I am (not) overly analytical.

People have asked me, in response to my often overly-analytical blog posts, “If you’re so critical of this community, what about it do you like, anyway?”

You know what I like? Actually. No. Let me rephrase that. You know what I LOVE?

I love dancing. I love creating. I love teaching. I love seeing smiles on my students faces when they understand or appreciate a movement, a concept, or idea that I’ve offered them. I love that people appreciate what I appreciate. I love that I can teach a workshop on the history of tribal belly dance and more than 90 people show up because they want to learn. I love that moment when I’m creating a new piece when a segment of choreography falls perfectly into place. I love that flash of inspiration for a costume for a new choreography, and it makes me want to sew all day and night to get it finished.

I get frustrated with the belly dance community because I love this dance. I get frustrated because I see people who profess to love it, too, but they don’t seem to take it seriously. Some think that they can use belly dance as a means to act out fantasies on stage without understanding the dance’s history. I love the history of this dance, and I hope that others feel the same. I get annoyed with people who ooh and aah over dancers who lack technical skill but have beautiful costuming or wonderful music, or over dancers who rely on gimmicks and schtick to increase their popularity… I get annoyed because I and many other dancers insist on dance for dance’s and art’s sake, not for the applause of the crowd or increasing the number of views on our YouTube channels. I get annoyed because I love this dance, and I take it very seriously… and it is only natural to be protective of something you love.

For the record, I wouldn’t be dancing, teaching, or blogging with the dedication and passion that I do if I didn’t love belly dance.

I do not blog about things that bother me out of spite. I do it to educate, to help dancers see things another way, to enlighten, and to work out my own issues. I do it because it scares me; it scares me to click “Publish” every time I post something because I fear that the dissenters will emerge with equal passion. And if they disagree with me, will they tell their friends and, ultimately, will I still get work? Will I still be able to do what I love for a living? But the world doesn’t end when I click the publish button.

This is one of the few things in my life that brings me great joy. It is one of the few things about which I am truly passionate. I wouldn’t have quit my dayjob, knowing I’d make tens of thousands of dollars less a year, sacrificing financial security, a retirement fund, health insurance, life insurance, and paid sick and vacation days if I didn’t love teaching and performing.

And, you know, I love the belly dance community. There are so many of YOU who bring me joy. I love seeing so many of your faces at festivals and workshops. I couldn’t do what I do without you, and you are creative, inspiring, and beautiful.

So, the next time someone posits that I, or anyone else, is just analyzing the love out of their passion, remember that we’re probably analyzing our passion out of our love for it.

 

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I used to think ‘it was just me’, or that I was being a total snob, untill I found your blog. :-)

 

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Asharah, yours is a knowledgeable, passionate and honest voice out of the wilderness, and I actively look for your posts. I am interested in something you said, which is “dancers who use the dance to act out fantasies on stage” without knowing the history of the dance, and without taking the dance seriously. Belly dance movements feel good and look beautiful. Does this mean we can dance to any music or act out any fantasy? I would love you to elaborate.

 

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You should not be afraid to publish what you think. Frankly, I have disagreed with lots of things you’ve written, but I always have and will come back to read. Personally, I feel like you always state your ideas in a way that leaves me understanding a new perspective.

To me, it’s really valuable–I don’t want to read someone regurgitating my opinion just to validate what I already thought, I want to read things that challenge how I think in some way, and your posts always do. Your passion for dance also comes through each time, and I can’t imagine you would ever be alienating someone through your writing who was worth your time.

You’re right about everything here. As far as critiquing our community and what’s happening, it shouldn’t be considered a problem. It’s a shame we’re not more open to it, as a discipline. It’s our loss and I feel like the people speaking up constructively are the ones who will ultimately move us forward.

 

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Please keep up your good work – and pressing that Publish button! I love your blog because of your obvious passion and care for your dance. I share many of your frustrations, because I too love this dance with a passion bordering on obseesion! I may never be a ‘big name’ dancer, but that’s not why I dance: I dance for the joy of it (even if my dance is not always happy and cheery).
I am also fascinated with the history of our dance, and would be interested to hear from you on that, especially on how knowledge of history can enhance our dance.
Thank you for blogging :-)

 

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“it scares me to click “Publish” every time I post something because I fear that the dissenters will emerge with equal passion. And if they disagree with me, will they tell their friends and, ultimately, will I still get work? Will I still be able to do what I love for a living?”
This reminds me of something I read on one of the blogs you recomended for entrepeneurs, about “polarising your market”. If you take a stand FOR something, you frequently have to take a stand AGAINST something else. It’s impossible to do that without upsetting a few people in the process, but it will make you more visible in the community which may actually lead to you getting more work, not less.

 

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“I get frustrated with the belly dance community because I love this dance. I get frustrated because I see people who profess to love it, too, but they don’t seem to take it seriously.”

YES thank you! So glad I found your blog. Will happily send readers your way.

 

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“I get annoyed because I and many other dancers insist on dance for dance’s and art’s sake, not for the applause of the crowd or increasing the number of views on our YouTube channels.”

I understand where you’re coming from here in that to truly call yourself a dancer, you need to have some inner need to move that doesn’t stem from any outside source but from the essence of what it means to be yourself. However, beyond that inner need, my audience is absolutely why I dance. The greatest gift I can ever give anyone is my dance. When I’m on stage, everything that I am belongs to my audience and my greatest satisfaction comes from their experience of my work. I want to take them somewhere, and make them feel something.

Sometimes, I find this “art for art’s sake” stuff a little tiring. In some ways, I feel like it puts the “starving artist” on a pedestal that is unnecessary, demeaning, and untrue. There is always some suffering in art, but I believe that that pain stems from the act of giving completely and truly of oneself. This is kind of turning into a ramble here, but I’d love to hear more about your relationship with your audience.

 

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    Jenna: You know, I was thinking after I posted that saying, “dance for dance’s sake” wasn’t really what I was going for… I guess I mean, I’d rather dance for me and my own expression than to try to be the next hot thing. As far as audience interaction is concerned, I don’t consider myself a very good entertainer. Some dancers are brilliant at it, and I love them for it. For me, though, I SO appreciate my audiences, because if it weren’t for them, I would have no one to dance for, but I don’t dance FOR them. Does that make sense. It’s certainly a weird balance, because I do get energy from the audience. If their energy is slow or tired, I have a hard time dancing with energy and excitement. But I don’t make it my main intent to dance for them. I hope this makes sense… I didn’t really make it clear the first go around. :)

     

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This is one of the reasons I decided to apply to be a FCBD sister studio. I love this dance and I think it deserves to be elevated. I feel like people allow it to be watered down because that’s the easier route. It’s easier to just do whatevs and make stuff up. It is more difficult to take the time to train your body more intensely, research more diligently, study with dancers better than you, hear criticism, and the million other things it takes to improve as a dancer. I can’t really blame people for avoiding all that in the name of “just having fun.” That doesn’t stop me from wanting to challenge other dancers to raise the bar, and to also raise the bar for myself.

And yeah, your posts challenge me, too, sometimes, but that is totally cool!

 

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I was reading this blog before I even knew who was behind the writing… And I’m seriously just blown away… This is exactly what I needed. An affirmative that all of my thoughts, concerns are real and visible. I questioned myself so many times about bellydance…

I’m finally able to take a deep breath… And realize I am sane.

Thank you, Asharah.

 

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