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Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

topic posted Wed, February 4, 2009 - 3:49 PM by  Noodle
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Hello, I'm doing a paper for a sociology course in school on subcultures, and since i have interest in the dance i thought i'd be cool if i included it somehow. My question is--If the Middle-Eastern dance community in the United States( i guess in other places too) could be considered a subculture? Seeing that it is a minority in the larger dance circles, could it be considered a subculture in the dance world itself?
Any thoughts on this would help greatly.

Thank you,
lauren the bellydancing sociology student =)
posted by:
Noodle
West Virginia
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  • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

    Wed, February 4, 2009 - 6:06 PM
    Well, first I'd have to ask you -- what are the criteria that your professor has put forth for a subculture? Let us know those criteria & we can chime in better on whether or not we think the community would fit.
    • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

      Wed, February 4, 2009 - 6:15 PM
      Thanks! Exactly what my thoughts were.
      • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

        Wed, February 4, 2009 - 8:52 PM
        Wiki says:
        In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden) which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong. If a particular subculture is characterized by a systematic opposition to the dominant culture, it may be described as a counterculture. As Ken Gelder notes, subcultures are social, with their own shared conventions, values and rituals, but they can also seem 'immersed' or self-absorbed—another feature that distinguishes them from countercultures. He identifies six key ways in which subcultures can be understood:

        1. through their often negative relations to work (as 'idle', 'parasitic', at play or at leisure, etc.);
        2. through their negative or ambivalent relation to class (since subcultures are not 'class-conscious' and don't conform to traditional class definitions);
        3. through their association with territory (the 'street', the 'hood, the club, etc.), rather than property;
        4. through their movement out of the home and into non-domestic forms of belonging (i.e. social groups other than the family);
        5. through their stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration (with some exceptions);
        6. through their refusal of the banalities of ordinary life and massification.[1]

        As early as 1950, David Riesman distinguished between a majority, "which passively accepted commercially provided styles and meanings, and a 'subculture' which actively sought a minority style...and interpreted it in accordance with subversive values".[2] Sarah Thornton, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, has described 'subcultural capital' as the cultural knowledge and commodities acquired by members of a subculture, raising their status and helping differentiate themselves from members of other groups.[3]

        In his book Subculture the Meaning of Style (1979), Dick Hebdige argues that a subculture is a subversion to normalcy. Subcultures can be perceived as negative due to their nature of criticism to the dominant societal standard. In essence, subcultures bring together like-minded individuals who feel neglected by societal standards and allow them to develop a sense of identity.
        • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

          Thu, February 5, 2009 - 2:26 PM
          I think Belly Dance at its best defies the cultural norm for how women should look and which women are beautiful. I think from the beginning it was a means for women to gain support and empower themselves in a male dominated society. In that sense... it might be a subculture.
        • Unsu...
           

          Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

          Sun, February 8, 2009 - 7:07 AM
          1. through their often negative relations to work (as 'idle', 'parasitic', at play or at leisure, etc.);

          deff. not ^_~ hours of training, sewing, training, sewing, training.....

          2. through their negative or ambivalent relation to class (since subcultures are not 'class-conscious' and don't conform to traditional class definitions);

          well, we have different "classes" not economic ones, but "beginner", "intermediate" "advanced" "hobbyist" "professional" i don't see neg. attitudes about economic class, and there is generally support and a lot of tolerance between "our classes" (like when everyone lets us beginners throw in our 2 cents ^_^)

          4. through their movement out of the home and into non-domestic forms of belonging (i.e. social groups other than the family);

          yeup ^_^

          5. through their stylistic ties to excess and exaggeration (with some exceptions);

          "Q: how many costumes does a belly dancers need? A: just one more!" (although i think this is a dangerous attitude for many reasons)

          6. through their refusal of the banalities of ordinary life and massification.[1]

          glamour and expressing your inner-self threw your dance. that fits ^_~
  • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

    Thu, February 5, 2009 - 4:38 AM
    Hi Lauren!
    I believe it is a subculture...... The dance community has it's own codes of behavior and etiquette and there are some unpleasant consequences for breaking those..... (Social exclusion from the main group and so on) Like many other cultures the "young" members - new dancers - are given a break during the learning period but only for as long as it takes to "grow up" a bit...... An example might be a brand new dancer who shows up at hafla in a really skimpy costume.... The first couple of times, other "older" dancers will let her know nicely that while her cistume is very pretty that she needs more of it and will be willing to help her find more appropriate alternatives...... after a bit, that will no longer happen and she will be penalized by getting the cold shoulder or nit being socialized with because she refuses to follow the rules...... One of which is that you don't go without coverage on the "naughty bits" ;)

    We have our own language - shimmy,omi,kuchi - and our role models - insert favorite dancer here 8) our own gatherings - haflas and tribal fest .........

    I hope this helps and makes sense,lol, it's still pretty early in the morning and I haven't had my coffe yet 8p
  • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

    Thu, February 5, 2009 - 5:05 AM
    Hi all! Thanks for the replies! What Irena got from wikipedia pretty much covers the criteria. :-)
    • Unsu...
       

      Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

      Sun, February 8, 2009 - 5:03 PM
      For me, thinking about how an academic would answer this question... I don't think the term "subculture" can be used for a dance style. We can (and do) have a bellydance community, but that's it. If bellydance was a subculture...then gosh, everything would be. Massage therapy, pilates, yoga, exotic dancing... and then the word would lose it's meaning. Sports and the arts are just that, sports and arts. Not subcultures. But hey, I'm a psychologist, not a sociologist...so I'm not saying I have the final or expert say on this. :)

      And yo, wikipedia...? I'm not tryin' to be snarky but wikipedia is from hell!! I admire the premise ("knowledge of the people" thing) but I don't trust it.
  • Re: Is the Bellydancing 'community' a subculture?

    Sun, February 8, 2009 - 5:41 PM
    I agree with Angell and Fariha that it is a subculture for many of the reasons they point out. I think the bellydance community is one of those things that the "rest" of society is relatively unaware of unless they know a bellydancer, whereas the culture associated with other sports and arts are pretty well understood... or at least familiar to your average person.
  • I dunno...

    Tue, February 10, 2009 - 4:11 PM
    I wouldn't call it a subculture, unless having a somewhat unusual hobby makes you a member of a subculture. Most of the folks who belly dance live very normal lives. Cars, jobs, kids, mortgages, etc. Those who are dwelling on the economic margins and/or identifying strongly with folks who aren't integrated into the mainstream are probably not doing it for reasons related to dancing. However, folks who have decided that dance/music is so important to them that they are living in vans and roaming around from one gig to another and communicating via the internet in public libraries are a sub-culture, IMO.
    • Re: I dunno...

      Tue, February 10, 2009 - 4:21 PM
      I think it IS a subculture... and personally, I'd like for it to STAY that way.

      I don't like BDing in the mainstream. It becomes bastardized, trivialized, and basically made "less than" what it is... a true ARTform. If I see a pseudo-belly dancer in another rap video, writhing around on the floor in barely more than a bra and belt, I will SCREAM!!!

      <I think Belly Dance at its best defies the cultural norm for how women should look and which women are beautiful. >

      Nicely said, irena!
      • Unsu...
         

        Re: I dunno...

        Tue, February 10, 2009 - 5:55 PM
        "I don't like BDing in the mainstream. It becomes bastardized, trivialized, and basically made "less than" what it is"

        but i don't think that is unique to belly dancing. it seems like pop culture (at least around here) isn't interested in anything that isn't sexed up.
        • Re: I dunno...

          Tue, February 10, 2009 - 8:09 PM
          Very true! But BDing is near and dear to my heart. ;o)
          • Unsu...
             

            Re: I dunno...

            Wed, February 11, 2009 - 6:24 PM
            ditto ^_^
            • Re: I dunno...

              Wed, February 11, 2009 - 7:10 PM
              Now that I've had the time to think about this more, I think it might be a little bit of both... subculture and community.

              Subculture to those on the outside.

              Community to those of us who are involved...(dance sisters, anybody?).
    • Re: I dunno...

      Wed, February 11, 2009 - 5:05 AM
      Don't belly dancers often compare themselves to other dancers? Are ballet, tap, or modern dancers considered part of a subculture?
      • Re: I dunno...

        Wed, February 11, 2009 - 6:19 AM
        You can easily find a ballet dancer somewhere... just head to your local major theater (i.e. Lincoln Center in NYC). If you want to see a belly dancer, you really need to look for one. I like that. I like that BDing isn't easily found.

        BDing has always been a little on the fringe (pardon the pun). You need to go to an ethnic place, a Ren Faire, or something similar that most people don't go to every day. You have to seek it out.... but isn't it worth the effort? :o)
        • Jo
          Jo
          offline 3

          Re: I dunno...

          Sun, February 15, 2009 - 11:23 AM
          I don't know if I really consider bellydancing a subculture. To some degree, cultures are like species - they inbreed. I don't think this happens in bellydancing and I am actually suprised this is not part of the qualifications of subculture - mating rituals (old anthro hat coming out here). I mean punks tended to hook up with punks, goths with goths, hip hop to hip hop, etc.

          Anyway, does anyone disagree? Do people in the the bellydance community tend to date and marry each other (I know there are not a whole lot of male bellydancers, but do bellydancers tend to date dance drummers say and vice versa more than they do other people). Do you strongly disagree that dating and marriage rituals should be considered as the definition of subculture? I love discussions like this and love hearing the different thoughts. : )

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