Friday, February 27, 2015

Hang In There Until Death Comes

In case it needs stating, I didn't say bellydance was dying or that the current state of things will lead to the end of it all.

In fact, I'm pretty sure the dance will outlive all of us.  It was here before, and it will be here after. It has experienced adversity and popularity, withstood being outlawed and pushed underground, has seen many successes and booms, as well as failures and downfalls. It grows, it changes, it stays the same as well. Bellydance is an art immersed in multiple cultures and areas, and art always finds a way to move forward.  Art is part of human expression - and as long as there are humans, there will be art.

But we can't keep on with the current/standard model found with the bellydance community itself.  Once something has gone past equilibrium, changes have to be made.  There will be losses before a new cycle begins again.

Which is what The Death card from the Tarot is all about.  Endings leading to new beginnings - change, transition, and rebirth. It's akin to the myth of the Phoenix, and of Kali Ma - that sometimes there is destruction, chaos, and cleansing before there can be new growth.

But I don't think we've even reached Death (#13) yet.  I'm pretty sure if we were going to assign a Major Arcana card to the Bellydance Community as a whole, we'd be pulling The Hanged Man (#12). It signifies stagnation, being stuck, restricted, unable to make movement or change to affect one's situation. It calls for meditation, patience, introspective consideration,and sacrifice. Consider the myth of Odin hanging from the World Tree, wasting away, dying, and then falling to be reborn.

What does The Hanged Man signify? Those that are willing to be patient, to endure, to make changes, and weather it all will make it through to the next cycle when it eventually comes, or perhaps move on to other paths in the meantime.

Now, what would I like to see happen? (I can have fantasies too.)

-A balancing of the student/teacher base and influx of new dedicated students who are excited about the dance.

-The end to poor business practices - from undercutting and backbiting to celebrating cloning and mediocrity - while moving towards more grounded understanding of the business aspects of the dance, and mutual respect.

-An end to cults of personality and cliques that fail to further the dance itself, often wearing down and driving out more potential dancers than attracting and maintaining them.

-A healthy respect for both tradition/history and innovation/fusion, fostered mutual respect among the various styles and genres - seeing that they can compliment each other versus compete with each other.

-More appreciation for live music, culture, costuming, history, and taking the time to learn the craft/trade aspects, and improved communication with the larger community.

-Understanding that while the dance can bring on amazing transformation in a person (mentally, physically, spiritually), that it's not all about you - that learning and being a part of the community is about everyone involved.  It is not a tool solely for boosting one's ego, power, or sense of entitlement.

-That we all rediscover our love for the dance.


  1. Wonderful goals for us to strive towards! Hasn't bellydance in the US gone through these periods of "hanging in there" before? What sparked the rebirth last time, and what action can we take to foster that?

    1. The last boom? In a nutshell: Fat Chance Belly Dance VHS tapes, and that style of dance appealing to a whole new market that didn't fit the previous "type", 9/11 (awakened interest in understanding Arabic culture), Rachel Brice as part of BDSS/Lollapalooza - hitting yet again another market/generation, and the appeal of fusions.

  2. The popularity of Shakira's Ojos Así also brought an influx of students into bellydance classes.