An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
EEMED Audition
Tandemonium's Letter Submitted to MECDA
(The Middle Eastern Culture & Dance Association)
[in response to an article published in the MECDA Happenings magazine in 2001]


As participants in "An Evening of Experimental Middle-Eastern Dance," we would like to address some of the issues presented in your open letter to Amara published in the latest issue of Cymbal. It is unclear from the letter whether Marta Schill actually attended the concerts, or if she is are relying on hearsay, but some of the factual information presented in the letter is inaccurate. In particular, we are concerned about the implication that the performers were unaware the show included nudity and that we would not have participated had we known. Tandemonium did not perform in the numbers featuring nudity. The piece we performed (which was not mentioned in the review of the concert) did not warrant nudity, nor would we ever choose to perform nude. However, we were aware that other dancers were doing so. Amara made no secret of it and the dancers discussed it openly backstage. In our initial meeting with Amara about performing in the concert, she mentioned there was nudity in a number and asked us if we had any issues with that. This was months before the concert. The entire premise of the concert was that these were pieces that could not be performed in conventional Middle Eastern dance venues.

The letter further states that the dress rehearsals were closed. In fact, the rehearsals were not closed and we attended almost the entire dress rehearsal the week of the shows. We saw the rehearsal of the final piece which featured less than a minute of nudity on the part of only two dancers (keep in mind in the course of this dance, these two dancers became nude but by the end of the dance, were clothed again!) There were only two dancers who did not attend the rehearsal because they had to drive in from out of town. The letter states that MECDA received calls from performers suggesting that if they had known about the nudity, the dancers who called MECDA might not have performed in the show. There were three performances of the concert. If these dancers had issues with the nudity, why did they continue to perform in the 2nd and 3rd concerts? Also, none of the dancers expressed any concerns backstage, nor did they come to Amara to talk about them. We suspect that if performers contacted MECDA, they did so because they were afraid, after the fact, that they would be blacklisted by the Middle Eastern dance community. We certainly hope that this is not the case.

Although it may be prudent in the future to mention the nudity in advertisements for the concerts, we must point out that ballet and modern dance companies sometimes present dances with partial or complete nudity, and do not add a warning to their advertisements. Also, there was a sign at the door of the theatre cautioning concertgoers about the nudity. Therefore, the mother who objected to her pre-teen being exposed to nudity should have been aware of it. To our knowledge, no audience members cancelled and asked for a refund. In fact, each night was a sell out!

We have tremendous respect for MECDA as an organization, and Marta Schill as a person and performer. However, we felt it necessary to set the record straight regarding certain issues. We respect the rights of all dancers to pick and choose when and where they will dance. Many dancers have interests and venues far beyond the reach of the MECDA organization. Tolerance and understanding should be the primary concerns for all dancers. Since we are now living in a post "9/11" environment where all Middle Eastern connections are can be perceived as negative, we don't need the dance community to split into factions and fight amongst themselves. We need a cohesive unity among dancers but not at the risk of losing freedom of expression.

If you choose to publish this letter, please publish it in its entirety.