Desert Spirit Films
Monique Monet
Ideas of Dance
Art of Costuming
Rev. Dance Film
Kay's R.D.Review
Mata Hari
Nobody's Puppet!
Free Spirit
Tramps & Thieves
Got The Message
Video Baladi
Review by Taaj
Last Stand by Kay
Sacred Surprise
Video Op
Dancing For Love

    Video Op


      Monique Monet

(Originally published in Jareeda Magazine)


     Video offers us a unique opportunity to develop ourselves as dance artists - - and the chance to try to make our world a more free and nurturing place.

     Hundreds of years have past since Michelangelo completed his breath-taking painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. And throughout those centuries, millions of visitors have seen his work and marveled at his artistry and his

message. In the sun-baked desert of Egypt, thousands of years ago, artists chiseled a small mountain of stone to form the leonine shape of the Sphinx - - a work of art revered throughout history as one of the wonders of the world.

     But from the beginning of time, the dancer's artistic creations endured only for a few brief moments. Who knows what inspiring and magical dance performance gladdened the eyes of a crowd in ancient Rome?

     Or what unique and ingeniously creative dance drew a standing ovation from Louis XV1 and his court at Marseilles? No one will ever know. Those performances, perhaps equal in beauty and artistry to the greatest painting or sculpture, are lost forever; faded into oblivion even as they came into existence. But, at long last, times have changed. The video camera has granted dancers

around the world immortality of their art. Easier and more convenient than traditional film, video offers a dancer the chance to capture and keep her every performance. For self-study, to share with friends, or if it seems worthy, for presentation to the world as a work of art, video allows the dancer to keep her creation long after the actual performance has ended. In many ways, video is an indispensable component of my dance. It's the most exacting teacher I've ever had. I watch my dance practice over and over; each time learning how (with a more fully extended arm or a slower more articulated hip movement) to improve my performance.

     Every time I perform, at a large show or before a private group, video proves to be my most trust-worthy friend. Never obligated to false praise, never driven by envy to fictitious critique, video is always totally honest, for better and for worse, in its review of my dance.

     Many times, after a show, I've moved through the milling crowd nodding and smiling at those who called out, "Beautiful dance!" or "Great performance!" And brushed quickly past others who looked at me expressing their disapproval with a pinched face or turned up nose.

     But then outside, deep in the darkness of the parking lot, in my van I would eagerly consult my trusted Sony. Flipping open the LCD screen on my video camera, I would lean forward in my seat to watch the honest truth of my dance performance unfold before my eyes. No well-intentioned false praise, no spiteful unwarranted criticism, just the true reality of my dance, exactly as it appeared to the audience.

     At a purely personal level, video gives me all the feedback I need to develop my art. But more importantly video also provides me with the chance to reach out beyond the boundaries of my very limited immediate community and interact with a larger world.

     My video film, Revolutionary Dance, allowed me to express my frustration at the tight constraints often imposed on Middle Eastern dancers; and also share my insights as to how our dance can increasingly be a viable means for artistic creative personal

expression. Also Revolutionary Dance provides me with a forum in which I (as a contemporary Gypsy woman) can speak out against the tiresome stereotypes attached to Gypsy culture. Thanks, in large part to my video, Revolutionary Dance, I have been able to communicate my ideas for a better, more liberated dance world to people, literally, all over the earth. Just this year alone (as of November 2003) more than 165,000 people have visited my website, www.MoniqueMonet.Com. I'm not saying that everyone who hears me agrees with me. I sometimes receive negative feedback; as a matter of fact Revolutionary Dance was officially banned in one of the Arab states. But, all in all, the positive responses easily out number the negative.

     Not many years ago, I found myself frustrated and very unhappy with the apparently inescapable limitations of Middle Eastern dance. In its earliest conception, Revolutionary Dance was basically a collection of advice and creative insights, from me to my earlier, frustrated self.

     After more than a year of work my video was completed. It's not a super slick Hollywood-like production. But it is an honest and creative attempt to present some questions about Middle Eastern Dance (and our pop-culture society) that I think need to be considered.

     In Revolutionary Dance I share with my audience all the truths and possibilities about our dance, and its societal environment, that I wish someone would have presented to me years ago. From the onset, I just knew that there had to be other women out there; people like me who loved the dance but felt its boundaries to be too narrow.

     And I was right! The following beautiful words are quoted from one of the letters I've received:

     "THANK YOU Monique for making this video!! It's something I really needed. Being a nonconformist, I felt crazy being told that I had to dance to some else's standards of perfection. I did not want someone else telling me I was doing it wrong. . . . I feel this floating creativity begging to come out that I have stifled in fear of criticism. I am plain sick of never being "perfect" enough for someone else. Anyway, this video is my start to FREEDOM!"

     Just that letter alone made Revolutionary Dance a success for me. Her letter makes all my time and effort required to create the video more than worthwhile. I am very grateful that, through video, I can reach out to a unhappy sister dancer and offer her at least a glimpse of creative freedom.

However small and humble it might be, video offers me a chance to try and make a difference in our vast governmental, corporate, media-controlled world. In my everyday life, I work hard to maintain my personal and creative independence. I don't like to be under anyone's thumb. I enjoy the freedom of being able to say what I want to say and do what I want to do - - without fear of censure from a boss, or some funding agency.

     For the past few years I've earned my living, in Oregon and Hawaii, as an independent house painting contractor. My body is often tired and paint-smeared; but it's worth the effort to be able to keep my mind and my art clean and free.

     A part of what I enjoy about dancing is its contrast with construction labor, the welcome change of pace, the bright glamour of colorful costumes and make-up. But also, it's through my persona as a dancer that I attempt, via video, to speak out and share my insights and concerns.

     My new work-in-progress video, Song of Salome, (with musical soundtrack by Brothers of the Baladi) deals with the urgent need for the practical application of mysticism to resolve some of our world's seemingly unsolvable problems. In this up-coming production,

     I draw heavily on my Gypsy background, particularly from the Old World teachings of my grandmother, great aunt, and other wise women of our now greatly diminished clan.

     Dance is the most magical of the arts. And thanks to the magic of

video, it can now be shared with more than just a few audience members, and for more than a brief few moments.

     Through the help of video, dance can be a ritual of creation, liberation, and wide-spread positive change. Video offers each of us, if we want it, our own tiny piece of "the media"; a priceless opportunity to talk back to the towering intimidating world all around us.

    I sincerely believe that video, combined with desire and a heartfelt purpose, can offer each one of us a real chance to try and change the world!

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[Desert Spirit Films] [Monique Monet] [Ideas of Dance] [Art of Costuming] [Rev. Dance Film] [Kay's R.D.Review] [Tee-Shirts] [Mata Hari] [Nobody's Puppet!] [Free Spirit] [Tramps & Thieves] [Got The Message] [Video Baladi] [Review by Taaj] [Last Stand by Kay] [Sacred Surprise] [Video Op] [Chorihani] [Dancing For Love] [Spellbound]