Monday, November 21, 2011

A Challenge to the Community

Like clockwork, every few months, there's a discussion on any bellydance forum about how fusion is the root of all evil, the end of the world is coming to traditional bellydance, etc, etc.  There's usually some good debate, mixed in with some really bad generalizations and pot shots.  Personally, there's a lot of things happening in the name of "fusion bellydance" that makes me have kittens (which if you have read this blog for any amount of time, it's probably pretty apparent), but there's a whole lot of bad "traditional" bellydance being done too...really, we have a mess on our hands, but I believe it's better to do something about it, then to constantly bitch and do nothing.  And while I internally debated whether I wanted to partake in the latest thread to pop up, I learned of the untimely passing of Jeniviva, dear friend, beautiful woman, and fellow Gothic Bellydancer - one of the few other prominent cabaret-based ones.  And suddenly, all of the nit-picking and ranting seemed pretty pointless.  So this is what I wrote, and I wanted to share it here as well:

In the light of being made even more very much aware of how fleeting life is with the loss of a fellow contemporary pioneer in my genre, I just want to say this:

You want to see more bellydance? BRING IT. Stop bemoaning and whining about the potential loss and who is to blame for it. Go out there, show your love for the dance with every performance and every student you teach, be a POSITIVE voice in your community. There is plenty of room for all styles, but if you want folks to get more interested in the traditional forms, the folklore, the music, the culture, you gotta have that joy, you have to show that love, and not waste time and energy on what others may or may not be doing.

My roots are oriental. I wanted to do Tribal when I first came across BD over a dozen years ago, and when I finally did take it, I found my heart was back in my roots - but what made it easy for me to embrace it (the roots) and go forth were teachers who shared with me their inspiration and their support. It definitely was NOT because of the people hoisting themselves on digital thrones of authenticity, crowning themselves the queens of preservation wagging their fingers/mouths at me and others, whose own dancing was less than inspired on stage and instruction full of venom. Nope, rather it was the ones who shared their joy and love of the dance with everything they do - on stage and in the classroom. Their enthusiasm fueled (and fuels) my enthusiasm, and I bring that to my students in my classroom and on stage. My classes cover both tradition and innovation - they learn about Arabic culture and music, and they learn fusion with focus. It's not an easy place to be in, because I've always been "too cab for the tribal folk, and too tribal/weird for the cab folk", but that hasn't stopped me and won't. My workshops focusing on how to make fusion more bellydance-rooted may not sell-out as quickly as the popular TF classes flavor of the year, but that's what I believe in, and slowly, change is happening. It's what *I* believe in, teach, preach, and dance. Its what I LOVE. My students are all ages, sizes, colors, genders. There are no borders.

So ask yourself, what do you believe in? Are you bringing that joy? How are you going to feed that passion to others? What are you going to do TODAY about it? Because we may not be around to dance tomorrow.


  1. A lovely post. I haven't heard of Jeniviva, but she must have been quite extraordinary for you to hold her in such esteem.

  2. Thank you for this.

    I hate the eternal argument that tries to frame tribal vs cabaret styles, especially when there are so many dancer who do both, and others that don't fit easily into either category.

    I was really saddened to hear that Jeniviva had died- I'd never had the chance to see her dance, but her style is so inspirational, and she clearly brought a lot to the Gothic BD community

  3. Extremely well said.

  4. As a bellydancer for over 10+ years now, bellydance is one of the most important things in my life. It has given so much to me - health, amazing friendships, joy in sharing an amazing artform, part of my career, and so much more. One of the things I am passionate about also is fostering our community - whether it be locally, regionally, or nationally - to be the best it can be. Thank you to Tempest for this spot-on blog post today. Build our community, ladies! We can ALL learn from one another. ♥

  5. Thank you, Tempest. I miss her. She really touched my life. As do you. I am gonna get back on the dance floor.