Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes or No?: Nine Year Old Belly Dancers...

A bit of a quandry, especially the part in the write up that says Zheng Ciling is so shy, she burst into tears during the interview portion of the contest:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gerome: The Charmer Seduces Himself

The Jean-Leon Gerome exhibit at the Getty last summer has already moved to Paris, but I stumbled upon a book review of the catalog in the LA Times "Beyond the Surfaces of a Glittering Imperialist." Jumping off from questions raised by essays in the catalog, Jorie Finkel asks two questions that struck my Orientalish vein : 1) Though Gerome's representations are limited by the social perspectives of his time and place, to what degree are charges against his images is drawn on assumptions and fantasies of the viewers themselves? And, 2) noting collectors of Gerome and other Orientalist artists in "orientalized" regions such as Turkey and Dubai, "Can a painting still be considered racist if members of the race depicted apparently take pride in it?" Or dancing? No answers here. Plenty of opinions and complexities. And what if the technique makes it aesthetically beautiful?

Also look at the comments for a considered reaction and a reference to one of the must-reads on Orientalist paintings, The Orientalists by Kristen Davies. The painting is Gerome's famous "Snake Charmer" that adorns Edward Said's seminal work Orientalism.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adonis: "..always more beauty to be seen..."

Syrian poet and perrenial Nobel Prize contender Adonis offered a reading and discussion last Saturday (Oct. 30) at Alwan for the Arts. Though nothing was said about belly dance, but a great deal was said about the complications and anxieties of "globalization" and the Westernization of Arab culture. Marcia Lynx Qualey generously published my report in her excellent online mag--Arabic Literature (in English). Link to Adonis at Alwan: Always More Beauty to Be Seen. Also, read Adonis' new collection Adonis: Selected Poems with beautiful translations and an introduction by poet Khaled Mattawa published by Yale Press.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Readings: Colonialism and Belly Dance

I post here several articles I am using for research, all centered around cultural ramifications of belly dance. They're published in academic journals and can be found through the Project Muse search engine found in most public and university library catalogs. (Note: NYU dance students you have no excuse!)

Tina Frühauf's "Raqs Gothique: Decolonizing Belly Dance" TDR: The Drama Review - Volume 53, Number 3, Fall 2009 (T 203) , pp. 117-138. This erudite article explores "goth" style belly dance through the lens of an ethnomusicologist, academic, and dancer based in New York. From the abstract: "Goth belly dance—or "raqs gothique"—fuses the already Westernized interpretative dance style of the Middle East with Goth subculture. Goth belly dancers want to reject or transcend the obvious roots of belly dancing in Orientalism, but how successful are they?"

Donnalee Dox's "Dancing Around Orientalism." TDR: The Drama Review; Winter2006, Vol. 50 Issue 4, p52-71. From the abstract: "This article discusses belly dancing in the West and orientalism. Western belly dancers commonly interpret Orientalist images as celebration of alternatives to Western patriarchy, materialism and logocentrism. During the 1960s and 70s, belly dancing developed as feminist efforts to claim and express sexuality of women. The emphasis on the open display of sexuality as self-empowerment for women is a function of Western representational practices. The term oriental dance to refer to belly dance distinguishes belly dancing from other forms of professional Western erotic dance and stripping.

Finally, Maira Sunaina's provocative "Belly Dancing: Arab-Face, Orientalist Feminism, and U.S. Empire." American Quarterly. Volume 60, Number 2, June 2008, pp. 317-345
Volume 60, Number 2, June 2008. From the lengthy abstract: "Belly dancing has become especially trendy among non-Arab women across the United States since the 1990s and in the San Francisco Bay Area where it was popularized in the 1960s and 1970s with the emergence of female liberation movements focusing on body politics. This article reflects on what it means for American women to stage Middle Eastern dance at a time when the United States is engaged in war and occupation in the Middle East and there is intensified preoccupation with the figure of the Arab and Muslim “other,” and particularly with the image of oppressed Middle Eastern and Muslim femininity. The research is based on interviews with belly dance students, performers, teachers, and managers in the Bay Area that explore: why is belly dancing so popular among non- Arab women in the Bay Area? Why has it exploded at a moment when Arab Americans themselves have been profiled and attacked during the War on Terror? What does this embodied performance of putatively “Middle Eastern culture” reveal about post-9/11 U.S. nationalism? I argue that belly dancing performances are entangled with the imperial engagements that link the United States and the Middle East and reveal a deeper politics of imperialism, racialization, and feminism in this moment of U.S. empire. The article situates the massive appeal of belly dancing and its growing resonance with white American women since 2001 in relation to contemporary gender and nationalist politics, demonstrating that belly dancing has become a popular site for the mobilization of “whiteness” and “Americanness” in relation to Arab/Muslim femininities and masculinities. Belly dancing has become a site for staging a New Age feminism and liberal Orientalist perspective on Arab and Muslim women. I explore how belly dance performances are layered with the politics of liberal multiculturalism, sisterhood, and female entrepreneurship."

Go read...then dance.