I would like to petition the social justice warriors to remove all forms of dance from their cultural appropriation list. All forms. Dance is not a cultural invention, although individual cultures and societies have their own adaptations and variations. Even the oldest and most venerated of societies, Egypt, India, et al, cannot lay claim to the invention of dance. Dancing is simply a part of the human condition, something we do with our bodies to convey a variety of things; happiness, sorrow, illness, sexuality.
A look into the history of body movement shows everything from slow and sinewy, sensual, to tantric and ecstatic movements. Movements common among humans, not just a particular section of humans. What provides the differences are choices in decoration and adornment. Now why are we going to let that be the factor in discontentment?
In every dance I do, every rhythmic movement I make, I am honoring the ancients, the ancestors, the would be gods and goddesses, the history of humanity, the Universe, my own soul. The very act of dancing itself is my exhibition, my offering to the Universe. What I wear when I dance should not be a point of contention, hence the petition. Certain materials are easier to move in, and the addition of jewels and coins adds aesthetics, even if I am dancing with myself. There is no appropriation occurring when clothing is inspired by the most ancient of cultures. They were the richest cultures, having access to the most beautiful materials and adornments.
As a people, no matter what our culture is, we strive to appear our best based on what the richest have decided to flaunt. Sensual people will always be drawn to silks and gossamer, jewels with bells and coins. Color is irrelevant; some like dark, deep colors, others earth tones, and others still pastels or neons. The problem with the assignment of cultural appropriation to anyone outside a certain culture dancing in the adapted style of that culture is as simple is as it complex.
It is clear by the state of the world today that not all humans are highly sensual. Many are however, and those who are highly sensual beings span the assigned races and ethnicities, and are a part of every culture. Our body movements are not taught as a matter of culture or society, they are shared interpretations of the vibrations of the Universe, moving us to express ourselves. What has come to be called “belly dance” (a Hollywood name, fyi) is actually one of the most ancient of dancing styles, with an obscure and debatable origin in human history. It is the main dance of my culture, the culture of highly sensual people moved by music, but it doesn’t belong to even us. It belongs to the Universe, and by proxy, to all of mankind.
As far as garb goes, each culture would be wearing their native garb, with only perhaps a scarf or belt to signify hip movements, in the past. Hollywood has inspired the proposed elaborate bras and skirts, adorned with jewels, bells, tassels, and coins that we see attached to the dance in various ways, mostly inspired by Egypt and Arabia, sometimes inspired by Asia as well. The most ancient cultures, the countries known for their beautifully dyed silks and delicate gossamer, their elaborate decorations and adornments with shiny metals and highly polished stones. Things that appeal to the highly sensual, no matter what their ancestry is.
So, before you get all heated up the next time you see a “white girl” adorned and dancing, stop and think. Is she sensual? Then she isn’t appropriating anything, she is being moved by the music and the beauty of the clothing and jewels. Just like all the other sensual people in the world. It is her connection to the Universe, and as such should be cherished. Not admonished. Encouraged, not an invitation into angry confrontation.
The idea of race assignment came from a man who was imposing his idea of beautiful on mankind. Now look at how we let that tear us apart. Embrace what is beautiful to you, and acknowledge that beauty in some forms is more universal than in other forms. Dance is Universal.
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