Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tahrir Square, January 25, 2012

From "Gilded Serpent": Facing the Truth about Working in Cairo

I love Egypt and Cairo. Like a good Orientalist, I'm always trying to figure out how I can get back.  Still, this article, "Facing the Truth," by Leila of Cairo in  Gilded Serpent Magazine  is an interesting read.  She takes aim at our belly dance communities' romanticized (aka Orientalist) view of working as a dancer in Egypt.  Clearly embittered but dedicated to her career, Leila reports on the system of paying "impressarios" to get work, politics, sexual advances by night club managers, and the many dancers vying for few jobs.  Some of these challenges exist in any city, of course.  My biggest qualm is in regards to her complaint about policies that limit the number of foreign dancers in Cairo.  I can understand why such policies exist but don't know enough about how they are enforced or controlled.  When I was in Cairo in 2010, I got into a discussion with a very liberal minded Egyptian (Cairoenne)  Egyptologist from AUC who was all for limiting the amount of work foreign archeologists and Egyptologists could do in Egypt.  I tend to agree.  But, as with all "policies," I'm certain enforcement turns ugly.  Anyway, this article about dancing in Cairo before and after the January 2011 is an interesting inside view of one dancer's experience.  Please read:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writers on Belly Dance: Simone de Beauvoir (3)

In the previous post, a Spanish dancer performs for Francoise (Simone de Beauvoir character), Pierre (Sarte), and Xaviere, a younger woman mired in angst:
"Francoise could not help taking a surreptitious glance at Xaviere: she gave a start of amazement.  Xaviere was no longer watching, her head was lowered.  in her right hand, she held a half-smoked cigarette, which she was slowly moving toward her left hand.  Francoise barely suppressed a scream.  The girl was pressing the lighted end against her skin, a bitter smile curling her lips.  It was an intimate, solitary smile, like that of a half-wit; the voluptuous, tortured smile of a woman possessed of some secret pleasure.  The sight of it was almost unbearable, it concealed something horrible.

"The dancer had finished her repertoire and was bowing amid applause.  Paula had turned toward the table, and now gazed speechlessly with questioning eyes.  Pierre had noticed Xaviere's performance some time before.  Since no one thought fit to speak, Francoise held her tongue; an yet what was going on was intolerable.  With her lips rounded coquettishly, Xaviere was gently blowing on the burnt skin which covered her wound.  When she had blown away this little protective layer, she once more pressed the glowing end of her cigarette against the open wound.  Francoise flinched. It was not only her flesh that rose up in revolt, but she felt herself attacked in a more profound and irreparable way, and to the very center of her being.  Behind that maniacal grin, was a danger more positive than any she had ever imagined.  Something was there that hungrily hugged itself, that unquestionably existed for its own sake."

From Chapter 4 of "She Came to Stay."

Dancing unveils the self.  In the previous post, the dancer enacts the anguish of relationships and self pity, which overcomes Xaviere in this scene.  The body, beauty, and the ephemeral qualities of dance and theater all conflict Francoise and Pierre, who are anxious and overwhelmed by the smallness of their art in the face of war.  Enough of the soapbox.  I loved reading these descriptions of dancers that had such consideration for the larger ideas the individual body can represent.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Writers on Belly Dance: Simone de Beauvoir (2)

My last post on De Beauvoir's surprising references to belly dance in her first novel She Came to Stay ran back in November.   The overall book considers the role of artists in the face of war (in de Beauvoir's case, Paris anticipating with dread the impending transformation of World War II).  She asks where should the writer's or artist's loyalty fall?  This, in addition to a complicated love triangle between Francoise and Pierre (based on de Beauvoir and Sartre) and the youthful and sultry Xaviere.  Here, in Chapter 4, the three are at a club with a dancer named Paula.  They all watch a dance show, a Spanish style dancer or gypsy (the stereotypical "other" that represents the viewer far more than the viewed) in a nightclub, that has a dramatic effect on Xaviere:

"A plump, mature woman, in Spanish costume, was moving toward the middle of the dance floor.  Her perfectly round face, beneath the black hair, parted in the middle and surmounted by a comb as red as her shawl, suddenly lighted up.  She smiled to everyone around her while the guitarist plucked out a few staccato notes on his instrument.  He began to play.  Slowly, the woman straightened her torso, and sloly her body began moving with the lightness of a child.  The wide flowered skirt whirled about her muscular legs. 
"How beautiful she's suddenly become," Francois said, turning to Xaviere.

Xaviere did not reply.  In her enraptured contemplation, no one else existed.  Her cheeks were flushed, her features were no longer under control and her eyes followed the movements of the dancer in dazed ecstasy.  
Francoise emptied her glass.  Although she knew that no one could ever be at one with Xaviere in any thought or action, it was hard, after the joy she had felt earlier at regaining her affection not to exist for her any longer.  She again turned her head to the dancer, who was now smiling at an imaginary gallant.  She enticed him, she spurned him; finally, she fell into his arms.  Then, she became a sorceress, every movement suggesting dangerous mystery.  Following that dance, she mimed a joyful peasant girl at some village festivity, whirling dizzily, with delirious uplifted face and frenzied eyes.  All the youth and reckless gaiety evoked by her dancing acquired a moving purity as it sprang, transmuted, from her no longer youthful body.
Continues in next post.....

Alia and Thalia at D'Jam Under Je'Bon

Alia Thabit, Earth Goddess of Vermont
I'll be dancing on Wednesday, February 1 with two of my students and the lovely Alia Thabit of Vermont!  Alia is a dance friend and writer who I always happy to see at classical Arab music events and dancemeditation classes with Dunya.  I'm thrilled to share the stage with her and Carmine and Casey and other live musicians....the whole event is hosted by Kaeshi of Bellyqueen (of course!)  Also performing..... two students from NYU!  Aakriti, who knocked everyone out at the Lafayette Grill last fall and Shely (live music debut!).  Please join us:

February 1, 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Je'Bon Noodle House
15 St. Mark's Place
New York, NY
$10 cover/$5 table minimum

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dance Weekend with Maureen Fleming!

This weekend I'm heading to the Catskills with one of my favorite dance inspirations, Maureen Fleming.  At Pumpkin Hollow Arts Center in Oneonta, we'll be stretching with Fleming elastics, working on breath work, and working intensively on her innovative internal body technique.  All of that in a rustic (heated!) barn, great food by the wood stove, and dance talk into the evening.....

Register for Spring Courses at NYU!

We’re starting spring classes at NYU Coles Gym!  There will be a beginning/Level 1 class covering basic movements and drills to tone muscles, define isolations, and short combinations as the class continues.  Advanced/Level 2 will start with veil work and cover introductory zills in addition to drills and technique.  Join us!
Level 1: CLS 230.1 Fridays, 3:30-4:25 p.m.
Level 2: CLS 232  Fridays, 4:30-5:25 p.m.
This is a C/D semester course and runs for ten weeks.

Online Registration: 
Now Through January 25th at 8:00pm
(Go to the Recreation Classes tab)

In person Registration:
(at Coles Sports Center)
Tuesday, January 24th:  8:00am-1:00pm and 4:00-8:00pm
Wednesday, January 25th: 12:00pm-8:00pm
Classes begin on Friday, January 27th

Questions?  Please contact me: