Employed at the Euro-Arab Centre of Catalonia ( http://www.centre-euroarab.cat/ca/ )
November 28, 2012
What type of activities do you develop at the Euro-Arab Centre of Barcelona?
The Centre is a non-profit organisation, we work in network and we collaborate with the different communities that are here and that gather at the Ali Bei Space. We support conferences or encounters where there can be bellydance presentations but we do not usually organize bellydance workshops. At the opening of the Cultural Journey dedicated to Egypt, celebrated from the 8th to the 21st November in Barcelona (led by Underground school), we invited a bellydancer that brought along many people.
Do you bellydance?
“I do not dance very well, but a little bit yes, I do dance”
“I’ve taken classes, and it was funny because the teacher was Argentinian, and sometimes I thought, it is ridiculous that I take classes with an Argentinian” (Aicha has Moroccan origins)
“There has been a boom of bellydance in the last few years”, and she quotes The Clone, a soap opera broadcasted on national Spanish television and the Turkish winner of Eurovision on 2003 SERTAB ERENER
Images that are associated to bellydance and to women who practice it
“Nowadays dancers are assimilated more to a role of artists…”
“It is important to take into account mixed spaces, it is not improper that women dance among them, but Arab men do not like their wife to dance in public”
“We have to point out there are many cultural differences in the dance of the different Arab countries. Also, there are men that are good dancers, especially the Syrians and the Lebanese, they use to be more tender/sweet than other men.”
“Yes, I would like my daughter having learnt how to bellydance, it is a way to relate her with her roots. But I have not done it because I do not have time”
“You bellydance to be seen but also for yourself, I used to bellydance to exercise a little”
“Arab women must have a different role, not only the one related to bellydance”
Benefits of bellydance
“If someone is interested he/she will make a research about the benefits of bellydance, for example, Elder people.”
“Latin American women practice bellydance because there is a cultural proximity with their dances; on the contrary, women of Arab origin, for what I’ve seen, there are few that take bellydance classes, they have grown up here and they do not know how to dance so they are ashamed…”
January 1, 2013
Baseema is Uruguyan and came to live to Barcelona ten years ago. She had always dreamt to do flamenco or bellydance. She chose bellydance, as she thought it would be the best way to approach the Arabic culture and world, as she considers the Arabic culture is at the roots of everything “you never end to get fascinated”
About the school’s philosophy
The school’s name is because the training rooms are situated in a lower floor, they are decorated with a feminine and contemporary furniture and taste. The visitor can notice it is not a typical Oriental or Egyptian style: "I'm not Arab, so I cannot represent another culture. I have no Arab roots but I try to disseminate this culture, basing myself on respect. "
Beyond the glitter, the stage and the “Hollywood bellydancer atmosphere”, Baseema’s major concern is what happens in the body of the bellydancers: "My greatest satisfaction is to see how my students can change, they use to start with a very low self-esteem, until they “find” themselves, this is what makes me happier than ever."
"(Arab) native girls have the dance inside, they can feel it, they are aware of their body, they don’t need to study it like me."
"When I went to Egypt, I do not know how but I could easily communicate with people, with my poor English, it was also when I realized that the Arabic classes had been effective, between Third-World people we could understand each other."
When Baseema began studying belly dance she missed the rhythm part, "as Westerners we are not used to this rhythmology". That is why in Underground school the first day of class the students are introduced to the basics of oriental musical composition.
"I love teaching belly dance, I can teach much better than I can dance".
Bellydance in Barcelona
"This dance is every time more popular in the city, indeed the boom happened approximately 5/8 years ago. Deborah Korek was a pioneer, the first who opened a big oriental dance school in Barcelona. Now there are many schools and a lot of competition, as we are all affected by the crisis. "
"Even if some members of the Arab community come to my shows, if they know and appreciate my work, most of the time we dance for a Western audience. The public is increasingly expert, things have evolved. You can also find more and more specialized teachers. The bellydance students help to spread this dance between the people around them, the effect domino is very large. "
"The students come in search of sensuality but in the first few months, nothing; I call it the `duck period´´"
"The students usually come with the idea that this dance is not technical."
How do men see bellydance? How do they see the women who practice it?
"My husband did not know anything about it but now he can recognize a woman who dances well... Men have no other choice than end up inside, because their girlfriends want them to go and see them... '
"When I started bellydancing my husband suffered a lot, until my dance became pleasant to see".
There is a blog called the “Association of Victims of Oriental Dance” (http://alergiaoriental.blogspot.com.es/search?updated-min=2007-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2008-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=22) , it was initiated by boyfriends / husbands of bellydancers, teachers and students related to bellydance in order to share their experiences. They tell how they often have to be the show photographers, hangers, errand boys, sound technicians, drivers ... Some of them get surprised when they discover the amount of existing bellydance accessories, the music. They tell how their girlfriends change her name and take Arabic names…
"When you have a male teacher it is good because it obliges you to find your own style, when you have a female teacher there is always a natural temptation to imitate her"
"Yes, I have some male students, usually there are two different types of profiles: on the one hand, those who accept and are comfortable with their femininity and want to develop it (gays), and on the other hand, those who are interested in music, dance...
How come are there so many bellydance fans in Latin America?
Argentina is probably one of the places where nowadays belly dancing is more recognized, there are many communities of Syrian and Arabic origin.
January 18, 2013
Fatima Sounssi works in collabroation with the Euro-Arab Centre of Barcelona and has developed various organisations and events in order to celebrate the diversity of cultures and to promote Eastern cultures (Arab and Asian): such as Atmósfera Oriental (www.facebook.com/atmosferaoriental), Orientalia ( www.orientalia.es ) or Festival El Món a BCN ( www.facebook.com/elmonabcn ).
She acepted to full in our Questionnaire and sent her answers (in Spanish) by email:
Do you like belly dancing? Yes, if the dancer is charming and elegant.
Do you belly dance? If so, where and when you do you like dancing? No
What adjectives or images come to your mind when we talk about belly dance? And about women who bellydance? Relaxation, well-being, self-confidence.
What do you think of belly dancers clothing? How to see it? It depends.
Do you think men should do belly dance? Why? Actually, there are already men who bellyance. Bellydance performed by men is specific.
How would you see a man belly dancing? I am ok with men that bellydance as long as they do not copy the movements made by women.
In your own experience, in Catalonia, generally what images do people have of belly dance? Is it known? Is it common for people to practice it? I think belly dancing has a good image in Catalonia and there are plenty of opportunities to learn it.
From your experience, in Catalonia what is the most common image of Arab women?
In general, the image of Arab women is not very good with exceptions of the persons who have had the opportunity to share and live with some of them. The Arab women is seen as a person with low cultural level, who has veil and many children.
Which images do people have about bellydancers? According to you, what do men think about them? And what do young men / women think about them? Among European society, the image is good. Among the Arab population, the perception is variable: they can be admired for the art or be considered as bad women.
In your opinion, what phrase or words are most appropriate to name this dance: belly dance? Oriental dance? Raks Baladi? Raks Sharki? Oriental dance
January 22, 2012
She is a dancer, teacher and choreographer of belly-dancing and the artistic director of the Sehar Company. She was awarded as the best choreographer in 2005 in Budapest (Arabian Nights Festival). Salima is also a flamenco teacher and dancer.
How did you start belly-dancing?
“I always liked belly-dancing and always felt attracted by the stage. I was studying to be a German teacher, once I concluded my studies I have worked as a teacher but my passion for dance was so strong that I had to dedicate all my time to it. Later on, I started to get interested in flamenco and attracted by Spain, by chance I came to Barcelona…”
“Belly-dancing and flamenco have a lot in common (music, history…), I tried out to put them together focusing on the body part and this experiment was very successful. I have danced flamenco oriental in many parts of the world. People like it very much because it mixes the flamenco’s strength and power with the Oriental tenderness. Arab people generally are fond of flamenco oriental, it gives them another perspective.”
“In order to be able to dance flamenco you need to be overconfident. Flamenco gives much security to women; you have to have airs and graces, to be full of yourself, of presence and self-esteem in order to dance flamenco”.
How would you define your style?
Salima’s vision of belly-dancing
“Oriental dance is evolving. In some countries, for instance in Russia, there is a strong demand for complex steps, actually some belly-dancers are only interested in learning new choreographies, new movements and gestures, but if you don’t work the performance part the results can be quite bad…
You can have a good technique but if you don’t understand a single word of the song… The fruit of the efforts has to be harmonious…
Also, artists have to bear in mind that there will be always someone who won’t like your work, the way you dance. Artists must accept this as a matter of fact.”
“A good belly-dancer should be able to perform all the different kinds of oriental/belly-dancing, from the most popular and funny like Balady to the most dramatic ones like Tarab.”
“A good belly-dancer is someone that has good technique and high performance skills.”
Flamenco is so hard that you can never know if you will be a good dancer.”
“Many Arabs believe only them can belly-dance well, the same happens with the Spanish and flamenco. But in my opinion although it takes more time, foreigners can belly-dance like the Natives. That’s also why I like meeting people from Egypt and other Arab countries, I need to learn how they do behavior, their gestures, what is important for them, how they live a feeling, a relationship, etc.”
“For the foreign bellydancers the most difficult part is the language. If you cannot understand the lyrics you have to look for a translator. I do have a translator for myself, as I don’t speak enough Arab to understand the songs. And the music, you have to enjoy very much the music if you want to enjoy belly-dancing. And you have to be always curious.”
“Belly-dancing is not like theatre, the communication, the relationship with the audience is highly important.”
“I do not offer therapy classes because I cannot do what I don’t know, I am not a therapist. However, in order to belly-dance, the simple fact of belly-dancing makes you work on your self-esteem, to believe in yourself. Some of my students are really ambitious; they are fascinated with the stage.
But I have other students who just belly-dance for their own, they do not want to share what they learn with other people nor perform for an audience. These girls enjoy a lot because they enjoy the process, they do not mind being on the stage.”
“Belly-dancing is not a solitary activity, many friendships have set up thanks to belly-dancing, and there is much emotional support. Of course there are always some rivalries, but generally not inside the school. This happens also in other fields; people have to struggle to keep offering classes, to maintain their job.
“I use to travel a lot to Egypt to get training and take fresh air, to know music, dancers and see Egyptian folklore… artistic belly-dancing world in Barcelona is a small world.”
What do you think about men who belly-dance?
“First I didn’t enjoy it too much but later I got used to it… On the other hand, there are many men who dance folklore. In Egypt there are many male folklore teachers. I like when there is a male energy, but some male belly-dancers have bad taste. Personally I really fancy Tito Seif.”
Have you ever danced in a wedding?
“Last time I travelled to Egypt I had the opportunity to perform for an engagement, there were many people, men and women mixed, veiled grandmothers with headscarves, women with medium length clothes and women with modern mini-skirts. First, I didn’t know very well how it would be. They had also invited a folklore dancer. People started to encourage and stimulate the fiancé couple; the atmosphere was very nice so it helped very much. At the end, some people came to congratulate me.”
Who are your audience, your pupils?
“In my school I have female students from 18 to 50 approximately. For my students, bellydance is like a drug.”
“I do not offer beginners levels because I cannot compete with the cheap offer of the Civic centers (public leisure urban centers in Barcelona). I am specialized in medium and advanced level training.”
Belly-dancing in Egypt and in Spain
“In Egypt there are not many belly-dancing troupes like in Spain, there are only folklore troupes. In Egypt it is hard to find private and independent belly-dancing schools as in Barcelona…
In Egypt if you want to take high level belly-dancing training as a professional you have no other choice then looking for a mentor.”
So… why do the foreign bellydancers go to Egypt to learn belly-dancing?
“There are many international festivals where foreigners can participate and take lessons with live music. Here it’s impossible to belly-dance with live music, tourists don’t come to Barcelona to attend a belly-dance show, so there is no solution, no way out because musicians cannot earn their life playing only Oriental music in Barcelona…
In Barcelona the shows’ audience is generally related to belly-dancing (students, teachers), it is not very usual to see “common” people attending the shows, there is a lack of dissemination, I wish there were not only those who already know belly-dancing who came to the shows and festivals.”
“In Latin America, belly-dancing receives much support, people fancy belly-dancing a lot, many people practice it, they have their own style.”
When I organize shows, I mix different styles in order to educate my audience. It has to be varied if I don’t want them to be bored: so, I propose classical oriental ballet, flamenco oriental, belly-dancing, tribal fusion…
I have noticed that the Arab and the European audience never agree: they always have very different opinions, the (European) students’ families will appreciate the most attractive and visual pieces, the fusion dances, because they are more used to listen to Occidental music. Instead, my Arab audience will generally prefer the most classical pieces in the show, they appreciate slow dance, when it is sweet and tender.”
What do you think about the belly-dancing shows offered by the restaurants?
“I don’t like them because they are not well organized, first, belly-dancers need space, if there is no stage, no space, I consider it’s not respectful for us. Moreover, the audience is generally too closer to be able to appreciate the show. One can notice that tablaos (place where flamenco shows are performed) are very well organized. It is easy to find excellent flamenco shows in Barcelona, with a great atmosphere, good dinner and high quality show.
In Barcelona, tourists are offered genuine flamenco, why don’t we do the same with belly-dancing? We should programme authentic belly-dance shows without forgetting that the genuine belly-dancing is evolving in Egypt.”
What do your relatives think about belly-dancing?
“My husband discovered belly-dancing thanks to me, when we met I was already a belly-dancer. When my friends ask me if my companion has no inconvenient that I am a belly-dancer I say to them “if he had problems with this he would not be having a relationship with me”.
As for my family, at first it was quite difficult for them to accept me as an artist, with a hippy style life. It seems that I am always enjoying my time but belly-dancing requires a lot of work, you have to create choreographies, to practice, but also to organize the shows, to do marketing…”
Belly-dancers social perceptions
“The biggest stereotype I had to face in my life is that people do not see belly dancing as an art. The worse experience I had was when I still lived in Hungary, I was promoting my bellydance classes to my tai chi teacher (who is supposed to be quite open-minded) and her reaction was “but this dance is only aimed at seducing”, I decided not to go to the tai chi anymore”
“In Egypt professional belly-dancers are not always seen with good eyes, it’s a more conservative society, many women do not work and are not independent. Of course the upper class, who has more money and studies see it differently, but for the major part of the society a woman cannot do whatever she wants, because they are concerned about “what do people will think of her?”
I do take belly-dancing as a serious thing, not only as a simple and cheap entertainment, because it is about transmitting culture.
About the most common image of Arab women in Barcelona, Salima thinks it’s hard to see them, they use to walk in the street with their children but there are no many opportunities to know or talk with them.
What can you say about the belly dancers clothing?
“Sometimes I use clothes that I have designed myself. People who make belly-dancing clothes and accessories are very creative, they always invent new products.
I noticed that if you want to be successful with an Arab audience you should always dress more covering clothes, wrap yourself. However, if the audience is expert it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, some girls show too much fleet, what makes people see us as scrubbers… You have to be sexy but with good taste. The Arabic standard is demanding: belly-dancers have to be handsome, good-looking and have some curves if they want to be successful. Many girls have an operation…”
“Generally I don’t like speaking too much but when I speak about my passion that is different.”
Member of the board of Casa Egipcia ( http://www.casaegipcia.com/contenido/la-casa-egipcia-el-camino-la-libertad )
Amir is Egyptian; he has lived in Barcelona since 2000
Janaury 24, 2012
Can you briefly describe what activities does Casa Egipcia develop?
Casa Egipcia has existed since 2007. It is a meeting point between cultures, our activities involve Egyptians and Arab immigrants but also Catalans, Latin-Americans...
Do you also work on immigrant and discrimination issues?
“We do not have the resources or the means to do so. If someone points out a problem of discrimination we refer him/her to the Euro Arab Center of Catalonia, they have lawyers.”
Do you like belly-dancing?
“Yes, I do, it is part of my culture.”
Do you think belly-dancing is merely Egyptian?
“I think it is international, each people and each time has its own version. The essence of belly dancing was for the enjoyment of the boys, it is the art of showing. Actually, in the Arab imagination, a true belly-dancing teacher must have “something” to show. But of course this vision collides with the Western concept of gender. And if you do not have the codes, if you are not initiated to belly-dancing, it seems only light, noise and shining colors. So for instance in the United States they changed it and created fusion tribal, they transformed the idea of a sensual or a sexual girl and made her more wild and intense, it is still belly-dancing but with an Occidental interpretation.”
Do you practice belly dancing?
“Yes I do, at home. Among the Egyptian guys it is quite common. It is not exactly the same as girls dance because belly-dancing is for girls.”
In your own experience, in Catalonia, what images do people have of belly dance? Is it known? Is it common for people to practice it?
“In Spain, belly-dancing is well regarded, particularly in Catalonia because people find it sensual and original. The shows and exhibitions rooms are always full. Although there are not so many people who practice it, since 2004, there has been an increasing number of belly-dancers in Catalonia.”
Amir points out that in Catalonia belly-dancing has become a business, a good job opportunity. Girls who can belly-dance well won’t become rich but they can earn their life.
“In Egypt until recently it was well regarded but now it is socially looked down upon. Egypt is greatly affected by the Islamist government; there is a very religious and conservative turn in the Arab world. When Egypt was still a secular country it was different. In less conservative countries such as Lebanon belly-dancing is still well regarded. But the wave of religion is affecting all the arts, not only belly-dancing.”
And how do you (as an immigrant) see these changes?
“Seen from here, what is going on seems quite weird.
Which images do people have about belly-dancers (professional and non-professional)?
“Here belly-dancers are well considered because they are artists, they are professionals. Belly dancing is seen as an art.”
Do you think there are many Arab immigrants who belly-dance in Catalonia?
“I think there are very few girls who belly-dance, as if I were to take Arabic classes…!
In Catalonia barely 5% of belly-dance teachers are native from Arab countries. But those who are obtain a big success.
Last year in the International Belly-dancing festival of Barcelona a Japanese was appointed as the best belly-dancer. Personally I find it a little strange to see a Japanese girl belly-dancing.”
About the belly-dance shows’ audience
Generally there are more women than men in the audience, and those who come do not come for the sake of art but for flirting.
Would you like your partner belly-dances for you? And in public?
Of course I would love my partner to belly-dance for me and for the others also.
February 8, 2013
From a very early age he started collaborations with professional orchestras and with 16 years he joined the National Orchestra of Morocco. Subsequently he made several trips to Egypt and Gulf countries, investigating the rhythms of the Arab world. He got in touch with Said, the most renowned artist of the Arab world and travelled to France to broaden his knowledge of Western music. He came to live to Barcelona in 2000 and actually he is playing with different bands such as “Nash Marrakesh”, “Rosa Zaragoza”, “L’Orquestrina”, “Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona”, “08001”, “Tarab” y “Mashalà”.
What do you do? Do you have any relationship with belly-dancing?
I’m a percussionist and a percussion teacher. Some belly-dancers used to ask me to play for them, a percussionist always has interconnections with dance.
How is belly-dancing seen in the Arab world?
Belly-dancing has always been associated with prostitution; the majority of people don’t see it well. Men like attending belly-dancing shows because they can see flesh; it’s hard to change this perception.
At home, in family celebrations it is well regarded, but when it comes in the public space, on stage, the concept changes… In a family celebration belly-dancers use to dress decent clothes.
Still, and generally speaking, it remains an art that does not have a good reputation.
What is your personal opinion about belly-dancing?
I see it as an art. The problem is that there is no formal base, no standards and no rules, you can find little documentation and investigation on it. This is one of the reasons why in Spain there is poor quality as regards as belly-dancing practice and teaching.
How about belly-dancing in Spain?
Belly-dancing came to Spain approximately 10 years ago, and the problem is that after taking a few classes, many women proclaimed themselves belly-dancing teachers. In general, belly-dancers in Spain do not even know the rhythmic, they do not learn the basis, they learn directly the technical…
As far as belly-dancing shows as a cultural offer, they are not worthwhile, they cost too much.
Sometimes I am on the stage, I am playing and people continue talking but as soon as the belly-dancer arrives everybody shuts up…
Many friends of mine feel envious because I work daily with belly-dancers but I got used to it, this is my job, I do not see belly-dancers as the rest of men.
In Spain which are the topics on the Arab world?
There is no knowledge; people are not really interested in learning more on Arab culture. And there is no political will to disseminate this culture, it’s sad but the Spanish heritage related to the al-Andalus period is not promoted. Many people don’t even know where Morocco is... It will be long to change the minds, to stimulate Spanish people appetite for this culture. In Spain the authorities do not invest enough in education, this is a reality.
As far as the role of women is concerned, it hurts me when I listen to the Spanish people say the Arabic women are not free, because they have to be covered etc. I feel hurt because nobody can talk on a culture without knowing it well, this is only a stereotype.
What is the profile of your percussion students?
Many of them are belly-dancers, it’s not necessarily because they are curious about the music, the fact is that it is quite trendy among the belly dancers to learn percussion. I also observe that many of them take Arabic classes.
What do you thing about women who belly-dance?
I don’t like the women who use belly-dancing as a means of prostitution. When you look at a belly-dancer you can see the one who bellydances to provoke and the one who does it to dance, it depends very much on the way you look at the audience and the way you dress.
February 8, 2013
This interview has been published in http://graziellanegri.over-blog.es/
What do you do?
I’m a Bollywood dance and Belly-dancing teacher and Conscious belly-dancing instructor. I’m also a coach and Emotional Intelligence trainer. I was scriptwriter for the short film “Dance! The Conscious Femininity” ( http://www.danzalafeminidadconsciente.blogspot.com.es/ )
What is your relationship with belly-dancing?
Yes, I've been teaching belly dance for twelve years in Madrid, I have been a professional dancer and soloist in the flamenco-Arabic company of Monica Tello and I created my own shows with my dance group.
What adjectives do you associate with belly-dancing?
I find it’s an excellent tool for women's self-knowledge, to get in touch with your body, your feelings and your energy. It lets you know your body at a deep level. It is a dance that connects you with your femininity and to your power through your body and your emotions.
What adjectives or images come to your mind when we talk about women who belly-dancing?
In my opinion, women who belly dance look for, consciously or unconsciously, a way to reconnect with their feminine side, with their body and energy. I think we have masculinized us much and lost that connection and through this dance we can feel it again.
And this disconnection generates problems of self-esteem, so I have seen many women who seek recognition and acceptance of man through their body, which I think is dangerous because it robs us of our true power. Through this dance women can feel her power again, becoming more autonomous in her opinions and acceptance, empowering herself.
What do you think of the belly dancers clothing?
I think it is very beautiful, full of colors and fantasy that celebrate the female body and femininity. It is also very varied as it includes the folklore’s clothing of many parts of the Arab world.
What do you think about men that belly-dance?
Well, Arab men dance folklore, and I love to see them dance, they are very masculine and full of energy, vigour and joy. I have known few men who dance belly dance as women, and in my opinion, this dance is more typical of women and women power than of man, as far as I have researched, belly dancing comes from ritual dances that women did to commemorate their ability to create life and fertility, and many of its movements remind those of a woman during the labor.
Although, in any case, I believe that each person is free to dance whatever he wants, so if a man wants to belly dance, I will be glad to teach him!
In your own experience, in Spain, generally what images do people have of belly dancing?
In Spain it has becomes famous, the media have popularized it through some artists or music videos.
It is considered a sensual dance in order to like and attract men.
About two years ago there was much demand for this dance, but it has declined considerably in recent times giving way to Bollywood dance and Zumba, as many people follow the trends, especially the youth.
In Spain, how do people perceive belly-dancers (professionals and no-professionals)?
From what I have been said I think belly-dancing is especially striking because it is so exotic. And many women, when I tell what I do, answer: it's such a beautiful dance!
In your opinion, in Spain which are the topics about the Arab world and culture?
I think in Spain the image of the Arab world in general right now is not good, as it is considered as ignorant, extremist and dangerous. There are many topics and images created around the Arab population that lives here and who is associated with crime (drugs, theft). Actually Arab culture is not known and the media do not help to spread a true picture of it, focusing only on its negative aspects, such as terrorism and religious radicalism.
Many people have the idea, in general, that it is a macho culture that oppresses women and subjects and does not respect human rights and freedom of individuals.
In your opinion, in Spain, what is the most common image of Arab women?
The image we have is of being a battered woman who is put down, resigned, that have no rights or freedom, and many of them accept their situation and even defend it. I've read a lot about it and I think that while this is true in many cases, there are also many Arab women with education that are trying to make their roles change in the Arab society.
How could we change these topics?
I believe the way to change oneself or the status quo is through knowledge. Dissemination of different realities in these countries, supported by testimonials from the people themselves, would help to have another view of them.
Status of women, sexism and gender-based violence here (Spain) and there (Egypt): differences and similarities.
The fundamental difference in terms of gender-based violence in Spain and the Arab countries, as far as I have studied and know, is that it is socially acceptable in the Arab countries while in Spain, battered women receive protection and assistance from the state and the people who practice it are prosecuted by law. In many Arab countries abuse is part, unfortunately, of the marital and family relationship. I've read horrible things in this regard, especially testimonies by Saudi women.
Any other comment (optional)
Yes, I would like to point out that from Arab women I learned the value of sisterhood and thanks to them I discovered female complicity, which led me to wonder that maybe in our Western society as women they educate us more on values that belong to masculine energy than of our own feminine energy. That’s why I started a physical and intellectual investigation on female energy and its qualities and it led me to create two years ago, Conscious Belly Dancing, with the goal of providing women with a tool of self-knowledge of her true self essence.
February 11, 2013
February 11, 2013
What do you do?
I’m the Director of the African Studies Center ( http://www.centredestudisafricans.org/ )
Do you have any relationship with belly-dancing?
Do you like belly-dancing?
I do not know it much but I do like it.
Have you ever belly-danced?
Which adjectives do you associate with belly-dancing?
Sensual, exotic, mysterious
And what about belly-dancers?
The same adjectives as above.
What do you think about male belly-dancers?
I do not associate them with belly-dancing, belly-dance makes me only think of women
In your own experience, in Catalonia, what images do people have of belly dancing? Is it famous?
The stereotypical images I mentioned above. Belly-dancing is rather known and some people learn it but I think there is a very superficial knowledge. You can find belly-dancing schools but it’s not so common to dance it.
In Catalonia, how do people perceive belly-dancers (professionals and no-professionals)?
Professional belly-dancers here are perceived as any other dance discipline teacher (salsa, merengue or other). Regarding Arab or Oriental dancers who practice belly-dancing, I believe they are associated in part to sexual work and eroticism of the Arabian Nights and harems.
In your opinion, in Catalonia which are the topics about the Arab world and culture?
Here there are very contradictory topics: on the one hand, the Arab world is associated with Islam, extremism, terrorism, backwardness, machismo and, on the other hand, there are exotic topics: harem, sensuality, handsome men on camels passing through the desert dunes ...
In your opinion, in Catalonia, what is the most common image of Arab women?
The dominant image is that of women submission to their chauvinist and retrograde males (husbands…).
February 11, 2013
What do you do? What is your relationship with belly-dancing?
I’m a yoga and a belly-dancing teacher, I also dance with Nefer shu company in Barcelona. I use to work with pregnant women. By chance, I saw some belly-dancing classes which were advertised on the street so I started to study in 2004, and I got hooked to it.
What adjectives or images come to your mind when we talk about belly dance? And what about the women who bellydance?
Beautiful, skirts, veil, feminine, sensual
How do you relate belly-dancing with yoga?
Both are complementary, yoga gives me balance, while belly-dancing helps to work your creativity, the female energy; it gives me great confidence and strength as a woman. Belly-dancing enhances expression of femininity. Since I have practiced it I have become more feminine, I have noticed the effects of belly dancing on my femininity, I learnt to let my hair, to dress, to makeup, to move and to interact with people…
In your own experience, in Catalonia, generally what images do people have of belly dance? Is it famous?
It is quite famous. There can be many different opinions, some people may see it as a provocation. However, generally speaking, people use to like it, it is rather respected.
Why do you think belly-dancing is so successful here in Spain and in Europe?
Belly dancing make women move their reproductive and sexual organs, that’s why it releases so much tension. It reminds us that we are the creators.
Belly-dancing and gender roles and stereotypes
Once I was invited to dance for a birthday celebration and next door, some boys were celebrating a stag party with a strip-tease. There was only a screen to separate both spaces. I felt uncomfortable that day because I didn’t want people to compare belly-dancing with it. Belly-dancing is a pure and a spontaneous dance. When I belly-dance I do not intend to create a particular emotion or arouse the other any feeling.
Written answers by the creator of “Alergia oriental”blog
(wants to stay anonymous)
(wants to stay anonymous)
The blog is addressed to men who have their women or girlfriends who love bellydance or are professional bellydancers
What do you do?
I am a Web programmator
What is your relationship with belly-dancing?
My partner has been moving her belly during 10 years, so we can say she is professional. At least, she considers herself as professional.
Do you like bellydancing?
I like what conveys a bellydancer who enjoys dancing.
Have you ever bellydanced?
At home I sometimes imitate my girlfriend. To her regret I do a lot of complex movements without having ever studied it or taken a class. I might have been a dancer in another life…
Would you like your partner to bellydance for you?
Sometimes she does it. But I have to say that less often than I would like.
Would you like your partner to bellydance in front of the public?
She does it.
Which adjectives would you use to describe bellydancing?
Sensuality, joyfulness, illusion.
Which adjectives would you use to describe women who bellydance?
For the major part of them: arrogant, competitive, invidious, conceited
The minority... workers, persevering, mystic, sweet and sensual.
What do you think of bellydancers clothing?
It is too tied to fashion and to whims. They are too expensive and too focused on highlighting femininity. It is curious that we fight to avoid sexist clichés but then the clothing leaves little to the imagination.
What is your opinion of men who bellydance?
They have all my admiration. It is a world dominated by women where men do not usually have a place. Curiously men do not need a lot of level, they don’t have to be very good to be considered "good professionals". They are generally treated and seen as "freaks".
Is bellydancing common in Spain?
Actually it is famous and practiced much more than we figure, but as it is not rooted in our culture it is still considered as an exotic and undervalued dance.
How women who practice bellydancing are considered in Spain?
As I have watched hundreds of performances of my partner and her friends I can say there is only a small circle who really admires the dancing, choreography, art ... The rest of the audience just sees a scantily clad woman moving lasciviously. Men drool and women look suspicious while striking with the elbow their partner.
But you must differentiate between private dances or dances in public. Generally when a dancer acts in a place where you have to pay an entrance it implies that the attendees know what they will see and have some ability to assess the performance. When bellydance takes place in a public space or as a street animation, all sexist and macho clichés that might exist trigger.
In Spain, what are the topics on the Arab world and culture?
Dirty, manipulators, criminals, smugglers, intolerant ... In general, any topic is good.
In Spain, which is the most common image that exists about Arab women?
Status of women, sexism and gender violence in Spain and Egypt: differences and similarities
We bring much advantage in this respect, our education tends to generate equality between men and women (though it is not always entirely true). In (Arab) society, machismo and abuse are something rooted in their culture and their religion.
She is coordinator at Amnesty International Catalonia, an independent organization that struggles for human rights at international level.
April 25, 2013
Gender based violence (GBV) is the most extensive violation of human rights in Spain. This phenomenon affects all women for being women, regardless of their place of residence, social status or age.
One of the aspects that Amnesty International (A.I) has analysed is women access to justice and protection. A comprehensive law to protect women affected by gender-based violence (GBV) was approved 8 years ago in Spain but there are still obstacles to protect women.
The authorities say that if women do not denounce their aggressors they cannot protect them. But if the judiciary system does not protect women, denouncing is not a progress itself for women who have been abused.
Amnesty has registered 6 main problems:
- The lack of interprets in the stations and courts: women are not informed correctly on their rights and on the tools they could use, on the running of the judiciary system, etc.
- The legal aid: deficit in the availability and quality of the lawyers responsible for defending women
- Lack of diligence in legal enquiries: women victims of violence have to promote the researches and provide evidence themselves because public prosecutors and judges use to discontinue their case instead of looking for evidences. Women who suffered GBV have to evidence they are innocent.
- In case of psychological and sexual violence, women face hard difficulties. If there are no physical marks women can hardly have access to justice and protection.
- Phenomenon of the counterclaim: the attackers use this technique to pressurize the victims.
- Prejudice and treatment of the victims especially if they are illegal immigrants. They are afraid to report to the police or the court because they fear of being expelled.
Spain is a country which has a comprehensive law against GBV but this law is not actually protecting women. The State is responsible to protect women who suffer GBV on its territory, regardless of their administrative situation. A.I has written a report which analyses how the Spanish law against GBV has been implemented so far and which presents the obstacles that prevent the fulfillment of the law.
The data on GBV should be broken down and analysed in order to identify the problems of the judicial system and to appreciate the situation of GBV and human rights in Spain.
What does A.I do?
A.I works in order to train the persons in charge of taking care victims of GBV of the judicial and health sectors so they can provide a correct assistance to the women who come to denounce GBV. These trainings aim at encouraging women to continue with the process of denouncing.
One should be aware that GBV is the most common human rights violation in the world, it happens in every country regardless of its political or geographical situation, it is a general phenomenon that is socially accepted. In many countries, including in Spain, people need to increase their awareness of GBV being a human rights violation.
We are preoccupied because GBV is normalized. One should be aware that GBV is as serious as torture or deprivation of freedom of expression. A.I works to increase social awareness and provides training to specialized groups like the police, the judicial and health sectors, so they can treat women who suffer GBV in a respectful way.
The economic and financial crisis cannot be an excuse to cut back on human rights, there is a minimum that should be respected. Some of the measures that are necessary in order to improve the protection of women are not expensive; they only depend on the political will. For example, women should not cross with their abusers in court.
Spain is not very advanced in justice and protection of women who suffer GBV. Spain faces a serious problem of judicial enquiry. Consequently, women who live in Spain do not know if the system will protect them, they live in fear of men and violence.
Women should be involved in the evaluation of the protection measures.
A whole part of the society is not aware that GBV is a reprehensible. There is still a lot to do in order to have a society that condemns violence in a clear and forceful way. In Spain Catalonia may have the highest nº of organizations and associations that work in order to increase the awareness on GBV.
On the role of women in the changes that Arab countries are facing, Adriana said that women are participating but so far they are not benefiting of them.
Thank you to all the guests who accepted to participate in our research!!