Friday, April 17, 2015

What do Daredevil and Belly Dance Have in Common?

I love them both.

And we're done!

Not really, of course.  I mean, I do love them both-but I'm far from being done.  Indulge my geekery for a moment or two, if you will.  Because I am a geek.  And sometimes geeky things really inspire me.  For crying out loud, I named my daughter after my favorite character from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (Had she been a boy, she would have been named "Parker" because of my love of Spiderman although "Murdock" was on the list as well, for reasons you are about to see.)  The first time I watched The Avengers I damn near cried for sheer joy.  So when Netflix released an original series based on the Marvel hero, Daredevil, it was sort of inevitable that I would see it.  I binge watched 4 episodes in one sitting and completed the remaining 9 episodes within a couple days.  The writing, acting, and cinematography are truly amazing.  Seriously, if you haven't seen it-you need to make it the next series you watch.  (Disclaimer: it is VERY violent.  Do not let any children under the age of 16 see this.  I had to look away for some of it!)

For those who aren't familiar with the comic, Daredevil is the story of a lawyer named Matt Murdock who was blinded as a young boy.  Rather than let this hold him back, he utilizes his other senses and trains until he becomes AWESOME.  And by AWEWSOME, I mean he uses his heightened senses and training to fight crime in an effort to keep his city and the people in it safe.  

So, how in hell's kitchen does this relate to belly dance?  Well, I've come to realize that most of us experience something at some point in our lives that feels about as wonderful as radioactive chemicals in your eye.  Divorce, illness, insecurity, financial catastrophe, violence, betrayal, or the death of a loved one.  We've all been "blinded" in some way.  Sometimes by our own actions and sometimes by the actions of another.  But I truly believe that those very hardships create a strength elswhere in our characters.  A heightened sense of compassion.  A drive to help others.  An attitude of positive risk-taking. An appreciation for life and the brevity of it.  A deeper creativity.  I've experienced some of life's heartache, too.  And it has helped lead me to belly dance.  I have limitations as a dancer, a writer, a parent, a human.  But I have strengths in those areas, too.  It's easy to focus on what we are lacking rather than the ways we are talented and strong.  

Ultimately, Daredevil and Belly Dance have taught me similar things.  We can choose to focus on the "blindness" in our lives or we can enhance our strengths to bring something good to ourselves and those around us.  To make our "city" a better place. 

And did I mention the lead actor in the series is super hot? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Racism and Belly Dance

Let me start by saying this:  Racism has no place anywhere for any reason.  Ever.  There is only one race and that is the human race.  With that in mind, I want to address an article I read a few months ago that really, really, really, REALLY bothered me.  It was an article posted on entitled:  "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."  The title alone is offensive.  Oh, you can't stand white belly dancers? Loki's balls!  You know what I can't stand?  I can't stand child abuse.  I can't stand human starvation.  I can't stand horrible violence.  I can't stand sexual assault.  I can't stand poverty.  And I guess I just can't stand a petty statment like "I can't stand white belly dancers."  

Deep breath.

I like to give people the benefit of doubt, as a rule.  So I thought maybe this was a tongue in cheek kind of article.  *Spoiler alert!* It's not. 

The author of the article cries "cultural appropriation."  Now, she is entitled to her opinion, of course.  But I think it's a dangerous one for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it's hateful.  Whether she truly is or not-it makes her sound racist and that is always dangerous.  Secondly, cultural appropriation is a very real issue and one to be taken seriously.  Folks, I'm a practicing Pagan so if you think I don't feel the twinges of cultural appropriation every single time a major holiday rolls around then you can think again.  But I always stop myself and remember something I wish this author had thought about-cultural appropriation requires intent.  Yes, Christianity absorbed Pagan customs and rituals into their holy days in an effort to erradicate Paganism.  But that was thousands of years ago.  The Christians who want to do Easter egg hunts today aren't trying to erradicate my religious beliefs!  The more the merrier, I say.
So, the fact that I'm white and I belly dance doesn't mean I'm trying to take over any aspect of Middle Eastern culture.  Belly dance-like all dance-is an art form.  Most artists want to see others take part and add their flavor to it.  In this way, art doesn't just survive-it thrives.  It lives.  It is beautiful!  Should we forbid anyone of non-European descent from performing Mozart or ballet?  Should only those of American heritage participate in modern dance?  Should only English men be allowed to recite the words of Shakespeare?  Should we divide our art this way?  Should we restrict certain art forms to certain goegraphical borders?  Should we make art racist or xenophobic?
Of course not!  Particularly in belly dance where there IS a cultural history of sisterhood and strength we should honor that tradition by supporting each other rather than tearing one another down.  I stand up for all belly dancers whatever their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or body type.  To do otherwise is missing the point.