Gypsy, Flamenco & Middle Eastern Dance

Origins Misunderstandings

"The gypsies travelled and [spread] the dance behind them, and the dance [split] into Oriental dance and Flamenco..."
"Sorry to tell you, this part is incorrect. No time to go into detail right now, & I do wish, for the sake of my people that it were true, BUT:

"Flamenco came from the Moors (Moroccans) that ruled Andalucia for about 900 years (specifically from the Houara & Rikza part of the Schikhatt) & Oriental dance comes from North Africa & the Turkic regions of Central Asia...." --Morocco

" The origins of flamenco are one of those hotly debated issues which I don't think anyone can really prove. Certainly it was influenced by moors/eastern dance, native spanish dances (whatever those might have been) and it's greatest proponents were probably the gypsies. They may have even been some cross- influence of flamenco back into Turkish and other Middle Eastern dances. None of this stuff is that clear-cut and proven. Despite all the 'moorish' dance interpretations you will see, there's very litle info on what these actually looked like - there is a 'moorish' style of flamenco dance that hints at what it might have been - it's performed barefoot.

"Certainly there was dance 'happening' from earliest times, but as to documentation for something officially called the cult of "flamenco" that begins very late (early 19th C?) when people started paying attention to and copying what the gypsies were doing in the realm of what came to be called flamenco." --Me'ira

"...I've been in this field since Dec. '60, learned from within the ethnic communities & been travelling to the Mideast & N. Africa since '63.

"Before that, I was with the the Ballet Espanol Ximenez-Vargas & am Rom on all 4 sides, but choose to live totally in the Gaje world.

"1) There *are* 2 Gypsy groupings (mainly by language): Rom & Sinte. Gitano (Cale) came about because the Rom in Spain were forcibly prevented from leaving by the various Spanish governments & so, another 'language', Calo, developed: it is Romnes, with some thieves' cant mixed in, with Spanish word endings & grammar. Could give examples, but don't think it would be of general interest....

"2) [In response to a post suggesting ME dance armwork was mostly borrowed from Flameco dance.] In Oriental dance, the arms `frame' the dancer & the movements. Arm movements have always been alot more varied & complex than you indicate &, in point of fact, the arm & hand movements of ballet come from Mideastern/Persian dance, brought back by Crusaders & travellers. (The foot/leg moves of ballet originated in Spanish Basque men's folk dance...). They were just as complex in the '60s as they are now, & did NOT come from Flamenco. Au contraire.

"I know: I was there & was very careful, after the first month or two as an Oriental dancer, to use only movements I'd learned from Mideastern women, in their homes & at their parties.

"3)[In response to a post suggesting there is no connection between Flamenco and ME Dance.] The very word "flamenco" comes from Arabic: fellah al mangu (remember those Moors the very Catholic Ferdie & Isabella would've loved to forget???? Not to mention Torquemada & his Inquisition!) One shouts "Ole", because to shout "Allah" would've lead to being burned to a crisp. Almost 10% of Spanish comes from Arabic: *every* word that begins with "al" - algodon, almoada, alfombra, Alhambra, alba, aceituna, ojala, etc. - not to mention el cid..... Some chauvinistic or uninformed Spaniards would like to think "flamenco", even when it refers to that beautiful dance form, means Flemish or flamingo, because it really burns their buns to acknowledge anything from the Moors. NOT!

"Ever seen *real* Zambra Mora? (as done by La Chunga?) It is done barefoot, with (take a deep breath now) finger cymbals, the blouse/shirt is tied under the bust & the skirt is tight around the hips, then flares out & has a ruffle at the end. The movements are entirely hippy/undulatory..... Could demonstrate, but my computer doesn't have a camera attached (I ain't stupid: I know what I look like in the a.m. & around the house....)

"In Maghrebi Arabic (Morocco), "zambra" means party. In Levantine Arabic, it's "hafla", in Egyptian it's "farrah"...... Zambra Mora: Moorish party. Gitanos were sometimes also called "Moor", because both are "brown" skinned.....


don't know if it is an insecurity on the part of BDs and they are hoping to pick up some "legitimacy" by connecting themselves to flamenco, or what, but Flamenco uses very little that is in BD. (The Spanish Gypsies and my Rom ancestors would be horrified.)
"Wasn't too long ago (as late as the '50s: I was there!), Flamenco wasn't considered a "legit" dance form & it & its performers were very discouraged/discriminated against by the Franco gov't. Carmen Amaya's world-wide popularity & Pilar Lopez's very classy dance co. notwithstanding. Antonio Gades did one hell of alot to turn this image around.

"I have to tell you that I resent the implication in the above "legitimacy" remark. *Oriental* Dance (only proper translation of Raks Sharki) is one of the oldest continuing classical folk forms still in existence today & far older than Flamenco.... Proper recognition is one thing & lack thereof is mainly due to the remains of what was condescending racist misinformation. Legitimacy is another thing entirely. This is, without a doubt, a legitimate art form. (That remark was what "inspired" this response, BTW)

"Just 'cause something's at a Website (Gypsy - which is *not* written/maintained by Gypsies - &/or Flamenco), doesn't make it gospel truth. Alot of my people are really good at & take delight in putting one over on the Gaje by telling b.s. stories re origins, developments, etc. You want to know about Gypsies in the last 2-3 centuries in Europe, read Isabel Fonseca's Bury Me Standing.

"Hope I haven't scared you away: wouldn't want to do that, I'm just really specific about these things 'cause I've been fighting misinformation my entire life, since it often leads to discrimination & persecution (also, unfortunately, been there, as recipient....) I'm a firm believer in checking things out in person, whenever possible...

"Yours in mutual dance & scholarship,
Morocco/Carolina Varga Dinicu"

"Sorry, but video tapes didn't exist then: mid-late '50s. ...The dancer's name was La Chunga, which means "ugly puss" in Calo (Spanish Gypsy). They called her that because she was drop-dead gorgeous.... no kidding.....

"Might be a film of her moldering away somewhere in Spain: wish I knew where it was, but I *saw* her do it, in person & I'll never forget it. Saw a few other really good Zambra Moras during that time, too.

"Although for people like us, they are a fabulous learning tool, video cassettes/VCRs & battery operated audio cassette players are a very recent phenomenon & have done more to alter/change folk music & dances (by bringing the "latest" in Western music, fashion, dance to the hinterlands, terribly influencing the existing music/dance cultures that had been there) in the last 15 years than the previous 1500, to our great loss & regret, IMNSHO [In My Not So Humble Opinion].

Maintain Masmoudi madness,

Russian Gypsy Dance

"...there is NO SUCH THING as Russian Gypsy "belly" dance.

"Laurel teaches Russian Gypsy theater dance. NEVER has she (or anybody else with any *real* knowledge or experience) advertised is as any sort of *Oriental* dance. It is just one more in the myriad variety of folk dances in this world that is fun to do & looks good while one does it, so it's also fun for the audience.

"However, where your confusion might be coming from is that she's been doing a series of workshops with Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, who DOES teach TURKISH Gypsy Oriental stylings.....

"In Russian Gypsy theater dance, you do get to wear long, full skirts & ruffled blouses & shake your shoulders & do great slow barrel turns....." --Morocco

"You recently requested some info. re: "Russian Gypsy 'Belly' Dancers". Although Morocco has already set the record straight, I feel partially responsible for this possible misunderstanding of terms because I am probably the one whose posts you have read that have mentioned a teacher of Russian Gypsy dance. And because your question has led me to believe that you may have missed Morocco's post, I shall basically repeat part of what she said in an attempt to clarify this misunderstanding.

"As Rocky stated, Russian Gypsy dance is NOT `belly' dance. In fact, the Gypsy dances that I have studied are all very unique, and none are `belly` dance. The closest exception to that `rule` that I am aware of could be Ghawazee dance, which is Egyptian Gypsy dance. However, the movement vocabulary is still unique for the most part unto itself.

"Gypsy dance forms certainly do contain elements that can be incorporated into a fantasy/interpretive style dance that could be presented as a sort of bellydance. Please be careful to call this what it is; an interpretive/fusion/fantasy description would fit (pick one of the above!) Dalia Carella does a wonderful fusion style of Kathak (No. Indian style dance), Turkish Gypsy style dance and Flamenco which she calls `Dunyavi Gypsy` (`Dunyavi` is `world` in Hindi).

"Over the years in America, bellydancers have occasionally performed dances mistakenly labeled as `Gypsy`. Many of these dancers had all the good intentions in the world, but unfortunately were ignorant of what `real` Gypsy dance is. For example, the use of tambourines during these fantasy Gypsy dances. Nowhere in my research have I ever encountered evidence that `real` Gypsies ever danced w/ tambourines. It has been postulated that this was a misinterpretation of glamour photos that were posed shots taken by and for Europeans. Because the members of the band often played tambourines, it is surmised that the photogs simply had the dancers pose w/ the instruments to make a more interesting photo. This is only one example of many that have caused a misinterpretation of what `real` Gypsy dance is in America.

"Thankfully, over the years, we have had opportunity to learn more about genuine Gypsy cultures via our `emissaries` that have gone to the countries in question and have learned as much as possible (this can be difficult, as Gypsies are traditionally very private and unwilling to share their traditions w/ outsiders.) A few people have been able to learn from Gypsies who have immigrated to the US. One of our `List Sisters`, Morocco, is of Gypsy extraction and is very knowledgeable on this subject.

"I will once again HIGHLY recommend Elizabeth Artemis Mourat's manuscript entitled : GYPSY DANCING- SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION. It will help dispell some of the myths still prevalent in re: to Gypsy dancing and Gypsies. It is available directly from Artemis for (I believe) only $10. Artemis can be reached at: (301) 565- 5029. Artemis has many `specialties`, one of which is Turkish Gypsy dance. There are numerous books available at your local bookstore or library about Gypsies as well. One is Bury Me Standing- the Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonseca.

"As for the Russian Gypsy dance artist mentioned on the List, she is the incomparable Laurel Victoria Gray, who among her many `specialties` is the performance of Russian Gypsy dance. This style is farther removed from bellydance than the Turkish Gypsy style. It is very dramatic however, and has enormous potential for those fusion pieces, in my opinion. Laurel can be reached at: (301) 585- 1105.

"Both Laurel and Artemis will be teaching in a two-day workshop and evening show in Berkeley, Ca. in June of 1997. The workshop is entitled `Gypsy Fire`, and will focus on traditional, authentic and stage possibilities for both Russian and Turkish Gypsy dance. Actual video footage of "real" Gypsies will be shown during the workshop as well. You may e-mail me privately w/ your snail-mail address and I will be happy to send you a flyer if you are interested.

"Thank you. I hope the terms are a bit clearer for you, and that your interest in Gypsies will continue to grow. Happy dancing!"

--Kajira Djoumahna

Last Modified: 15 Jun 1997
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