Quitting Oriental Dance?

The Best Moment (photo by Jocelen Janon Photography ).jpgUntil today, this possibility was never raised in my head: quitting Oriental Dance.

Nothing in my career, or internal world – the one audiences and students don´t get to fully see -, suggested it. I know where I come from and know exactly where I want to go.

I´ve heard of professional dancers who quit the craft; I´ve read about crisis – should I do it? I lost my mojo! should I? should I not? – and motivated colleagues when they reached out for me in need of a push, a bit of support, a reminder of why we all started.

There were lost relationships – men who made me choose between them and my career -, several battles to fight – continuous, hard, energy drenching – and moments of exhaustion. There was Egypt – 8 years of it, to me more precise – which tested me to the core; the rest of the world. Great sponsors, mostly, and students who cherish my work in every corner of the globe but also envy, dirty competition, lobbies, disappointments and backstabbing. I´ve always been well received in shows, never went through a creativity crisis or felt unable to recover from the occasional lack of enthusiasm but…

Today, for the first time, I launched the question: should I quit Oriental Dance, as a profession and as a personal passion, and move to something else?

The trigger that launched this question was a stupid video of a stupid girl shaking and doing tricks with her breasts, on tempo, in a television talent show – she looked like a bizarre articulated puppet. A student sent it to me, with her best intention, excited about the fact that “bellydance” was on a television show.

I watched the first seconds of the video and I had to stop before throwing up. Suddenly, I felt the urge to be a new born baby, crawl back into my crib and yell out for mum.

-Isn´t she grrrreaaaaat? – She added, leaving me dumbfounded.

A few seconds of a damned, stupid video of a damned stupid girl doing damned stupid tricks with her breasts were enough to make me explode. And I´ll have to add: that girl has no exclusive rights on that damned bullshit. There´s a whole fashion around it and it´s spreading like a well fed virus: empty people doing mechanical empty movements – the whole odalisque seduces sultan phantasy returning to haunt us. Or me, to be more accurate.

It was seemingly inevitable. The idea jumped over my face: maybe there´s no reason to keep doing this. If people, like my student, applaud what that girl is doing in the video, if this is what is sold as EGYPTIAN ORIENTAL DANCE, if this is what ignorant, as well as trained dancers – students, professionals, audiences who are used to watch this art form -, think is great, then all my work has been reduced to nothing.

-Should I quit and save myself from having to watch these depressing videos? Should I throw the towel in order to avoid watching the assassination of my beloved Oriental Dance, the Language of the Soul? – I asked, out loud –  not lightly, just to let off steam. I meant it in my bones.

I´ve calmed down and managed to erase the memory of those seconds. But I´m worried.

I keep asking.

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Can we? Can I?

10 thoughts on “Quitting Oriental Dance?

  1. I had the same ideas and I took my consequenses..I quit.
    Now 5 Years later, ich miss the dance , but looking arround it is more vanished than ever before.
    It is sad and depressing to see, that what is called progress and improvment in professionality, truly is steps far backward to a nice showdance, but not improving an art form with deep roots in history and in the souls of the near and middle east. There are some exceptions, but they get fewer day by day, because they give up or age…the only thing that might bring me back to the dance is that in future a call for the origins and the authenticy of the dance might be emited and to few will be left to answer it.

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    • Thanks for your comment.
      And I hope your choice brought you what you hoped for, despite the fact that you miss Oriental Dance. You´re not the only case I´ve heard about.

      I´ve been working on high profile contexts – first, Egypt, and more recently, the whole world – and I do see some people making it right. But the mainstream current seems to be going into a direction that has nothing to do with REAL Egyptian Dance and everything to do with the ignorance I, and other professionals like me, fight against.

      It´s a cross roads, really, for whoever KNOWS and LOVES Oriental Dance.

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  2. I’ve seen the video, seen the comments of teachers and professional dancers commenting on how great she is (like, wtf?!), and those saying everything is too much, but none seem to reflect on that exact question: are we down to THAT? Is THAT what oriental dance has become? I’ve been dancing for ten years, and a question of quitting/giving up, is occupying my mind lately more and more, because I see what goes for oriental dance, at least in my part of the world: half-talented, or untalented pretty faces with no technique or regard for theirs and their students’ health, without any musical understanding…and it’s downright depressing, and I keep wondering should I just let go? But I’m still kinda sorta sticking to it, hoping to rekindle that inner motivation and love for the dance, to disconnect my dance being from competitive emptiness of “belly dance”. And unfortunately, those who, like you said, are doing it right, are a minority, completely invisible in this flashy show of boobs, barely-there costumes, leg kicks and jumps.

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    • I hear you and feel you, Dora, knowing exactly what you mean.

      In a way, it´s good to know I´m not alone in my shock. It means others see what´s going on and know what´s wrong about it. That gives me hope. Thanks for your comment.

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      • More and more I ask my self the question ‘Should I quit! ‘ for some of the same and reasons…and yes , I have seen the video unfortunately.
        People in my circles who have a platform to share this art , seem to be moving in a different direction. Aesthetically pleasing and skilful, but not what I/we identify with this dance.
        If I personally have difficulty in any given situation involving my dance life, I question now whether it is the universe signalling to me that it is time to move on, though I simply can not imagine my life without it and weirdly enough it’s challenges. Thank you for your inspirational blogs.

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      • Thanks for your comment, Jandan.

        Every experience, as every path, is unique. For me, it´s all about a dream that is bigger than myself: seeing Egyptian Oriental Dance understood, practiced and taught around the world as it really is: a sacred language that speaks from the soul and to the soul. This is what I remembered in almost 10 years of career in Egypt and, perhaps, others my memory cannot grasp. Watching people who are supposed to know better glorify a bad taste circus act – thus perpetuating the prejudices around this art form – is nothing short of frustrating. At least.

        This was not the first horrible video on the subject. There are thousands of them, some worse than others. Many others will be produced. Nothing new there. It was perhaps the sensation of having swam against the current for a long time. Exhaustion, maybe. We shall see. I´ll keep doing it until my soul tells me to – that, too, is a sign of faithfulness towards this Art I love and respect so dearly.

        Love,
        Joana Saahirah

        Liked by 1 person

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