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Ask The Gypsy

Questions and Answers: Topics:

If you have a question or an answer to these Bellydance topics, send it to Email and we will post it for you. Thanks. Penny

Question:

My mother recalls seeing,when she was a child, a fair that had a few Gypsy attractions. She vividly remembers the dancer outside of a tent giving the crowd a taste of the performance inside. Her description of the dance differs from traditional belly - dance.It was not the traditional Gypsy dance, nor was the costume. The dance was very risqué but extremely graceful and beautiful. There's no doubt these were real Gypsys since there's a lot of Gypsy blood in our family so she knew they were not fakes. My problem is after reading everything I can find on Gypsy or belly-dance, I can't find anything quite like the dancing she saw. Are there styles not so heard of now? Or has Gypsy dance forms and belly-dancing become politically correct and fallen prey to censorship?

ANSWER:

Hello yes, political correctness strikes everywhere. Censorship and styles not so heard of now also. Change from generation to generation is continuous. Always question what you hear no matter where you hear it when you are doing research.

If you look at the film "Gadjo Dilo" (I think that's how it is spelled), you may see something similar to what your mother describes. It is by the director of the other film "Latcho Drom" who happens to be a Hungarian or Romanian gypsy himself and uses real gypsies in his casts. This and the other one may be available from some rental places.

The most interesting thing I remember about Gadjo Dilo is meeting a group of real gypsies at the theater who came to see it. They offered us tips about doing our hair and not wearing black. Then they tried to buy one of the coin scarves we were wearing. I was with a dance troupe who did the two opening days of the film. The other troup members were bellydancing in cabaret costumes. I did a little magic and a real Rom song from the film "Les Temps de Gitans" and was asked if I was Romanian.

Some of the gypsy women we met were so embarrassed that they left the theater and stood outside during some of the scenes in the film. There was drinking, cursing, love making, dancing on tables at weddings (belly and something else quite similar) and a couple of murders. The imaging of the people is very much like what we would imagine and what "gadjos" might imitate, which will anger many gypsies and their own scholars tremendously.

No ethnic group ever likes to see anything they feel is negative or low class, even if true, portrayed about themselves usually. They will almost always deny its existence to outsiders unless they know and like you very well. Especially in front of non-group members, such as non-gypsies, or their own peer group. It represents a loss of face to most older members. The film also shows a dancer in a cellar restaurant in Bucharest doing Turkish dance in a belly dance costume. Graceful but not all that interesting or risqué to my eyes. Can you get a more detailed description from your mother? Time and a conservative viewpoint could be influencing her memory. Remember, sometimes ANY gypsy business with outsiders is adjusted to gain the most advantage and financial return. As in gypsy Mafia storefront fortune telling salons. The buja women there are just looking for the needy gadjo with money to walk in the door for a good fleecing. Though most likely they would not do this to one of their own group who would know better. It the old "Oh you need a cleansing".... line. Let me know about any further developments. I am interested in your viewpoint and your mother's. M.

THANK YOU!

Thank you for your help. I've been studying everything I can find about the Gypsy culture.As I said there is Rom blood in my family, but unfortunatly they chose to hide it.My grandmother taught me some things before she died, but I've always had an insatiable need for more.

Music and dance are two of my greatest loves and there is something about this I need to find. I can't wait to see the film you told me about, and I'm going to get as many details from mom as possible.This means a great deal to me so I truly appreciate the help.

Thanks again.


ANOTHER GYPSY QUESTION:

I would like to learn and adapt gypsy culture more . . Where do I start? Is that an acceptable option to let outsiders in to their culture and groups and ways of life not just the clothing of course but I would love to learn all that I can about the gypsies that we have in our existence today . . and the ancestors that made it all happen . . Thank You

Nikki


ANOTHER Gypsy Question: RE Symbols.

Hi!

I'm really interested in gypsy symbolism, regarding not only tarot but all symbols of any sort, relating to gypsies... The reason why is that I'm part Gypsy myself, and Im trying to find some inspiration to a new tattoo... Can you help me put on that issue? Christina, Denmark

Topic:

Gypsy Dancing - risqué? censored?

GYPSY CULTURE

Question:

Dearest Gypsy;

I would greatly appreciate any information you may provide concerning the folk costumes of Yemen. I'm especially hopeful of finding an alternative to the hood headdress. (I just haven't the face for a 'duck hood'.)

Shula

ANSWER:

Dear Shula,

Have you looked at the Yemenite wedding headdresses? Have you considered adapting existing designs? A much shorter cone with jewelry going from ear to ear under the chin and coins or fringe across the forehead might look very nice on you. You could also add a flower or two somewhere for color if you like. I was at a Yemenite wedding on Moshav Yishi in Israel in l981 and was fortunate enough to paint the bride's sister's portrait in her wedding headdress and jewelry. I also danced at some other weddings of their friends in Mitzepe Ramon. She had been married in the same treasured antique clothing some years before. I believe her name was Yoshi(?) and her husband's name Baruch. It was a long time ago, though I still have their photos. There must be books available through museums in Israel or Jewish historical associations - Try the Skirball Center just north of the Ghetty Center off the 405 (Los Angeles, Californa). They have a large collection of Jewish artifacts and they might also have books or know where to send you. College libraries, such as the one at UCLA have large reference sections too. If you are good on computers, go into their files. Wishing you luck and Shabat Shalom. - M.

Topic

Costumes of Yemen

Question: PLEASE ADVISE ME HOW TO PERFORM UNDULATIONS. I HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME WITH THIS MOVE. Christine K.

ANSWER: The best way to learn how to properly perform an undualtion is to find a good teacher or dance coach for some private lessons- or even group lessons if that is not an option. There are many in the Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

A good teaching video would be the next best option. Otherwise it is possible to train yourself incorrectly which can lead to back injury. The most common execution of this movement involves syncronized forward and backward rotations of the chest and hips- connected by the stomach and abdomen. Different parts of the body can also be undulated in various postures. - M.

Topic

Undulations

Question from Tattooed Lady:

Hello,
I need an opinion on tattoos for dancers. I have one and plan to get several more tattoos - on my neck, back, and legs. I don't have nor plan to get any tattoos on my stomach or bust.

I need to know if I should make efforts to hide my tattoos. Does the design make a difference? Is the general opinion that dancers should not be tattooed? Or should I show them off? What about women who do have tattoos on their stomach area - how would this affect their image?

Thanks!


Answer:

Dear Tattooed Lady,

I personally like tattoos and have seen many which have made me consider such a choice. They are sexy, beautiful and exotic. However, I know of one very professional dancer who works in Los Angeles in a lot of clubs and other venues who must often hide hers. She uses special makeup (check with "Cinema Secrets" in Hollywood) or covers with a vest,pants, skirts, sleeves, or dance dress. It depends on where you are working and for whom you are working. Most professional actresses in the trade cover theirs depending on what film, video or appearance they are making.

What market do you wish to target, are you a full-time actress/entertainer or a hobbyist? Are you in a Punk Rock or Goth band? Do you also perform exotic dance? (Do not confuse this with Bellydance, please). Are you die-hard American Tribal like Fat Chance and friends? Are you part time and like it that way?

Try to be very realistic about your goals and your image as these are important for the aware performer. It is certain that most Middle eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian club and restaurant owners will not appreciate these kinds of decorations. In their eyes, it makes you a member of a very low caste - and believe it or not, dancers already suffer from this type of general reputation. And sometimes making a living may preclude the "Just be yourself" axiom.

Also, as a Los Angeles couturier costumer and dance coach puts it, "This dance is sexy enough already." Exceptions exist. I know of two other very young, blond, talented, and beautiful members of "Desert Bloom" who have large flying fairies tattooed on the smalls of their backs. They worked together for a while, and then separately in a lot of avante garde or edgy generation x-er venues and like it that way, though I think they sometimes have shows for Mediterranean clients. It is possible they cover their designs up when they perform in certain places, and one of them sometimes works with a small snake. I have used temporary tattoos to give an exotic effect when called for. - M.


More response about TATOOS.

I am a belly dancer from South Africa and I have read some of your Q/A on the net. I myself have a tatoo of a dragon circling around my belly button. Apart from my old teacher, who were a bit misinformed about most things, I really haven't had anybody making comments about my tatoo - in fact - most people (Greeks etc.) find it fascinating. Only for some TV appearances like ads I have to cover it up. Of course it also depends on what the tatoo looks like. I have seen some really ugly ones that had to be covered up. I actually have read that the middle easten women do henna tatoos and real ones as a symbol for protection. But in the end it's a matter of taste and many people are still very conservative and misinformed about tatoos.

See Picture of Tatiana's Tatoo

Tatiana, beledi@intekom.co.za


Hello,

My name is Maria and I am a member of a New Mexico Belly Dance troupe. I am a tatooed Dancer - I have five tattoos, one of them being Egyptian wings of Ra with two snakes that surround my belly button. I had just recovered from surgery. I got my tattoo, I had planned it for about a year, and to me it symbolizes earthly protection and spiritual strength, and the colors in the tattoo-orange-teal-red-and yellow-were picked out by my tattoo artist.

The colors are bright, and do shock some people when they first view the tattoo. I have gotten mixed reactions to my tattoo, many people asking me if it is real, and some thinking I am crazy for "doing such a thing to my body." Others appreciate the artisitic beauty of the design, and commend me for the painful hours it took to accomplish the tattoo in one sitting.

I can understand how Middle Eastern or Mediterranean people might not approve of tattooed dancers, as this permanent decoration is not normally a part of their dance culture. For those people, I do not mind wearing a dance dress that would hide the tattoo; sometimes it feels better to dance more covered up, and I would respect their culture even if it is different than mine.

What I do not agree with is people who look at my tattoos and judge me harshly before ever getting to talk with me. I would never think of looking at a person with different color skin than I, and judge them based on the fact that they might be different than me.

Everyone is an individual, and there are kind people and awful behaviors in people of all colors and cultures on this earth. Please do not judge tattooed bellydancers, or consider us as being freaks or lower class dancers. When you see the chosen colors on our skin, those colors are a part of us, that will be with us the rest of our lives. There are stories behind these tattoos, and if someone would actually sit down with one of us to hear some of them, I am sure others might begin to understand the symbolism and spirit of the souls of the "inked".

There is a world out there beyond the mainstream where all colors can dance to beautiful rhythms and melodies in peace. It starts in the mind." ---- Maria, Albuquerque, NM

Topic

Should dancers be tattooed, and how does that affect their image?

Belly Dancer
Sketch Cards:

Belly Dancer Sketch Card Art

Some of you may be aware that I have been doing lots of Art and Art related projects over the past few years. In fact, I now sign my name Penny Lee StewArt!

I recently painted 25 sketch cards of belly dancers, 2.5 x 3.5 inches in size. They are very collectible and make great gifts.

Please visit my Daily Paint Works Gallery if you are interested in purchasing. Thanks.  

Penny StewArt
aka The Pink Gypsy

 

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