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I am Neferteri
by Ann Lucas

I am Neferteri, a Belly Dancer. I have been dancing professionally for several years and have enjoyed many aspects of the dance business. However, there is an issue that overshadows my performances that I would like to address for the readers of The Gilded Serpent. There appears to be some curiosity about the racial background of a dancer. I don't fully understand why anyone in today's world would care, but they do.

I find it is more likely than not Americans who are concerned about my ethnic background. I always run across someone who seems amazed by my appearance. There is always someone who will ask me, "What nationality are you?" or "Are you East Indian?" or (my favorite) "I didn't know that blacks could belly dance!" Yes, I have been approached with these questions and others I will not repeat. Stupid me! I thought people sould be more interested in my dancing ability. I just danced my heart out and the only thing someone can be concern with is my nationality? I guess my dancing must be wonderful since no one has complained.

My usual respond is, "Do you know where Egypt and Morocco are?" or " I am sure you remember Anwar Sadat, the late Egyptian President?" Then when I tell them Mr. Sadat was the same complexion as me so what is your point? You cannot judge someone's talent by his skin color.

I had experienced an incident recently while I was out with my instructor and a friend. We were at Middle Eastern restaurant where I was schedule to dance. We had just finished dinner and a woman at the next table overheard us talking. She knew we were belly dancers. She asked my instructor,

"Who is dancing tonight?" My instructor responded her that I was the dancer that evening. The woman took one look at me and said, "But she is black!"

My poor instructor was so shocked that she couldn't speak. I just shook my head and told my instructor that this is typical of comments made directly to me and about me. My instructor couldn't believe it! The interesting thing is that my instructor exclaimed, "I am the same complexion as you!" (My instructor is of Turkish descent.) I told her, "I know, but people are just ignorant. It shows you that you never know to whom you are talking."

I have also lost jobs when agents attempt to book me and subsequently learn that I am an Afro-American dancer. I was frustrated about this situation until a good friend advised me to put my picture on my business cards. So, "What you see is what you get!" Now my time is not wasted on people who are looking for that "I Dream of Jeannie" look.

It seems to me that Americans have a preconceived idea of what a belly dance is suppose to look like. I think they expect us to look like Barbara Eden from, "I dream of Jeannie." As we all know, such is not true. The funny thing is that I have never had anyone from the Arabic or Turkish communities express that they care nor do they feel that they need to inquire about my nationality. I am either asked where I learned to dance or who taught me to dance. They don't seem care about my race, and furthermore, I feel appreciated for my dancing. I have a friend who is a beautiful blonde and also a belly dancer. She was in Europe, and she went to a few Middle Eastern restaurants and asked about applying for employment as a dancer there. She was told that her features weren't dark enough to suit their image requirements. I told her that I could relate to the experience. She could not believe it. So, I hope my story about my dance experience has been informative. I ask people to just appreciate me for my ability. I Just want to be recognized as a Belly Dancer.a talented, interesting Belly Dancer!

Go to the next article:
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Go to another article by this author:
Using Magic is My Style
  by Ann Lucas
Do you want to make more money at your next gig? The answer is Magic!!!
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