The Politics of Belly Dance

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The Politics of Belly Dance - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

Last night my daughter, Savanah and I were going through my dance magazines for a school project and I decided just for fun to reminisce and read the variety of different issues I’ve collected. As I was looking at photos and reading different articles and checking out past workshops, I notice that my heart rate went up and I became agitated……okay I turned into a grump!

It was so weird and I had to actually stop and do something else for awhile so I could relax and get back to my normal (devil) self…..this is only according to Daniel!

Anyways it really bugged me that I reacted this way and I decided to do some recapitulating which basically meant chew on my feelings for awhile before I decided to go  back to view my magazines again. It became increasingly clear to me why I was reacting the way I was and to be honest with you all, I thought that I was tootin and groovin along on my journey just fine and dandy with the past way behind me.

Being in the belly dance business for as long as I have and especially with it now being a family business has attracted the stark day to day reality of business as usual. This means “normalcy” occasionally wreaks havoc on my mental state and belly dance politics seeps in and makes itself at home. Remember the Buhz issue……..even from my little video room, drama has found her favorite corner lingering with a watchful eye.

Actually belly dance politics has made itself at home for many years and it ultimately always upstages any legit and positive idea regarding theatrical shows, workshops or staged events. So I know many of you might be wondering what is belly dance politics. First let’s look at the many ways to view the word politics so here are a few.

#1. The interrelationships between the people, groups, or organizations in a particular area of life especially insofar as they involve power and influence or conflict.

With this example it is clear that there is always influence coming into play with any type of venue because once you get a group of performers together, you start to see artistic rivalry. Small things matter which ultimately lead to big things and the end result is usually a purple people eating machine which changes the course of any show or theatrical production it comes into contact with. As a producer and director, sometimes I agreed to things out of necessity and then wanted to bang my head against the wall for agreeing to a change that didn’t feel good in my gut. The influence of the many is not always the right answer but sometimes it’s the easier perhaps least complicated way to go. As a producer or director always stick to your guns and pull them out if necessary to make sure the integrity of “your” artistic vision stays true to your divine inspiration! Otherwise your show will resemble a two headed baby that was not of your making plus you will usually be the one  stuck taking care of it with everyone else too busy or out of sight.

#2. The use of tactics and strategy to gain power in a group or organization.

Wow, where do I start with this one?!! This example is a given especially when you have too many chiefs and not enough Indians working on a show. If you get one of the chiefs mad, the backstabbing starts and behind the scene agendas take on a whole new level of hissing and spewing out problems besides the occasional claws. Ever heard of, “problem+reaction= solution?” This particular strategy is one to watch out for because your miffed chief will create a problem, react to it and then “they” bring in the solution. The only problem here is when you have someone constantly creating problems; they tend to forget the solution part of the equation.

#3. Political persuasions or beliefs.

This last example reminds me of a dancer I used to know who had her own way of persuading people to do things the way she felt they should be done. The only problem is she would lie to venue agents or sponsors giving them a perverse way of looking at other dancers. Of course I knew what she did but for some reason I didn’t call her on it. And as you might have guessed, one day she did me the voodoo dance and I was out of a job. Add insult to injury, a few weeks later another experience occurred with this dancer that made me realize there is no safety net with her. We were both dancing at a new restaurant and they were deciding on keeping only one of us. I had other jobs so I was on the fence post about it but deep down inside I really wanted to dance there.  The night I performed the crowded restaurant was full of people who knew me from other restaurants and yelled my name clapping and dancing while I performed my show. We all had a great time dancing and interacting with each other and the owners were thrilled people knew me and they hired me that night.

A few days later I received a phone call from them saying that something came up and at the moment they didn’t need me to dance. This was odd because they really seemed to like me. No drum roll please because I know you all know what happened. So I went to the restaurant the following weekend and guess who was dancing?!! The owners were embarrassed and came over to my table to let me know that they liked me but had heard that I was a very busy dancer and that I would occasionally come in late . They said they needed a dancer who could come in on time. My ho, hum attitude did an about face and I asked them to tell me where they heard this information. Just as they were going to answer me little Lolita came strolling over to say hello. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth came to my mind and I wanted to jump over the table and American woman her butt to the ground! I didn’t because the look on my face made her do an abrupt hello and good bye.  End of a long story…………I ended up dancing there only to have them close within 9 months. And little Lolita went on to other restaurants wreaking havoc with other dancers along the way or so I was told.

So moral of this story………when I finally looked at my feelings, I realized that as I was looking through those glorious magazine pages, I remembered different occasions and experiences when my belly dance fantasy turned into real life drama. Obviously they are opposite sides of the same coin at least for some of us. Good experiences or bad experiences, the way I look at it, I lived belly dance, experienced belly dance, learned from belly dance and today as I write this I still eat, breath and sleep belly dance. Even with my occasional heart rate going up, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am who I am because I am a belly dancer!

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About Leyla Najma
Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing "Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots"

Comments

7 Responses to “The Politics of Belly Dance”
  1. Belly Dance Husband says:

    I’m always amazed baby.

  2. Megan says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article. It is amazing that this behaviour goes on in the belly dance community. That behaviour is certainly not befitting of what a bellydancer should be on AND off stage- gracious, elegant, fun, beautiful, tasteful, and of course a glowing representative of the Dance. One would hope that dramas would be left in people’s school days, but some people never leave behind that mentality and grow up.

    Savanah is a very pretty name, actually one I was considering for if I ever have a daughter! 🙂 How old is she? Is she learning to dance like Mom?

    xo

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Thanks Megan,

      This behavior is linked to a business based on competitive insecurities and an underlying stigma all women have to contend with……which is that women really don’t know how to treat each other and will turn on each other on a dime while they will allow abusive relationships to linger. It is the surface result of a deep rooted problem! It’s a psychological habitual way of learning how to be a woman and this starts at home with family, church, neighborhood and of course media and outside inluences. We need to look at it or it will never go away!

      My daughter is a writer, healer and mediator of the wisewoman kind! She was raisded by bellydancers so she understands the highs and lows. Hopefully one day you will be able to meet her!

      Hugs and Blessings,

      Leyla

  3. Shadow says:

    Leyla,
    Thanks this post was very supportive,you are right what you said and believe it is necessary for the integrity of your artisitic vision stay true to your Divine inspiration.,That is how a show will be successfull ,Not by power that in a way is vanity i believe the nature of belly dancing is humble strong and gracious and if kept with its integrity will be chosen through the Divine, and that being said it is much more rewarding in your artisitc show to be chosen through the Divine than through emotional drama of the matarial world and therefore perhaps there business decision not to choose you resulted in them closing down, and timing is in the dance a business person in that field should know that and even if you are a bit late means your busy and doing a great job rewarding people with the presence of the dance.
    your work and coments are very helpful and i believe you have been chosen through the divine to teach and that is a great accomplishment. .
    always thankful..
    Shadow
    Shadow

    • Leyla Najma says:

      Hello Shadow,

      Thank you for your kind words!
      I think we all forget this is a business afterall and that many women are seeking fame and fortune just like us. The difference ibetween a solid dancer is her integrity and sense of self worth. An insecure dancer doesn’t get it and will play games and manipulate to get the results she wants. Down the line and eventually they always pay a price that they never intended to pay and that is usually community scrutiny. This is where we as a community have to come in and say enough is enough. Just so you know, she just said that I was always late, it wasn’t true and as a matter of fact I was trained by a few of my teachers to always come in an hour ahead of time.
      Thanks for writing in and for sharing your comments with us……….we so appreciate it!

      Blessings,

      Leyla

  4. Shadow says:

    Leyla,
    Thanks this post was very supportive,you are right what you said and believe it is necessary for the integrity of your artisitic vision stay true to your Divine inspiration.,That is how a show will be successfull ,Not by power that in a way is vanity i believe the nature of belly dancing is humble strong and gracious and if kept with its integrity will be chosen through the Divine, and that being said it is much more rewarding in your artisitc show to be chosen through the Divine than through emotional drama of the matarial world and therefore perhaps there business decision not to choose you resulted in them closing down, and timing is in the dance a business person in that field should know that and even if you are a bit late means your busy and doing a great job rewarding people with the presence of the dance.
    your work and coments are very helpful and i believe you have been chosen through the divine to teach and that is a great accomplishment. .
    always thankful.Shadow.

    Shadow
    Shadow