Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading Notes: Flaubert Meets Kuchuk Hanem (5)

In Esna, Flaubert's famous encounter with the famed dancer Kuchuk Hanem:

Kuchuk Hanem and Bambeh begin to dance. Kuchuk's dance is brutal. She squeezes her bare breasts together with her jacket. She puts on her girdle fashioned from a brown shawl with gold stripes, with three tassels hanging on ribbons. She rises first on one foot, then on the other--marvelous movement, when one foot is on the ground, the other moves up and across in front of the shin bone. The whole thing done with a light bound. I have seen this dance on old Greek vases.

Bambeh prefers a dance on a straight line; she moves with a lowering and raising of one hip only, a kind of limping of great character. Bambeh has henna on her hands. She seems to be a devoted servant to Kuchuk...All in all, their dancing, except Kuchuk's step mentioned above, is far less good than that of Hassan el-Belbeissi, the male dancer in Cairo. Joseph's opinion is that all beautiful women dance badly." (p. 115-116)

Jean-Leon Gerome from Wikipedia
Flaubert in Egypt:A Sensibility on Tour. Trans. and ed by Francis Steegmuller. Chicago: Academy Chicago Ltd. 1979.

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