Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sensuality in Dance

Guest Blogger: Lilla

To me, sensuality is an engagement of the senses in a pleasurable way. It can be visual, auditory, tactile, or olfactory. Something that stimulates the senses in a pleasant and enjoyable way. Feeling a soft fur is sensual, smelling apple pie, listening to relaxing music, or watching a beautiful sunset. Sometimes, it is connected with sexuality, and sometimes it is purely sensual with no sexual component.

Sexuality is, as the word implies, purely about sex. It is that aspect of ourselves which is connected to our sexual arousal and attraction, sexual thoughts and feelings, and sexual behavior and actions. It is the expression of our mating instincts.

Sensuality and sexuality can be connected, but don't have to be. Something can be sensual without necessarily being sexual. For example, I can have a very pleasurable massage with essential oils and soft music, which is a very sensual experience, without having any thoughts of sex and without any sexuality on the part of my massage therapist.

I see dance the same way. Dance can be sensual without needing to be sexual. It stimulates and pleases the senses. Some people may perceive it sexually, if that is their tendency, or if the dancer is putting sexuality out there. But it can also be purely sensual without the sexuality.

Sexuality tends to generally include sensuality, because it is a physical act and sensation which make it innately sensual. It's hard to imagine the sexual without the sensual, at least not in a healthy way. But the sensual without the sexual? Definitely possible. The constant interchanging of the two terms in common language is frustrating. They are connected, but not the same thing.

The REAL American Superstars

Guest Blogger : Helen of England

The term Bellydance Superstars is being bandied around at the moment principally as a marketing tool for Miles Copeland's latest scheme. Whilst I have no quarrel with those very talented dancers, I can't help but feel that the term is being somewhat undermined.
There are real and genuine American Superstars out there, people whose contribution to dance stretches over decades and whose right to a star on Bellydance Boulevard is surely absolute and unquestioned. So I've rattled together a list of who I think has an unquestioned right of entry to the list. You can call these the "Legends of American Bellydance". They are, in no particular order:

If anybody deserves the term Superstar or American legend, Dahlena is she.
Jamila Salimpour.
The acknowledged "Mother of Tribal", Jamila first began performing irregularly in 1953, but only really became a full time professional when she became a featured dancer at the Fez club in LA in 1958.
Leona Wood.
Technically Leona was never a bellydancer. Nevertheless her influence was such that it is impossible to consider the development of the appreciation of Middle Eastern folk styles without mentioning her.
What to say about Aunt Rocky ? she was already a professional flamenco dancer when she took a gig in a middle Eastern restaurant simply so that she could eat.
Bert Balladine
Bert was already an accomplished professional musician and dancer when he learned the dance in Middle East during the 50's.
Serena came into the New York dance scene with a background in Indian classical during 1963. She was always proud of being a very succesful American Cabaret dancer.
Bobby Farrah.
Probably the most controversial figure in American MED history. Born of Lebanese parents in Ohio, he was already a gifted dancer when he attended university in Washington.
Aisha Ali.
One of the most successful West coast performers, she was inspired by her mentor Leona Wood to seek out the real ghawazee dancers of Egypt.
Anahid Sofian.
The original bellydancing style throughout the 60s in America was Turkish with a few other bits and bobs thrown in.

MORE on each dancer can be found by CLICKING HERE

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shaabi and Balady

Guest blogger: DaVid

Balady - the dance of the country side/people - Folk music (balady music), folkloric dance. Really grounded smooth undulating large movements. Mostly flat footed. Typical characteristics is that the music (and the intensity of the movements) start really slow and introvert and slowly build up. As if the music and the dancer is shy at first and then lets go little by little. Usually ends with a creshendo of shimmies and faster music.
Dancer Example: Lucy (of Cairo), Fifi Abdou
Music: instrumental folk music, folk songs. Mawwaal intro not uncommon.

Shaabi- of the people - folk music or pop music (Shaabi music) and Shaabi dance movements. Characteristics are the heel bounce and upbeat tempo. Flatfooted or on the balls of your feet depending on what style of Shaabi you are performing. Common for all styles of Shaabi is that they all have strong influences of folkloric dance in them. Be it Countryside Shaabi (more Balady influence), Urban Shaabi (a meet between Countryside Shaabi and the dance style of Mohammed Ali Street) or Raqs Shaabi (the more theatrical/stage adapted version). Shaabi can also be layered on top of other styles such as Melaya Leff, Sharki, Saiidi, etc.
Example of dancer: Fifi Abdou Music: Mohamed Adawayya, Hakim

Balady VS Shaabi: Balady is more fluid, controlled and earthier as well as having no heel bouncing characteristics, further it has no flirtatious strikes whatsoever. Shaabi is bouncy, often fast paced, has a characteristic continous chest pop (up) going on as well as having a flirty extrovert attitude.

Raqs Sharki - Classical Egyptian style for stage use. Usually performed to Instrumental pieces and Oum Kolthoum's. Also depends on the dancer's personal style. Some perform the Sharki version of the dance to all types of music by adding only some of the characterstics of other styles (to show awareness of the presence of the style in the music). Mostly performed on the balls of your feet. This style is concidered to be the highest refined version of Egyptian style dance.
Dancer: Sohair Zaki, Dina, Lucy, Samia Gamaal, Tahia Cariocca, Nagwa Fouad.

What the heck is Mezdeke?

by Dani (well sort of)

It sounds like a good name for an appetizer, and I've been thoroughly perplexed by the term since I first heard someone say that "this song sounds like Mezdeke." The
mystery was solved by the lovely Kat who informed me that:

Mezdeke, the group, isn't a something, it's a someone.

Specifically it's a troupe of dancers from Turkey (notice I didn't say "Turkish Dancers"). This group, and I think it's a trio, the only video of theirs I have is a trio, always performs in the little face veils -- chiffony things that match their costumes. They are mentioned in an article by Jasmin's Jahlal and are pictured on most of the Mezdeke CDs/Videos.

I didn't call them "Turkish dancers," because, although they are ethnic Turks, their CDs and videos contain mostly music that I would consider pan-Arabic, evenly strongly Egyptian, and their dancing seems (to my eye ) to reflect this. The video I have has written on it in one corner "Misir Danslaria." Now I know "Misir" or "Misur" is one of the words for "Egypt" so I'm guessing this says "Egyptian dancing" or "Egyptian dancers" or something similar.

The article referred to earlier is found here:

Thanks Kat!