Letters from the Issue of January 22, 2004

Bash Us, Lash Us, Trash Us

Just don't bore us: One more time, hats off to Ronald Mangravite -- a tough, uncompromising, insightful, passionate, unfailingly decent, and even-handed example of that most dreaded profession: theater criticism ("Aural Sex," January 15). Even when he "reams" us theater folks, he does it with style, intelligence, and I surmise, with the best of intentions.

Every time I read his column in New Times I come away exhilarated, enlightened, and even sometimes pissed off at him. But never bored. It is clear, as some of us know, that Mangravite is crazy about theater and has no patience for mediocrity, nor does he suffer theater fools well. Good for him, good for New Times, and most of the time, good for us in theater or going to the theater in South Florida.

Rafael de Acha, artistic director

New Theatre

Coral Gables

Musty Old Letter Slings Mud

It splattered on me and I don't like it one bit: Why would New Times print a negative and slanderous letter more than a month after publication of the article to which it referred? The letter from Barbara Lang ("Bellyache," January 15) was personal, and directed most of its negativity toward me. It was also irrelevant to the content of Rebecca Wakefield's article "In the Belly of the Best" (December 4). It was irresponsible journalism for the editor to print it.

Ms. Lang, whom I do not know and wonder if she really exists, says I "bashed" and "scathed the reputations" of other dancers (namely, my former students), which is why she implies that people should think twice about studying with me. Nowhere in the article did I speak badly of other dancers, so this is contrived nonsense. There was some mild controversy, most of which didn't include me or the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange. But people reading this letter so long after the fact are not likely to have the article on hand for reference, so they will never know that Ms. Lang's letter is trumped up.

Ms. Lang makes it sound as though the article favored my studio. Of course it did talk about the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, since it is the first and largest studio in South Florida, and it is where many of Miami's top dancers have come from. It would be imbalanced if it had been downplayed or excluded. In fact the article involved many more people than me and my studio, which Ms. Lang overlooked.

There was far more negativity, mudslinging, and malicious intent in Ms. Lang's letter than in the entire 4000-word article. Shame on you, "Barbara Lang," or whoever wrote the letter, and shame on the editors who do not screen their letters for deliberate slander.

Tamalyn Dallal, director

Mid Eastern Dance Exchange

Miami Beach

Saint Shimmy

My blessed belly-dance mentor is no drama queen: "In the Belly of the Best" was very provocatively written, in the style for which New Times has become popular, and I enjoyed reading about Hispanic women at the very top of the artful world of belly dancing in Miami. The article, however, seemed one-dimensional in its portrayal of the various women who are at the height of their craft. It was also missing, in my view, an important component, as no students like me were interviewed.

Had I been interviewed, I could have added some depth to the portrait of Hanan, who is my belly-dance instructor and whose photograph appeared on the New Times cover. For example, although there was brief mention of grants in the article, there was no in-depth treatment of those grants and no mention of the public service to which Hanan devotes herself. Instead the portrayal of Hanan left a more unfavorable impression; she was even labeled a "drama queen." While her dancing style is very dramatic, the term "drama queen" connotes a judgment of personality, and nothing could be further from the truth as far as Hanan is concerned.

Hanan devotes much of her time to bringing dance and a creative outlet through dance to women in prisons, for example. And the very program in which I participate is funded through a grant that keeps costs down. My classmates and I pay only five dollars per class. Hanan's class also has an emphasis on personal growth through creative expression. She not only teaches me the techniques and steps possible with belly dancing, but also makes reading assignments geared to unleashing pent-up creativity. She also includes art assignments in her classes. The Hanan I know is far more well-rounded and a far more beautiful woman than even the stunning vision of her captured on the front page would suggest.

Olga Ruiz

Miami

At Last World Peace

And to think belly dancing was the answer: Rebecca Wakefield's "In the Belly of the Best" was a lovely article. I wish more media would give such in-depth coverage to the emerging arts. I always thought belly dancing was very beautiful, but I didn't know much about its roots or the artistic movement surrounding it.

The article educated me, and I'm sure made me and other readers more sensitive to other people's cultures. This is something we really need for the betterment of the entire community.

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