Book Review: The Belly Dance Book
- Rediscovering the Oldest Dance
edited by Tazz Richards
Published in the MEDANZ newsletter, August 2002
The book is a collection of articles by a wide range of people including Shira, Tarik, Zenuba, Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, Morocco, Dina (the Costume Goddess) and Aziza Sa'id. It covers a wide range of material from history, make-up, and costuming to the spiritual side and dancing with snakes. Much of the material is available elsewhere - for instance on the net or in Dina's costume books. However it is useful to have it all together in one book.
What you won't find in this book is any material directly relating to dance - nothing about warm-up, stretching, or the movement vocabulary. While much of this is difficult to explain via a book and there are difficulties with terminology looking up the index and finding entries for Inanna and Isis but nothing for isolation or improvisation reflects the flavour of the material.
The highlights for me were Aischa's article on the dancers of the Golden Age and Tarik's article on men and raqs sharqi which included a lot of historical background.
I had a few small niggles with the book. The first was with the Arabic transcription - "raks sharki" - eech. The second was with the Terminology page. Given Shira's involvement I was disappointed to see some shonky definitions and derivations. Repeating the Ben Trovato link between the term "belly dance" and "beledi" is not helpful. Nor is confusing danse du ventre with raqs sharqi (the former is a style performed by the Ouled Nail of Algeria that was belly centered - the latter an Arabic improvisational dance from the Levant that emphasizes the hips and torso).
That said I think this book would be found useful by many dancers - especially those without access to other sources.
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