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Belly Dance and Western Culture

Shay Antony and Barbara Sellers-Young. “Belly Dance: Orientalism-Exoticism-Self-Exoticism.” Dance Research Journal. Vol. 35, No. 1 (2003), pp. 13-37.

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The article traces the origins of belly dance and the culture spread through a “vast region extending from the Atlantic Ocean in North Africa and the Balkans in the west to the eastern areas of China, Central Asia, and the western portions of the Indian subcontinent in the east.”1 The paper regards belly dance as a way of artistic expression and its increase in popularity shows the growing thoughts of the society regarding self-expression. Belly dance serves the underlying role of seeking a person’s sexuality, splendor, and self-confidence by showing it through the dance. The authors look into how the belly dance has been said to contradict the morals of Islam, yet this way of dance can be traced from the Middle East.

Öykü Potuoğlu-Cook. “Beyond the Glitter: Belly Dance and Neoliberal Gentrification in Istanbul.” Cultural Anthropology, Volume 21, Issue 4, (2006): 633–660.

This article examines the embodied lens of the intricate interaction among shifting practices of belly dancing, new Islamic shrouding, and urban freedom in modern Istanbul. The author bases his argument by analyzing numerous ethnographic places, including an elite concert hall, a tourist eating place, a dance class, a local social club, and a retail shop, to give a performance-centered and gender-sensitive survey of urban gentrification.2 This author uses Turkey due to the growing tourism industry and urban renewal of cities, such as Istanbul, despite the environment of an increasing neo-liberalized and reasonable Islamic, yet secular.

Karayanni, Stavrou. Dancing fear & desire: race, sexuality, and imperial politics in Middle Eastern dance. Waterloo, ON Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2004.

This article investigates the Middle Eastern belly dance by extending to modern belly dance. The author uses historical investigations, academic analysis, and personal perceptions to explore how to belly dance actively takes on race, sexuality, and nationalism. Close writings of colonial travel literature, an analysis of Oscar Wildes’ Salome, and analysis of theses about Greece dance, shows the complex ways in which this controversial belly dance has been fashioned by Eurocentric perceptions, which characterize and organize character performance.3

Dils, Ann, and Cooper Anne. Moving history/dancing cultures: a dance history reader. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

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The book published an article explaining the ancient ritual practices performed during belly dancing in response to Cabaret’s performance. The author explains through the years how Ghawazi dance originated from Egypt and spread throughout the Middle East and to the West. The article explains that today, the dance is used by many women as a practice that makes them alleviate their sexual repression. Many women practicing the dancing style tend to feel liberated and having the freedom to express themselves as they move their hips. Furthermore, the dance is now not being associated with any ritual practices or religious practices.4

Kramarae, Cheris, and Splender Dale. Routledge international encyclopedia of women: identity to publishing. London: Routledge, 2000.

The author published articles related to women and their purpose in the ancient entertainment times stating that the ghawazee was not considered to be decent women because they danced for the men in public places without veils.5 The authors argue that the purpose of the dance has also shifted from only being for entertainment purposes to even being used as a form of physical exercise for fitness and health.

Kraus, Rachel. “Straddling the sacred and secular: creating a spiritual experience through belly dance.” Sociological Spectrum, Volume 29, Number 5, (2009): 598-625(28).

This study examines the spiritual relevance of belly dance, which is seemingly a secular activity in the Islamic world. Using studies and interviews with seventy-seven belly dancers in the US, this survey reveals that belly dance is spiritual for individuals who believe spirituality significance in their lives, have practiced belly dancing for several years, hardly ever attended fellowship sermons, and have no affiliations with Judeo-Christianity. “Belly dance becomes spiritual when dancers “let go” and experience various connections. The dance itself and the environment in which one dance facilitate spiritual experiences. Implications for spirituality are discussed”6.

Left-Kennedy, Virginia. Representing the Belly-Dancing Body: Feminism, Orientalism, and the Grotesque. University of Wollongong Thesis Collections, 2005.

The paper recounts the genealogy of the discursive construction of belly dance in text and culture in the Western world from the late 19th century. It draws notional perceptions from literary studies, cultural studies, and dance studies to show an inter-disciplinary approach to the study of the expression of belly dance. It explores how this dance has been shaped by key sociocultural changes in beliefs on race, sexuality, and personification. In studying the politics of gender and race in the representation of belly dancing, this paper brings to light 3 formations: feminism, orientalism, and the grotesque.7

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It also focuses on the composite ways in which belly dance has been mythologized, represented, and constructed in various literature. Moreover, this paper looks into the connection of neo (colonialism), commoditization, consumer culture, gender, and ideas of female personification in representations of belly dance.

Bibliography

Dils, Ann, and Cooper Anne. Moving history/dancing cultures: a dance history reader. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Karayanni, Stavrou. Dancing fear & desire: race, sexuality, and imperial politics in Middle Eastern dance. Waterloo, ON Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2004.

Left-Kennedy, Virginia. Representing the Belly-Dancing Body: Feminism, Orientalism, and the Grotesque. University of Wollongong Thesis Collections, 2005.

Kramarae, Cheris, and Splender Dale. Routelge international encyclopedia of women: identity to publishing. London: Routledge, 2000.

Kraus, Rachel. “Straddling the sacred and secular: creating a spiritual experience through belly dance.” Sociological Spectrum, Volume 29, Number 5, (2009): 598-625(28).

Öykü Potuoğlu-Cook. “Beyond the Glitter: Belly Dance and Neoliberal Gentrification in Istanbul.” Cultural Anthropology, Volume 21, Issue 4, (2006): 633–660.

Shay Antony and Sellers-Young Barbara. “Belly Dance: Orientalism-Exoticism-Self-Exoticism.” Dance Research Journal. Vol. 35, No. 1 (2003), pp. 13-37.

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Footnotes

  1. Antony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young. “Belly Dance: Orientalism-Exoticism-Self-Exoticism.” Dance Research Journal. Vol. 35, No. 1 (2003), 33.
  2. Öykü Potuoğlu-Cook. “Beyond the Glitter: Belly Dance and Neoliberal Gentrification in Istanbul.” Cultural Anthropology, Volume 21, Issue 4, (2006): 636.
  3. Stavrou Karayanni. Dancing fear & desire: race, sexuality, and imperial politics in Middle Eastern dance. (Waterloo, ON Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2004), 127.
  4. Ann Dils and Anne Cooper. Moving history/dancing cultures: a dance history reader. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 56.
  5. Chris Kramarae and Dale Splender. Routledge international encyclopedia of women: identity to publishing. (London: Routledge, 2000), 79.
  6. Rachel Kraus. “Straddling the sacred and secular: creating a spiritual experience through belly dance.” Sociological Spectrum, Volume 29, Number 5, (2009): 625.
  7. Virginia Kraft-Kennedy. Representing the Belly-Dancing Body: Feminism, Orientalism, and the Grotesque. University of Wollongong Thesis Collections, 2005.

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