Level One: Infinities Unit, Class 4
Updated: Feb 23
Borderns drawn by colonizers have contributed a lot to the diaspora from countries in the Levant and beyond. In this week's piece, Roxane touches on the difficulty with transliterating Arabic script into English letters (which is why so many Arabic words have so many different English spellings) and on carrying cultural traditions in the diaspora. One member, who uses a stage name to keep her performing private from her family, said:
“You cannot bulldoze a dance. It’s something that can be carried with you. It’s intangible culture, right?. You cannot take it away. When my family came (to the US) they couldn’t carry anything. What could they carry? They could remember the dances, they could remember the songs, even when language in their tongue was ripped out from being able to speak, what could they do? They knew the songs, We knew the dance..... And I feel like reclaiming that, and making these moves, even in the face of making your family angry or eliciting potential shame or messing up and shaming your name or whatever, is to make it a radical act of reclamation of joy." ~Hye Jinx
Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on the Arabian Peninsula and Levant. These regional highlights are meant to give a general orientation, and really only scratch the surface of the diversity of arts in the MENAHT/SWANA area (Middle East, North Africa, Helene, & Turkey/SouthWest Asia & North Africa).
Many of the dancers in the US have come from Palestinian families displaced by the Nakba and ongoing apartheid. It is important to separate the desire of people on each side of those walls to live safely and freely from guilt born by governments, and to acknowledge the massive power difference between Israel and Palestine.
On the dance side, many Palestinians express pride in their heritage through the local styles of dabke, and bellydance is popular on both sides of the walls. Jackie, a dancer here in the US, has been working to document Mizrahi Jewish dances from all over the MENAHT.
A group of young Americans performing Palestinian Dabke.
Israeli dancer Orit is dancing to the Egyptian song Ansak, about reuniting with a lover that you could never forget. There are many instrumental versions of songs that are so classic the audience know the words. It was originally sung by Om Kalthoom, who has her own museum in Cairo.
Finger cymbals are the ultimate way to cary your music with you!