Ah…my first real blog post from my adventures in bellydance history! So, I finished reading “Serpent of The Nile: Women and Dance in the Arab World” by Wendy Buonaventura and enjoyed it (I highly recommend it to all dancers). I felt it gave a nice overview of the evolution of the dance from the Ghawazee and up through the early 1930’s..concentrating mostly on the social acceptance and societal effects on the dance through outside influence and orientalism. I felt it gave a good explanation of why the dance evolved the way it did societally both in the western world and in the Middle East.
It did leave me a little at a loss for the perspective of the dance from a modern dancers point of view. Now I realize this book was originally published in 1989, and though “Tribal” dance didn’t exist then, the cabaret scene was flourishing. I felt that she included thoughts from male Orientalist painters and writers of the era, and perspectives of westerners from the turn of the century more than she did from women who are currently or were involved in the evolution of the dance from the 1930’s on. I just once again feel that even when a female author creates a great book like this, the viewpoints and experiences of those who are participating in the dance form are left out.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book immensely and I feel it gave me a good groundwork for the other things I am studying now. I am currently immersing myself in articles about the evolution of “tribal” bellydance from many different sources (from tribal dancers and cabaret/egyptian style dancers as well). I am trying to balance my perspective of it’s creation and see how varied the accounts are. It’s interesting to hear one article praise Masha Archer for her introduction of the idea of the dance as an elevated artform where women danced in front of an audience, but were dancing with and for each other; and another article said, “Masha is a controversial figure, she tried to distance herself culturally from the roots of bellydance and felt that the people of the Middle East did not deserve to be the keepers of bellydance as they were ashamed of it and that instead American women were more deserving to adopt it.”
In my study, I am encountering more and more of these contrary viewpoints. It only furthers my desire to study all I can but to eventually get the story “straight from the Horses’ mouths”…by interviewing these people and though all is subjective, I feel this will give me the most pure, unadulterated perspective on “tribal history.”
Well, more to come soon! All the articles I am reading are in the links section for you to read for yourself! Thanks for reading!