Monday, March 10, 2014

More thoughts about "that article"

It has been really interesting to see the discussion around the article in my last post. This discussion is not limited to our own little dance world, the original article has been reference by several articles/posts on mainstream sites. Here are a few more people's thought on it:

http://www.nwbellydance.com/a-brown-dancer-responds-to-why-i-cant-stand-white-belly-dancers/

and

http://kissesfromkairo.blogspot.com/ - Luna's blog to me was especially interesting since it address the original article as an issue of blatent racism. She brings up some points and examples that I had not really ever stopped to think about.

and

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/03/in-praise-of-polyglot-culture-and-multicultural-belly-dancing/284290/

I do think that as dancers, we need to be mindful of our roots. I think that anyone with more than a few months of classes under their belt needs to know something about the music and people this dance represents (which is why I rarely use western music in my beginner classes). However, art is not stagnant and incorporating new ideas is part of growth. For example, Samia Gamal used ballet and latin dance in her raqs sharqi in the 1940's. I think it is a dangerous slope when someone claims to be teaching "authentic" anything unless they have the years of study to back it up. Those of you who have taken classes with me have heard me explain that is why I don't teach Indian dance - it is because I know very little about it and don't feel I could do it justice by teaching it.

I do think it is incorrect to assume that skin color is the only qualification in being a knowledgeable dancer. Two members of the "old guard" in the dance form are not native but probably have a deeper understanding of the dance and it's roots than all but a few people from the middle east. These two women are Morroco (Aunt Rocky) and Sahra Saeeda. Both have done extensive scholarly studies of middle eastern dance and the people who live in these regions. But based on the original article's premise, neither of them should dance because they are "white," but as someone who has taken workshops with both of them, I know their knowledge is encyclopedic and their passion for sharing is real. So which wins out - DNA or knowledge?

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