Letters for May 26, 2005

Surprising opinion
Re “Surprising Facts about Belly Dance,” (15 Minutes, May 12):

I just read your interview with Holly Johnson, president of the Asha Belly Dancers. While I found the interview interesting, I also found Holly’s information incorrect and misleading.

While I agree with Ms. Johnson’s statement that belly dance was originally about women dancing for and with other women, the idea of the ‘menstruation huts’ is patently ridiculous. While, in many societies, women were sequestered during their menstruation as being unclean, there is little or no evidence that there were ‘menstruation huts’ or that a form of dance similar to modern belly dance was performed there.

Because of the lack of written history about women in the Middle East, we don’t know a great deal about the actual origins of our dance. What we do know is that forms of this dance were performed by women for women at all kinds of celebrations through out parts of the Middle East, Europe, parts of Asia and North Africa.

Americans were first introduced to belly dance by Little Egypt at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, not Seattle, as Johnson insists. Johnson makes another common error. The American cinema did not invent cabaret belly dance. Dancers have performed for many years in cabarets and clubs through out the Middle East. What Hollywood did invent is the Bedlah, which is the bra and belts set which most people associate as the typical costume of belly dancers.

As a professional belly dancer, I do not mean to impugn your journalistic abilities, but I suggest in the future that you check your facts before you are used as a marketing tool for someone who is ignorant of the history and truth of their trade.

Nancie Kay Shuman
via e-mail

For our sake? What’s that supposed to mean?
Re “Surprising Facts about Belly Dance,” (15 Minutes, May 12):

I appreciate your having the courage to tackle such a confusing topic as the origins of a cultural dance form. I just have to say if you are going to headline an article, “Surprising Facts about Belly Dance” that:

1. You should probably do some fact-checking.

2. Really research your source to discern if they are knowledgeable.

3. Especially do the above two if the topic in question is of cultural/historical significance.

It’s not a good example of journalism to have some random white woman spouting fairy tales about another culture’s art form and then calling them “surprising facts” —surprising, yes, because they aren’t facts at all.

This woman is a fusion, mythical Orientalist who seems to have made up her own version of the history of belly dance. There seem to be a lot of these fusion, tribal-style bellydancers who think because they are wearing “camel tassels” that they are the authentic thing. Wrong!! It’s totally an American invention.

Glitzy, cabaret style of belly dance actually is an example of real Middle Eastern dance. You could have called anyone in the Middle East to find that out.

I hope for your sake that a Middle Eastern person doesn’t read your article and become offended by this American woman saying their cultural dance isn’t the real thing.

Amelia Paulson
via e-mail

Fight the power
Sempra Energy, a San Diego, Calif.-based energy business, is proposing to construct a 1,450 megawatt coal-fired power plant 10 miles northwest of Gerlach, which will release dangerous pollutants into our pristine Northern Nevada air in order to generate electricity for Southern California.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding meetings to determine the scope of the environmental impact review that it will conduct on the proposed coal-plant project.

If you care about the environment in Northern Nevada and believe that renewable energy development is a better alternative to the construction of polluting coal plants in our community, please turn out to the BLM scoping meetings and make your views known.

This plant will suck precious water from this high-desert region. Like Yucca Mountain, Northern Nevada is seen as the perfect dumping ground for toxic pollution for the benefit of consumers who “don’t want this crap in their backyard.”

I feel so strongly about this issue that I am compelled to help spread the word about the upcoming BLM meeting regarding the coal-fired power plant proposed for Gerlach.

The final scoping meeting will be held 7 p.m. on Thurs., May 26, in Reno at the Nevada State Office of the BLM, 1340 Financial Blvd.

Susan Jamerson
via e-mail

For more information about this spawn-of-Satan power plant, check out “Power Play” (Cover story, April 15, 2004)