The business of Art disgusts me. The idea of buying, for example, a drawing just because someone else says it is going to appreciate in value is revolting. Warehousing artworks against future sale, likewise. I'm the kind of flaming romantic who knows soul-deep that the point of making art is in the making of it. Selling it is something else altogether. For me, art, creation, is about the doing not about the payoff. If something you make or do is good in your own eyes that should be enough. In the performing arts including dance the performance is the final stage in the realization of a personal vision. I also know there is a drive to perform or to have one's creation or skill or physicality seen or heard and in some way acknowledged. My personal model for performance is the chamber group where people come together to play music. They play standards; they play their own compositions. They play jazz, classical, rock, folk, or any other kind of music. Their aim is simply to play and to play as well as they can. Perhaps they polish work to offer to an audience or perhaps they don't. The joy is in the playing.
Or in the dancing. I've been watching the joy being cut out of belly dancing as a combination of opportunistic commercial interests and bloated egos have seized upon it for their own ends. To me as a longtime observer and dancer these alterations appear to be largely destructive. And worse yet, the disease which has infected our dance is but a local flare-up of larger social ills. It was from this position that the over-idealized description of performance in the last paragraph and bile of the following ones come.
Something has gone abysmally wrong in belly dance world. As I see it lot of the current toxiciness has to do with belly dancers thinking we're entitled to a special pay-off. Too many of us have been running around the dance peeking under chairs and pulling up rugs convinced that if only we can happen on the right spot there's going to be a nice pile of cash there waiting for us to sweep up. And laying there on the dust along side the cash will be heaps of adoration emanating from unknown but awed masses. Oh, that we might hit on the right formula for then surely we shall garner not only pots of lovely money but sweet helpings of intangibles like love and fame or celebrity or our pictures on the cover of the Rolling Stone.
Pardon me, but neither this dance form nor any art is about getting rich and famous. Admittedly, rich sounds nice: Money affords those who have it the possibility of time, choice and independent action. While time and choice and independence do not guarantee happiness they do improve the odds of experiencing it. But money on its own is not the answer. As for famous, well, that's a crock of dung. Didn't your parents love you enough, leaving miserable little you starving for affirmation from strangers? Aw, poor baby...Tell your shrink; don't take it out on the dance.
Art is about love. Art is about passion. Art is personal. Art is something a person does because that person must do it or die. If an artist is talented perhaps the work will be shared. Or perhaps it won't. So what? The crucial element is the act of creation, a single moment in which we humans approach the Divine. And please note: the formal arts are by no means our sole access to such moments. What art isn't about is getting paid or being on television. Getting paid and/or being on television are potential secondary goods (if being on tv can be called a good of any kind) that may occur as a result of artistic achievement. Those are not and should never be our primary goals.
Yet somehow money and celebrity have become far more important than doing something for the love of doing it. The belly press and the internet are full of self-proclaimed celebs, stars in the heavens of their own minds, advertising the fabulousness of themselves and their unique visions of the dance or busily mailing out notices of their exciting upcoming appearances. Women with day jobs are knifing each other over $75 a week for wonder of dancing in front of audiences who care mainly about cleavage if they're aware of anything beyond the plate of food in front of them.
And what's even more pitiful is that too many women entering the dance become socialized to value paid performance as the height of attainment. Under that scheme there is an invariable and inevitable progression from student to professional in which the avowed hobbyist is considered less worthy than the aspiring pro. Pardon me, but this is a damn stupid bucket of crap.
Bring back the love!
So there you have it, the suppressed entry. I know I‰¥úm being over general and I know this is a fast once-over on several complex topics. From now on topics will be smaller and much more tightly focused.
Thank you for your patience.