Tori Types Thoughts
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Arab Dance Seminar and Authenticity
StarBelly reppin' in the center of the photo. My raptor arm came out to PLAY.
The Arab Dance Seminar (ADS) happened during the first weekend of November in beautiful, sunny, inspiring LA. Jess and I stayed at a cute spot within walking distance to EVERYTHING, including the studio, and we had some interesting adventures along the way. The theme of this year's ADS was Authenticity, which is a loaded term in the beautiful land of belly dance in America. The phrase "belly dance" itself is in many ways inauthentic, for (paraphrasing the instructors) how can an entire country and history of dance get minimized to a single body part? In addition to incredible discussion about this topic, we learned from native instructors Karim Nagi (who organizes the ADS), Amel Tafsout, Nashwa Cahill, and American scholar Kay Hardy Campbell. The ADS website hosts short bios of the instructors, which I strongly encourage you to look at. They are all incredible teachers, performers, and human beings. www.arabdanceseminar.com
I could easily summarize the discussions we had or break down the moves we learned in the courses, but I think this would dilute the lessons and minimize the experience as a whole. How can you convey the passion of a group of people that can sing along to every single folk song they hear? How could I effectively share the dismay of seeing the songs of your ancestors and relatives minimized to a sexy stage performance by someone who hasn't seen the face of your homeland? It is hard enough to take on the challenge of defining my own authenticity... or to do the synchronized clapping thing that Kay taught us during our khaleegi class. I may never get that.
In my opinion it all breaks down to is a single thought that Amel shared during the Q&A portion of the seminar on the last day. I asked something about Fusion and Tribal dancers and the teachers paused (my question wasn't that great, but this is a big topic). After some comments, Amel said, "keep Arab voices in the conversation." I think that says a lot... it may even say everything. You really dance better when you honor the past of the dance you're performing and practice a craft with love and humility. When you study dance history, every figure that you've learned about will be with you on stage when it comes time to perform. You cannot innovate without the foundation set by those you'll never know. Respect them. Actually, let's respect everyone (within reason).
Shameless Self-Promotion :
Tori King is a belly dance artist, culture enthusiast and general weirdo. Is this a good biography? Do you like me yet? :-)