ad 4 Artemis

ad 4

Panel members: Heather, Monica, Shira, Barbara, Amina, Debbie
Heather- moderator, Monica Berini, Shira, Barbara Bolan, Amina Goodyear, Debbie Lammam
Gilded Serpent presents...
The Panel Discussion
at Carnivals of Stars
Initiating Dance Dialogue:
Current Trends
held on Nov 14, '04
Transcribed from video by Andrea

Lynette [hereafter L]: First, let me introduce Heather; then she'll introduce everybody else. Heather started belly dancing three years ago to "try to fix the damage that ballet did to my body," she says. "It is so nice to finally be in a dance form where my hips are an asset! The luck of the draw found me taking classes with Alexandria, who was in need of a new ghawazee dancer, and I seem to fit the mold. Luckily, I also managed to learn the dance. With Alexandria, I learned the beauty and styling of classical Egyptian cabaret and folk dancing. I'm also her apprentice costume designer. I dabbled in college for years pursuing a degree in English literature. Upon realizing that "said degree" would get me a manager position at Wal-Mart, I turned to my other passion and became a hairsylist. As a former nightclub bouncer and a biker chick, I feel like I am more than ready for the rough and tumble world of belly dance debate." Here's Heather.

Heather [H]: Thank you everyone for coming out, vending, shopping, and enjoying. I'm going to start by introducing Amina. Amina Goodyear has been a fixture in the belly dance scene, dancing in clubs and troupes since 1966. She's been known for her troupe The Aswan Dancers, the nightclub Tropigala, the much coveted Giza Video Awards, and of course, the incredible Giza Club where we have all learned a lot. Thank you Amina.

Shira [S] has been belly dancing for over 20 years. She studied other forms of ethnic dance such as Eastern European, Scottish Highland, and many others. She's the creator of, which is the leading online resource for the belly dance community for over seven years. I'm sure all of us have visited and learned quite a bit. She has recently relocated to Iowa and came all the way out here just to be part of this panel. Thank you Shira.

Barbara Bolan [B] is our next guest, also a traveler to come to our festival. She's the marketer for Miles Copeland's Belly Dance Superstars. Barbara has 25 years of experience in the music business, from punk rock, alternative rock, just plain rock and roll, and the blues. She's worked with Tina Turner, REM, Blondie, Lenny Kravitz, Yanni, and Motley Crue. Rock on, Barbara!

Our next guest is Debbie Lammam [D], who has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Currently she's the program director of the Dance Mission Theatre in San Francisco, working with dancers from all over the Bay Areas dance communities. She' a recent resident from Texas who moved here three years ago and has become very involved in the San Francisco Bay Area community.

Monica Berini [M] is our last (but definitely not least) guest here. She's currently a performing professional dancer who spent the summer in Cairo improving her Arabic and learning new techniques. She's an award-winning dancer in a troupe that unfortunately has recently disbanded, but that does not lessen its beauty and award winning at all. She is a teacher in San Francisco and has been teaching since 2002. Monica has been dancing and studying Middle Eastern dance since 1991. Thank you, Monica.

HeatherOur main topic for this panel is the future of belly dance. Obviously there are many aspects of this future. We're going to start off with a question about music.

What trends in the music are currently influencing the belly dance world, both movement and changes?

Shira, do you have a comment you'd like to make about this?

S: Let's see. OK. good, my microphone is working. The thing that I've noticed about music is that we're seeing an increasing amount of pop music based on Arabic themes, and also, partly pop music coming out of the Arab countries, like Amr Diab, Shereen, Nancy Ajram. We're also seeing pop music in the U.S. drawing on Arabic beats, like music by Natacha Atlas and Shakira. As that music, the pop music, becomes more popular in the clubs in Cairo, I'm seeing an increasing use of the pop music and a decrease in the use of the old classics from 40 years ago. So I see a trend in that direction where the music is shaping the dance that's being used.

H: Monica is a recent visitor to Cairo. What did you see and hear performed over there?

M: Definitely pop music! I would agree with Shira on that. Probably the biggest pop singer or pop singers in Cairo this summer were Nancy Agram or Ajram. Amr Diab is hanging on definitely. People love his music, and he affects the fashion of young men in Cairo. Definitely, whatever he wears on his latest album cover is in; men had blond tips in their hair like he did on his last album cover. I was probably most excited by a singer named Marwa. She is pretty Marwa CD coverinteresting. In her video, she does a lot of dancing, and she covers the really old songs. Probably the most popular one was "Ama Naima" which I'm 99% sure was a song that the Reda Troupe used to use. She dances in her videos and has folkloric dancing behind her. She's singing and crossing music and dance. I was probably most excited by Marwa. I haven't seen her too much over here, even though she's big over there. However, definitely the pop music thing is big. Shaabi is really big. I think over here it seems like Arabic lounge music is this new trend. I don't know what that's going to mean for dancing or interpreting music because it's got a long mellow groove. So how that's going to affect music interpretation? We'll see, but that seems to be a very popular sub genre that's coming up.

B: You know, hopefully, the Copeland group of companies will be instrumental in bringing some of this wonderful music that you both have mentioned, that you've heard and seen overseas, here --to America. We have a label "Mondo Melodia" which has been around for a few years. It's our world music label, and we've released a number of wonderful Middle Eastern artists including the Egyptian "Lion of Egypt" Hakim, as we call him. but we also have just recently made a deal with EMI. EMI has a vast vast catalogue of music overseas, and in particular the Middle Eastern area that hasn't been exploited here in the United States, or brought over here I should say. So we just made a deal with them and after the first of the year, we will be releasing records by some of these wonderful pop Middle Eastern artists through a label that we call IRS World. It's the rebirth of IRS records-only this time, it has a world perspective. Barbara Bolan

H: Does anyone else have anything to say on this subject?

A: Yes. I also noticed that there's a trend, besides the pop music, which is really true, that there are a lot more remixes of some of the old traditional songs. So, at least, they're not getting put in the past; they're just coming back in a different way. Also, I've noticed that there are a lot more introduction to oriental dance songs being composed, which is kind of nice. Some of them may sound more western because that's where the trend is going, but at least they're out there--new songs!

D: I just wanted to contribute a little anecdote. This summer I met Farida Fahmy; she was the principal dancer in the Reda Troupe for many years. I met her in a workshop here, and we were talking about music. She was actually lamenting the fact that dancers...   Now that pop music has become so popular, the driving beat of the pop music has driven the movements to become more and more percussive, and like a train that just goes on and on. She said "I'm very sad because the dancers have lost the ability to follow a subtle melodic line like the they used to, and they just don't use that kind of complex music." So I thought it was very interesting that someone who has actually observed dance in Cairo for decades and decades....she was was expressing the hope to me that dancers would go back to some of the older and heavily melodic music that doesn't have drum tracks to be able to interpret those subtle melodic lines. I actually like pop as well as the classic stuff, but I just thought that was interesting coming from Farida.

A: I like pop too, but I, personally, am on a mission to keep the old classics alive.

H: Any questions can be written on a card at the Gilded Serpent table and thank you. Thank you, all.

How have you noticed pop culture (kind of) being infiltrated by bellydance? Is it just my imagination, or in the last five years, has it really started to come to the forefront?

Amina, I know you have been dancing since the '60s when it was also popular. What have you seen recently with that is infiltrating pop culture?

Amina GoodyearA: [Shrugs, laughs, and tries to defer to her neighbor.]

H: Come on, Amina!

L: [from the audience] You are pop culture!

H: I know you've been watching the trends. I know you've seen this.

L: Your house is full of it!

A: [Amina laughs and shakes her head]

H: OK.  Well, maybe Barbara would like to tell us how she got into Belly dance, since she's obviously coming from a pop culture world. How did it infiltrate your life?

B: Well, actually it infiltrated via Miles Copeland. I've been working with Miles Copeland for quite some time. I was with his seminal punk rock label called IRS records, and I worked there for 14 years from 1981 through the middle of 1995 before I went on to Virgin Records and a few other places. Miles is an interesting, enigmatic impresario, and he has always been at the cutting edge of whatever it is that he's been about and doing. I think it's important to let folks know too, in case you don't know, that he comes by his interest in Middle Eastern music quite honestly. Miles was raised in the Middle East. He spend all of his formative years from middle school on through high school living in Beirut as his father was instrumental in setting up the Middle East operations of the CIA. So music. I mean, he grew up with the music; he loves the music. He's always been a man of world music and world music interest. So, when we started working on a release that came through the label a few years ago, .a release by Oojami, some of you may know, a Turkish outift out of London.  they did this record called "Bellydancing Breakbeats." We, as a record label, a good record label, said:

'OK let's put a marketing plan together. What should we do? Let's do a competition. Oh yeah! Let's do a belly dance competition. That sounds like a great idea. OK great! Let's do that!' Then, of course, I had no idea that we were going to find ourselves immersed over the course of the next two months, finding and putting together a Belly dancing contest, and we did that! I spent two consecutive Sundays in May, Mother's Day and Cinco de Mayo, in a studio down in Los Angeles auditioning Belly dancers, which was.... I felt like I had slipped into an alternative universe. But, we did put that together. We held the competition at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. We had television crews come down. We had fun. We met some interesting people and Miles was...fascinated. He saw this world that he hadn't known about heretofore, or thought about, and within the course of several weeks, he had hatched an idea to create the 'Arabesque Riverdance'. At this point now, we are two years, or two and a half years, into the Arabesque Riverdance, --which is exactly what we've been about. So that's kind of how I came into it. I will tell you that I sing; I don't dance. I don't even slow dance! So, I have great respect for all of you who have had the opportunity to have a body, a spirit, and a mind that's willing to let you move.

Monica BeriniM:  I'll throw out that I think --in terms of the meeting of popular culture and Middle Eastern dance especially in the U.S....  I'm under the impression...  I feel like a lot of people would've been doing it for a long time and would have had their own schools and would have been performing and have been going to the Middle East or going to Egypt to learn and bring the dance back to the States...I think that a lot of people, from what I've discussed with them, have been caught quite unawares by the surge of popluarity.  Not that it hasn't happened in the past.  It's waxed and waned.  However, from my perespective, it's very popular right now.  It's definitely very popular. I agree with you in the last five years, suddenly belly dance is everywhere, .sort of aspects of belly dance and different pop singers.  So, I think that a lot of people who've been dancing for a while, teaching for a while, obsessed with belly dance and making a living at it, are wondering how they might fit in with some of the current trends in pop culture.  I know that that's been a question that some people have talked about. 

I don't have an answer.  Again, maybe it even goes back to music being the trend.  How do we keep the depth and the heart of it and where it came from?  That's one of the things I think about when I see it becoming very, very pop culture oriented. When I see it marketed and sold back to people who have been doing it for a long time.

A:  My problem with pop music in belly dance in the Middle Eastern world is just the globalization of music in the whole world.  You listen to an Arabic song and wonder:  Is it really Arabic, or is it Indian?  I don't know!  I think that it's a mission of the dancers to take a serious look at themselves, and try to keep the Middle Eastern dance and its music alive.  Even if it's through the remixes of the old stuff.

H:  We obviously know this is happening with the music, but what about the styles of dance?  I can't even count how many types of Middle Eastern dancing or Belly dancing there is now. 

Do you think that having such a diverse repertoire is a benefit?  What do you think about that?

Amina and DebbieD:  I'd like to say that there are so many styles now.  I think we all know that some of those styles have only a very tangential or loose relationship to the Middle East at all.  We've come into a world of belly dance where you can have an Afghani belt, an Indian bindi, use Lorena McKenna music together.  It's like, after all, where's the Middle East in this?  So, I think in order to achieve what my fellow panelists have said was kind of keeping a little bit true to the spirit... It's up to the dancers --no matter if you choose to do American Tribal or fusion or Spanish Arabic or 'Sparabic' as I call it, whatever.  If you can --stay in touch with the cultural context that this dance actually came from, and at least for the sake of history and posterity, be able to place yourself in a geographic and historical continuum, along with the foremothers of the dance.  That way, at least if you've chosen to go far afield and do a fusion form, you know where you're coming from.  It's one thing to innovate, but if you innovate without context...,,You should really...  You could even argue that that goes as far as "Orientalism" or cultural co-opting.  That is a sticky issue about which we should be tentative.

S:  As an instructor, I feel I have some responsibility, especially at the beginner's level, to use Middle Eastern music in my class for my students and teach moves that stay close to the Middle Eastern movement vocabulary.  Admittedly, by the time people get to the intermediate level, they're more commited to sticking around the dance, and they are more interested in exploring and experimenting.  So, at the intermediate level, I am more willing to loosen up a little and explore some things that, perhaps, aren't Middle Eastern --like American style veil work or double veil.  However, I try to keep that at the intermediate level and make sure that the beginners first have a good foundation in the Middle Eastern basics.  When I teach things that are more Americanized or fusion oriented, I'm always careful to differentiate and explain that that what I'm teaching is an Americanized adaptation.  In that way, the students who want to know the difference between the Middle Eastern forms and American editions have the opportunity to be aware.  Of course, some students just want to dance, and that's OK, too.  As instructors, I feel we have some responsibility to show our students the range and let them choose what they want to explore further.

H:  Thank you.

B:  I think that's true but may I add one thing?  I think that one of the most important things that we have as human beings is passion, and when we find something that creates, we become interested in, whether or not it's in its truest form or its original form, or there's something about it that has connected us to it, the most important thing is to be able to find your passion.  Then, later you explore it, and learn it, and educate yourself.  You mentioned concerns about globalization.  You know, it's interesting; a couple years ago when Miles started to bring Hakim here, we had originally intended to bring Khaled and Hakim to the U.S. in September of 2001, for the first big theater tour.  Khaled has had a big audience here in the United States, and he could do big theaters.  Hakim was not the case.  We were very excited and looking very forward to that opportunity.  Well, of course, September 11 happened, and we ended up not being able to bring forward those artists.  Everything--the country, the world--went into a tailspin, and we weren't able to bring those artists back to the United States until February or March of the following year. 

However, I bring this up by way of saying that we found that there were an awful lot of people who became even more interested in what musically we were planning to do and the artists at whom we were looking. There were more college campuses that had classes about Middle Eastern studies being filled to capacity with interested students. Everybody's eyes and attention turned there and got their interest in it. So I think that the first thing you always have to have is something that sparks your interest. Interest spawns passion and then you start to go after it, and then you start to learn. The learning process gets you to the roots of what's important in terms of origins.

I'll leave this subject with a silly little anecdote.  To me, it's like sushi:  If you don't like sushi, one of the best things you can do is probably try to eat smoked salmon.  If you have any friends with whom you go to Passover or a nice Sunday brunch, try the smoked salmon because it's not really raw fish.  .but it's kind of close, and it tastes really good!  .and you'll find yourself, after eating smoked salmon for a while, deciding to experiment with a little tuna or other kinds of sashimi. The next thing you know, you're going to find yourself into sushi.

H:  That is a very good point, and it actually brings us to our next question, once again sticky grounds: 

Do you think that belly dance is being impacted directly by current trends in world politics?  Why or why not?  Is it insulated or is it truly being affected?  This goes for the music as well as for the dance form. 

Anybody?  [long pause]  Someone's got an opinion.  Come on.  OK, let's start with Amina.  You've been around; you've seen the world change.  Come on, tell us what you think about current world politics affecting belly dance trends.

A:  Well, right after 9-1-1, I think on 9-1-2, I got a phone call from an American woman who was having a wedding and she wanted to have a wedding shower/Belly dance party.  So, I think that world politics has sort of brought the Middle Eastern music and dance kind of --more to the forefront.

S:  We certainly see an impact in the Middle East on world politics on the dance coming out of the Middle East.  The belly dance scene coming out of Lebanon was very... it almost died due to the Civil War in Lebanon because a lot of the fighting was in the part of Beirut that featured the clubs in which the dancers were appearing.  That means that today, we are only starting to see a resurgence of Lebanese dance, because for a couple of decades, it nearly died out.  That's a very dramatic impact on one of the forms, or one of the places where belly dance once thrived.  It's only now really getting a foothold again. 

In Cairo, we're seeing a different trend, where it's partly due to economic factors --and partly due to political --that belly dancing is seen less and less.  Many of the five-star night clubs that used to feature belly dance performances have closed because they haven't been drawing enough audiences, and because the Islamist fundamentalists have been putting pressure on the clubs and the people who attend them, trying to dissuade them from going to the shows.  Also, some very prominent dancers have been paid a substantial amount of money by Islam to retire and take the veil.  The dancers who are left, like Fifi Abdo and Dina, have hired armies of body guards to go with them everywhere to protect them against possible attacks.  Even at the more family oriented level, increasingly, Belly dancers are not being hired to perform at weddings.  That's because the fundamentalists are threatening to make violent interruptions at any weddings that feature female dancers

When I was in Cairo in 1999, I went to two weddings, and both of those weddings featured troupes of young men dancing, neither one had a female dancer.  So the rise of Islamist fundamentalism, which you could say is a political influence, is definitely suppressing belly dance in Egypt.

A:  It's also --sort of --suppressing it here!  I work at an all-Arabic club and according to whatever's happening in the news or the war, you can predict what's going to happen that evening, --whether we're going to have an audience or not.  Also, my group does a lot of Arabic weddings and parties, and  more often than not, we're asked to perform completely covered.  We just got invited to do another Arabic Zeffa but they want us covered.  So, we wear belly dance one-piece dresses and our hair covered up, but they still want the dance. They still want the dance and the music, but because they're Muslim, they say, "Well excuse us, but we're Muslim so we need to have it covered."  Or they'll say "We need to have you covered because this is a family affair."  However, they still want it.

H:  Barbara, what trends did you see in Europe recently with the Belly Dance Superstars?

BarbaraB:  Well, the tour was over there from roughly the 15th of September through the second week of October.  I had the opportunity to go for the two nights in Paris at the Folies Bergere, which is where we filmed, incidentally.  We have a DVD of that live show coming in the early part of next year.  I also was there for the first show at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London that was a six-night stand.  Interestingly, the audiences were incredibly receptive to the show that we presented.  Again, the shows that we're doing are full-stage performances with a variety of dancers presented with full production value, lights, curtains, rear screen projections, and staging.  Across the continent, though, on that short tour, we not only felt that we were warmly received, we had a number of invitations back into 2005.  The dancers will be back in Paris for another week --at the Folies Bergere --in February and then again for a month long engagement in August of next year.  So, I would say that in terms of what I saw and what we were seeing from the folks coming to the show, there's a lot of support for what they're doing.  There were a lot of compliments.  People were very complimentary about what was being presented on stage in terms of the beauty, the incredible professionalism of the dance troupe, and again, the production value that we had.

M:  Here are two anecdotal comments that will hopefully relate to the question:  One is that I did work dancing in a place that received several, I wouldn't call them so much threatening, but definitely hateful and racist comments in early 2002. 

L:  [from audience] Here in the United States?

M:  Here in the United States, in the Bay Area and that's a negative repercussion of world events affecting an Arab-owned club and a place where there's Arabic dancing and music.  Also, the last time I was in Cairo, I had an opportunity to visit a lot of homes.  I was living with a family, and we went out to people's houses every night and they invariably said, "Oh you know how to dance? OK!"  Women would drag me into a room, push the men back out into the living room, and we would just dance behind closed doors--definitely no men allowed.  They would tell me, "We can't take you to see dancing" because they either couldn't afford to go to the really expensive Dina dancing at the hotel place, or they weren't going to go to the low, low budget club either.  There was not a lot available that was in-between.  "We can't take you to see the dancers, but we can dance with you!" they said.  So it was both discouraging, wishing to be an audience member, seeing performances and encouraging that women women really wanted to get down and boogie!

A:  As for Arabic music: I belong to an Arabic singing group.  It's out of the Arab Cultural Center in San Francisco, and it's comprised mostly of Arab-born people and a few Americans.  After 911, there were only Americans; the Arabs were afraid to go there.  We used to be a group of about fifty or sixty people!  Some of the Arabs have come back, but the group is, maybe, about twenty now because they've just been harassed a bit too much. 

H:  OK, thank you for that, that was very informative.  I actually have a question for both Barbara and Debbie. 

What advice would you give to dancers who [want to]work more closely with the mainstream dance world? 

D:  Well, my job as program manager of Dance Mission Theater means that I work very, very closely with a number of modern dance companies that are self-producing, just like all of us are self-producing.  Except for Bellydance Superstars, no one really produces Middle Eastern dance.  Anyway, these are self-producing artists that are putting their own financial....they are investing in their work, they're investing time, they're paying their dancers, they're renting the venue, they're doing the publicity.  And I work closely with so many of them it's like having a front row seat into the production values in modern dance versus Middle Eastern dance.  And I came up as many of us did, in the whole "seminar" world, where you go to a hotel or ballroom or some place like that, there are vendors, you dance for six minutes. You might start working on a piece that week, or you might start working on it a few months out.  But in modern dance and many western dance forms people don't think in terms of "Oh I've got to dance every weekend."  They think in terms of seasons.  They say "I'm going to do x number of pieces.  I'm going to do my fall season."  That's such a fundamentally different way of looking at performance and process than I think we normally have.  I don't think that Middle Eastern dance needs to really change its essential nature in order for us to learn something from that.

  Just looking at how much thought you give to your performances and to your work, how seriously you want to present it or not.  Because if all we do.and there's nothing wrong with these venues.but if all we do is go to a coffee shop and every week, pick the tape the same day and say "Oh, I think I'll dance to this."  I've done it, we've all done it.  But if that's all we do, it might be really hard to see qualitative change and growth in our field.  And I actually think that's very important.  So my experience has led me to think that if we can all just give a little bit more thought to what our concept is, what we want our production values to be, how seriously we want to be taken....and even if you're not actually going to the extent of putting your dance on the theater stage, it can't help but improve our dance on a micro level.  Whatever you do at a restaurant or club is actually going to be that much better, because you've given it thought.  I've actually talked to many western dancers about belly dance because they find out that I'm a Middle Eastern dancer and they're like "Oh, you mean like belly dance?"  [shakes shoulders mockingly]  I mean we've all seen that, but since I can discuss the dance intelligently with them I've actually changed their opinions in some cases.  So that's another really important thing we can do.  Because before I had this job, the idea of what modern dancers think or what ballet dancers think, was a really alien concept to me.  But they're dancers, and if you can intelligently discuss your movement and your thoughts with them they will respect you.  So...that's another way we can...I don't think we need to become mainstream but if you can speak the language of the establishment, you can get that much farther.  And I think that's important for the future of our field.

B:  I don't know that I have so much advice.  I would like to express my appreciation and my deep respect for all of you people who spend an enormous amount of time and energy exploring, learning, and presenting the beauty of belly dance.  I would like to think.I hope.that you believe that what we are doing, that the work that I'm doing with the Bellydance Superstars Productions is something that's beneficial to the world of belly dance, and people who love belly dance, because we are really about and interested in promoting the practice and the art of belly dance, certainly as it's done here in the United States.  I hope that what we have done in terms of the effort to put increasingly more thought into production value....and certainly working with some of the best and finest dancers that we can.that that helps speak to the whole world of what you're doing and helps to create a better opportunity in your individual endeavors and pursuits.  That's what I can say.  Not so much advice but great respect.  Respect.

A:  I may not always agree with the music used with the Superstars but I really respect the fact that the dancers are well-trained and are wonderful dancers.

H:  Here, here.  Support that.  Training is everything. 

Does anyone else have any advice to give dancers?

S:  One thing I've observed is that a lot of belly dancers don't think in the same terms as "mainstream" dancers, going back to what Debbie said, and we don't think in terms of rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing three hours a day for a big show like a ballet dancer might.  We don't think in terms of choreographing ahead of time.  Or if you're choosing to improvise, listening to the music so thoroughly that you really step up and do it.  It's a different thought process, a different discipline.  Many of us here in the Bay Area do think about technique, which of course mainstream dancers do too, but we don't necessarily think in terms of body conditioning, flexibility and stretching.  We go to our classes, we do what we went there to do, and we go home and we have fun.  And it's great.  It's a great thing for a hobbyist to do but it does make for a big difference between many of our so-called professionals in our community versus a professional ballet dancer who rehearses four hours a day and goes to the barre every day for flexibility stretches. 

H: That is a very, very good point.  Does anybody see any new venues opening up for performing?  Any ideas on where dancers are going to be headed in the future for performing?

B:  Yeah, well I hope we're taking the big stage, that's exactly where we're going.  We want to be in the Cerritos Performing Arts Center and in venues, beautiful theater venues that are thousands of people coming to see this art form performed on a gorgeous stage, with professional lights, professional back drops, the whole "shootin' match."  So that's where we're going.

H:  Do you think that's different, though, from the original purpose of belly dance on the small family level, at parties?  Do you think that's still a valuable venue?

D:  I'd like to address that with a little historical perspective.  Although it's true that raqs sharqi has always been performed by Arabic women in kind of a family setting, everyone has their version of it and their variation of it, the truth is that the dance that we perform today and know as Middle Eastern dance, Oriental dance, whatever, actually started to become theatricalized in the 20s and 30s when Badia Masabni opened the Casino Opera.  Samia Gamal started to use a veil and use the space differently.  So actually the historical precedent for our dance going to a big stage and changing in its movement style and its presentation style actually goes back to then.  And then with the film industry, my God, the film industry probably affected our dance tremendously, among other things.  But actually we're talking about a dance form that has been theatricalized for a very long time.  So, I don't think it's going to change the essential intimate nature of the dance because there are already two dances.  There's one you do at home among your friends and family, and then the thing you present as a performance.  I mean you would never use a veil in the living room, you know what I mean.  I actually think there is a great precedent for theatricalization without losing the essential aesthetic quality that makes our dance so beautiful.  I actually think that it's a natural trend to refine the presentation while sort of keeping the intrinsic qualities that make our dance different than any other dance.

MonicaS:  I think the use of belly dancing as entertainment at family parties is here to stay in the U.S., just as much as it is in the Middle East.  You certainly see a lot of people hiring belly dancers to do belly grams for birthdays, or office parties or maybe they'll do a dance party for a bridal shower where part of what they'll do is teach the bridal shower attendees how to get up and do a few moves.  We're seeing videos releases that promote the use of belly dance as a party dance. There's a video called "Belly Dance Party"[by Neon, review coming soon! -Ed] that teaches in step combinations with the idea that you could teach those to your guests at your party and get up and have a little fun dancing together.  And the dance lends itself so well to a party environment because it doesn't require much space, it's social in its nature, and it's comfortable to do, and somebody who has never done a lot of technique of a ballet dancer can still get up and learn enough to have fun.  They might not be good enough to be a performer on a stage but they can be good enough to have a good time with their friends after a little bit of instruction.  So I think that's here to stay.  Restaurants I think are kind of dying out as a venue.  They're certainly not paying as well as they used to.  And increasingly having to pay for entertainment licenses along with liquor licenses is a deterrent for some restaurants at having dancing.  But I think we'll still see some restaurants enduring as well.  I just don't see them as the important venue that they were for our dance form thirty years ago.

H:  Thank you very much and thank you to all our panel members:  Amina Goodyear, fixture in our community, wonderful teacher and dancer.  Barbara Bolen, who came all the way from L.A.  Tell Mr. Copeland "thank you" for us.   Also, to Shira, thank you so much for your internet resources and coming all they way from Iowa.  That's fabulous of you.  Monica, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with everyone here.  And Debbie thank your for having an opinion and sharing it with us, as you as well have a lot of knowledge.  I hope everyone here has gotten some food for thought.  Thank you Alexandria for having this panel, I think it was wonderful. And now for what we really came here to see, the different styles of belly dancing as we all know and love them.  Thank you very much everybody.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
5-5-05 Carnival of Stars Holiday Dance Festival and Comic Book Convention Photos by GS Staff
A new festival held on Nov 14, '04 produced by's at Centennial Hall, in Hayward, California, which included a panel discussion, raffle, costume contest, and famous comic artists, along with the usual dancing and vendors.

4-7-05 Daughters of Shahrazad: Face to Face Cultural Encounters Through the Expressive Arts of Middle Eastern Women by Shira. On March 5, 2005, a unique conference in Iowa honored International Women’s Month.

10-11-04 Art, Activism & Magic: Krissy Keefer In Her Own Words by Debbie Lammam
...women dancers are not expected to think and speak.

9-28-04 A Subjective View of Raqia's Cash Cow The AWS Festival 2004, Part 1 by Andrea
First, she came out as a snake, then entered wearing a melaya, next, as a caged lion.  Her performance was very entertaining.

3-12-05 Keti Sharif’s A to Z Advanced Stage Instructional DVD and booklet review by Monica Berini
It is rare that an instructional video marketed to advanced dancers follows through to actually challenge experienced students or performers. This one does.

3-8-05 Belly Dance Super Stars Video Review by Amina Goodyear
Produced and Directed by Jonathan Brandeis Executive Producer: Miles Copeland. "... However, as there is no audience, most of the dancers have a difficult time conveying the emotions of the dance to the video viewer. Only Jillina and Dondi seem to overcome this obstacle. "

4-19-05 Helm takes Rhythm Diatribes Workshops to Europe by Ling Shien Bell
The musicians will be conducting a series of rhythm/music workshops in Ireland, Spain and Luxembourg this April.

4-11-05 San Francisco Screening of American Bellydancer by Miles Copeland
Traveling to San Francisco to attend the screening of American Bellydancer to a largely belly dance community crowd was like jumping into a hornet’s nest of opposing views!


ad 4 Fahtiem




advertise on Gilded Serpent

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines