Letters from the Issue of December 11, 2003

At Long Last Art

Believe it or not, Miami is more than crime and corruption: It is refreshing to see a New Times cover story that doesn't involve corruption, murder, or local political nastiness. And so I enjoyed Rebecca Wakefield's coverage of the belly-dance culture here in Miami ("In the Belly of the Best," December 4). I know a great deal about the "belly scene" as my wife "Bozenka" plays a big part in it locally and internationally.

We were both very impressed with Ms. Wakefield's storyline and the vast amount of information she provided regarding the history of this dance as it has become well established not only in Miami but all over the United States.

I am an artist myself, and as such I am very glad to see that New Times and its writers take the time to look for what is truly happening in our city's artistic world, and not always catering to what the mainstream tries to convince us is art. Thanks and let's see more of this kind of coverage.

Elsten Torres ("Fulano")


All the Right Moves

There's more to the belly-dance scene than El Clon: "In the Belly of the Best" gives an excellent view of what is happening in the local belly-dance scene, though a few important people were missing: Scheherezade, one of the early pioneers, who is still a gorgeous dancer and teacher; Myriam Eli, who is Shakira's drummer and one of her main teachers; and Samay, of the new generation, who has more students than anyone, as well as being a wonderful dancer. Also Ansuya is a nationally known dancer from L.A. and part of the Belly Dance Superstars, and she relocated to Miami last year.

About my move to Hong Kong, the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange actually got a new partner and administrative director, who will relocate from New York to start this summer. She has run many dance studios and a nonprofit corporation. I will be back and forth from Asia, living in both places and hoping to build an artistic bridge and cultural exchange between the local belly-dance community and that of Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. This partnership and exchange has much potential and is exciting for everyone, promising lots of growth and expansion.

Thanks so much to Rebecca Wakefield for giving Evelyn Hamsey the recognition she deserves, and showing a historical line through the generations from her to Jihan and me, and to the next generation. Now Miami knows that this is not just "el baile del Clon."

Tamalyn Dallal

Miami Beach

Bogus Belly Wars

It's not a catfight, it's an art form: I was disappointed with Rebecca Wakefield's belly-dancing article. What could have been an insightful article exploring the beauty of this exotic art form and the inspiring work of the many wonderful women in our community who have made a career of educating others about it seemed more to be a dirty soap opera filled with "he said, she said" catfight-inciting antics, quips, and one-liners.

It was truly unsatisfying and disturbing to see this ancient art form that celebrates womanhood and femininity blatantly turned into a bitter battle of belly wars.

Rebekah Lanae

North Miami Beach

Here's How I Saw the FTAA Demonstrations

And by the way, I'm not your stereotypical cop: I read with great pleasure Celeste Fraser Delgado's November 27 article entitled "Jailhouse Crock." To begin with, I feel it's important to mention that I am a lieutenant with the Miami Police Department. I've been a cop for nearly nineteen years. During the FTAA, I worked as a commander of one of the Miami PD's Response Platoons.

I think it is just as important to mention that politically I am rather liberal, which is in itself an oddity for a cop. I am also an ACLU member, which is about as rare among cops as Yasser Arafat at a bar mitzvah. My usual duties are that of a tactical commander with the Crime Suppression Unit.

Now that I've shared a little something about me, let me emphasize the fact that just because I'm a firm believer in civil rights and fairness (which is not to say that most cops aren't), don't confuse that with my overwhelming drive to protect and serve the law-abiding citizenry of Miami. I may be liberal, but I ain't a bleeding-heart jackass with an ostrich complex!

My Response Platoon exhibited the highest levels of professionalism and kindness to a bunch of out-of-town thugs conveniently called Black Blocs. Our theory was to blind these people with kindness. We would attempt to talk to these misguided souls and offer our assistance in the way of garbage removal when it became apparent that they were collecting rocks and bottles "for a rainy" day, offer them directions if they seemed lost, and not harass them when they were illegally parked (all over the place). We spoke to them, not at them. Many times they would tell us we were "number one!" (At least that's what I thought they meant when they held up a finger toward us.)

In any case, on Thursday, November 20, they (not us) decided to up the ante. They attacked property, then the police, and were subsequently defeated -- plain and simple! Unless I was in some sort of Twilight Zone episode, it wasn't love beads that were hitting my troops and I as we walked north on NE Second Avenue approaching Miami Dade College at around 5:00 p.m. It wasn't Chanukah candles that were being lit in the middle of the road by out-of-town anarchists who were hell-bent on destroying this town. In fact I find it awfully ironic that these thugs tried to blend in with union workers, since these punks could not spell the word "job" if you spotted them the "j" and the "b."

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