Walk Like an Egyptian: Belly Dance past and present practice in England
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How Belly Dance practitioners in England construct a sense of self-identity, social-identity and identity-in-practice in a border-crossing Belly Dance ethnoscape is of interest for this research project. What kinds of identities-in-practice do Belly Dancers in England construct in order to authenticate their performance? By applying social theories of education and identity formation, in particular Holland et al’s “figured worlds” (2001), it is possible to critically frame the development of a practitioner’s Belly Dance identity over a period of time. The research presents the case that Belly Dance in England has an identifiable past and present practice, one that continually wrestles with ownership of what is apparently a Middle Eastern cultural export. Drawing from a literature based case study of two pioneering artists in the early 1980s, Hilal and Buonaventura, the research describes a distinctive English Belly Dance tradition and identities. There is an explanation of how the English Belly Dance form has since competed on the global stage. The research also describes how current inheritors of that tradition −Anne White, Caroline Afifi and Siouxsie Cooper are taken as case studies− appropriate and signal Egyptian Belly Dance as the dominant reference point from which to authenticate their dancing practice; whilst at the same time subverting the Orientalist paradigm underpinning the Belly Dance trope. Identifying “narratives of authenticity” enable the current generations of English Belly Dancers to form distinctive Belly Dancing identities-in-practice. Drawing from both social theories of education and identity formation and reflexive ethnographic modes of inquiry, Walk like an Egyptian examines Belly Dance in England as a translocated dance form, and the mechanisms which allow its authenticity are analysed. In answer to the research question it is possible for an English practitioner of Belly Dance to produce an authentic Belly Dance performance through the production of various narratives of authenticity, narratives which both borrow from and resist pre-existing narratives of authenticity.
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