Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bellydance: The Spectacle &Otherness

"Like People in Prehistory" (Excerpts) by Kitty Kohl (6.12.2011)
Asharah (6.13.2011)

"... The whole idea of bellydance, being a spectacle, a performance, with the movement elements, space use, and sorts of costuming that we associate with it is not that old. Bellydance, as we think of it, developed out of a range of folk dances that were already present, and may well have already been used as spectacle/performance dances and were definitely used at various festivals and rites of passage. It wasn’t until there was a big influx of foreigners into the Middle East from the West that the industry of dance really took off, and the dance changed so it would be more interesting to this new and affluent audience...

If we accept that bellydance in its form as an entertainment dance is not all that old at all, then we have to accept that it wasn’t created only for a female audience. In fact quite the opposite, a lot of people who wanted to see dancers perform in the Middle East during the colonial period were men, who came to see them because, being racially ‘other’ they were able to entertain sexual fantasies and ideas in the context of Middle Eastern dancing women far more easily than they were able to about women of their own class and culture. Looked at from this perspective, you could go as far as arguing that bellydance was a dance that exploited women’s dancing bodies and Western sexual repression for male erotic benefit, and alas we have never managed to shake this off. That isn’t a full picture though. As I have already said, bellydance came out of folk dance, and folk dance is dance performed by everybody, including men..."

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