Last week’s blog post called “Am I Still a Bellydancer?” was an eye opener. It has been read over 4500 times so far and received more comments directly on the post than all of my other previous posts put together. The re-posting on other group and personal Facebook walls with their long list of comments is something I can not keep up with. People I had not heard from in years came out of the woodwork with their comments and encouragement. Ioana Timariu wrote…“in zeitgeist spirit…”. She may be right.
I thought the post would be provocative and polarizing. I had been contemplating the idea for an awfully long time and eventually had to overcome the fear and commit to the itch in my heart. There were very few FB likes but many more people took the time to re-post on their own FB wall asking for feedback or wrote powerful words of encouragement in the comments, on the blog and privately through messaging and emails. I feel honoured and comforted that so many world respected artists whom I admire commented that they had either done the same or were contemplating the same position. Jalilah Zamora aligning with Aunt Rocky and noting the work of Arabesque wondered why I had not done so earlier.
Fearless Luna of Cairo took my thoughts one step further on the Facebook page called “Bellydance Matters” that helped to clarify where I was coming from. Some fav comments were “standing ovation” from DaVid of Scandinavia and one that I forgot its origin that said something to the effect of “I have so much to say but am not ready yet” or another that stated “like so many others before her” or Michael Menegon’s “ah, the true artist emerges”.
Many people wrote about what is and is not Bellydance or Belly Dance in their opinion. The endless list of variables I offered in the blog is the tip of the iceberg and as I said in the post, this long list only proves that “Bellydance inspires a fountain of creativity and that is why I love it “. I would like to add that I will always love it and have always loved it. I am not sure anyone has the authority to determine what Bellydance is or is not if indeed its lifespan is so long. I prefer to look at Bellydance as a spirit that reveals itself in Sohair Zaki to Khairiyya Mazin to April Rose. I like to think that this same spirit inspired Isadora Duncan and Ruth St.Denis. Pelvic centered movement is certainly one of its trademarks but many dances the world over are pelvic centered. I believe it is the emotionalism, spirit and motive that creates the often sensual movement that makes Bellydance special.
If due respect was given to this ancient art form often named Bellydance, then I may not want to venture from the label. When the spirit is allowed to thrive and breath through artists whose motives come from respect of the art form above and beyond their bank account or ego gratification, or sexual insecurities, then Bellydance is alive and well. I have never let the general public’s view of the term “Bellydance” be a deterrent for me. It is the respect, or lack of, given to the art form from the very people who call themselves Bellydancers that worries me. What are the motives is the question for me? I look around me when I travel physically and online and I see more concern placed on the biz of Bellydance than respecting the art and onself as an artist.
The Arab community of fans and musicians around me who have been my mentors from the beginning say that my work with Arabesque is not Bellydance, as they understand it, yet they say it is true to the Arab artistic essence and soul. Arts councils that make Arabesque productions possible will not fund a dance form that has competition as part of its presentation format or takes money in their bra strap while dancing on a table. This combined with a biz emphasis in the Bellydance community that I do not feel connected to or even know how to navigate has led me to realize that maybe it is time to call myself something else.
“Arabesque dance art” is deeply rooted in Bellydance, Arab dance, Raqs Sharqi, Orental dance. Beledhi, etc, and this wonderful art form has given me legs to walk my own path into the future. No doubt this is scary, actually, very scary, but honestly, since I wrote the first post six days ago, I have felt lighter, more free, more inspired and getting very excited about the future.
I still love Bellydancing and of course Bellydancers and my heart is still a Bellydancer. I have fought and worked very hard for 34 years to help all I can in the effort towards Bellydance taking its place as a legit and respected art form in the mainstream dance wiorld. However, I am not willing to fight on behalf of a commercial business industry. Hopefully by re-labelling my work, it will still further the reach of the Bellydance spirit as art.