Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Randa Jarrar's "Why I Can't Stand White Belly Dancers"

There were a lot of hackles raised within the dance community last week when Randa Jarrar, a Palestinian-American writer whose work I'm familiar with, posted her article "Why I Can't Stand White Belly Dancers."  http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/ While the sensationalist title (even if true) might have put some off, there were important points raised in the article.

Belly dance is appropriation.  To deny that is a little scary. The art form (and I do consider it that) is taking music, making up names and labels, and claiming space, specialized knowledge, and profit.  All of these are obvious forms of "Orientalism." Additionally, the Western media has historically portrayed Arab men and Arab women in ways that have been demeaning and continues to do so.  Non-Arab belly dance contributes to this image even when claiming to "educate" and "create community."

How people (dancers, musicians, dance students) choose to absorb this reality is an individual choice, but to become only outraged misses an important chance for "white belly dancers" and others to listen to one person's viewpoint from a culture from which we have all gained so much.  (And, we should also all watch Jarrar's included  clip of the fabulous Egyptian dancer Fifi Abdo):

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