Why is it that belly dance periodicals don't seem to pride themselves on well-crafted, objective, and thought-provoking writing, and instead publish poorly-written, subjective, insulting, and inflammatory articles? Are we belly dancers as a community that nasty, ill-educated, catty, and insecure?
I would like to say that on the whole, most of us are well-educated, nice, and generally good people. If an outsider read the most popular of our online periodicals and message boards, she would not get that impression.
This dancer is tired of the poorly written articles that value style over substance and controversy over content.
Here's what I wish for:
- Articles written by dancers who are experts on the subject matters on which they are writing.
- Articles that focus on the art and history of this dance, rather than the gimmicks and controversies.
- Authors who can proofread their own writing, or have the foresight to have a colleague proofread for them.
- Authors who check their facts.
- Authors who can identify and check their assumptions about other styles and dancers.
- Authors who can take the time to spell other dancers' names correctly.
- Authors who, if presented with a DVD or CD to review, have the honesty to tell the periodical, "I am not qualified to review this, so please ask someone else who knows more about this style/subject/dancer."
- Performance and product reviews that are neither hate-fests nor love-fests, but are objective and analytical dissections of the performance or product in question.
- Authors who, if they are offended by a particular style or dancer, do not immediately write an emotionally charged article for the sake of stirring up controversy. We are all passionate about something in this dance, yes, but we don't need to go insulting others to show others how passionate we are.
- In relation to the previous point, authors who, when faced with something that offends them, take the time to understand and conduct some research on the offending style/dancer.
- Authors and articles who don't resort to commenting on the appearance or costuming of a dancer. (Please comment on the quality of the dancing; frankly I don't care if someone was dancing in a baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants or if she's in a $1000 Eman.)
- Publications who seek out quality authors, rather than just allowing their friends and favorite dancers to write articles.
I assume (yes, I could be wrong) that most of the Gilded Serpent's readership is the same population of dancers that lament the passing of the more scholarly paper publications of Habibi and Arabesque, both of which developed a well-earned reputation for well-crafted, well-researched, and honest reporting on our dance. Where are all of those dancers who read these periodicals? Wouldn't you want to see our dance's publications rise up to the high standards that these now defunct periodicals set? Or did these publications perish because we as a community don't really have an appetite for academic research and writing on our dance? I would hope that isn't the case, but I fear that the passing of these magazines indicates that our community would rather wallow in insults and subjective ass-kissing and back-biting than to take the high road of objectivity, research, and integrity in our written products.