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    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Myths in moves?

    I am reading some things lately on forums (and in life) with regards to some things being taught in the name of Egyptian dance which I consider to be pure myths?

    I thought this might be a chance to explore/re-discover some of those things floating around which may have no real basis.

    Has anyone came across something which is now questioned/questionable?

    An example for me is that 'not allowed to raise the middle finger in ME dance'.. that done as a gesture is like giving someone the two fingered salute.. and not realted to or associated with 'Oriental' hands.
    Last edited by caroline_afifi; 03-30-2011 at 05:49 AM.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    The whole thing about never showing the palms of your hands. There is a huge difference between an aggressive "stop" gesture (presumably the kernel of truth at the origin of this myth), and having the palms shown throughout the course of an oriental dance.

    Actually, I hate any kind of statement or "rule" about Egyptian dance that could easily be disproven by, oh, I don't know, watching some Egyptian dancers. It is not like there is a shortage of videography easily available for many dancers from various eras from 1940's to today.
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    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    There's the foot thing, too. Dancers have been known to freak out over the idea that the sole of the foot can never be visually registered, when, in the course of normal dancing, nobody actually cares if they catch a glimpse of your soles. It's certainly valid to say that some foot positions look more elegant than others, and you don't want to stick your feet in the audience's faces because that's pretty rude and ugly as a general policy, but otherwise...

    There's also the lesser known one, "You can't play cymbals if someone is singing." Why doesn't the guy in the band know this? I think this was supposed to mean, "Don't clatter over the top of the singer's mawaal."


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    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    There's also the lesser known one, "You can't play cymbals if someone is singing." Why doesn't the guy in the band know this? I think this was supposed to mean, "Don't clatter over the top of the singer's mawaal."
    Well when you have quasi-famous instructors telling you this, and drilling you on when to play and when not to play, it's hard to disregard it or interpret it as anything other than a hard and fast rule.

    I have noticed that the "old school" dancers played cymbals over everything, including nay if they wanted.

    My favorite cymbal myth is that we shouldn't play them because the Egyptians don't.
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    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    "Starting a movement like a hip circle to the front is obscene."

    I like how this changes over the years. I first learned that you should ALWAYS start in front. Now it's obscene to do so.

    And I've heard you should never do a big hip circle with your butt extended backward. You should always bend the knees and drop the butt down to finish the circle. That came from Mohammed el Hosseny. First time I'd heard it, but I'd seen that variation a lot in modern Egyptian dance.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by aziyade View Post
    I've heard you should never do a big hip circle with your butt extended backward. You should always bend the knees and drop the butt down to finish the circle. That came from Mohammed el Hosseny. First time I'd heard it, but I'd seen that variation a lot in modern Egyptian dance.
    Well, if someone has a tendency to be swaybacked, the "keep the butt down" instruction would help avoid injury. Although I don't teach it that way, I can see why someone might if they were concerned about keeping students from hurting themselves.


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    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by aziyade View Post
    Well when you have quasi-famous instructors telling you this, and drilling you on when to play and when not to play, it's hard to disregard it or interpret it as anything other than a hard and fast rule.

    I have noticed that the "old school" dancers played cymbals over everything, including nay if they wanted.
    Here's an indisputable rule: Don't play cymbals badly. If you're clonking along and drowning out the singer--or any other musician, for that matter--you're being a pest, not a member of the band. Your cymbal playing is supposed to be a pleasant component of the overall sound, not an annoying din on top of it. Heaven help you if you can't stay on the beat or you're playing random rhythms in defiance of what everybody else is doing. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to find the origin of the "Don't play while someone is singing" rule arose when some singer couldn't hide a bad-playing dancer's cymbals before she went on. Sometimes this is about being respectful of another performer's moment to shine, and sometimes it's about having a realistic understanding of your limitations.


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    Master BHUZzer nasila's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    "Pointing at the audience is offensive."

    This one takes some clarification, at least. Pointing at an individual you do not know can be taken as either rude or suggestive. However, pointing in general, or over the audience, is perfectly acceptable.
    Last edited by nasila; 03-30-2011 at 10:48 AM.


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    Master BHUZzer nasila's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    From what I understand, starting a hip circle to the front was considered vulgar (and a punishable offense) at some points in time, but it's changed much over the eras of oriental dance.

    Quote Originally Posted by caroline_afifi View Post
    An example for me is that 'not allowed to raise the middle finger in ME dance'.. that done as a gesture is like giving someone the two fingered salute.. and not realted to or associated with 'Oriental' hands.
    I've heard you shouldn't hold your middle finger down in a rigid way while dancing. What's the 2-finger salute?
    Last edited by nasila; 03-30-2011 at 10:49 AM.


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    Advanced BHUZzer NazirahDances's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    I have a close friend who did some dancing in the 80s and she swears her teacher beat it into them that you NEVER cross the body with your arms. They could be over head, out to the side, or down framing the hip, but you could never, EVER have an arm come in front of the body in any manner for any reason. There was no reason given other than "oh no, you CANT do that".

    That her teacher taught that is one thing, but for quite awhile my friend would include it in her teaching as well (not any more though after much argument from me, lol).


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    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    How about the rule taught by a famous drummer that you must always have DOWN hips on the DOUM, never UP hips. Not really feasible and Egyptian dancers (in videos, at least) break this rule all the time.
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  12. #12
    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by nasila View Post
    From what I understand, starting a hip circle to the front was considered vulgar (and a punishable offense) at some points in time, but it's changed much over the eras of oriental dance.
    Maybe in the past.. although I have not come across this. I have been told that is is vulgar but times change and so does the dance i guess.

    I've heard you shouldn't hold your middle finger down in a rigid way while dancing. What's the 2-finger salute?
    It is the opposite of the two fingered 'peace' sign.

    With the other rude gesture, the middle finger has to be waggling and it has to be done/aimed in the context in which it is meant. Oriental hands are not quite the same thing..?

    Have you any idea where this 'dont do this finger thing' began?

    I have only ever come across this on discussion forums.

    PS, not come across the finger pointing thing either..have seen this done in Cairo though, randa has been known to point (although I dont think it was particularly aimed at anyone in particular).
    Last edited by caroline_afifi; 03-30-2011 at 01:17 PM.


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    Advanced BHUZzer badriya_al_ahmar's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE=caroline_afifi;850429]

    With the other rude gesture, the middle finger has to be waggling and it has to be done/aimed in the context in which it is meant. Oriental hands are not quite the same thing..?

    Have you any idea where this 'dont do this finger thing' began?

    I have only ever come across this on discussion forums.
    For the Lebanese audiences around my area, a middle finger pointed downward from the rest of the hand, waggling or not, is a rude gesture, the equivalent to someone from North America holding their middle finger straight up. Maybe this varies from cultural group to cultural group in the Middle East?


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    Master BHUZzer nasila's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by badriya_al_ahmar View Post

    For the Lebanese audiences around my area, a middle finger pointed downward from the rest of the hand, waggling or not, is a rude gesture, the equivalent to someone from North America holding their middle finger straight up. Maybe this varies from cultural group to cultural group in the Middle East?
    That makes sense, Zahra Zuhair just mentioned this last weekend in her AIM workshop. She is half Lebanese.


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    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    Here's an indisputable rule: Don't play cymbals badly.
    LOL - I can get behind that!


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    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Oh, another one I've heard not to do the American version of "come here" with your palm facing up. All the Arabs I know do this with the palm facing down, so I've tried to adopt that. Apparently the palm up version is obscene. ?


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    Advanced BHUZzer Elibelinde's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by nasila View Post
    From what I understand, starting a hip circle to the front was considered vulgar (and a punishable offense) at some points in time, but it's changed much over the eras of oriental dance.



    I've heard you shouldn't hold your middle finger down in a rigid way while dancing. What's the 2-finger salute?
    Flipping the bird I think (2-finger salute) (usually a Bad Idea).


  18. #18
    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by nasila View Post
    That makes sense, Zahra Zuhair just mentioned this last weekend in her AIM workshop. She is half Lebanese.

    It could explain it.

    OTOH, I am not willing to conceed that because someone is half/or full something that they therefore know the 'truth'.

    What I am wondering is if this has ever actually caused offense to people (on a grand scale for this to be a real issue) or it is just something which has gone around in dance circles for decades?

    The same gesture is a rude gesture in Egypt, but when I raised this out of curiosity with Egyptian dancers there they looked at me with a screwed up face and asked what the two have in common? then they laughed..and thought the suggestion was ridiculous.

    For example, are the dancers who live and work in Lebanon told that this is something they should never do?

    Does anyone have the answer.. ??

    Thanks Nasila, the point of me raisning this thread was to really try and get to the bottom of some of these 'conflicting story' issues.
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    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by aziyade View Post
    Oh, another one I've heard not to do the American version of "come here" with your palm facing up. All the Arabs I know do this with the palm facing down, so I've tried to adopt that. Apparently the palm up version is obscene. ?
    I have never come across this either.. all of this 'Arabs are offended by this and that' makes me laugh...especially given some of the public dancing i have seen.

    Has anyone heard any of these things fron ME teachers themselves. (not ex-pats) but those living and working in those countries?

    I have yet to be told by an Egyptian teachers these things.. I have heard 'Egyptians dont like it when you ignore them and dance to the floor or ceiling'.. and general stuff about what pleases an Egyptian audience as opposed to a western one.

    One of the things I have observed is Western dancers dont like people to shake their bottoms in their face but Egyptians generally dont seem to mind at all! lol
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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by dunyah View Post
    How about the rule taught by a famous drummer that you must always have DOWN hips on the DOUM, never UP hips. Not really feasible and Egyptian dancers (in videos, at least) break this rule all the time.
    This was probably a genuine attempt to get non-native dancers to move with the music in a more Arabic way. For example, if you are doing unweighted hip drops, I'd say you should be down and not up on the first doum. The "rule" just doesn't hold up well for other movements.

    To make another general rule (that probably doesn't hold up well in all situations LOL), it seems that Arabs often use words like "always" and "never" in non-literal ways. When we then take it as literal gospel, miscommunication happens.
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    I could get used to this! Wallowa's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    A couple of years ago I took a workshop with Sahra Kent who covered some of the rude gestures that can happen unintentionally in dancing. She told the story of how Mahmoud Reda was in the audience one time in Egypt when she was performing and she could tell he was upset by something she did and after the show he told her to never ever (whatever gesture it was and I think it was the finger down gesture but am not sure) do that again.

    Sahra covered quite a few cultural items and gestures in her class which was mostly about Meleya Leff and included a number of gestures that she used when dancing melaya so she explained what they meant in relation to the tableaux and how everyday Egyptians might use the gestures.

    I can't remember all of them but one of them was hitting yourself on the head in a certain way to express excitement or frustration.

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    Official BHUZzer lunascura's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    I had one teacher who was vehemently against dancers touching one's body while dancing. Placing a hand at the hip is tolerable when being sassy and gently touching the temple or hair is okay, but during any gesture where the arms or hands move up or down the body, touching is absolutely a No No and considered vulgar by this teacher.

    I personally think it's a matter of intent. If the dancer does so in a way that looks overly grabby and sexual, then yuck. But if the dancer's touch is a soft caress intended to draw the eye from one movement to the next, than that's fine.


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    Advanced BHUZzer badriya_al_ahmar's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE=caroline_afifi;850700]

    What I am wondering is if this has ever actually caused offense to people (on a grand scale for this to be a real issue) or it is just something which has gone around in dance circles for decades?
    With Lebanese-American audiences here, I don't think they would be offended per se by the gesture or take it personally, but they would laugh at the dancer doing it and consider her stupid or ignorant, and there would go her tips for the night and potential future gigs. So maybe "you'll offend Arabs" is a myth, but "you should watch how you hold your hands" is still good advice


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    Advanced BHUZzer Elibelinde's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by lunascura View Post
    I had one teacher who was vehemently against dancers touching one's body while dancing. Placing a hand at the hip is tolerable when being sassy and gently touching the temple or hair is okay, but during any gesture where the arms or hands move up or down the body, touching is absolutely a No No and considered vulgar by this teacher.

    I personally think it's a matter of intent. If the dancer does so in a way that looks overly grabby and sexual, then yuck. But if the dancer's touch is a soft caress intended to draw the eye from one movement to the next, than that's fine.
    I'm not overjoyed with body touching. Hand on hip or the famous I Have A Headache gesture are not so bad but people with the hand on the stomach, stroking the body etc - eh - not saying it's A Rule but it is a matter of taste I think - intent as you stated - it can easily look like I Have A Stomach Ache or worse - vulgar -
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    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE=badriya_al_ahmar;851216]
    Quote Originally Posted by caroline_afifi View Post
    So maybe "you'll offend Arabs" is a myth, but "you should watch how you hold your hands" is still good advice
    Yes! I agree..

    I just think that sometimes there is an over the top reaction to 'offending the Arabs'..

    Even the Reda story, it is 'caution' because one person was offended.. and how many years ago?? we need some sort of context for this.

    There are some conservative Arabs out there but just being a belly dancer is enough to upset them!
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  26. #26
    Advanced BHUZzer caroline_afifi's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by Wallowa View Post
    A couple of years ago I took a workshop with Sahra Kent who covered some of the rude gestures that can happen unintentionally in dancing.
    Can you remember what they were?

    On another note, we have to remember that some of things things can become dated and irrelevant and yet the same info keeps being churned out.

    I often read..' you shouldnt do this and that' and wonder to myself if any actually watches the dancers in these countries these days? they seem to do all of these things and much much more..


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    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    RE: various hand gestures

    Who gestures at all with their hands in Egyptian oriental dance? When does picking an acceptable gesture even become an issue? Most of the time, hands should be relaxed and fluid and just following or framing moves or moving in organic pathways.

    I can see the whole gesture thing being more of an issue in Turkish oriental if one is throwing in some Romani gestures.
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    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Sahra talked about the hand incident when she gave the workshop in my area, too. I want to say it had something to do with making her hands into a triangle shape over her head, but I might be remembering wrong. I have heard from other teachers that you should be careful to avoid making the tips-of-thumbs-and-tips-of-index-fingers-together triangle, especially pointing downward at the midsection because that can read, "Hey, let's all think about my lady parts!"

    Resting your hands on the top of your head is another gesture I've been told to avoid. That one is supposedly how prostitutes show off their wares. I could see the downward triangle making suggestive shapes, but I have no clue as to how true the hands-on-head thing is. Putting the hands on the head seems to be a common trope when parodying belly dancers (I feel like I've seen it in multiple cartoons, but I can't come up with any names at the moment), but whether it overlaps with the idea of "common trollop" is another question.


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    I could get used to this! Wallowa's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    [QUOTE=caroline_afifi;851478]

    Can you remember what they were?

    On another note, we have to remember that some of things things can become dated and irrelevant and yet the same info keeps being churned out.

    I often read..' you shouldnt do this and that' and wonder to myself if any actually watches the dancers in these countries these days? they seem to do all of these things and much much more..
    I can't remember them really, I remember her talking about shoes a lot because in her Melaya Leff tableax she kicked them off and her Egyptian Musicians wouldn't let her pick them up again, and no one else would pick them up and they would get thrown away by the cleaning crew. She was going through a lot of shoes. The solution was to hire some really poor man who was willing to pick up shoes for pay, and he would give them to her at the end of the show.

    Marya
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    I could get used to this! Wallowa's Avatar
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    Re: Myths in moves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    Sahra talked about the hand incident when she gave the workshop in my area, too. I want to say it had something to do with making her hands into a triangle shape over her head, but I might be remembering wrong. I have heard from other teachers that you should be careful to avoid making the tips-of-thumbs-and-tips-of-index-fingers-together triangle, especially pointing downward at the midsection because that can read, "Hey, let's all think about my lady parts!"

    Resting your hands on the top of your head is another gesture I've been told to avoid. That one is supposedly how prostitutes show off their wares. I could see the downward triangle making suggestive shapes, but I have no clue as to how true the hands-on-head thing is. Putting the hands on the head seems to be a common trope when parodying belly dancers (I feel like I've seen it in multiple cartoons, but I can't come up with any names at the moment), but whether it overlaps with the idea of "common trollop" is another question.
    Tourbeau,

    I think you are right about the triangle with the fingers, when I read your post my memory was jogged. I have never used that gesture so it didn't stick with me.

    Marya
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