Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy.

Video clip: Courtesy of Anthony Shay's AVAZ International Dance Theatre.

Anthony Shay, Barbara Sellers-Young

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Performing Arts Series 6
Availability: In stock
Published: 2005
Page #: xiv + 421
Size: 6x6
ISBN: 1-56859-183-7
plates, bibliography, glossary, index, notes


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Quick Overview

For over a century, solo improvised dance, especially belly dance, has had enormous popularity, and by the 1970s and 1980s in the wake of the feminist movement, over a million women in the United States, and many more thousands in Western Europe became devotees of this choreographic form. This volume traces several strands of this phenomenon. Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young provide an overview of solo improvised dance in the Middle East and in the West. Several essays address the dance tradition in the Middle East: Najwa Adra describes and analyzes the performance of solo improvised dance in domestic circles in the Arab world, Anthony Shay analyzes the issue of how Islam and individuals among the Moslem clergy perceive and react to dance, Stavros Stavrou deconstructs the famous encounter between Gustave Flaubert and the Egyptian dancer Kuchek Hanum in terms of colonialism, Roberta Dougherty analyzes the popular images of the belly dancer in the Egyptian cinema, Shay addresses the question of male dancers and their performances, and Linda Swanson adds a whimsical interpretation of the famous twentieth century Egyptian belly dancer Tahia Carioca. The dance was frequently seen in the West by millions of visitors to world fairs and exhibitions that were popular in the 19th century and Sol Bloom, the entrepreneur of the Chicago World Fair of 1893 coined the term “belly dance.” From that period, belly dance became a popular entertainment in the United States. American women found the dance to be a liberating vehicle and a means of adopting new and exotic persona. They developed several new genres of the dance. Barbara Sellers-Young describes and analyzes tribal belly dance, a genre that was invented in San Francisco, Anne Rasmussen provides an overview of the music used in Arab nightclubs in the United States and a description of the musicians and the club milieu, Donnalee Dox analyzes the spiritual belly dance movement, Andrea Deagon addresses the enduring trope of oriental dance: Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils through performances both from the turn of the century and contemporary versions, Nancy Lee Ruyter gives a historical perspective of La Meri’s, one of the earlier interpreters of belly dance, Jennifer Fisher looks at the orientalist implications of the Arabian dance from the Nutcracker, often inspired by oriental dancing and seen by millions of audience members across America. An epilogue by the editors provides an overview of the topic and integrates the scholarly material for the reader.


Anthony Shay

Anthony Shay earned the first Ph. D. in Dance History and Theory at the University of California, Riverside. He also holds MA degrees in anthropology from California State University, Los Angeles, folklore and mythology, and library science from UCLA. In September 1998 he was awarded the coveted James Irvine Foundation Fellowship in Dance. He is a five-time recipient of the NEA choreographic fellowship and was a NEA resident artist in La Napoule, France. As a folklorist, he conducted research in traditional music and dance for the Smithsonian Institution in Lebanon. Shay was also awarded two National Endowment for the Humanities summer scholar positions. He has contributed numerous essays, articles, and entries to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Dance, the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, Dance Research Journal, Journal of Iranian Studies, Visual Anthropology, and the Southern California History Quarterly. He is the author of several books on the subject of dance and choreography. Anthony Shay is a dancer and choreographer with over forty years of performing and creative experience in staging and choreographing dances and music from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. After years of study in Iran, Shay created the AVAZ Dance Theatre and currently serves as choreographer and artistic director. In this period he has choreographed over 150 works for both his own company and on commission to other groups.

Barbara Sellers-Young

Barbara Sellers-Young has a BS in Sociology, MS in Dance and a Phd in Theatre from the University of Oregon. Prior to her academic career, she was a dancer/choreographer/director who performed extensively in the Pacific Northwest and at such venues as Mumokan Theatre (Kyoto, Japan) and University Theatre (Manchester, England). She has taught workshops and classes in dance and movement for international organizations such as the Association of Theatre in Higher Education and the International Federation of Theatre Research as well as at universities in England, China , and Australia. Her research projects on the intersections of dance, body, and globalization have taken place in Sudan, Egypt, Nepal, China , England, and Australia. Her articles can be found in The Journal of Popular Culture, Theatre Topics, Asian Theatre Journal, Dance Research Journal and elsewhere. She is the author of three books: Teaching Personality with Gracefulness (published in 1993), a discussion of Kanriye Fujima's life and teaching of Nihon Buyo in the United States, Breathing, Movement, Exploration, a movement text for actors (Applause Books 2001) and an edited volume on the globalization of the popular culture form, bellydance, titled Bellydance: Orientalism, Transnationalism and Harem Fantasy. (Mazda Press, 2005). Professor Sellers-Young’s research has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Centre for Cultural Research into Risk, Charles Sturt University, Australia, as well as numerous grants, including a Davis Humanities Fellowship and a Pacific Rim Planning Grant. She served for two years as convener of the International Federation of Theatre Research Working Group: Theory and Practice of Performing and is currently a member of the executive board of the Congress on Research in Dance. She served on various university committees at UC Davis, taught as a member of the Davis Honors program and was from 2001-05 Chair of the Department Theatre and Dance.

Introduction 1
1 Belly dance : an urban folk genre 28
2 Dance and jurisprudence in the Islamic Middle East 51
3 The male oriental dancer 85
4 Dismissal veiling desire : Kuchuk Hanem and imperial masculinity 114
5 Dance and dancer in Egyptian films 145
6 An evening in the Orient 172
7 La Meri and Middle Eastern dance 207
8 "Arabian coffee" in the land of the sweets 221
9 Dance of the seven veils : the revision of revelation in the Oriental dance community 244
10 Body, image, identity : American tribal belly dance 277
11 Spirit from the body : belly dance as a spiritual practice 304
12 They said she could dance on a single tile 342

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