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Thread: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

  1. #31
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

    Re: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

    The bullying aspect was a stronger thread through the article, for me at least. I have been to enough workshops now that I can say I have heard an "expert" declare both sides of every issue.

    "Always step on the 'dum' to stay on beat." vs. "Step on the beat, each beat!"
    "This dance is rooted in ancient India!" vs. "It came from California in the 80's."
    "Every move should come from your . . . " "Knees!" "Thighs!" "Glutes!" "Goddess fabric!"
    "Lean back!" vs. "Stay centered!"
    "I studied with [name] and she is far more an expert than [name]!"
    "NO ONE in [country] would EVER do THAT!"
    Not all these things are bullying, though. Most of those statements are either opinions/stylization or possibly true or fakelore depending on the context. Maybe not pleasant or even true, but they're not bullying. Only one statement could possibly be bullying, the one statement about one person being more of an expert than another. And even then, depending on the context, who those people are, etc., it could be true. If it's part of a systematic set of behaviors and actions to tear down and provoke fear in one instructor, then it would go into bullying territory.

    Not saying bullying isn't sometimes an issue in one's dance community but I don't think these qualify as such.
    Zumarrad likes this.

  2. #32
    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
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    Re: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

    I don't mean to keep going back to Suhaila's program, but it's one certification program I'm very well acquainted with, and it seems obvious that it's the subject of yet another one of Najia's articles.

    dance is not a marathon, and there isn't one clear and objective standard of excellence.
    To some extent, I agree. But every teacher out there has her own subjective standards of achievement and excellence. "You must do it this way" (with the unspoken understanding of "for me") I've heard from just about every workshop instructor I've studied with -- American, Egyptian, or European. Every instructor on Bhuz has requirements for her students to advance out of the beginner classes and into more advanced ones (mostly to keep the levels of ability consistent in each class, which was also one of Suhaila's reasons for structuring her program the way she did.)

    Suhaila referenced the Bharata Natyam model -- which is a very structured process of learning dance, with a final "concert" as your "graduation." If I recall correctly, competitive Irish Step dance has an extremely structured and graded system of learning the dance. RAD school of ballet literally has tests for each level. Other ballet schools don't have such rigid class structures. It's not like Suhaila invented the graded syllabus!

    It's funny -- we bellydancers have a love/hate relationship with "standards." We come on Bhuz complaining about dancers who aren't ready to book professional jobs, and substandard dancers performing in professional venues, but whenever anyone mentions creating any sort of accreditation, we run away screaming. We can't even agree on standards for teaching, let alone performing, and heaven help us if we discuss "grade" levels in class, or informal testing to advance to the next class.

    you can give your audience a really delicious viewing experience even if you cannot move your butt cheeks independently of each other.
    Lol -- being able to access each glute independently is a fundamental technical skill in Suhaila's method, since all the hip work is driven from the glutes. So it's really no different from another teacher trying to get her students to isolate the upper and lower halves of the body. Or another teacher introducing a movement on flat feet before complicating it with traveling steps or performing it on the ball of the foot.

  3. #33
    Master BHUZzer aziyade's Avatar
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    Re: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

    So I do find a system in which some dancers are labelled better than others based on a checklist of skills limiting and strange.
    I won't deny there is a level of perceived superiority among students in a certification program -- not just with dance and not just with Suhaila. I started to think of myself as "all that" last weekend sitting in the Journey through Egypt class with Sahra Kent. Dancers I've met who have been through Hadia's professional intensive have a bit of a 'tude, and I don't mind. I know how hard they work and how rewarding "graduating" from that intensive must be. Putting forth ANY amount of effort in an industry/hobby that doesn't reward that effort or base salaries on that effort -- it should be commended.

    But keep in mind that Suhaila's grade levels aren't about being "better" than another dancer -- the checklist of skills are a list of basic skills needed in order to go beyond those skills. It's not that a level 2 student is "better than" a level 1 student. She just has a "better" mastery of the level 1 material, and is working on building more complicated movements based on those fundamental movements, and traveling with those movements.

    Anala, you said the certificate should not be the goal. While I understand what you're saying, students in all dance forms participate for different reasons. Dance pedagogy textbooks list the various motivations for taking dance class, and working toward what we can call a "certificate of achievement" is one recognized motivation. Approaching dance as a sport or fitness activity is another. It may seem odd, but not every student approaches dance training as a way to express oneself or as a performance activity. For some, that certificate IS the goal, and I don't think we should judge a person's motivation for engaging in any activity that has positive benefits no matter why you do it :)

    What's behind the certificate model? People on Bhuz have in the past been critical of their universities, saying they got a degree without really working for it. What does a certificate (other than a Masters) in ANYTHING tell me? You were exposed to some information. That's about all we can say. I have a certificate from Sahra's JtE that doesn't prove anything more than that I sat in class for 20 hours. There was no test. No client is going to care if I have that certificate. It won't make any difference to my own enjoyment of my dance. But I had an AMAZING experience "earning" that certificate and I learned a lot. Even if it's just a piece of paper that says I showed up and heard a lecture, I'm still very proud of it, and it's going to be hanging in my studio. In means something very important to ME, and that's all that matters.
    Samira_dncr likes this.

  4. #34
    Master BHUZzer Monica's Avatar
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    Re: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

    Whatever the motivation and hidden agendas (if any) behind the original article, I am so grateful Najia wrote it, as the conversations it has inspired are really interesting. I have my own thoughts on it all (which are still sort of percolating, I'm not quite ready to spit them out yet), but man--I appreciate reading the comments here and elsewhere (but especially here) very much. Lots of food for thought, and I have--maybe--even had some of my own assumptions challenged. ;) Thanks very much to all who are contributing to the conversation.

  5. #35
    Advanced BHUZzer mrsnj20's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
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    Re: Belly Bullies - article from Gilded Serpant

    In reponse to the article:

    I don't think there is anything wrong with dancers offering certifications in their style. Anyone who likes their style should be free to take those certifications and try to measure up to their standards.

    I have come to the conclusion that there are different styles and techniques of dance for different people. For example, I love Egyptian style but I know many people who only like tribal or only like Turkish, or American Cab. Many people do not enjoy the same dance style that I like, but that does not make their technique any less valuable.

    On another point that the author made: we also need to realize that we can't go to the Middle East and expect them to enjoy our "Americanized" style of dance. Some may like it and some may not, but for the most part, they enjoy the internalized style of dancers like Dina and Aziza of Cairo. We can't push our standards and values on other people.

    Each dancer should do their best to get the best training in the style that they like, and hone their technique as well as they can. We don't need to worry about what everyone else is doing.

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