Today it is used more for exercise, entertainment, and healing purposes.
It seems that belly dancing originated from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Africa.
But often, it is wonderful, as I'm reminded every day living in Los Angeles, amid Korean taco trucks and Japanese-inspired gardens.
Randa Jarrar writes as if all appropriation is self-evidently objectionable, and if her attitudes were adopted widely, we'd miss out on the awesomeness that emerges from our wonderfully polyglot country.
Her story started, “I was a dancer, an Oriental dancer, long ago.” She had worked all over Europe, she said, at parties and dance demonstrations and stage performances, sometimes flying to London or Rome for a party, but mostly performing in restaurants.
While performing at one Lebanese restaurant in Europe, an agent approached her and asked her if she would like to work in Dubai. It was a scary thing back then for a woman to travel alone to Dubai to dance, she said. In Dubai she mostly performed at hotels and nightclubs, and only once did she dance at a wedding.As the girls learned the movements and the style of lead and follow, they verbalized new understandings of themselves and others.Connections were made to reggae, African dance, go-go, and Hip Hop, while some took it upon themselves to introduce their own music to the sessions for improvisation.And that was precisely the point: this was sexuality as a public event, brilliantly planned and executed, yet totally unconsummated and unrealizable.After a couple of months of asking around, I finally got an introduction to a belly dancer.This is due to the fact that a lot of the movements and hand clapping techniques utilized by the shaman were eventually transferred by later generations to other types of dance, including...Doing so helped her to integrate herself into a community of local Muslim women, forming new friendships and a more nuanced understanding of their culture.What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? Japanese companies selling the most delicious custard cream puffs?Maybe—and I know this is a radical thought—artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in.Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came.Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.” Appropriation can be insensitive or disrespectful in all sorts of particular instances.