This has been a very emotional couple of days for me. We all know of the current problem that has come up around Tribal Fest®. If you need to catch up, you can read the official statement from the teachers and vendors who have decided to withdraw, and Tribal Fest’s® (Kajira’s) official response as well as Chuck’s apology.
While I was not specifically targeted (as far as I know all the dancers who were have been contacted; I have not been) this entire situation impacts me pretty personally, as well as professionally.
I have been a Tribal Fest® instructor as well as staff, performer, and attendee. I have encouraged my students, colleagues, and friends to go. While I had only been twice, I felt supported and welcomed by the amazing community there. I’ve made friends there, got to reunite with friends there, and got to take workshops with the biggest names in belly dance there. I have many fond memories there, as I felt welcomed and part of a family.
And so this situation has me horrified, disappointed, shocked, and sad. And now angry. My heart goes out to Kajira, who must now pick up the pieces after a horrible betrayal by someone who is supposed to be a woman’s biggest supporter: her spouse.
After the release of the initial statement from the teachers, I gathered some information that led me to decide to no longer support Tribal Fest®. This came about after many agonizing hours. To be clear: the names on this list are some of the biggest names in belly dance. They did not come to this decision lightly. This has been going on for some time, not just the three days that it has been public. You can be certain that lawyers were called and that much deliberation went into this decision. For many of the instructors and vendors, Tribal Fest® was their biggest week. They would not lightly put their entire livelihood and reputation at risk for rumors, for something that wasn’t as serious as this has turned out to be. I have not seen actual screenshots but I have read descriptions of the posts and they are about as disgusting as you can imagine.
This was a betrayal, pure and simple. A person in power used that power to demean, degrade, and dehumanize both men and women in the community. While I have not seen the actual postings, there are claims of not only misogyny, but also homophobia and transphobia.
I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and I cannot stand for that.
I have to say that I am disappointed in the official response to this situation. There are many questions left and, now coming to light, “inaccuracies.” Chuck’s apology leaves much to be desired. In addition, his response to comments on his post has shown that he is not yet ready for forgiveness or amends, however sincere his apology may seem. Right now, he is angry and sorry he got caught. I hope, for his sake and for the community’s sake, that he grows and truly becomes sorry for what he did. We must remember that we cannot force people to change. People must be willing to change for it to happen.
It is unfair that Kajira must now suffer for the actions of her husband. This is a tough lesson. We are all connected, and everything we say and do affects those around us, whether we are aware of it or not. Chuck and Kajira are learning this the hard way, and I do feel sorry for them both.
Yet I have decided that I still cannot support Tribal Fest®. I will not be at TF16. It is too soon. I have not been asked to teach this year (though I had applied), and I do not know what the future holds since so many other teachers have pulled out. But if I am approached to teach, I will have to decline.
We must keep one thing in mind over the next few days and weeks: a thing is not a person. A thing cannot be a victim. An event cannot be a victim. There are real victims, victims of a form of violence, that are suffering right now. The (possible) closure of an event, no matter how beloved, pales in comparison to what the victims are going through. I support the victims of this terrible situation and stand by them.
I have the utmost respect for Kajira and the enormous amount of work she has put into the festival, as well as all the teachers, vendors, and students who have chosen to continue to support her and Tribal Fest®. This should not be an “us vs. them” situation. People make business and conscience decisions every day, and we must respect each person’s decision, even if we disagree with them.
It is my sincere and fervent hope that Tribal Fest® will someday return to its glory days. But that will not – and should not – happen while Chuck is still involved in any way, directly or indirectly. We must take a stand against violent, misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic speech. We must send a clear message that this is Not Okay in our community and will not be tolerated at all, even if tears down the party and ruins everyone’s fun. It is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is necessary.
Will I ever return to Tribal Fest®? I hope so. But not until much healing and many amends have been made. Will Tribal Fest® survive? I hope so, though it will never be the same. That might be for the best.
Love to all who have been hurt by this, and I hope that healing begins soon for everyone. I wish Kajira the best.
Edit: Abusive comments will be deleted.
You may have noticed that there was no Weekly Challenge this week. It’s because I’ve lost my mind due to Tribal Fest. I’ve been panicking over music, over practice, and getting all the details down (where I’m staying, how I’m getting there, etc.) I’m almost overwhelmed!
I’m looking forward to it, but I’m so, so busy!
That means, there won’t be a Weekly Challenge this week, and not next week, either. My flight comes back home late Monday, so I likely won’t have the time (or energy) to write a blog post.
In the mean time, please check out the Weekly Challenge tag and see if there are any you want to try out for this week and next! There are PLENTY to chose from, so pick a subject (hey, time to work on shimmies?) and make a search!
Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Happy dancing! And see you at Tribal Fest 14!
Tribal Fest 2012 is now over, and the videos are rolling in. So, apparently, are the negative comments. I’ve tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible, because 1) I don’t have the time, and 2) it’s infuriating and I don’t need my head to explode.
Why is there such a problem with tribal fusion belly dance? Why do so many dancers either hate it or love it?
I’ve blogged about this before and seen some snarky comments about “oh, I’m an *artist* so I can do what I want” blah, blah, blah. This is a really negative and childish attitude to take, and doesn’t help the already not-so-great image of belly dance. Yes, ALL dancers are artists, and we can do whatever we want, within reason. If I want to “I’ll wrap my small intestines ’round my neck/And set fire to myself on stage” because I “perform this way.*” Dance is an art, and art is about creativity. We aren’t going to stop dancing just because a few people can’t expand their horizons and appreciate the art, skill, and talent that goes into tribal fusion, even if they don’t particularly care for it.
I’m not going to retread my entire previous blog post, because you can just go read that. But I will say this, and put it in bullets to make it clearer:
- Belly Dance is already a fusion art. Even “traditional” dance has movements from different cultures and art forms. Modern belly dance wasn’t conceived of, fully formed, in a vacuum. If you don’t believe me, watch this video and then ask yourself if this is how YOU belly dance (and gee…that certainly looks like an ommi to me…) For comparison, here is a modern Egyptian belly dancer. Don’t much look the same, do they?
- “Art isn’t safe” (a quote I heard from Rob Zombie). If it makes you angry, I’ve done my job. Art–including dancing–speaks to our emotions, and it doesn’t always have to be the happy, safe, glittery kind of emotions. I’ve seen belly dance so beautiful, I’ve cried. I’ve seen belly dance so powerful I was riveted to my seat and wouldn’t have noticed if I had started drooling. Fusion dancers: when some narrow-minded person tells you that what you are doing isn’t belly dance, just keep the thought, “They felt something, so I did my job,” in mind. At least they are watching your videos and commenting on them.
- If you don’t like it, DON’T WATCH IT. And don’t be a jerk and make negative comments. It devalues all of us. At least respect the skill and the time that went into learning and perfecting the movements, picking out the music, doing the choreography (yes, fusion dancers often choreograph), rehearsing, pulling together the costuming, putting on the makeup, getting over the stage fright, and opening our hearts and souls to the audience. For many of us (introverts), sharing our art is giving you a peek into our souls. Don’t devalue that by commenting, “That isn’t belly dance! I hate fusion.”
I’m going to go take some deep breaths now to calm down. In the meantime, don’t forget to go read my full blog on this subject.
*Lyrics from Weird Al’s “Perform This Way”