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India's belly dancers explore boundaries of genre

Once the domain of seedy adult entertainment until its reformation by the feminist movement as a means of revitalizing the genre and reasserting ownership over the female body, belly dancing has its origins in highly sexualized American cabaret which began in 1952 following the flight of performers from the Middle East after the prohibition of Raqs Sarqi (oriental dance) by religious fundamentalists in Egypt. With the onset of the second wave of American feminism in the 1970s, performers in the United States (a mix of Americans, Syrians, Egyptian, Lebanese and Armenians, and especially the Bal Anat dance company in Northern California) began to strip away the sexual nature of cabaret in order to save the original form from extinction even as women’s rights and artistic culture came under increased authoritarian suppression in the Middle East.


These images were taken during a performance by the Nrityakosh Dance Company on November 2. Having experimented with productions on the historical journey of belly dance and the Ramayana, the company used Scheherazade's web as a student showcase using narratives found in "One Thousand and One Nights."

The Rehearsal
The Main Show
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