All photos by Alex Scott
As we have seen in the past few days the belly dancing community is quite the passionate one, taking to phone lines and the Interwebs to defend and promote its art and culture. But even more impressive and impactful than on message boards and social media sites, was the passion I saw firsthand yesterday in the art form of actual dance.
Yaa Halla Y'all's 11th belly dancing convention opened its doors yesterday, and I can honestly say I was taken aback with a sort of harmonious collision of multiple cultures and styles of the dance.
With the belly dancing misnomer aside (the dance is actually known for being incredibly demanding of all regions of the body, not just the belly), there is also a certain sexualized perception often associated with the art form. Isis, owner of Isis Belly Dance Studio and Boutique and founder of Yaa Halla Y'all, offered insight that experiencing the dance will break down preconceived notions. "That misconception continues, up until the moment they come and see it," she said.
Though belly dancing is often viewed as seductive and perhaps decadent, at yesterday's portion of the festival, I saw a culture that was nowhere near the sort.
Sultry I can admit -- and it is entrancing for sure -- but the connection the dancers have with every aspect of the art supersedes any sleaze factor tagged on outside of a performance. Perhaps the focus on the beauty of the dancer rather than the dance adds to the problem, but then, neither can be denied.
For me, a photojournalist, the entire spectrum of production, from movement to costume design to music, added up to a very interesting, educational and photo-worthy experience.I popped in on three classes held Thursday, before the shows started at night. The first was a lesson in Arabic music, with regard to rhythm, melody and, of course, dance. It was a very friendly environment for dancers of all levels to learn, take notes, and enjoy the special teachings of Egyptian composer (and DJ!) Karim Nagi.
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