3.06.2013

In reSearch of Raks Sharki...Harlem Shake

By now I'm pretty sure you've seen or heard of the latest video gone viral. Of course I'm speaking of the "Harlem Shake."
You can find the original goofball video that has spawned thousands of copycats here: Original Harlem Shake Video.
Copycat versions don't stop at high school kids going crazy in their room, or office workers shaking it up in their break rooms. We're talking the FAA is actually investigating one of the videos, (click here for video) as it was shot in an airplane thus possibly presenting "safety and security issues".
It's gone political in Tunisia, fueling the rivalry between secularists and Islamists.
We've even seen a bellydancer or two take a crack at it. See Jillina's version here.

But from all the buzz that's come of it, the one video that has left the biggest impression on me is the one embedded below, from Melissa Harris-Perry. Who by the way is Laural Victoria Gray's niece.
Ms. Harris-Perry delivers as she states "When communities create original art they have a right to some creative control over it's definition…creative interpretation is expected to respect certain boundaries -- that's what conveys the respect". 





I have to say, I agree with her. This is an issue I see time and again in bellydance. This does, however, remind me of how easy it can be to create a dance routine, choreography or project with nothing but the best intentions and yet come up short on the integrity or artistic side of it because we didn't bother to brush up on history, culture and roots. If we're not aware, could we be guilty of cultural misappropriation? 

Creative interpretation brings with it responsibilities. Especially if you are putting your work before an audience. I'm sure none of the "Harlem Shake" participants had bad intentions and they certainly didn't do anything wrong. They weren't putting their videos out there as professional work. And they most definitely aren't putting it out there for instructional purposes.
But this does make you think, doesn't it? If you're at a teacher or performer level, whether it's pro, full time, part-time, hobbyist, this is some serious food for thought. 

How does this help my search for Raks Sharki?
Although this was not about Raks Sharki specifically, the lesson applies across the board to all cultural dances.


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