just to prove a point. Also to have to deal with the ignorance of the people who know nothing of the origins of this dance. What is even amazing is sometimes people in our own community have bad misconceptions of black women in this dance. That is where I literally sit down with them and teach them something new.

I love your article. Thank you so much.
Lillia Amun


Hi Lynette
Earlier this year you gave me permission to reprint this article.. which I did thanks again . Tara Al Nour's aim is off in solo recital CONCERT REVIEW By George Row
( Najia El Mouzayen)

Last month one of our members wrote a review about a concert here in Vancouver.BC.... It was not 100% flattering. BUT it was honest.. praise was given where due and the flaws were laid out. I should say, this was not the first honest review this critic has given.. The one the previous year got no reaction whatsoever.. This one however WOW! The promoter is whining goodstyle and has had her friends write long letters to me defending her position.. Among her 'suggestions" (choke choke) is that from now on I have a board review the reviews ( I kid you not ) and make appropriate changes " in the interst of the sisterhood of the dance". Also she thinks that perhaps dancers should not review other dancers, ( the reviewer in question has a background in theatre as well as being a dancer BTW).

I wonder if your reviewer has ever written anything on 'guidelines on what to put in a review', or would be interest in doing so? Or if there is any in your past archives which might balance these letters. I do have several kudos from people who liked the review and felt it was time that Vancouver dispensed with the sugar coating and told the truth.

Dance in joy

ed note: In fact, due to our own recent events of review backlash, we have just published "Tips for Writing a Critical Review for Gilded Serpent" found on our Edit Guide.



To the editor:
I'm sure your article on Vendors is long overdue. No doubt, people can be very tacky. However, I do think the author went a bit overboard stating the reason for returns were "because the buyer never bothered to think a little before making the purchase and didn't get the right size". Buying a belly dance costume by mail to me would be a miraculous event if proved successful on the first attempt. A vendor who tries should make sure to implement a more simple way to process returns. The cartoonist of the hideous "Cathy" has made a more than decade long success of tapping into the emotional turmoils of women buying swimsuits at the mall - a feat that seems much less complicated than investing a week's salary (or more!) on something infinitely more complicated. Good luck!

Susanna Rodriguez
New York, New York


ed - Edited for length

Hi Gilded Serpent,
As a vendor , I really appreciated the article, particularly the section on shoplifting, which is unfortunately more prevalent than you'd imagine. Last year at Rakassah, I lost about $100 worth of merchandise, and I'm sure every vendor has had similar experiences.
Since the article was written basically from the customer's point of view, I'd like to add a few things, from the vendor's side of the table.
I love creating and vending my wares, and nothing makes me happier than a customer telling me they bought something from me at another fair, or years ago, and how much they love the item .
But, some customers are less than gracious, and these are just a few examples of what makes it hard , at times, to keep that smile on my face :
I have had customers touch and "rearrange" every item on my table, often leaving a large mess for me to straighten out, after they've walked away without buying anything.
I've had a customer "try on" ,and walk away from my table with a $250 Coin Belt, without asking me... so she could dance with it at "open floor" section, so she later informed me. (Fortunately, she came back 1/2 hour later to return it, saying she was "sure" I "wouldn't mind" her "borrowing" it. Yeah, right ! )
I've had several customers put a coin belt on a child , tangling and twisting the chains to fit, so they could see how "cute" it looked. Even had someone try on a bunch of belts and have her boyfriend photograph her in each one of them. (These all were "no sales").
I been asked "How come your coin belts are SO EXPENSIVE ?".
A variation on this is "Do you know of a vendor that has cheaper coin belts ?"
I also try keep smiling whenever someone asks me "Where do you get these from ?"
I could go on, but you get the idea...
Stop by my booth at Festival Fantasia, in Sebastopol, Oct. 12-13.
"Coin Belts by Susie". I've been vending at fairs for 11 years now , and, YES, I'm still smiling :-) La-la-la-la-la-la-la !




Najia El-Mouzayen deserves a great, big "Atta Girl" for her articles on Certification. I wish I could add to Najia's topic of Dance Certification, but she's expressed it all, and more eloquently, than I could hope.

Both Mdm. El-Mouzayen's articles echoed my own experience and sentiments as an instructor. Art doesn't come in a can. You can't freeze-dry talent. Creativity isn't downloaded from the internet. You can't expect to learn the art of another culture in an eight week class (... then presume to 'teach' the subject without proper experience and research)!

Knowing there are a still pragmatic, intelligent and analytical people within our very special dance community makes me feel much better.

Trish Pellerito



Certificate, Schmertificate

In an eloquent and perceptive way, Najia conveys her deep understanding and depth of emotional attachment to raqs sharqi. I especially like the reference to the dance as “the charming beggar.” While I believe we must take our dancing seriously, by nature it is so very personal that without interjecting an emotional response to the music, it is, indeed, dead.
Western dance teaching techniques can be useful, but if you wanted to study jazz and ballet, I assume you would take classes in those styles. However, they are not raqs sharqi, nor is it a requirement that you take them in order to learn this dance. We keep trying to codify and regulate and organize this dance, but “the charming beggar” defies our efforts. Either get over it and move on, or go study some other style of dance. There is so much more to good dancing (and good art) than a credential. I don’t think you can teach that to anyone. I think you can show it, live it, breathe it, but there are no lesson plans or techniques for passing it on. You can give students maps and trail markers, but as with all the really important things in life, you have to discover it on your own. Dancers who dance without a deeper investment are like the cliché about pretty men, nice to look at but boring. I have to second the notion that not all good dancers are good teachers. The teacher you choose should light a fire in your heart, should resonate with you somewhere very deep within your soul. A good teacher gives you way more than rules and a certificate. It just isn’t that easy. It’s not a 30-minute sitcom or the latest MTV video, or a snappy routine mastered in a 6 week session. Give me a dancer who dances from her soul any day. I don’t care about her certificates or her style. I care about how she makes me feel.

Bellingham, WA



Great interview! Would love to see more pictures! Interesting story and so little is published about the art of belly dance - coming from an Oklahoma dance studio - we were fortunate to have Soraya host a workshop which was wonderful!



I really enjoyed the article about Soraya! (Especially all the wonderful pictures of her and Bert Balladine). Keep up the good work! Thanks!

Babs "Noora" Flowers


Sirs/Ma'ams -

Just a quick line to say how much I enjoy Kalifa's articles. Her "slice of life" descriptions ("time capsules"?) from her 70's experiences dancing are quite interesting. Done with a fair bit of wry humor, the writings are most amusing and entertaining. Hope to see more of her entries!
Thomas Chalmers



I visited your web site which I really enjoyed. I particularly enjoyed the review of Raqia Hasan's Dance Festival from 2000 and the article about Cairo's Costume Disasters. Are there any reviews regarding Raqia Hassan's dance festival from this year? I would be interested to hear how it went.

Christina Rizkallah

PS-I'm a belly dancer, too!


Just read certifying the certifyers...enjoyed the article very much, although the author appears to have left the question of certification wide open to speculation. I think a major problem of this dance stems from INSECURITIES of bellydance instructors...many of whom have no business teaching to begin with..due to lack of experience in technique, much less as instructors! Therefore, these fledgling instructors steep themselves in as much "factual" data as possible (gleaned from web sites, books and other dancers), then proceed to look down their noses at their former instructors (who may be guilty of nothing worse than simply TEACHING what they know about the dance!), and band together in little groups and try saboutaging established classes, seminar hosts, etc. If this dance is to survive with ANY form of respectability, we must band together and help each other by supporting events, and EACH OTHER, instead of picking everyone else to pieces. I would like to see more conscience displayed, however, by dancers who need to train MUCH, MUCH more before cutting themselves loose as professional performers and instructors on an unsuspecting public!
Babs "Noora" Flowers


Dear Editor:

I just want to express my opinion about the recent articles written by Najia on the subject of certification of Middle Eastern dancers. I applaud her for having the clear sight to see a situation (which should be obvious to everyone) and being willing to state her views in face of the likelihood that she would hear some criticism.

Never in any dance form has there been a need for a certificate nor has anybody benefited from certification except the certifiers. If people want to gain respect for our profession they should stop such childish games.


Adeline Gosch (Sarifa)



I really enjoyed Najia's series on Certification. It rang a lot of bells with me. I also feel the importance of learning how to teach - yes, she's right and a dance teacher is more than lesson plans - but she is also more than her dance style. In addition to Teachers' Colleges which focus on more general teaching skills there are also targeted dance teaching courses around. True they are often ballet based but every dancer has the same set of muscles, bones, and nervous system.

One, question though - why "raks sharqi"? The same Arabic letter is used in both words - so shouldn't it be "raqs sharqi" (leaving the "k" for the other more English sounding letter). The "k" and "q" are not pronounced the same and the one usually denoted by a "q" is a dark letter that alters the vowel sounds. Further in Egypt it can sound very different (more like a "g") - or even disappear in some dialects.



Just can't pass by the opportunity to send a compliment to Najia for her well-written, consideration and perception
as expressed in the article on certification. Yayyyyyy!

Yours in dance, Mésmera


Hi Lynette. I just read your article in the Gilded Serpent about your night out in SF. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed it! I'm an Oakland based Belly Dancer. Ive been dancing professionally for several years, mostly at private and middle eastern events etc. I have yet to find a regular venue to perform in- In fact its been a struggle to find a nice restaurant that needs a dancer. If you have any advice for me Id really appreciate it! You have a very good reputation as a dancer in the community, and your advice would mean alot to me. Do you perform anywhere? Id love to see you sometime. I look forward to reading another great article from you. Take care! Best Regards. -

SHABNAM http://www.shabnampena.com



I enjoyed this page sooo much. I happened to live in San Francisco From 63 to 65, and North Beach was the place for Belly Dance. Unfortunately, at that time I was 19 and did not have an intereste in the dance at that time. But I do remember going to the clubs and there was belly dance all over. To think I wasted that time. Anyhow, I made up
for it now. What a great page you have. Do you have any Rakassah videos. Will any ever be made. I live in Miami, Fl now, and will not be able to go Rakassah for at least 3 to 4 years. Thank you for any info.

Sincerely. Ana U, Miami, Fl USA


I enjoyed Latifa's article Middle Eastern Dance meets Hip Hop Culture. I am a Black/Indian women who is new to belly dancing. Latifa revealed that she is politically aware and culturally sensitive to the racial politics that often
affect Black people's lives regardless to rather their hip hop or not. It's wonderful when creative people don't function in a vacuum. Thank you,

Sandra Perkins
Denver, Colorado


So, Jawahare, It'll be a pleasure to watch Alexia grow and bloom. The pictures were a pleasure as was the story. She certainly has a great role model.



Hi, My name is Monica and I am a ME dancer from Melbourne Australia and have been dancing for 12 years or so. My partner of 2 years, Sacha, is a youth worker and musician specialising in the production of HipHop workshops for kids at risk and alike to encourage expression. I was happy to read of this article of the unusual marriage of MED and HipHop happening elsewhere as there have been instances here in Melbourne and also with Breakbeat/Drum&Bass nights at local clubs. Allot of the DJs are middle eastern themselves but not all the time. Coming from the ME dance culture which is mostly a universal friendly culture fits so well with HipHop, as I too have only been introduced to the HipHop culture recently and the similarities between the two, the networking, openness and sharing of ideas, encouragement of expression and individuality are amaising. The beats used in this music I have found are more than often wonderful to dance to. My partner and now some of Australia's more influential HipHop artists are getting involved in this combination as it adds such a complimentary visual to the music. My partner loves to make his beats by sampling my ME dance music, especially the drum solos. I am blessed to have a musician for a partner that takes such an active interest in my dancing. Not only does this add variety to my music in my routine, but I have noticed much more interest from the younger generation from being exposed to in these forms.

Monica Cairns


I just want to say thank you for putting pictures of my performance at Rakkasah on the gildedserpent website. I think it is a true honor. I also want to thank you once again for creating the gildedserpent website. I find it very helpful and interesting.

Thank you and keep on dancing,


Hi Lynette,
I thought the hot links in your latest SnakeByte was a great idea - so easy to click on! The Gilded Serpent is a wonderful mag & resource, much appreciated! Happy dancing,

Anthea (Kawakib, Atesh)



*Those of us who wallowed in the hallowed halls of the university ...*

How sad that, while wallowing, Najia was apparently not taught to write without peppering her prose with quotation marks, one of the telltale signs of the amateur. It's easy to picture Najia engaged in conversation, all-too-frequently crooking her fingers to enclose words and expressions within imaginery quotes.

This is not the first article of Najia's I've read in Gilded Serpent where she a) finds it necessary to repeatedly inform the reader that she really, truly was educated and b) obviously has an axe to grind but by the article's end hasn't supported her argument other than to say that this or that practice is unsuitable since it's unlike what she herself experienced or personally prefers. It is the last such screed that I'll waste my time on, though. I certainly hope that her dancing was more nuanced than her columns are.

Secret Squirrel


Hmmm......fascinating! Especially the article about fashion trends at Rakkasah, which was totally right on. Loved it!
Very best wishes to you always, And always, keep dancing,



Gilded Serpent,
You did everyone a service in running Sadira's review, which was remarkable in how polite it was, considering the subject. Lest anyone doubt: this book is awful. I hope it was printed on recycled paper, because it would be a crime against the universe to have cut down a tree for this bumfodder. A few of the stories probably would be funny if related by the dancers who experienced them, but not by the time Rod Long is done with them. If this book is an example of Mr. Long's comedy, his live "performances" must violate the Geneva Convention.




I read with interest, the article about a Las Vegas workshop with the Parafinas last January. We hosted them in a one day workshop and hafla, at the request of many, but especially for the head of ATS in the central valley, Lydia Fortner of Tanjora. This was the second time we have hosted A lexandria, first with Noel.
She is a no nonsence teacher, who had them in Gawazee formation in no time! Her energy is astonding....should be bottled.....Noel took special joy in the students here due to the fact that all students start zills 4 weeks into beginning training. The history she taught with the Oulid Nail, was great.....we like to know why we are doing things around here!........She knew in advance that we hold workshops in house........they knew what they would be paid per student, as as with Reda Darwish, a hotel room is provided by us they were paid cash ........Either the lady in Vegas wasn't ready to go on to special ethnic dances, or there had not been homework validating the knowledge of the instructor.......you have an article in your archives, praising those who followed Aisha Ali in her studies.......it should have been read........We look forward to having them back next year, no if ands or buts about it...........

Cory Zamora,
Belly Dancing By Zamoras - Bellydancing Troupe


Najia reasonably refuted the certificate mentality in her argument last month. However I don't agree that the concept of certification is a bad one, at least when done properly.

The model I'm thinking of is the one used by oriental martial arts. Levels that are agreed at national / international level with many styles being seperately examined. Expertise in one form has no bearing on your level in another.

The main point being that it is determined top down rather than bottom up. The best dancers would determine in committee what expertise should be demonstrated at each level, and how it should be demonstrated.

Once accreditation gets into swing (and it would take years) it would help students by ensuring that they know what level any workshop would be, and also it would help teachers who could more accurately state what level to which they'll be teaching on any occassion.

I'm also aware of the point that Najia was circling that there comes a point where dancing should come from the heart rather than as a recitation of set moves. All of us hope for that to occur (and soon) but for most of us this is belatedly achieved by accident in a haphazard and meandering way. How much better the accumulation of skills and experiences we can design into a schedule suited to our own pace.

Of course this would never happen because the the set up would be very fraught and the buy-in would have to be agreed in principle by most before anything could even be set down on paper. And that's never gonna happen cos most teachers would have to subject themselves to certification and who'd risk the ego bruising that might bring.

Also the administrative overhead would be immense, especially when the most suitable people are already busy enough.

So to answer her question as to who's got superman, I'd say that right now nobody has superman. Certification should mean that we'd all have superman. But don't worry, it'll never happen.




I just wanted to write and say how much I've been enjoying this web-page, I think it's fantastic. It's been a pleasure to read such wonderfully informative stories by all of these musicians (some I'm familiar with) and dancers. You captured a great sense of history here, an important period of time of this art-form in America. There's a wonderful essense to all of the people interviewed, or who've written articles, that have a special "something" that just seems to be missing in many of the contemporary musicians and dancers of today, in my opinion.

Such great photos of the performers, and the clubs, very exciting to browse through the history and details.
Anyway, please keep up the good work! The Middle Eastern music and dance world needs more positive inspiration like yours.

Sincerly, -Eric Peterson, Percussionist http://www.geocities.com/ericnpeters


In reply to Najia's "Certifying the Certifyers", I saw my own past as a student (and teacher!) and also what I'm going through today... Due to lack of good instructors in my area, I had to learn a lot on my own...studying videos (workshops, while fun, never stuck with me, due to the overwhelming amount of material thrown at me, or worse, a choreography), practicing and getting the "feel" of various moves, which sparked variations through experimentation. I, too, named moves according to what they seemed to simulate, or technically what the body was doing. Often, students were confused by the "authentic" names, and preferred what I called them. While I agree there is a need for some standardization and qualification, I also forsee many problems trying to enforce this...many so-called "authorities" on the subject simply substitute research and trips to Egypt for actual talent and skill.

Dance is a CREATIVE process...I've watched many performances which left me cold, because while technically correct in her stylings and movements, the dancer appeared overly choreographed with no joy or "soul" in her dancing.

Babs "Noora" Flowers
editor Veiled Impressions Magazine



Bravo! Another excellent article. I agree with you completely. I took a 3 hour workshop with a lovely dancer, very famous, and I enjoyed it, it was a workout, not really a dance class. I decided not to do her 3 day certification workshop, which is coming to my area in August for just the reasons you outlined. Also, I teach and perform and am quite successful as I am, so I do not want to "throw away everything I've learned" to start over. I've worked darn hard and still work hard taking workshops and continuing my studies to throw everything away. Like I tell my students, even Mikael Baryshnikov continues to study and practice. You never ever stop learning and growing in the dance.



Once again Najia comes through with a truly competent, thought provoking and great article on the whole "certification" trend in our dance. With the popularity of the 30 minute sitcom, quick fix and easy resolution to every problem, it is no wonder dancers want an instant costume, a set choreography, and a certificate saying they are "dancers". In some ways this explains the enormous popularity of ATS with it's exotic look and rote movements...easy to learn, safety in numbers, instant dancer. I too lament dancers' individuality based upon experience and understanding of the music. If we move it far enough away from the source, soon it will look exactly like a jazz or ballet class...with the exclusivity and rigidity that goes with any art form grown stagnant.



Just wanted to drop you a note as a newbe to the internet, as to how much I enjoyed Saleh's interview. I also went to N.Y.to see my "mentor" Ali Hafid, in all his glory. This was an entertainer to be reckoned with. His phrasing, his oud, his voice...well the list goes on and on. As an ex Rock, Jazz, Country, and Middle Eastern drummer, Ali was my favorite. I agree with Saleh, that too many musicians and percussionists follow one venue, But there is so much beautiful music out there!!!! Keep an open mind! I hope to hear from you soon!!! Sincerely, Levon

--- Leon Manoogian



I just found out about Jamie's death. I took classes from her and can hardly believe she's gone! I would like to read more about her life. Thanks for info.

Barri Boone

{ed- see her North Beach Memories!)


First off, I would like to state that I understand the controversy over the subject of certification brought up in this article and, to be totally honest, I don't have an opinion on it. I can see the point that it might be nothing more than a piece of paper for your wall, and I can also see the point that having to meet certain criteria before you can teach could help newbies have a better chance of finding a "teacher" that hasn't learned everything from how-to videos. Either way, the subject doesn't really pull me to one camp or the other.

That said, I would like the author of "Certifying the Certifiers" (Najia) to know that she did herself a disservice in the manner in which she wrote this article. By writing in such a biting tone and by attacking the other camp rather than defending her own point of view, I felt like I was being yelled at. Think about how much less likely we all are to listen when we feel like we're being talked down to. Personal attacks on readers and their insecurities only serves to heighten the bitter and unaccepting tone of the piece.

"Stunning lack of creative expression" is a cruel statement to make about people who are just learning how to find their own creativity, perhaps first by gaining the confidence found in another's steps. I understand that the author's teaching style precludes these ideas, but rather than sharing her own ideas in this section, she only serves to embarrass those of us who really are not ready emotionally to step out and prefer some time to "blend in to the crowd." And comparing choosing a dance class to choosing a spouse? It seems there is a lack of proper perspective in the importance of this whole matter- certification or no certification, choosing a dance teacher is not as critical, life altering, permanent or important as choosing a life partner. If convenience is what it takes to get people off their couches and learning a new and exciting art form, then so be it.

As my Grandma always used to say "Think Before You Speak."

Emily Fowler


I just accidentally stumbled upon your site and I just wanted to say that Bobbie Giarratana has to be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.

Thank You :)


I want to know why Sirens Rising was NOT pictured in the Rakkasah 2002 pictures - - why???
Dejah Dorantes



Wow, thanx for existing. I just read the article on Aisha Ali and the begining of the Gawazhi "experience" in California. As an amatuer dancer whose first taste of bellydance came from the SCA and Renn Faire and then from a teacher who was as strongly immersed in the California "myth" as she was, it is always wonderful to read the wide spread of articles in Gilded Serpent. I dance with a very small amatuer troupe in Santa Cruz, and I recommend your magazine to my troupe sisters, as well as others looking for more information on belly dance. I feel that recognizing that what we as Californian dancers (no matter what style we claim) most often do is an amalgamation of many ethnicities and trends is one of the most important steps in growing as a dancer.


Dear Najia,

I just wanted to write a quick note to say thanks for writing your most recent article on the Gilded Serpent "Certifying the Certifiers"---it is definitely most apropos considering a lot of the discussions going on online across the community right now.




I'd like to respond to the opinions expressed recently by Shira and MiaNaja (below) regarding various issues surrounding strippers and belly dancers. First, let me say that during my career dancing professionally in clubs and restaurants in the Bay Area, I was always amazed at the intense level of outrage expressed by many dancers at any mention whatsoever of the historial connection of bellydancing to the 1890's hoochy-coochy interpretation of oriental dance that evolved into stripping.

Let me share a story from my personal dance history. I was working as a regular dancer in a restaurant in San Francisco when a new manager was hired to "supervise" the belly dancers. Mr. New Manager informed me when I came in on my regular night to dance that he had formerly managed a strip club and had lots of ideas on how to "improve business". His first idea was that we belly dancers were wearing way too much in the way of costumes and he wanted us to eliminate the skirts and/or harem pants and perform in just the costume bra and belt. Since we'd have much less costuming to get into, he reasoned, we should then be able to perform a lot more shows in the course of the evening. I smiled politely at Mr. New Manager, declined all his suggestions and performed in full costume that night, also telling him that if he wanted non-stop dancing at the restaurant to hire more belly dancers! I don't know how the other dancers responded to Mr. New Manger's ideas, but the next week he was permanently gone and I still had my dance job, performing as usual in my full costume!

Let's put this further into perspective; I recently saw a TV program about a new dance exercise class being taught by, guess what, a stripper! And there were men and women in the class learning not how to become a stripper, but learning steps and routines for improved muscle tone and overall health. It's interesting to see that a dance form such as stripping, could evolve from its early exploitation-of-women origin to a fun exercise class! I think it is time that we took our own egos less seriously and take our belly dancing performing responsibilities a lot more seriously in order to allow the art of belly dancing to continue to grow and evolve to the highest level possible.

Yours in dance,




I just found out about this publication and am enjoying it immensely, especially the articles about the Bagdad & Casbah in S.F. - I danced at the Casbah for a couple of years and cried for a week (all us dancers did) when it closed - I feel fortunate to have worked on a regular basis with the live music, an incomparable experience. I'll write more later, but wanted to say a big thank you!




Although I understand Shira's point regarding bellydancers being hostile to strippers, the argument that "Belly dancing did evolve into the hoochy koochy, and from there into stripping." does not justify the fact that ethnocentric westerners took indigenous dance forms that celebrated births, comings of age weddings, etc. and turned it into something that degraded women. Stripping objectify's women and if we are serious about elevating the dance, then we cannot continue to support the degradation of Middle Eastern dance into sexualized schtick. I liken it to Minstrel shows, when whites took songs and dances of slaves and used it to stereotype black people and justify slavery. Using belly dance in stripping perpetuates a stereotype and I think we spend too much time and money learning our craft to have it evolve into dance that borders and abets the sex trade. Would I teach a student that was a stripper, yes, but I would be very clear about my feelings and that she should keep it definitively separate and I would encourage her to seek to further her education and try to seek an occupation that affirms her and not just her body. You don't see strippers in Tutu's and pointe shoes or in folkloric dress.

At University of Maryland last year at Maryland Day, the "serious" dance such as Ballet, Modern, Jazz, even African was presented at the new dance department theatre. Bellydance was presented in the Student Union. If we want the kind of patronage that Alvin Ailey and ABT and Pilobilus and other dance forms receive then we need to work to have our dance form be respected along with the cultures and peoples we represent. I don't think Adam Basma or Laurel Victoria Gray and her Silk Road Dance Co (which is affiliated with the Uzbekistan Embassy in DC) are ready to take a step backwards and have the serious work and study they do be associated with women who take off their clothes for money.

Yes strippers make more money than most dancers, but take a tip from Amaya of New Mexico, often we undercut one another because we "looove" to dance so much we will dance for free. Or we don't ask for more money because as women we are not taught to value ourselves and our craft. As an Attorney, I went to school and spent long hours so I can work with my clothes on and continue dancing. I don't mean to sound snobby, but I carefully teach customs so my students will not offend a Middle Eastern audience and teach origins of movement along with musical applications so my students will understand the culture of the dance. This is more than about money, this is about respect of culture and I think its time we stopped making excuses dating from Little Egypt and take responsibility for the integrity of our art.


Jamila Al Wahid's response to her new video's review

I just read the video review for the first time and I am very disappointed. The review seemed unmotivatied and quickly put together. As she wrote she was expecting how to design a drum solo choreoghey to fit her musical choice. And hoping there was more info on designing a personal choreography. It states on the cover of th video Al Wahid Productions Presents Egyptian Drum Solo Choreography Video Vol.1. She comments on the speed of the video beeing fast so she had to pause and rewind in order to keep up. Could it be possible that her experience in the dance 2yrs, style and genre of the dance may have something to do with it. Has she taken from instructors who teach with an Classical Egyptian foundation? For that makes a big difference in having and developing an objective view about this art form even if it is not your forte. She states the Rakkasah live routine was good with the simliar style and many of the moves in the choreography are in it as well. It was a live performance and of course it would be the same style for that is me. That drum solo done with Reda was done on the spot and is totally different from what is in the Choreographed peice. We had fun doing it and it was a surprise for Rakkasah audience. If she did not know the difference then I guess that will come in time while she is developing in this dance. As an artist I try to put my best foot forward and develop material for people in the dance to apprecitate that is why what I do is so precious to me . I have had great feedback and I am selling the video quite well. This year a big troupe from Seattle performed the choreography at Rakkasah and I as well as Reda were thoroughly impressed.

With reviews there should be balance , experience and truth that's my opionion. There was no comment on any of the backgrounds, quality, poster that is given with the video for free, cost, length and more info over all for the dancer/reader who is curious about purchasing it. Yes, I know they can click and get this info but it should be in the review.

It just didn't not seem as though she wanted to do the review it from the lack of entusiam, I also look at like this would she go out and purchase it if she didn't have to review it ?

I thought it would be a motivating review done by someone with a little more background possible you since I gave it to you to review and tell me what you thought. Please do not run the ad anymore and prorate me from today my balance of what I paid your pay pal account

If I don't here from you by next wed i call to make sure everything has been taken care of.

Thanks, Jamilla Al wahid



I was a cocktail waitress at the Greek Taverna off and on for a period that covered nearly 10 years. The dancers that came and went were: Nawal, Latifa, Karisma, Zahar, Rhea and others whose names escape me at the moment. I look back fondly to Broadway in the early '70s, Enrico's, the Casbah and Bagdad. Now, back in New York, I find chaos and pretension and miss the spontaneity and warmth that was San Francisco in , perhaps, it's heyday. I am proud and happy to have been a part of it. I learned and performed the Greek dances which I danced with the waiters after the belly dancer's show. The Zembekiko, which was usually danced by the men, was my favorite. Eventually, I met George C, "the Greek Godfather" and we spent several tumultuous years together.

We remain friends to this day. George is a successful restauranteur in Anchorage, Alaska today. The Greek Taverna closed sometime in the late '80s, became a New Orleans-style jazz club and was finally taken over by Pearl Wong, who turned it into a successful jazz venue. So much for my story.



Older Letters  

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 you are here
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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