This is an important and personal share for me. And, wasn’t in the plan so to speak for this week’s content, but necessary. This piece, this opinion, and my response stems from dialogue that occurred on social media. The original post, which will do no harm or good in sharing, fell into the topic of appropriation. Alternatively, appropriation or appreciation?
You see, the author of the content deemed that ‘white women’ were responsible for tarnishing the roots of yoga.
And, the truth is I have seen this cultural appropriation dialogue happening … a lot. Although I know this is probably not ‘new’ conversation … Do you think people are finding their voice more and more? Do you believe social media plays a role in that?
I want to share with you my response to the ‘conversation’ that took place.
I’ve been on BOTH sides of the cultural fence.
I am a Belly Dancer. (Traditionally trained in Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish and Iraqi style from a very early age)
I am Middle Eastern – (perceptively the “Correct” culture for the art/movement form).
Mixed European ancestry – (I LOOK like I’m mostly white).
I am Israeli – (HUGE politically charged narrative between what is appropriation and what isn’t… and before this deteriorates into a “which side are you on?” argument, I’ll already state that I was a peacemaker with Amnesty International for the last 25 years, so nuff said about that).
A few years ago, when Belly Dancing became hugely popular, classes at gyms, belly dance schools and programs popped up EVERYWHERE! Most were fusions, incorporating different dance elements that made it look NOTHING like the traditional dance, but still called it Belly Dance.
[side note] The following, is a quote from Flare (Design and Fashion magazine) from 2015. This conversation happens across all platforms evidently. I think what is more alarming however, is across those of the spiritual, mystic, and inclusive circles.
Avoiding racist pitfalls like cultural markings or religious iconography may seem like a no-brainer for some, but political and socio-economic issues further blur the line between right and wrong.
This quote was in reference to the fashion ‘styles’ emerging on the runways that seem to blur many of these appropriation & cultural appropriation lines.
My classes (at gyms and private studios) were jam packed, and the clientele were asking for a fast paced workout, to popular music, flashier, fancier, “dancier” type of movements, rather than the more introspective “yoga-esque” art that the dance is meant to be.
I adapted to fit the needs of the society, and learned to love dancing it that way – it was fresh and accessible and fun! And I got booked to perform a LOT!! So, I’d perform shows to contemporary music that made me feel good (Shakira and Beyoncé for example, but sometimes even fun stuff like Black-Eyed Peas and Sting).
I kept my knowledge of the mystical elements of the dance only for the women who wanted a real deep dive into the WISDOM of the feminine secrets contained within the movements.
But then, of course, I got the other side of daring to be different.
The brunt of having the courage to progress. I was told I’m not “ethnic” enough to be allowed to change anything (ei. Not Arabic enough, not using traditional music or costumes).
Now, I can understand why the community was in a rage – there were LOTS of white women suddenly changing their names to Arabic names and teaching all kinds of new belly dance concoctions. Not going to name names, but suffice it to say that they tried to ride the popularity of belly dance’s coat tails and create new “tribal” or “fusion” or “Warrior” or “goddess/sexy” “burlesque” dance styles – which was NEVER the authentic belly dance’s way!!!
So, my question is – where does appropriation begin and where does it end?
Aren’t we ALL a sort of a fused society?
Do ONLY people of a certain ethnicity deserve to honour and adapt a movement/art/spiritual awareness access?
I’d love to hear your opinions.
Though please honour my request for insightful and kind insights only.
Appropriation Definition Reads …
Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.
Now, it is possible that the original post my response was geared towards — was not from a place of appropriation, but one of hurt, experience, outrage, and so on. What I believe is unfortunate, is when we need to attack another, to voice our opinion.
It is fusion, I believed we sought.
[the dream catcher image featured for this post, inspired me tho share this. And, this very symbol, object … sacred piece is one of a focal topic point in the world of appropriation vs. appreciation]