Art Vs. Entertainment

January 19, 2013 § 4 Comments

  • Art: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
  • Entertainment: the act of entertaining;  agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement.

A question I hear often among belly dancers, especially in the Tribal community, is whether we consider ourselves artists or entertainers.  People who ask this question seem to have a strong opinion about which is better (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not entertainment). There seems to be a strong “I do it for me, not them” mentality. There’s not anything wrong with that.  In fact, I think the most important person to dance for is yourself.  But when you perform, you have to do it for you and for the audience.

Art is an expression of the artist.  If we identify with this expression, we will be inspired by this art.  When art is created, it is best if it evokes some sort of reaction from a viewer.  The most memorable art is interesting to the eye, evokes an emotion, or inspires introspection.  Art makes statements that are meant to be communicated.  It touches something in us and is a form of entertainment.  Entertainment satisfies an audience.  It takes the audience to another state of mind.  It helps them forget themselves for awhile.  If they identify with or are touched by your artistic expression, they will be entertained.

I don’t usually worry too much about art vs. entertainment when I perform. I think the two go hand in hand.  I find art entertaining, and entertainment can be done artistically.  As a dancer, art may be enough to fulfill the dancer’s desire to create and express. As a performer, entertainment is a definite goal. No one wants to get on stage and deeply and meaningfully bore their audience. I don’t believe it is necessary to choose sides.

I am an artist and an entertainer. An entertainment artist. An artistic entertainer. I am a belly dancer.

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§ 4 Responses to Art Vs. Entertainment

  • “Deeply and meaningfully bore their audience” LOL love it. I think art vs entertainment is a good thing to ponder every now and then. I find that most audiences in my area (predictably) prefer happy, upbeat numbers and props. Mostly I am happy to do so but sometimes the artist in me groans and I wonder if I should just stick the sword on stage by itself to entertain for a few minutes (oooh shiny). I tend to save more artistic ideas for bigger bellydance shows (ie not 20min sets).

  • Jade Walters says:

    Lol! It’s true! You can do anything with a sword and the audience is wowed!

    Your comment makes me think about the art and entertainment in a slightly different way. When you think about what it is you want to say with your dancing, that’s the artistic part. Then, when you consider and factor in who your audience is, that’s where entertainment comes in.

  • I don’t think it helps anyone to divide the two. Good art should be arresting and engaging. And good entertainment should be more than just tricks and fluff. As a bellydancer, the audience (and musicians, if you’re lucky enough to have them) are an inseperable part of your performance – it is about communication in both directions, and creating the shared feeling of ‘Tarab’. If you shut yourself off from your audience behind a ‘fourth wall’ in order to be seen as High Art in a Western sense, then you are removing yourself from part of the soul of this dance. I’d be interested to know how Tribal dancers feel about this whole issue – do Tribal soloists feel the same type of emotional connection to their audience that an Egyptian dancer does? Do they feel that they are communicating with their audience in both directions, or that communication only flows from the dancer to the audience?

  • Jade Walters says:

    Hmmm…I’m not sure…When I have heard these conversations, it was at various Tribal festivals where the performances are formal stage performances. That’s not as interactive as a restaurant, wedding, or party type performance. Some Tribal belly dance exists in these settings, but perhaps not as often as Egyptian dance. Tribal dancers do really appreciate verbal audience feedback, though, so that implies they enjoy communication going both ways.

    I don’t know why some dancers put more weight into one side more than the other. I was brought into the dance with the understanding that it’s important for the communication flow both ways, for the audience to be like your guests.

    Sometimes, though, it can be really hard to get American audiences to participate. It’s more common for audiences to think their job is to be quiet and watch/listen without outward reaction. Many dancers/musicians will even give mini “lessons” to help the audience understand how to participate to help them liven up and enjoy themselves. Do you notice that in the UK as well?

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