Friday, August 21, 2009

Maureen Fleming: Dances From Home

Maureen Fleming performs this weekend at La Mama Galleria alongside a showcase of photographs highlighting her 30 year career as a solo artist. Live performances will take place at:
Saturday Aug. 22-Monday Aug. 24
7, 8, and 9 pm
at La Mama La Galleria (not the theatre)
6 East 1st St., between Bowery and 2nd Ave.
Reservations: 212-677-6998

The photography will be on view through Sept. 4.

Fleming will also host a workshop Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 1-4 p.m. for $30. I've studied with Maureen and her husband Chris Odo for many years! I absolutely recommend her work to all. Telephone: 917-575-4969

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Dance Essay Publication

My essay of a dancer who overhears advice about women and music--"it never works"-- shared by a wise, seasoned oudist and a bighearted clarinest is featured in a new anthology published this summer by Open City Press. The book is a great collection of the city and has been featured on NPR and in other news outlets. My story "Players" can still be found in its original form on the website (click "Players"), but the revised version in the new anthology is better

Bellies in Antiquity

While teaching a belly roll workshop in July, I attended a gallery talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled: "The Body in Antiquity," I was peculiarly aware of the amazing bellies that surrounded me in white marble, bronze, obsidian, and roughed up stone--bellies had withstood time.

The pictures at the right focus on women's bellies though there is one male scribe in the Egyptian section. I started with the Egyptian Wing at the Met and then went over to the Greek and Roman room, and finished in the achingly small (if one can complain about the riches of the Met) East Asian wing. I was overwhelmed and had to call it a day. (Works from the Greek, Roman, and East Asian rooms are coming.)

As I walked from room to room, snapping photos and leaning toward bellies, I became aware of several things.

One, though I knew women's bellies were sexy, I wonder if the process of teaching dance and breaking down and analyzing technique makes me about technical and detached from the subject, the bellies themselves. As I progressed through the galleries, however, I was beautifully reminded of how erotically charged this center is. I became increasingly self conscious as the beefy, male security guards followed from room to room. Though I presume they were tracking me to make certain I didn't raise my flash, my activity started to feel illicit and dark. I began to wonder--why? Was it because I was only photographing women and rather closely at that? I considered telling one of the guards what I was actually doing and giving them my card, but worried an anxious description of the project would make my intentions seem even more sketchy. I was breaking no rules after all.

I also wondered if they actually were tracking me. In truth, they were simply standing in their assigned rooms doing their jobs on a busy, summer, Saturday night. Why was I getting so anxious?

Secondly, though different cultures and eras define the body, the difference of the portrayal of men and women in striking. Men are always straight, standing tall, confident. Women curve and bend, more often caught in movement rather than being portrayed at rest. Even in the Egyptian wing--with the exception of the female Pharaoh Hatsheput-- the women's bare, elongated torsos often curve with a sense of movement. They are musicians and dancers. They work in the fields or nursing children. Even the Goddesses are doing something. Repose, command, and stillness, appear to be part of the male experience.

Maureen Fleming: Dances from Home

This week, Aug. 14-21, I'll working in the Catskills with Maureen Fleming and Chris Odo. I'm taking their certification course for Fleming Elastics. For those of you in NYC, Maureen is performing and exhibiting photography in the East Village beginning on Aug. 22. Information follows, but you can also go to their website:

La MaMa E.T.C. presents DANCES FROM HOME,
the first gallery installation/performance art piece by choreographer/performance artist Maureen Fleming.
This unique performance and installation will feature a
retrospective of photography, video and live performance
spanning her 25 years as an artist in residence at
La MaMa E.T.C.

DANCES FROM HOME is on view August 22 - September 4,
6:00 - 10:00 PM daily with live installation presentations
Saturday - Monday August 22 - 24, at 7pm, 8pm & 9pm.
La MaMa's LA GALLERIA is located at 6 East 1st Street,
between Bowery & 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.
Nonprofit contributions for photography will be donated
to La MaMa E.T.C.

Reservations: 212.677.6998

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dust, the X-Men, and the "Male Gaze"

I am not a comic book reader, but a three part posting by Jehanzeb Dar in Altmuslimah (Exploring Both Sides of the the Gender Divide): Part 1: Female, Muslim, and Mutant: Muslim Women in Comic Books raises interesting questions about the X-Men's depiction of the female, Muslim character Dust. Comic books, like comedy, often rely on simplified stereotypes, which fast become creepy and politically charged. While much of the article focuses on the uncomfortable portrayal of Islam in the comics--"Mutants are misunderstood, feared, and hated by the public, while the media and government powers propagate fear, persecution, and even war against them.Sound familiar?"--what interests me for the purpose of this blog is Dar's concern with the "male gaze," a term that often comes up in the study of "Orientalism." The entertainment industry (including belly dance and belly dancers) often caters to the uncomfortable and easy stereotype of "mysterious and sexy.":

" can be strongly argued that the male gaze is still in effect. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, the “male gaze” is essentially female characters being depicted and presented in ways their heterosexual male writers, artists, and audiences would like to see them. In the case of Dust, we can make an argument for the Western male gaze: an “oppressed” Muslim girl is rescued from Afghanistan by Wolverine, a Western male mutant. Wolverine is told that the Taliban were trying to remove Dust’s burqa, obviously to molest her, and since there don’t seem to be other Muslims around to take a stand against the Taliban’s perverted behavior, who better to rescue her than Wolverine, or rather, “Western democracy?” The scenario of Dust fighting the Taliban, as admirable as it is, occurs enough times in later issues that it makes one question if this is how Western male writers, artists, and readers want to see a Muslim super-heroine, i.e. to rebel against her oppressors, the mutual enemy of the U.S. government?

Read the full article, "Part 1: Female, Muslim, and Mutant" here. The above photo of The New X-Men's Dust comes from the entry for Dust in