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Jamila weeklong, here I come

posted in: history, workshops | 7

It’s finally in the works. My registration is in, and I am going to the Jamila weeklong next month. Booking flights and hotel next, along with Renee who will be a TA that week so we are traveling together. I love these bonding travels with Renee, where we get to dig into our passion for dance together and share in it on a deeper level than the day-to-day grind of teaching and running a troupe.

The workshop itself? As soon as the first one was announced, I knew it was just an absolute “must do” for me. While I don’t agree with the claim that Jamila was a “tribal dancer” as we understand it today, her influence is completely and inarguably inseparable from the evolution of tribal as we know it–her aesthetics and fusion of cultures was the inspiration for tribal and fusions of our day–and I am eager to dig into those roots and see how it influences my dancing today. It was that kind of “faux-kloric” dancing that got me excited about bellydance in the first place (studying with Aleili, from old school Yaleil) and I am excited to explore those roots in greater depth!

A little bit about Masha I hadn’t read before after the jump.

Interesting note from a Gilded Serpent Article by Najia

Masha Archer
“Masha Archer, one of Jamilla Salimpour’s ex-dancers, always had a booth at the Alameda Flea Market. She had become a teacher of Belly dance and had a very large San Francisco dance troupe. Masha was friendly with me, and she could be dramatic and intimidating! She was decidedly artistic, and had split away from Jamilla Salimpour’s group. She had her own dream and followed her dream. She and her husband sold exotic and ethnic jewelry at the Alameda Flea Market. They held large dance parties at their house. Although, she invited me to come to her parties, I never went because I knew it wasn’t my kind of scene, and probably, I would not have fit in with her other guests.”

“I saw Masha recently at a museum opening in San Francisco. She looked fabulous and even remembered me! Her hair was dark and slicked back like a Flamenco dancer. She was wearing large hair ornaments and her make-up was flawless. The artistic scene had won her over, and she went into fashion design; she had a real flair for it. If you saw her troupe, you witnessed something like Fat Chance, except that it was more elaborate. It was an original. There was enough Afghani jewelry on those women to sink a battleship! Fat Chance Belly Dance seems more limited in concept and almost dispassionate.

Masha had a social organization like Jamilla’s. However, it seemed to me that Masha had a sexual-revolution outlook on life then. I heard rumors that her parties on Minna Street, San Francisco, were very “free-spirited.” When dancers performed, they’d look intently into each other’s eyes, and we’d laugh because it made it seem that there might be an orgy-happening soon. Belly dance was more sexual in nature back then; that was precisely why a lot of us took it up in the first place! Many dancers, musicians, and performers of the time were famous for their mantra: Smoke a joint, dance, then, go make love, not war. There were no serious thoughts about disease as is necessary now.”

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

7 Responses

  1. Avatar
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    Hi Shay, it’s Sylvia (Chiara’s friend from Wellington). I’m researching for a seminar on the origins and development of tribal bellydance, and am eternally grateful for your generosity with your work on the subject. Thanks for the info about Masha – I don’t suppose you have the link to the Najia article it came from? I’ve checked the GS archives to no avail.

  2. Avatar
    Shay Moore
    | Reply

    Hey Ziva,
    I can’t access your profile to mail you any info! Write me at info@mandalatribal.com!

  3. Avatar
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    Hey Shay – I know you’re quoting and therefore not the author, but, I’d like to know why Masha’s look now appeared more original which would in turn make the FC look limited and “almost dispassionate”? Is it because there’s a costume base to FC ATS that creates some sense of uniformity?

    Anyway, I look forward to hearing your reports of your Jamila workshop experience.

  4. Avatar
    Shay Moore
    | Reply

    Hey O,
    You would of course have to get in touch with the speaker (this was an interview that was in turn written by Lynette Harris) to find out what she meant. But at least for now, we can’t assume that the speaker even knew of what she spoke. Without knowing when, how often, and in what era of the FC evolution she experienced their costuming, perhaps the comparison was valid.

    For instance, in…2001? I went to Rakkassah and FC was sporting an *extremely* pared down look–plain black skirt, no pantaloons (shocker!), plain black cholis, striped armwarmers, no hair acoutrements at all (not a hair wrap or turban or anything), limited to no jewelry.

    So now imagine this woman seeing that and deciding that is what FatChance looked like all the time. Or even if she only saw them a hanful of times, perhaps when they first started out and before they had established their own lush and layered look? We can’t know for sure. So take that line with a grain of salt…in any case, it is a personal opinion.

  5. Avatar
    Shay Moore
    | Reply

    Okay, so according to the article, the interview was conducted in 1999. So that gives some perspective on it.

  6. Avatar
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    Interesting remark about the pared down version of FC because when I saw them live in 2001 at a wedding, they were far from pared down in costuming.
    Based on the videos and photographs I have seen of Masha’s troupe, FC in fact held true to that look and tweaked it a bit.
    So, it truly depends on when and where you see them; and what their inspiration or event might happen to be at the moment in time for their costuming.

  7. Avatar
    Shay Moore
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    Exactly my point, Nancy. That one time and place I saw them was this particular look. It couldn’t possibly represent every performance they did that year, or ever did. So if one of Jamila’s limited experiences with them was a show like I saw, then it is likely the root of comparisons she makes in the article, which may not accurately represent the story of FC as a whole…

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