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Raqs


THE STORY

Normal dancing is called raqs, which is just moving with graceful hands, though those aren’t really important. Most important is the feel of the rhythm. You can see when someone doesn’t dance to the right rhythm. You know, like slow or fast. You can definitely see the difference between Afghan dancers and non-Afghan dancers.


I like to dance at parties and weddings, sometimes at home with friends coming over. I think one of the reasons I like dance is that it’s the only “activity” Afghans do together. I notice with my parents for example, I once took them bowling, and they were very confused at first at the idea of going out and doing an activity together. Usually we just sit together and talk, and the only other activity is dance. Maybe at a birthday then, you can have fun things to do together. Maybe that’s why I like it. Also, maybe because there are many things I’m not allowed to do, so dancing is really great. Maybe one of the reasons we don’t do a lot of activities is because most people don’t have a ot of money, so they don’t do stuff. But dance is free. I don’t have many opportunities to do these things. The size of family changes the number of opportunities because they’re the ones that organize the events. But then, not all Afghans like dancing. Some like it, but they think it’s not appropriate. So, even if you have a big family, if they don’t like dancing there aren’t a lot of opportunities.


At my wedding, I danced. But, nobody from my family danced because I was marrying so tradition says they should be sad. But that doesn’t make sense in Holland. I wish they would have danced. My uncle danced and other “modern” people, but I think older people take culture too seriously at a wedding. Moving or dancing can be associated with other things. Sometimes I want to dance but I don’t want to appear badly or to shame my family, so I don’t dance. Dancing isn’t verbal so you can’t really dance with strangers or people you don’t know, and it’s silly to dance alone. I’m not allowed to go because I’m a girl and my family wouldn’t want me to forget where I’m from or become too free. They’re afraid that I’ll change too much and go over the border in a way. You can show people how you feel without saying anything. At a wedding, I was dancing with my partner and really enjoyed it. It’s good to dance with people you love. I just felt I could communicate that I love him a lot. That moment was so calm and good. Afghan weddings are generally really crazy and hectic and there’s always a lot to worry about. But that moment when we were dancing, it was just calm and good. Also, dance it’s fun to do. It never ends. It’s not material so you can do it for always and forever. I think it often happens people think about whether dance is right or wrong, but if you just dance as you, then it’s great. When you dance, you don’t have to worry about anything. Dance and forget about your worries.


I left to Holland in 1996 from Afghanistan. My family is now in Afghanistan, Germany, Holland, and the US, though I’m only in touch with those in Germany and Holland. I get in touch with those in Afghanistan about once a year and I see photos of them every now and again. I have two younger brothers, and they wouldn’t want me to forget where I’m from or become too free. They’re afraid that I’ll change too much and go over the border in a way. It’s not common to ask why in our culture, or to ask why something is not allowed. It just isn’t allowed and that’s that. Asking why has a negative connotation. But like swimming, some people aren’t allowed to swim in my family, but their kids are. If you ask why - it really depends on your relationship with your parents. Some kids have a friend relationship with their parents and can ask everything, but otherwise parents are like a boss, so there’s a distance with the older generations. I think there’s more trust between kids and their parents today. Well actually, I don’t have a lot of friends because I wasn’t allowed to go places, so now I feel lonely. I now realize how important it is to be with other people and to have friends, and I really missed that. I do want to have friends in the future to support me though.


THE STORYTELLER

Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Age: 27

Gender: Female

Ethnicity: Kabuli

STORY ID: 00038

#story #raqs

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