The Greats




July/August 2001 Issue




 by Harry Saroyan

There are times that most of us, to some degree, hate unwisely and love unwisely. However, to look down upon other dancers who simply take a different view that conflicts with our own, to create artificial distinctions and factional animosities through prejudice and misconceptions, or to label and tag them through irresponsible demagoguery is a very sad and deplorable thing. Surprisingly enough, some members of our dance community, as well as those who constantly preach on of "Professionalism”, (like little boats given over to the mercy of the winds and tides of prejudice) continue to do the same. Heaven forbid if you don't belong to their group and share their views-as they will crucify and devour you. Some of these prejudiced people are masters of rumormongering; their gossip mills are so busy that they cannot see anything constructive and positive around them. Some have a way of enlisting "Professionalism” and all our values on their side, against all whom they judge to be their enemies.

 Moreover, there are other subtle forms of belittling, humiliating and dehumanizing other fellow dancers, often expressed in such statements as: "She is a good dancer aside go from the fact she belongs to the X group", or "She is a true professional in spite of her political affiliation to the Y party", or alas, "Such a versatile person wouldn't be a wasted talent had she belonged to our organization". How often have we all heard such statements in conventional gatherings or at private meetings ? If my reading is accurate, such is the outlook of a larger part of our dance community than we may care to admit.

 If perpetrators mean their conduct as a joke, they display a degree of insensitivity and rudeness that should not, under any circumstances, be justified or tolerated. If, on the other hand, they are attempting to deliberately taunt their fellow dancers who are not of the same group or political affiliation, the outrageousness of their conduct is even more despicable. Whatever the purpose, our Middle Eastern Dance Publications and leaders in the Dance Community have an unambiguous obligation to treat this kind of behavior with the seriousness it deserves and should demonstrate that this kind of conduct cannot be condoned.

 In some cases, the problem is one of mistrust. One does not have to be a psychologist to realize that rumors and gossip thrive best in an atmosphere of generalized mistrust. It all does not matter that a tale is unfounded and clearly unreasonable. It usually survives because it squares with some people's hopes and fears. When people in our dance community act upon others negatively, it may be due to assumptions of superiority (social, intellectual. moral, or some other kind of superiority) which, in reality, is a reflection of an inferiority complex.

 Laughing or sneering at unfamiliar ideas and customs could be a reflection of ignorance, limitation of vision, or narrowness of intellectual and moral horizons. It can also be stated that people often see what they train themselves to see. A couplet puts it rightly: Two men looked out from the bars- one saw mud, the other the stars.

 Perhaps it is time that all components of our dance community acknowledge that to be different is not necessarily bad. Let's face it; very few ideas can be shared and very little can be accomplished if people are in total agreement with each other. Moreover, unity does not mean thinking about the same things in the same way. It means using the difference to find common truth; and out of our diversities we can try to develop a kind of community that is supportive to each other. Being different allows for the honesty of an open mind and a quest for fuller freedom. Every dancer must find their conscience their guide. Robert Frost put it rightly, "People have got to think. Thinking isn't to agree or disagree. That's voting." It would be a very unfortunate and tragic thing if voices of reason and moderation were subdued as to be all but inaudible. All Middle Eastern Dancers cannot possibly be expected to fit into one mold. Each must exercise their own freedom, as well as their own creativity.

 The ethics of mutual up-building is fundamental to the survival of Middle Eastern Dance. We must have a keener sense of bonds that unite us, a more steadfast determination to let no barriers divide us. Prejudice of any kind has no place in Danse Orientale. Guided by unselfish leadership, we must refuse to compromise in matters of essential issues and to insist that preoccupation with secondary things is deadening to true professionalism.

 The time has come to eradicate all devitalizing and paralyzing "viruses" of hate and keep ourselves from the provincial mind, break down our prejudice, expand our horizons, widen our outlook and have noble understanding for our fellow dancers.

 The time has come for all Middle Eastern Dancers to live and teach the creed of fellowship without frontiers, so that factional animosities would be drowned in a sea of unity amid all our diversities. After all, the blood in the veins of Middle Eastern Dancer everywhere is the same.



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