I took the time to read this article that I found these past days. With it I found that this controversial essay had started a massive response from the belly dance enthusiasts all over the world, whome were seriously offended by it as can be noted by remarks like calling the autor racist and even more offensive adjectives. These remarks honestly do not help the situation or contribute to anything.
After Reading this post, I even read the 2nd part “I STILL can’t stand White belly dancers”
After some reflection I try to place myself in the shoes of this lady: As a Mexican I hate that someone state that “nachos” is a food instead of a snack, that “all mexicans have huge hats and long mustaches”, I hate that people give us the stereotype of lazy, bean-eaters and drug dealers... I think the author’s posts are not really about the dance itself but the stereotype of what an “arab” should be or look like. Unfortunatly for her she took an example (the belly dance) that doesn’t fit to her complains.
As someone responded to her before: “She seems to be a victim of racism in USA”, a target for arab jokes and have been frequently asked –“OH! you are Egyptian? Do you belly dance? “ I really understand her, but that is no excuse to pour her anger over performers of raqs sharki.
Dear Randa, you mentioned great dancers such as Taheya Carioca and Fifi Abdo. When referring to these dancers, you are referring to the golden era of bellydancing, when it was seen by arabs as a “respectful art”. Could you give me the name of an Arab bellydancer nowadays, as famous as these amazing artists of the past? I’m sure you can’t, but I can mention to you Randa Kamel, an amazing egyptian dancer, not famous among arab people but certanly famous amongst the “White BD sisterhood” as you call it. Do you know that Taheya got the name “Carioca” because she added some Brasilian flavours to her dance rountines? Carioca is the name given to the native people of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Fifi Abdo remains in the market thanks to the bellydancers around the world who want to learn from this fantastic dancer. Another good example is Samia Gamal who took dancing lessons from a russian classical ballet dancer.
I would also like to know to whom you refer when you mention “white” bellydancers? Do you refer to Europeans, Asians, Latins? Or perhaps any lady who doesn’t have an arab origin? Through study and research of the history of bellydancing we could gather that most probably raqs sharki have it`s real origin from the turkish slaves, which means it is not totally arabic in origin, although yes, it is true that the real development of it was in Egypt.
I’ve been into belly dance for 17 years already, from those I’ve been living in Arab countries for ten years. And here is the thing, hotels and restaurants prefer non Arab belly dancers over Arabic ones. Why is that? As I mentioned before, the connotation of being a dancer nowadays isn’t good. There`s no celebration in which a bellydancer is not hired to give a show. People love to have a dancer at their wedding, birthday etc, but would you like to have a bellydancer in your family? Most probably NOT..This space , left by Arabic girls in the industry, will then surely be filled by other candidates, as it so happens to be : Western/White bellydancers.
As in all professions, there will good and mediocre people, I guess a girl that dress in genie pants, heavy make up and a few coins cannot be called a “profesional bellydancer”. She may be a student or go to a costume party, cause belly dance is a discipline and like any other form of dance, need training and dedication to understand the music, the beats and feelings expressed in the songs. This takes time especially for a non arab girl, however (here I want to be very clear) to be born in an Arab country and grow up listening to Warda and Om Khalthoum doesn’t make you a PROFESSIONAL dancer, it will give you the feeling yes!, but surely wont guarantee you have the moves! As I said before, to be pro is a discipline. With all respect, you can dance with all your friends and family and have fun but that doesn’t make you profesional or a knowledgeable judge of the trade. You may appreciate a good dancer from a mediocre one, but your judgment will be ruled by your personal taste and not from a technical point of view. Its the same as to decide, who’s ugly or beautiful in our eyes, which obviously differ from person to person.
White girls, or better say “western girls” will keep dancing! I’m sorry if you have encountered girls that were not performing good enough, anyhow on behalf of the belly dance community I’ve seen outstanding western as well as arab belly dancers. Each one add something new and revolutionary to the art, you don’t have to carry us on your back, we are a strong enough to stand on our own feet.