A Short Rant...Gross Mislabeling

Allow me to jump right in. For simplicity's sake I will only mention the two most widely used terms to describe bellydance categories but this applies to just about every category out there. 

Wearing a cabaret costume does not make you a cabaret dancer if you are a tribal style dancer. 
Wearing a tribal costume does not make you a tribal dancer if you are a cabaret dancer. 

There are very, very, very few dancers that can pull off both or more categories expertly. And even then you see influences or at the very least telltale signs of the more dominant style within them.

Claiming to do Raks Sharki while integrating Fat Chance arm movements, spins and turns does not produce a Raks Sharki performance. 

Likewise for Tribal. Claiming to do a specific Tribal style just because you plopped in some super slow snake-y arm movement and some Zoe Jakes locks and pops in the middle of your Egyptian routine does not make an actual Tribal style performance.

Asserting to do so only negates all the work, commitment and devotion previous dancers, teachers, masters have put into their craft and the overall art of the various forms of bellydance. In addition, it further advances erroneous and confusing ideas of the dance. In short it is disrespectful and irresponsible. 

So why does this happen so often? If it were mainly newer dancers, I could take it. But it's disheartening to see when experienced dancers with a substantial reach out to newer dancers make these mistakes. Why does it happen? Have they not been exposed to the rich range of bellydance? Do they not know the history of the dance? Are they not familiar with the roots of their own style? Do they even care?

Now, if you're talking "fusion" that's a whole other subject. There's certainly more leeway in mixing dance styles. But even then, the dancer still has to actually know WHAT they are dancing  AND do those styles justice.

Ok. Thank you. I think I'm done with my rant. But I SO would love to hear your 2 cents. What are your thoughts on gross mislabeling?


  1. Well, I think a few things might be at play here... Some of it is probably misinformation. We tend to trust what our teachers say, so if we're told that an ATS style spin is acceptable as part of a Raks Sharki performance, we'll believe them.

    But in the case of people who are trained in more than one style of dance and *should* know better, they probably either decided to add that "wrong" move into their choreo because it just fit the music so perfectly to them, or they were doing improv and fell back on an old favorite even though it was inappropriate for the style they were doing.

    As for mislabeling, how much of it is just blatant keyword stuffing on YouTube videos? For instance, the dancer KNOWS what she is doing is fusion, but in order to show up on more searches, she also tags it as ATS and Raks Sharki and Turkish belly dance and hula because she threw in some things from each of those in her choreo?

    Anyway, I think we can try to prevent this sort of thing by doing our best to make sure that people learn the difference between the various styles (either by telling your students, or explaining it to friends and family who ask what style of dance you do), and making sure that we are as honest as can be when labeling ourselves.

    1. Hi AJ,

      Yep, true. We do trust what our teachers say. So I suppose the responsibility lies with the teacher to give the most accurate information possible. Which requires research and not just relying on what one previous teacher may have told them. I think this is why it's so valuable to study with different instructors and take a variety of workshops.

      What a good point you bring up re: "keyword stuffing on YouTube videos". Some people do get carried away with all those descriptions and again are not all that accurate.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I think there is a ton of misdirection and mislabeling in belly dance all together. If you think about it, MOST people are introduced to Cabaret of some form when they start out or just to get people in a class the instructor just calls it a belly dance class. I know I have been in several classes through my travels that are labeled as such. Since many of the dance communities I have been have been so small most teachers just combine many styles of dance and don't let the students know otherwise.

    If this acceptable behavior for future dancers that might be more serious about classes? I seriously doubt it. I mean I can see dancers that shouldn't be doing certain moves in both styles and know for a fact that that type of movement while it looks good does not belong in said dance.

    I think as a dance community there should be more checks and balances with what a dance performs as. If the dancers says this is a Cabaret style dance...then all the moves should be cabaret style same goes for Tribal and other styles of belly dance. If they don't want to label it as such then call it Fusion and no one can say too much about then.

    This confusing misdirection/mislabeling of dance is part of the reason I've stopped dancing.

    1. Hey Dina,
      I'm with you. People should really make more of an effort to correctly label their videos and/or performances. A little overlap is inevitable and understandable but sometimes it's just straight up wrong:\

      Like I said in another reply, when someone decides to be a bellydance teacher, it's much more than regurgitating moves previously learned. It requires some research and investigation on the teachers part. Or at least being honest about labeling what they learned and how they learned it.

      I can see how it may be discouraging to come across some wrong information. If you decide to dance again I hope you find the right teacher for you:)

  3. I so agree! this is one of the things that really bugs me about a lot of performances. I hate to see dancers put into their solo what they think are all the cool (but overused) "tricks" and cliche combos from whatever videos they've been watching lately. UGH :( Especially that arm/hip move from Fat Chance we've seen for over a decade now - if I never saw that again it would be too soon. PLEASE, can dancers just change ONE LITTLE THING about a combo to make it their own?? That's all it takes - change the arms, change the head, timing, SOMETHING!! geez


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