What We Show and How We Want To Be Seen
Hello there dear blog readers… it’s been a while. I’ve been on a bit of a creative break – but that may be the subject of another blog post sometime soon.
So, what has spurred this post out of the blue? Shira shared a link on Facebook tonight that really tapped a spot in my belly dance world view that has always felt incongruous within myself – and perhaps other dancers. With that in mind, I thought I’d try a different sort of post this time and open up a discussion here.
Dina, who is no stranger to controversy or attention in her home country of Egypt, has recently gotten a new kind of negative attention for her unique take on the presentation of bellydance. Her performance to a song with religious associations in the film “Abdou Mouta” has been censored by the Egyptian Culture Minister. In what seems to be part of the blow-back from this, her performance at the high-profile wedding of a soccer star was cancelled just as she arrived to the gig to avoid offending some of the more conservative guests.
None of that is too surprising given the turn of political events in Egypt. And that’s not what’s on my mind.
The easiest way to get bellydancers riled up is to associate them with strippers – to even mention the two in the same sentence! We are dancers. We are artists. We perform a beautiful dance from another culture. (I bet you’ve said some version of one of these statements to someone at some time.) We try to show our audiences the difference between beautifully sensual and crassly sexual, putting artistic and cultural space between bellydance and stripping or other “exotic dance” forms. We want the artistic respect from the general public that other performers enjoy and we’re willing to work for it. That’s one widely-voiced view in Bellydance Land looking over the horizon toward General Public Land.
Now let’s turn around and look inside our own territory. Reading through threads on Bhuz and Tribe (remember that?) you’ll find scads of discussions spanning years on how to develop, promote and display the kind of artistic integrity that will put bellydance in the same artistic class as ballet, modern and other professional stage forms. We fawn over – even idolize – the mega-stars who dance so beautifully.
Here’s the incongruity I wrestle with. If we feel so strongly about showing bellydance in a way that will garner respect for the skill and art that it is, why are we so willing to elevate and celebrate stars that have built their fame as much on the aspects we try to downplay as their dance skills? After all, it is the most highly-visible class of dancers that help shape the general public perception of bellydance.
How do you want to be seen as a dancer? How would you wish the art to be represented to the general public? Do you think stars in outrageous costumes do a disservice to the larger dance community? I’m throwing a pretty broad topic out there and I know you’ve got thoughts.
All respectfully stated opinions are welcome… let’s talk.