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Problematic Performance Promotion

A collection of musings on the self-induced problems of the Business of Belly Dance. Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.

Self-deluding History- Just Say No!

In 1993, Andrea Deagon wrote an article titled Framing the Ancient History of Oriental Dance in which she attempted to trace the origins of 'Solo Improvised dance based on Torso Articulation (SITA) '; the article was subsequently printed in Volume 19, number 3 of Habibi magazine.

She defines the central elements of SITA as Technique and Solo-Improvisation. Technique: based on articulation of hips, torso and shoulders; positioning or counter-movement of upper body and arms is likely to be a significant aesthetic feature; movement across space is subordinate to movement within a circumscribed space. Solo-Improvisation: The primary focus for performance, whether professional or social, is improvisation within culturally-established parameters, and even when many dance or perform together, the primary mode is individual improvisation.

She then attempts to track practices of SITA in antiquity, possible cultural continuity and cross-fertilization, and SITA in the modern world, including the Raqs Sharki and belly-dance. Her observations are not devoid of humor: "The unadorned technical description of SITA that I offer could almost apply to a broad swath of the social dances of the US since the early 1960's..."

Her article presents insights into why some folks suggest that belly dance has an ancient history, but she also makes it clear that belly dance is not the SITA practiced by various cultures over time. The article is actually a call to action- a business call to action. "I have to wonder if the media's perception of oriental dance would change if its practitioners dwelled not on the vague generalities of ancient rituals but on the complex 20th century development of the art, with its nuanced interchanges between the West and the Arab world. I cannot help feeling that the modern phenomenon of belly dance would be better understood and better respected if we described to the media a real history. Other disciplines, such as flamenco dance and jazz music, which like oriental dance have developed significantly in the 20th century, explain themselves through detailed and specific social histories. The fact that the history we choose to tell is so clearly self-serving contributes to the perception of oriental dancers as more frivolous, more self-involved, more self-deluding, and ultimately less worthy of being taken seriously, than practitioners of other popular arts."

This is something to think about if your promotion for your business leans on advertising classes and performances in the ancient art of belly dance. Why do you say it is ancient? Because it makes you more marketable this month? But if, as the author above postulates, this kind of herstory contributes to an overall perception of belly dancers as frivolous, self-involved, and self-deluding... what are you doing to your ability to earn a living next year? In ten years?

Men-up Filter: Do the standard pin-up poses erode creditability?

Next time you plan a photoshoot, run the planned poses through the Men-Up filter. Maybe your pictures are part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

You might also want to compare your choreography with the Radio City Mockettes. Unless this is the effect you want, maybe a modification of your choreography is in order.

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Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2012 - 2015 by Maura Enright
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