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  • Writer's pictureby Zara Dance

Ramadan - to dance or not to dance that is the question??

What's Ramadan? Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of the year. It goes by the luna month so it moves relative to our normal calendar each month by about 10 days and this year it is in JUNE. During this time Muslims will fast during daylight hours; this means no food, drink ( yes this includes water), sexual relations or lies. Also generally during the month a more reserved attitude is taken on – people “behaving themselves”. Why should bellydancers care? So why am I writing this article?? Your bellydance has nothing to do with Ramadan, right? …. Hmmm well that could be right but it could also be wrong… During Ramadan it is traditional, in Islamic countries such as Egypt, that bellydance performances in clubs and restaurants stop out of respect for the religious month. The acts are usually replaced with more “suitable” entertainment such as oud players and tanoura dancers. Seek out workshop opportunities! Western dancers who work in these countries often go home during Ramadan for a bit of a holiday and to teach workshops - SO EXPECT TO BE spoilt for choice this month - EXPLOIT IT and take the opportunity to train with some of the world's top dancers. How does this effect us in the West - Does this mean less gigs? Ramadan can have an effect on us bellydancers in the west... Well, if you work in an Arab restaurant or another culturally Islamic restaurant you may be asked not to dance.

And, think about it, even if your bosses aren’t religious themselves and haven't taken much thought towards it; does where you work cater for a large population of Muslims who could find it very rude that you are performing bellydance, their native dance, to them at a time when they are fasting and at a time when traditionally dance performances stop? If this is the case maybe not perform. You may find you have a few less gigs during Ramadan.

NOT JUST PROFESSIONAL DANCERS! Could your troupe performances also be effected? This doesn't just go for professional dancers - all the above applies to students and troupes too. Especially as this Ramadan is during summer it may coincide with many a summer fete .... ask yourselves and the organisers if there is likely to be lots of people from the Middle Eastern Muslim community present. Try to see it through others' eyes. How would they feel seeing the performance at this time? Could you change your approach to limit the risk of culturally upsetting people? Maybe choose to do choreographies in a less traditional style, something that those from the Middle East might not associate with so much, like Tribal or Fusion choreos ... Also think about the music, maybe pick alternatives to traditional Arabic music like a modern techno Arabic sounding song with no singing or a piece of Western music. Also, with costuming - why not consider a more Tribal or Romany look?

Find alternative gigs! If this is the case and you are down on gigs – fear not - there are lots of other alternatives to keep the gigs coming: maybe check out working in Greek restaurants? OR Turkish and Persian (they CAN be less “fussy” about Ramadan) or restaurants where the clientele aren’t Muslim even if the food is from an Arabic culture?

EID PARTY TIME Also, don’t forget a lot of money can be made up in the weekends that follow the end of Ramadan. At the end of Ramadan there is EID, a family based celebration. After this comes getting back to normal and there are a lot of parties and fun - a great time for gigs ......... SO get in there !

Don't not dance... Remember, I am not saying don’t dance in Ramadan, just be be smart and respectful towards the cultures that the dance we do, is native to. After all - without them we wouldn't have bellydance in the first place!!

Consideration may lead to no changes at all but at least they have been looked at and respected. Bellydance is for everyone so let's share it harmoniously, sensitively and lovingly :D

Ramadan Kareem EVERYONE !! May you have an amazing month!

Yours with shimmies,

Zara x x

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