Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A call for integrity in belly dance periodicals.

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 find it ironic (explained below) that one of the only surviving popular and prolific periodicals is the Gilded Serpent. Most of the Gilded Serpent's articles are either insipid "reviews" of recent events which merely describe a dancer's lovely new Bella bedlah or who performed at a recent stage show, or the articles are ignorant attempts that insult fusion styles of dance. The Gilded Serpent's core authors appear to have an agenda: one that praises the old school and degrades those of us experimenting and pushing this dance forward for a new generation of dancers. To its credit, the Gilded Serpent does accept articles by guest authors; however, I feel that these articles are lost in the cacophany of criticism and nearly substance-free articles. I feel that the Gilded Serpent has become the tabloid of belly dance news, and yet so many people continue to read it... because there are so few other options.

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.


Amber said...

It would seem, in my very limited experience, that the majority of the open minded information seeking audience that you are speaking of is also open minded and forward thinking enough to use the internet.

Do you feel that an online periodical with those goals would be well received, and do you have resources for contribution?

If so, drop me a line, I've got some good technical resources..then again, you probably do too, but I'm sure your time is taxed!

Unknown said...

i agree with most of what you've got (self- editing should be self- evident) but as for the controversy...perhaps a tabloid isn't the best place to parse a particular phenomenon, but discussing it in a public sphere, without taking sides, but with the facts, could be valuable to the public (where the bd community is gossipy enough that getting the facts can be very difficult). if anything, even reading the odd position piece-- like the one article about burlesque vs. bellydance-- is at least thought-provoking.

i'll be very curious to see what comes of these calls for better articles. hope you contribute!

(ps- i'm a dancer over at sahara who's taken a workshop or two from you. tripped over this from tribe. promise i'm not a scary stalker. or, at least not scary. :D)

Unknown said...

Lets talk!