Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Suggested Belly Dance Reading: Fall 2010

What follows is only a glimpse at a growing body of work on belly dance. Each has its particular focus, such as anthropological/cultural, historical, or technical. In addition to the following recommendations, I suggest perusing the always changing material on: Gilded Serpent: Journal of Record for Middle Eastern Music, Dance, and Belly Dance. Thoughtfully edited by Lynette Harris and crew, Gilded Serpent's many offerings include articles exploring all topics in belly dance, international event listings and teachers, and reviews on shows and media.

Anthropological and Cultural Focus:
Currently, one of my favorite books is a compilation of essays:
Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism and Harem Fantasy, edited by academic writers and dancers, Barbara Sellers-Young and Anthony Shay. Erudite and probing, these essays take belly dance seriously while exploring the ramifications of cultural appropriation and history.

Also, check out Dancing Fear and Desire: Race, Sexuality, and Imperial Politics in Middle Eastern Dance by Stavros Stavrou Karayanni. Another serious book that cares deeply about the dance, this Greek writer (and English professor) considers issues of culture, tradition, Imperialism and belly dance.
Historical Focus:
"A Trade like Any Other": Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt by Karen Van Nieuwkerk. A look at the ethnic history of professional performers in Egypt.

I personally love Edward Said's essay "Farewell to Tahia" Carioca, the famous Egyptian dancer Said fantasized about during his youth. (reprinted in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper). A very different Egypt emerges in this essay that also captures how belly dancers have become unique cultural icons for all levels of society.
Looking for Little Egypt by Donna Carlton. A worthwhile, easy read with many pictures and tidbits about the first "belly dancer" of fame in the United States.

Technique Focus:
There are many great DVDs on the market; in the book department however, I recommend a classic that is half memoir and half technique: Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing Rosina-Fawzia B. Al-Rawi.

Visual Art Focus:
Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930, edited by Holly Edwards. This book captures beautifully the visual artistry of the American Orientalists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Written as a catalog for an art exhibition, this book has prints interspersed with valuable articles.

Again, this list is just a sampling of my favorites; there are many more on the market. The next reading update will be focused on recent articles.

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