Being Blonde

This is one of those questions that comes up periodically on the med-dance list...

Can 'authentic' Middle Eastern dancers be blonde?

OF COURSE! Read on...
"A woman in my dance class recently mentioned that she thought it was 'blasphemous to dance blonde'. She would always either wear a wig, or dye her hair black. Any thoughts on this?" -cindy, who is quite blonde...
"Blasphemous, uh huh, yeah, right, and Geoffrey Dahlmer was a vegetarian, too, did you know? 8-} >;-> >;-> Wasn't it Dixie/Chandara who recently quoted that saying, 'opinions are like [certain parts of the anatomy], we all have them?' >;-> >;-> >;-> I might add a little note from a Kentucky aphorism as well: 'Some people are just bound and determined to show their tails.'

"This woman's allowed her opinion--but I'm sure she'd have more friends if she didn't make such comments to her fellow dancers. Are you better than her or something? >;-> (Sorry--just feeling really sarcastic tonight. >;->)

Anyhow--I think she's missing a few points--like all the *really good* fair-haired dancers who are *very* well-received by Arabic and Turkish folks. My Turkish colleague is what you'd call dishwater or strawberry blonde; there are red-haired and even blonde-ish Arabic folks and Turkish folks. There's a woman in europe that's fair-haired and, I think, Arabic--referred to as 'champagne of the dance?' And Leila Gamal has NO trouble being loved by Arabic folks, even mistaken--"But she MUST be Arabic! She dances it PERFECT!" ;-) (Overheard from a transplanted Cairene at a show.) Dahlena in varying incarnations has been blonde without exactly losin' any bizness, either. >;->

As a matter of fact, many Arabic peoples are VERY intrigued by fair-haired dancers--much more so than (unfortunately for the rest of us--no, i'm not the blonde defending the blonde, ;-) i'm quite brunette) they are by brunettes. A friend of mine who was in Egypt translated something from a newspaper that you'd *never* see over here: in an interview one reviewer speculated that one reason Fifi Abdo was (at least at the time) more popular than Mona Said was that Fifi is fairer of skin & hair...

If your friend who made the comment removes her head, >;-> I will not say from where, >;-> she'll see more of the world. >;-> ;-) ;-) ;-)

In other words: don't sweat it, sister.

--Shakira, who has obviously had too much caffeine. >;->

"Feiruz danced as a natural blonde in Egypt and in the L.A. Arab clubs for many years and is held in high enough esteem by the Arab community that she does a fair number of weddings and Hollywood hills parties for them. They don't seem to have a problem with the color of hair, because she's been a redhead for the past few years. I have noticed that short hair is not popular, but that is easy to deal with; hair is an extension (pardon the pun) of your costume." -jj-

"This dance is about being able to move your body in marvelous ways not what color your hair is. Right now my hair is salt and pepper gray at the top and meidum brown at the bottom when I make braids to wear under my turban they are my own brown. If I ever (which I might use a wig, hairpiece it will match my own hair. Be proud that "cindy, who is quite blonde" can do this dance and tell that person to get a life." --bieber_ys

"There are many, many early references to fair skinned, blond Circassians as being among the most prized of dancers (and other, er, occupations...). The technology for bleaching and dying of hair is not new, either.

"Once again we have people who don't know enough trying to put artificial limits on who can dance......

"This reminds me of going to a pow-wow with a friend who had never had much interaction with indians. She thought the bright colored yarn and dyed chicken feathers weren't "authentic". GREAT GODDESS!!!! they were made by indians! how could they not be authentic!

"Some people want to "freeze" the dance into one homogeneous image of one selected time and place (of their choosing). If this happens, the dance doesn't grow and loses LIFE." --Cheshme Bulbul

"I think it is fine to dance with blond hair but I do think it is blasphemous to dance blond. :-) (And that has nothing to do with hair color.) Feiruz and Sabah, two very well loved Arabic singers, have blond hair. Feiruz, I am sure, has created hers and Sabah has many blond wigs. I just saw a Lebanese dancer on one of the Coctail videos who has blond hair..." --Kahena

"I try to keep my mouth shut, but sometimes it's **really** tough - like now!

"Seems to me that many years ago (but not really that long ago) women were stolen from their homes in England, Ireland & the northern countries & sold into slavery to live out their lives in the sometimes gilded cage of the Harem - mostly coveted for their fair skin & blonde or red hair, and blue eyes. I believe the men of the middle-east are (or were) intrigued with fair skin & hair because it's "different" than the women who were (or are) indigenous to that region.

"In my research I have discovered that not only was the mother of every Sultan to rule the Ottoman Empire a slave (think about it, it's true!), but one of the most powerful & influencial women in Ottoman history was Naime' (Nachshedil - although I'm sure I spelled it wrong), Sultana & mother of one of the last Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, cousin of Josephine Bonapart (wife of Napoleon Bonapart), and a RED-HEAD!

"I will wear a wig when I am representing a particular ethnic group IF it is important to the presentation of the dance, as in the Guedra. In dances such as that I think it's important to be as authentic as possible WITHIN REASON. But I don't believe my hair should be any particular color to do what is generally accepted as bellydancing, any more than I think one's skin should be any particular color.

"So I don't believe it makes a darn bit of difference whether your hair is red, blonde, brown, black, gray or NEON PINK - just as it doesn't make any difference whether your skin is light, dark, freckled, or pink & purple poka-dotted! It's what's in your heart & your soul & the spirit of the dance that makes the difference!

"Shakira wrote: "if your friend who made the comment removes her head, >;-> i will not say from where, >;-> she'll see more of the world. >;-> ;-) ;-) ;-)" To that I say AMEN! And tell her to open a few books while she's at it!

"Make-up, tanning lotion and hair dye are only skin deep - ignorance and predjudice go clear to the bone!" --Chandara Gamal

"The first redhead to 'rule' the Ottoman Empire via the seclusion of the harem was a Russian, favorite wife of none other than SULEIMAN the Magnificent, Roxelana. (By the way, all the women in the Sultan's harems, with the exception of his sisters, were slaves, bought directly or given as gifts....& even the sisters were given in 'marriage' as gifts: they had no choice in the matter!))

"The second was Aimee de Rivery, cousin of Josephine Bonaparte, a convent-school maiden, who was captured by Barbary (BERBER!!!) pirates & presented as a gift to the Sultan by the Dey of Algiers. She was given the name Nakshidil & became a preferred wife (Kadin) of one Sultan & later the much-beloved mother (depending on which source, either natural or adoptive) of another & later, Valide Sultana: ruler of the entire harem & the ONLY woman who could show herself unveiled at the court, as mother of the Sultan..

"The film, with F. Murray Abraham (who deserved the Oscar he won for playing Salieri in 'Amadeus'), has 2 different names & stinks to high heaven (him too: horrific, cliche-drenched script) under both of them. I suggest you don't waste your time looking. The books are far better.

"Read "Sultana" by (so help me) Prince Michael of Greece or "Valide" by Barbara Chase-Riboud (gives great contextual historical/cultural info)"

Yours in dance & deviltry,
Folk Dance Police

PS "Circassian women were much prized in Ottoman harems for their light hair & eyes & dancing ability & were usually sold into slavery by their parents, who 1) needed the money & 2) felt that any life in a wealthy Turkish home (poor people didn't buy Circassians!) was better than the dirt-poor peasant existence in Circassia . "

"Being blonde has been no hindrance to my 25-year career as a dancer... and in fact has often made me stand out head and shoulders (or as long as I can grow it) above the crowd. However, in those instances where dark hair was appropriate, I have donned wigs under duress. I recently completed a three-year stint with Hahbi'Ru (folkloric troupe) and was never seen onstage in my "real" hair. With a dark wig (in tiny little braids with silver doo-dads at the ends), headress and eye-liner tattoos, I'm completely igcognito. The problem is after the show - then nobody recognizes me!

"Yes, blond dancers do hear plenty of the "how can you?" lines - and the best answer to all of them is to dance well, to dance with respect for the music and the culture, and to dance from the heart. For the poor misguided soul who started this whole conversation, may I recommend my article, "Belly-er Than Thou" in Jareeda, April 94? There are very few people in this business who have the experience and breadth of knowledge to make truly educated assessments of the form. And if this is the type of information this woman is getting from her teacher, she should be looking for a more constructive and positive learning environment as well.

"And hey, blondes aint' as dum as we looks, either! Let's lighten up on the judgements here... we're all in this together, and the more we do to support each others' growth and learning, the better off we'll all be. After all, it's not world peace (but it goes a long way toward making our own lives better, and that's the first step)." --Baraka

" I never saw the dance as being culturally exclusive and don't understand why some would criticize blond dancers. That would be like saying Africans and Middle eastern people should never dance ballet, play the bagpipes, sing opera or act in Shakespeare's plays because these were all European creations. Elitist attitudes do not belong in the arts, especially where `color' is concerned." --anonymous

"Just wanted you to know I am a pure Arab from Iraq and both my mother and I are blond. Also other family members have blond and red hair. It is a shame that we have to follow such narrow stereotypes. Also people are surpised to see that Arabs also can have light eyes. I think that dancers should realize that when they are dying their hair to be authentic they are only adding to false stereotypes. Yes the majority might have a certain look but not everyone." --(name deleted by request)

Last Modified: 26 Sep 2002
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