On a discussion over in the comments section on this article on Gilded Serpent, there is some debate about whether Steampunk Bellydance is a legitimate genre of dance or not–the article asserts it is not, and some commenters argue the contrary.
One very articulate poster, going only by the name “T.”, is clearly a Steampunk practitioner/enthusiast/community member, and had some very articulate thoughts to share on her frustrations with the overuse of Steampunk in everyday parlance. A portion of her post read:
“It’s never a good feeling, having your meticulous, time-honored craft dismissed or eclipsed by a trend you have no immediate connection to. It’s difficult not to feel uneasy, watching your art form be oversimplified, lumped in, or lazily dismissed by an all-too-easy and reductive definition. It’s not fun, being shoved in a box that you have no desire to be in, even if that box is comfortable, or even inspiring, for plenty of others who’ve willingly placed themselves inside of it.”
My reply, which I share as a founding member of the Seattle Steamrats in addition to my over a decade of teaching and performing bellydance, are as follows follows:
A. Not to be flip, but I imagine this sums up the feelings of a large cross-section of the bellydance “culture” who feel that lots of different things have been tossed into a giant pile and called bellydance, for no other reason than someone likes bellydance AND something else, and they think that gives them the inalienable right to jam them together and call it bellydance. These sentiments ring true to artists of any and all ilk–there are always those who are trying to maintain a set of recognizable criteria and standards, and there are those who feel to do so is a constraint of their creativity. The former feels they are being undermined in their efforts to uphold their ideals, and the latter feels they are “taking it to the next level.”
I always argue that a dancer should be able to remove their costume and even the music (gasp), and those knowledgable of the style being presented should be able to recognize the dance they are doing. I have yet to see a performance called “Steampunk bellydance” able to communicate that fusion through purely movement. Tempest and I disagree on gothic bellydance as well–I have not yet experienced something under that moniker that didn’t look simply as either simply bellydance or generally modern/interpretive dance.
Think of it. Can you recognize tap without any of the trappings? How about ballet? Flamenco? Hip Hop? Irish Step Dance? Contact improv? Salsa? Jitterbug? Stomp?
And within these styles, experts can even discern sub-styles fairly easily. Yet with bellydance, often we throw on a different piece of music and a different costume, and we think we can call it something else. We need to look deeper, as a community of artists, to understand what really differentiates one style from another and whether it truly is a new style, or an existing style in a new frock.