Belly dance in South Africa – according to me!


Ok, so last night I started writing a long ranting blog post based on this article posted on The Gilded Serpent (read HERE). 3 ladies who are involved in belly dance in South Africa had written little article pieces that were accompanied by a video interview with Charlotte who lives and teaches in Joburg.

Unfortunately, I disagreed with a lot of the answers Charlotte gave on the video, and I’m sure it’s because of the area she’s from rather than ignorance. The problem is that when you are asked about issues that are about the entire country, you can only really answer for yourself and give your opinion about your area. It’s not to say “These are the facts!” but rather your perception of things. So I thought I’d post the video, you can have a watch and then I’ll answer the questions/talk about the topics briefly like she did. I thought it would be an interesting experiment. J

So first up, she spoke about POPULAR STYLES of belly dance in South Africa. If belly dance as a whole is new to South Africa, Tribal Fusion is even newer, and a much younger form of dance. I disagree with the fact that ATS is not popular in South Africa. I get the feeling that PURE ATS is popular, but not performed as often as it isn’t as much of a “crowd pleaser” here, so rather the girls learn ATS as a base for fusion dance and perform ATS moves in a fusion setting.

WHAT IS MOSTLY PERFORMED IN SA?

I would honestly say that American Cabaret is mostly performed in South Africa. And when I say AmCab, I mean the westernized style of Middle Eastern Dance. I think that there are very few teachers who can honestly boast that they teach Egyptian or Turkish style of dance. Dancers here (and all over the world, I’ve noticed) like to fuse the styles together to perform their own brand of dance – and I personally think it’s great, creating your own dance identity!

VARIOUS STYLES IN VARIOUS AREAS

Of course, I can only speak for Cape Town and surrounds, but I’d say that most of the studios here perform the more AmCab style of belly dance. Or as I like to call them “Glitzy dancers” 🙂 But there are plenty of fusion dance studios, and not necessarily tribal fusion either – just belly dance fusion.

FESTIVALS

There are loads of festivals here in Cape Town. There are two that I attend every year – the International Bellydance Day in May and the Oriental Festival in October. There are many other smaller festivals that I don’t/can’t attend in the middle of the year sometime.
Now something I strongly disagreed with Charlotte about, was her saying that the local girls (in Cape Town) don’t support each other. Now, as Charlotte is not from Cape Town I am sorry that that was what she took away from her visit here. I feel that the studios here are all very supportive of other studios as well as other dancers. Maybe I just know some really good people? But as you come off the stage, you get greeted by a bunch of arms giving you a squeeze and saying “Well done!” Of course, South Africa is very small and the bellydance community so big in relation to the size of our country and of course we will step on each other’s toes from time to time. It will happen in any organization any art form, any business, really.

TRAVELLING

Many dancers travel overseas to seek out dancers or particular workshops that may not attract much interest or attention to bring the dancer here. It is probably cheaper to bring a dancer out here if there is enough interest than it is to travel overseas. We have had many international dance stars in South Africa such as Sharon Kihara, Samantha Emanuel, Bozenka, Danisa and Yasmina of Cairo – to name a few. Besides the weakness of our currency, it is also expensive to travel due to flight costs, and visas. DVDs are expensive to bring in, but cheaper if you are a bunch of people ordering together and can then split the shipping costs.

COMPETITIONS

There is a whole other blog topic hidden away in this heading, so I’m going to try and touch on it lightly. I like competitions. I think that they can be good for you. I don’t feel (like many do) that it detracts from the dance itself or the emotional connection of the dance because competitions are voluntary. Those that want to be assessed on their skills will do a competition, those who want the crown of “Miss Bellydance South Africa” will be the ones entering. It doesn’t mean that competition is bad. In fact, it can be exactly what an artist needs to push him/herself to that next level, to get out of a rut. That is exactly where I will be leaving this topic – for now!

As for PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES in South Africa, Charlotte was right in saying that there are only a few restaurants that will accommodate a dancer properly. Mainly dancers are asked to dance at festivals, corporate events, birthday parties and themed parties. This isn’t to say that a dancer can’t find work elsewhere, it is just few and far between. Luckily, we’re not in this business for the money!

I guess that’s the end of my post. I had written another piece concerning “feminine ideas” in dance (a new age “spirituality” thing going on) but it was a bit mean, I cussed a bit and I thought perhaps it’s better left in my archives and I will post it later perhaps when I’m brave enough/calm enough to write about it diplomatically.

There were a few things in the written article on the Gilded Serpent site that I didn’t agree with, as well as in Charlottes video interview – such as sexuality in Tribal dance. Unfortunately if I were to tackle these topics right now I would probably end up attacking the person who said it and that’s not right. So until I can think of a blog post idea that doesn’t directly relate to the article, I will be writing it. I have been in a feisty mood lately and I want to share that loveliness with the rest of the world!

Where ever you are in the world or in South Africa, I’d love you to answer these questions/tackle these topics – leave a link to your blog in the comments or just leave a comment! Also, SA dancers, let me know if you disagree/agree with me and what your experiences are!!

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5 comments

  1. Great Response! I was going to post a reply in my own blog, But time isnt on my side today. Ill just say – Styles – yes mostly Cabaret being performed in JHB, Styles in various areas – a few JHB studios teach Cab, Folk and Tribal (ATS and fusion) as well as other fusions. Festivals – JHB doesn’t have many Festivals, I can only think of 2 off the top of my head. Travel – in JHB mostly only teachers will travel overseas to learn. Competitions – we just have Miss Belly SA. I think its important to note where the writers point of view is coming from. You’d need to be IN the community to make any valid comments on it, if you aren’t and have set yourself us as an outsider your views will be biased in that direction.

  2. great blog post!!

    I think this happens whenever you have a one sided interview with a local “expert” on the dance scene in a specific area…..I’m not a huge fan of these types of interviews, because I do think its the responsibility of the interviewer to try and gain a wide perspective of whats happening in South Africa. The questions are kinda are set up to answer in a very one sided way…..

    anyways …great post!!!

    1. Great blog post! Thanks for taking time to clarify these issues. I do agree that an interviewer must take interview different people with different views in order to get a richer perspective of any issue. It’s like that story of four blind men being interviewed of what an elephant looks like and they have different responses based on where they are touching the elephant. So it was great to read about your take on this thing.

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