Why I can’t stand white belly dancers or do I care

firestormIt’s been a firestorm of opinions, counter articles and rebuttals about Randa Jarrar’s article in the Salon, since publication on March 4, 2014.  It has led to page long threads on Facebook and other social media.  There have been literally dozens of articles! I haven’t been motivated to take part, I don’t really have anything new to say about the subject.  You know, cultural appropriation.  That’s what everyone is really talking about.  You may have heard that term in the media, when there was big discussion and outrage over Miley Cyrus’s misappropriation of “twerking”.  Even though I don’t have any commentary to add that hasn’t been said already, I did want to take this opportunity to use this media firestorm as a catalyst for conversation and further exploration for my students. I’d like you to read these articles, arguments and rebuttals.  See if you can find your voice among the hyperbole and clarify an opinion or gleam an understanding of the debate.  It will give you clarity about what you are learning and performing and what it is you are not.
I’m speaking to my students personally, but I’m sure my sentiments are common to every Belly Dance Instructor who teaches traditional belly dance, regardless of who and what decade your biggest influences are or were.  Below you will find a reading list (in no particular order) and brief commentary from me.  I welcome your comments.

Four Ways to Profit From a Belly Dance Brew-Haha (or any other kind of brew-haha) Julie Eason of the BellyDance Business Academy  Julie has an interesting take on it! I’m not as flippant or as irritated at the media for taking advantage of our dance community’s conflicts for their own gain and she poses a challenge with a prize!

In Praise of Polyglot Culture—and Multicultural Belly Dancing published in the Atlantic. This is a well written counter article to the original, linked in the opening paragraph.

Naked and Articulate Penned by a “white belly dancer”.  Christina author of Enchanted Mirror. She’s finding her way and she has a really nice beauty blog!

Interview with Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray from Bellydance NewEngland  This article wasn’t specifically about the media storm, but she did comment. Plus it was with delight that I was able  to learn more about this highly respected dancer scholar.

From One White Bellydancer to Another Kimberly Mackoy  This tribal dancer gives a  well written and thoughtful response to the original article.

A “brown” dancer responds to “Why I can’t stand white belly dancers”
Author Nazaneen speaks from the perspective of a Persian professional dancer and eloquently expands on some forgotten truths the author of the original author forgot to mention.

Luna of Cairo Always a breath of fresh air with her brutally honest commentary from Cairo, spins the article in a new direction you may not have been aware of.

So to my dear students who may be reading, know that I’m doing my best to represent to you, belly dance in an organic manner in which it was or is performed in its country of origin.  That being said,  it doesn’t mean I will never create a fusion choreography for you. It just means it I won’t use  Oum Koutsom’s music. And if you think you might ever want to use it in an Arabic wedding, don’t OK?