Monday, July 18, 2011

is this mainstream enough for you?

Now that velvetRAQS & Dancewave Center's 3rd annual hafla - Arabesque: a journey into the world of belly dance - is a wrap (a nice, delicious wrap, thanks to everybody who performed and came to the show), I can take a breather and concentrate on keeping my promises (writing ATS articles in Indonesian, teaching, and focusing on upcoming gig with the troupe).

However, there's something I've been meaning to write (like three months ago), regarding belly dance as a mainstream form of art.

Here's to define it: Rihanna and Beyonce are mainstream. Tori Amos is not (it took me around 10 minutes to find another name for non-mainstream celebrity who is famous enough [is that an oxymoron?]). Bjork is mainstream.

Hip Hop is mainstream. There's nothing wrong with Hip Hop, although I'm really bored of seeing dance movies with Hip Hop / Ballet / Modern / Latin dances. I mean, there are many other dance styles out there, you know?

When a dance becomes mainstream, it becomes popular and more people want to try it. More people trying it means bigger chance of getting students, that's the whole salesman expression of "getting one's foot in the door" means. It means business: workshops, competitions, merchandise. Then there's the bigger thing than any of those: a new, respectable level. This leads to performance opportunities at prestigious venues and most importantly, a positive image.

There's a Youtube video of Sharon Kihara being interviewed and she said that when she told people she was a bellydancer, people would look at her in that "Aw, you don't have to do that" way.

On the second thought, and I'm not trying to be supercilious, I feel that if belly dance becomes mainstream, it will lose its mysterious and otherworldly charms. If everyone can do that, then it won't be that special anymore.

Still, there are many bellydancers who first tried out doing this dance because of Shakira. I know I did. I've grown out of my Shakira shell, but I still have to give her credit. Britney Spears jumped on the band wagon, so did Aaliyah (RIP) and Beyonce. I read news that Rihanna was taking up bellydancing to stay fit and that Sienna Miller (of all people) was going to play a bellydancing housewife fleeing to Vegas with her bellydance teacher to join a competition.

Oh, well.


Belly dance is not for the faint-hearted. It is not easy. I've had people telling me that it looked easy, but when they tried it out themselves, they found out the truth. Some of our students stayed for one session and realized that it took a lot to do half of what Shakira could do, and she's not even a professional bellydancer. Some of those students left and never looked back. Some of them dropped in for a few lessons. Only a little number actually stayed and trained.

That's Darwin survival theory for you. When bellydance becomes a trend, or dare I say, a fad, then it won't stay long.

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