Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Look at me, I have a blog!

Hello, Internet, and welcome to A New Old Dance, my brand-new blog about dance in general and bellydance in particular! Bear with me, I'm new at this.

I love bellydancing. I've been studying this playful, expressive, technically demanding art form since I was 16, and performing since 18. The feeling of performing this dance, especially in its original solo improvisational form, is one of amazing personal discovery and power; when I'm onstage, I find myself, the still center of a swirling mass of sequins and veils. I want to use this blog as a way to share my love of the dance and my ideas about all the amazing things it can do, but I also don't want to let that love blind me to all the cultural and ideological problems that exist within this dance and its community.

As a student of literature and women's studies, I try to be aware of problematic attitudes and assumptions in the world around me, especially as they relate to different genders and cultures. In the past year, I've noticed plenty of these assumptions in the bellydance community. How many times have you heard that a bellydancer must do everything she can to appear "feminine," often including stuffing her bra or wearing a wig? It's any one dancer's choice to do these things or not do them, but I have had other dancers express shock that I perform with short hair, even though this dance is supposed to be one of individual expression, and my short hair is part of the self that I want to share with the world. We are also encouraged to appear "Eastern," and to reproduce standardized ideas of the "ethnic" philosophy of the dance, despite the fact that many of us have very little background in Islamic culture and don't really know if what we're being told is true.

Modern dance, and modern variants of many "ethnic" dances like Irish step-dancing, flamenco, and classical Indian dance, have opened themselves up to a wide variety of performances of gender and culture, while many bellydancers seem to see "experimental" and "fusion" as bad words. I want to change that, or at least take part in a change that may already be taking place, by calling attention to the good (male bellydancers starting to gain acceptance in the US), the bad (all the cattiness and prudishness directed at experimental dancers) and the ugly ("Tales of the Kama Sutra," anyone?) in our dance community. Yes, I'm probably going to tick a few people off, if anyone actually reads this, but that's how you start a discussion, right? And one of the things I love about this dance is that the community really cares enough to get fired up, highlighting just how vibrantly alive the dance itself is.

This is going to be lots of fun for me, and I hope it is for you, too. My biggest dream for my future as a dance writer is to inspire other people to think and write about dance in new ways, including vitriolic reactions against me if it comes to that. Enjoy!


Blogger Lark said...

As a fairly new dancer just starting to get an idea exactly how much infighting seems to go on in the bellydance community over this kinf od issue, I'm so delighted to find someone writing a blog like this that I signed up for a Blogger account just so that I could comment and say so! I really look forward to reading what you have to say.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Toya said...

I love blogs and I love blogging bellydancers. Way to go!

12:29 PM  

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