The relationship between bellydance and the media is complex and fraught with pitfalls. It’s all too easy for an uninformed, rushed or lazy journalist to fall back on tired old clichés: wiggling, seduction, sultans, “I’ve got the belly for it!” blah blah blah blah BLAH. But not Nikki Lott of the Dallas Observer! She has managed to misrepresent bellydance in a whole new way, by lining it up alongside vajazzling and masturbation! For her “article” on the Texas bellydance festival Ya Halla, Y’All she managed to be inaccurate and offensive, to reduce women to their body parts, to ignore the men of bellydance and the women who may not have those particular body parts, and (most damning of all for someone who has presumably been to a writing class of some kind at some point in her life) to spell “finger cymbals” incorrectly. From this latter point I suspect she falls into the lazy camp.
If you really want to read the original it’s here (for now): http://www.dallasobserver.com/events/yaa-halla-yand-146-all-belly-dancing-festival-2277215/ but rather then give them the page views I suggest you read Ozma of Japan’s response here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/notes/ozmas-costumes/ive-got-your-finger-symbols-right-here-missy/10150255647361618 or some of the comments on the Dallas Observer Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/DallasObserver Princess Farhana has posted a particularly fine “finger symbol”.
Not all meetings between bellydance and journalism end in such EPIC FAIL, there are plenty of well-written, informative articles out there. I was delighted when I agreed to be profiled by a Cambridgeshire magazine and was sent a list of thoughtful questions. I’ll be honest, some I struggled with but overall I was happy with the final article http://www.explorermagazine.co.uk/2011/02/emma-chapman/ . Much happier than the last time I made it into print in the *spit* Daily Mail. That came about after I had persuaded a local paper to write about an event I was putting on (and desperately needed publicity for), which was then picked up on by an agency who thought they could sell the story to one of those dreadful women’s magazines you see cluttering up the dentist’s waiting room. Instead it was picked up by the right wing rag and also the Telegraph online. Not what I would have chosen, and so I’ve been wary of courting such publicity ever since.
I have turned down appearances on breakfast TV (you want me to get up at WHAT time?) and local news, because my experience (or rather, that of other bellydancers I have seen) is that it will inevitably degenerate into “Let’s show the host how to do it HA HA HA LOOK AT HIM TRY TO SHIMMY” and I’m not in the business of humiliating people or turning my art form into one big joke. I have resisted the overtures of Britain’s Got Talent and Got to Dance, programmes who will fit bellydancers into one of only two categories: hot sexeh chick or sad deluded housewife. We are so much more complicated than that. I will not compromise my integrity in exchange for wider recognition.
One opportunity I was sad to turn down was almost two years ago, when I entered the draw to be part of “One & Other”, Antony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth project. That really would have been fantastic publicity, not just for me but for bellydance. A highly public platform (quite literally) in the name of Proper Art ….sadly when my name came out of the hat it was for a time slot I just couldn’t manage, because I was getting married!