The reading dancer

Possibly thanks to my former life as a history student, I’m a big fan of reading and researching broadly around anything I’m interested in – aided and abetted by a  quality local library and friends with interesting book collections.

In recent months, I’ve turned my attention to the broader context of belly dance – using the general resources of my local library while I save up for more dance-specific tomes in my Amazon cart.  Over recent months, I’ve shifted my gaze from books on meditation and yoga (the latter being of limited practical use without a class, but of much spiritual inspiration) to explore whatever I can find about the Middle East and beyond.  I’ve been through design and art books, some religion (as part of a university course last semester), and have now turned my eyes towards the Travel and History sections of the library.

What has this got to do with my dance?

Quite a lot, actually!

I’m keen to understand more about this dance I love, and understanding the cultural, social and political context it springs from is part of that.

I am quite consciously and deliberately digging deeper right now – deeper into myself and my emotional wellspring (more about that in another post) and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of belly dance, which is Middle Eastern dance.  Now, I am aware that my own preferences in dance (a strong tribal/fusion tendency) are more American than Egyptian, so I’ve also been throwing a few commentaries on the US and the Middle East into my library bag.  And quite frankly, recent events in the Middle East do point to its strong linkages with the US of A!

So, for better or for worse, here are some of the books I’ve found interesting, enlightening and generally helpful (beyond the usual histories of dance – as the library doesn’t have them and I haven’t saved up enough yet!):

  • Andrew Hampton’s Popular culture in the Arab world – a great overview of popular culture and its context in the Arab world It includes a chapter on belly dancing, as well as an interesting look at popular music.
  • Philip Robins’ The Middle East – an excellent introduction to the modern Middle East.  Done thematically rather than geographically, so you get a great idea of the whole context. He is a lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at Oxford University, so really knows his stuff.
  • Malalai Joya’s Raising my voicea very moving read.  I’ve posted more on this book over at my other non-dance blog.

And my waiting to be read pile includes:

More on these later…

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