Excellent Article on the Purity of Belly Dance

January 31, 2011 , , Tina Kapp
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1. The purity of Belly Dance/Oriental Dance

2. Respecting other cultures and traditions when you dance (a follow-up to a previous newsletter)

Please understand that these are my views only, and if you were to get into a discussion with me about this I could probably talk for hours (so I am being extrememly brief).

Firstly, I find myself in regular email discussions about the purity of Oriental Dance and whether some styles of Belly Dance – such as American Tribal – should be considered Oriental Dance.

The more I have explored Oriental Dance, the more I realise how many different countries’ tribal and folk dances are encompassed under that general name. You couldn’t point at one particular dance and say “That’s Oriental Dance” or “That’s Raqs Sharqi (or Belly Dance)” and have singled out the definitive dance of that name (excluding all other styles).

All art forms develop and evolve. Fine art would be very dull if artists still only drew cave paintings or were stuck in the Impressionist era. Even a dance style like ballet, which is very rigid in its moves, manages to cover new ground and create new possibilities.

Oriental Dance (Belly Dance) is the same. The modern Egyptian style is different from the traditional folk styles, which in turn have adapted over the years (in my book “Oriental Dance: Discovering the Art of Belly Dancing” I write about how dance moves evolved and were passed from village to village, mainly through gypsies and other travelers:

Even in modern dance, Egyptian style is different from its Turkish counterpart, or from Morrocan or Greek interpretations of Oriental Dance.

So, when I am challenged on whether ATS should be under the same banner, I
am very “live and let live” as it can be seen as an evolution of the dance in a different direction (the only major difference being that you could argue it is not a “dance of the East” even if that is where the influence came from).

 I want to stress again that this is just my view on the subject. I am very open to both sides of the argument.

I want this to be an opportunity for us all to learn more about Belly Dance, not become bogged down by this one topic that will continue to rage on for decades and even centuries to come (in fact, I’m sure in the year 2100 there will be American Tribal Style purists who will be upset that American Futuristic Galactic Pioneer Style is being performed under the banner of Oriental Dance! You think I’m kidding, but did the Baladi dancers of the 1800s have any idea how their style of dance would be adapted for Egyptian nightclubs of the 1900s?)

You never know…

1 comment

  1. As a tribal fusion troupe, we really appreciate it when our fellow bellydancers have a welcoming, open mind about the evolution of the dance! Great things happen in all art forms when we're allowed to explore and grow, whether it's by deepening our practice of a more traditional style or going off in some new, unexplored direction.

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