Friday, December 16, 2011

Egypt's Belly Dancers Defy Islamists (From The Times, Johannesburg, 12-7-11)

Belly dancer turned actress, Lucy, prepares for a scene in an Egyptian soap opera

     "My job is not against religion, so I will not quit," said celebrated Egyptian belly dancer Lucy.

     "Egypt can prosper like Turkey - where an Islamist party reached power without banning entertainment and tourism, which are key sources of the national income," she said in remarks published in independent daily Al Shorouq.

     The Islamists have made big gains in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, triggering fears that they will restrict freedoms and entertainment.

     Belly dancing, popular for decades in the Middle East, is branded by the Islamists as immoral and un-Islamic.

     "This is our job, which we will not give up," Al Shorouq quoted Safwa and Samara, two other Egyptian belly dancers, as saying.

     "Belly dancing is an art like any other form of art," they added.

     Recent statements by ultra-conservative Salafists have raised worries among Egyptian entertainers, some of whom have said they were considering leaving the country.

Famous Egyptian dancer Tahia Carioca

I found that ivory image there
Dancing with her chosen youth,
But when he wound her coal-black hair
As though to strangle her, no scream
Or bodily movement did I dare,
Eyes under eyelids did so gleam;
Love is like the lion's tooth.

When She, and though some said she played
I said that she had danced heart's truth,
Drew a knife to strike him dead,
I could but leave him to his fate;
For no matter what is said
They had all that had their hate;
Love is like the lion's tooth.

Did he die or did she die?
Seemed to die or died they both?
God be with the times when I
Cared not a thraneen for what chanced
So that I had the limbs to try
Such a dance as there was danced -
Love is like the lion's tooth.

Crazy Jane Grown Old Looks At The Dancers
by William Butler Yeats (written March 2, 1929)

Egyptian belly dancers vowed Wednesday not to retire if Islamists take over in the predominantly Muslim country.


  1. keep the belly dancers. and real musicians

    ban the phonies aka "poets" and ahhtistes --the Tommy Clarks, Sillimans, the Bakersteins of Egypt (or US, or euro for that matter). Gulag a beatnik poet for the Prophet, too day. Eh shallah.

  2. I am all for the belly dancers and musicians, obviously, but also love Tom Clark's work. I know very little about Silliman, except that he apparently lives in my area. I mostly wish (at the moment) that we had more inquiring, skeptical, honest, agenda-free journalism and that headlines matched the contents of articles. That's today's quibble. I love each of the photos here.

  3. After seeing the Tunisian film, Satin Rouge (2002), I became a fan of belly dancing. Apart from the star of the film, Hiam Abbass, who plays Lilia, all of the the women in the cast are authentic dancers. Lilia, a conservative widowed mother discovers belly dancing and herself in the process. These old photos of belly dancers in costume are wonderful. Judging from the film, the ornate costumes have evolved, but haven't changed all that much. The cabaret in the film appears to be a Tunisian take on Gypsy Rose-style burlesque without the stripping and with a lot of up-close audience participation and clapping. Also, thanks for posting this article.

  4. Hi Nell. I'd love to see that movie. The combination of moving to Pennsylvania and raising Jane have wreaked havoc on my sophisticated moviegoing habits. I'm genuinely hoping that a combination of fortunate future external events in 2012 and reorienting my internal coordinates can improve that situation. We have a very good local "art cinema" in Bryn Mawr. I've only (as I recall) seen belly dancing once, in Morocco a long time ago. I'm glad you liked this. Curtis

  5. Hi Curtis, I actually rented this film on Netflix a couple of years ago. Not the same as seeing it in a theater, but I loved it so much I bought the DVD on The soundtrack is marvelous as well. How long have you been in PA? Nell

  6. We moved to PA in 2006 (I think), in time for Jane to attend 5th grade. Caroline grew up in Chester County and we went to college close by. We wanted Jane to grow up here. Our favorite relatives live around here also. The city of Philadelphia has many good qualities, but it's not nearly as beautiful or lively as it used to be. (That's objectively true and not just a product of my mood. It's pulse is distinctively weaker than it used to be.) I'm hopeful that the next 18 months will provide a new lease on life all-around. Curtis

  7. I admire you and Caroline for making the move to PA in large part for Jane's benefit, and it must be nice to have relatives in the area. On a different subject, a few months ago, I was going through shoe boxes filled with old correspondence. There was a note from you with your name embossed in even blue letters across the top; it is dated 9 September 1970. You ended with a powerful quote from John Cage that held great meaning for me then: “Here we are. Let us say yes to our presence in chaos.” I still like it.

  8. I'm glad you do. It's unexpected (obviously) to be reminded of this. It took me a couple of minutes to piece together the context. Today I'm leaning more toward "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" or "there's no success like failure and failure's no success at all." But that's just for this moment. Freezing outside. Curtis