Monday, January 23, 2012

Writers on Belly Dance: Simone de Beauvoir (2)

My last post on De Beauvoir's surprising references to belly dance in her first novel She Came to Stay ran back in November.   The overall book considers the role of artists in the face of war (in de Beauvoir's case, Paris anticipating with dread the impending transformation of World War II).  She asks where should the writer's or artist's loyalty fall?  This, in addition to a complicated love triangle between Francoise and Pierre (based on de Beauvoir and Sartre) and the youthful and sultry Xaviere.  Here, in Chapter 4, the three are at a club with a dancer named Paula.  They all watch a dance show, a Spanish style dancer or gypsy (the stereotypical "other" that represents the viewer far more than the viewed) in a nightclub, that has a dramatic effect on Xaviere:

"A plump, mature woman, in Spanish costume, was moving toward the middle of the dance floor.  Her perfectly round face, beneath the black hair, parted in the middle and surmounted by a comb as red as her shawl, suddenly lighted up.  She smiled to everyone around her while the guitarist plucked out a few staccato notes on his instrument.  He began to play.  Slowly, the woman straightened her torso, and sloly her body began moving with the lightness of a child.  The wide flowered skirt whirled about her muscular legs. 
"How beautiful she's suddenly become," Francois said, turning to Xaviere.

Xaviere did not reply.  In her enraptured contemplation, no one else existed.  Her cheeks were flushed, her features were no longer under control and her eyes followed the movements of the dancer in dazed ecstasy.  
Francoise emptied her glass.  Although she knew that no one could ever be at one with Xaviere in any thought or action, it was hard, after the joy she had felt earlier at regaining her affection not to exist for her any longer.  She again turned her head to the dancer, who was now smiling at an imaginary gallant.  She enticed him, she spurned him; finally, she fell into his arms.  Then, she became a sorceress, every movement suggesting dangerous mystery.  Following that dance, she mimed a joyful peasant girl at some village festivity, whirling dizzily, with delirious uplifted face and frenzied eyes.  All the youth and reckless gaiety evoked by her dancing acquired a moving purity as it sprang, transmuted, from her no longer youthful body.
Continues in next post.....