Letters to the Editor – 5/14/14

Here’s to history

In last week’s Poll, two of the five people quoted say that history was the most useless thing they learned in school. How sad. After all, history is current events seen in the rearview mirror, and studying history helps one to interpret the present and prepare for the future.

Just for World War II, listen or read Winston Churchill’s speeches, read Ernie Pyle’s dispatches from London and the battlefields, read Pegasus Bridge (glider pilots) and life in Hawaii during WWII. Read these and tell me that history is “useless.” As George Santayana said, “If you don’t know history, you are doomed to repeat it.”

History useless? Not on your tintype.

Arg Bacon

Evolving dances

I enjoy reading Bob Jones’ column in MidWeek, because he expresses ideas and opinions that are often thought but rarely said, and he takes risks in a culture that (still) values “not rocking the boat.”

I’m writing to comment on “Merrie Monarch Ignoring Hula Mua.” I agree with many of his points, but one statement stands out as an inaccuracy: “Dance evolves … If you demand tradition, we’d all do the 6,000-year-old bellydance.”

There’s one truth paired with a falsehood. Dance does evolve – in fact, all dances and languages do. With dances like hula that were based in oral tradition, or even what’s called “bellydance,” which has roots in social (and perhaps sacred) dance, the dance has changed and evolved with time, travel, restrictions and the practitioners themselves.

Hula, classical Indian dance and bellydance over time have been subject to restrictions and regulations, which almost led to their cultural demises. All these cultures share a history of colonization and misunderstanding.

Today’s bellydance is truly a global phenomenon, with as many styles as there are people. We have our “ancient” dance, akin to kahiko, which is referred to as Raks Baladi (Dance of the Country). These often folkloric dances are simpler but still athletic and accessible. Our stylized bellydance forms, known as Oriental dance, is called Raks Sharki, the Dance of the East. Like hula’s awana, these modern and contemporary dances include other global influences and elements that span ballet, jazz, flamenco and beyond. There are various cultural styles and forms of bellydance: Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Northern African and American Cabaret to more recent additions that include American Tribal Style, Tribal Fusion, Gothic Bellydance, Theatrical Bellydance – even Steampunk-inspired Bellydance!

So, yes, “Dance evolves.” Having fallen in love with bellydance 20 years ago, its diversity of “traditional” and contemporary styles is why I keep coming back for more inspiration!

Willow Chang Alléon Dance Instructor/Artist