June 5, 2015 by phicks2012
Back in the late 1990s when an upsurge of SCA interest in Middle Eastern culture and history took its turn on the Popularity Block, there developed what I choose to refer to as “a movement” toward making Middle Eastern Dance more authentic.
Up to that point, while there were some very few authentic dancers and costumes, “Belly Dancers” in the SCA — at least in the Kingdom of Meridies — had mostly been seen in a somewhat less than ideal manner. They mostly wore nylon and polyester so-called “Cabaret” belly dancing outfits bought mundanely and showing rather a lot of skin as opposed to “Tribal” costume which is more concealing and much more period, and there tended to be a negative stereotype, either rightly or wrongly, attached to many of them.
A good friend of mine in the SCA was a member of one of the first Meridian “Tribes” that studied and promoted the more period styles of dress and dance, and as time passed she became known for teaching classes on “Dance Etiquette” — or how NOT to behave in a dance circle.
I wrote the following poem, not at all period and patterned after “The Cremation of Sam Magee”, for her, and it was used, so I understand, for some time to help illustrate her class and to entertain and amuse her students. . The subject is more or less a composite. I mean, after all, could any single person have so many bad behaviors? Really!!
With apologies to Robert W. Service, I hope it amuses you.
“The Dancer of H’Rass”
Well I’ve sat inspired ‘round a hundred fires, and watched the flames soar high,
And I’ve listened, numb, to the drummers drum until I thought I’d cry,
And I’ve watched the dancers bend, and prance, and sway, and undulate,
And I’ve listened, still, to the zills, and watched the warriors salivate.
I have written prose to the skill of those whose dancing awe instilled,
And I’ve said “encore” to those with more ebullience than skill,
But where ere I’ve been I have never seen such a total lack of class
As the one-woman show all have come to know as the Dancer of H’Rass.
Now she thinks herself far beyond all else; fair Terpsichore reborn,
With a sneering glance she owes other dancers nothing but her scorn,
For she knows her style is the most reptile, and will never cause her grief.
She’s a rising star, quite the best by far, and her ego’s past belief.
She will sway and spin for the eyes of men, and her mood is quite intense.
At the drummers’ call she will give her all — this is also true in tents.
If she thinks some dare to her glory share she will make another pass,
And will try to win all regard from them as she boldly shows H’Rass.
She will denigrate, naming “second rate” anyone who might compete
For the aaahs and ooohs of the ones in trous, but she follows her own beat.
She will not endure anyone to lure her audience away,
For on sand or sod they are hers, by God, and can never say her nay.
Given ample cause, like some strong applause for a rival, she will seethe,
For all men must know that she is the show, and no better dancer breathes.
It is not the same for to share acclaim, she must everyone surpass,
Or she’ll stalk away with no more delay, and a corncob up H’Rass.
So if ere you chance to presume to dance where the fires are blazing high,
And the golden trill of the clashing zill makes the rushing blood run high;
Where the dumbek’s beat leads to dancing feet, and the bells a-jingling sound,
And the veils all swirl as the dancers whirl, and there’s laughter all around,
You should be aware that if you should dare to be pleasing in your art,
And if you earn cheers from the churls and Peers that delight you to the heart,
You should then take heed, you are guaranteed that whatever else may pass
You’ll have made a foe of the one-woman show—the Dancer of H’Rass.
She’ll be after you, with her retinue, and dismiss your style and skill.
You will hear your name taken well in vain, and if looks could truly kill
You would find you’d just crumble into dust ‘neath the bale of her regard,
For she’s never yet heard of etiquette, so you’d best be on your guard.
But the accolades come to those who’ve made effort all their skills to hone,
Not to those who’d climb to the ranks sublime over other dancers’ bones.
So if you can act with a little tact you may kudos swift amass,
And leave such as she to her vainglory, blowing smoke rings out H’Rass.
[27 August, 1992]