ad 4 Artemis


ad 4

ad 4 Najia

Gilded Serpent presents...
My Vision of the
Desert Archidance

by Piper Reid Hunt, Ph.D.

Cairo is the most fascinating city to which I have ever traveled. Even exotic places like Istanbul and Bangkok cannot compare. I'm an architecture buff; so I could spend endless hours wondering around, looking at 19th century homes leaning up against 17th century villas next to 12th century mosques, as they exist today in Cairo. The locked gates that lead to glimpses of gardens with fountains that can be heard from the street (but not seen) are so enticing! I had heart palpitations the first time I went shopping in the Khan el-Khalili, trying to decide what to buy. I make my own costumes, and I bought enough items to make 10 costumes on that trip. This took place long before you could buy such things as pre-beaded fringe on the web, so it was very exciting.

The best part about my first trip to Egypt, however, was not the shopping, the museums, the temples and pyramids, or even getting to see Nagwa Fouad in person. The best part was a side trip to the Fayoum, an oasis about 100 miles from Cairo. I was lucky enough to be there on the saint's day for which the local mosque was named. People were busy all day setting up stalls in which to sell food and trinkets and useful items (canteens, camel saddles anyone?).

Bedouins arrived for the festival riding in from the desert on camels. You know those "camel tassels" worn on tribal style costumes?

I thought that was just a name, but these proud camels were all decked out with them on their harnesses and saddle pads. That evening, everyone crowded into the mosque for the celebration. Women sat on piles of rugs in the corners, talking and nursing their infants with regal bearing and giant silver bracelets on their ankles, along with tattoos on their faces, arms, and legs. Men took over the center of the room and set up a stage with rugs and chairs for the musicians. I had heard about trance dancing before, but had never seen it in an authentic context. Only the men danced. They swayed their upper bodies, their feet far apart, and their hips low in a grounded stance, flinging themselves from side to side with the rhythm until they literally passed out (at which point they were carried to the side and were lain on more piles of rugs) while other men took their places on the dance floor. It was simple and repetitive, yet fascinating, and somehow, very African.

To me, Egypt has always seemed to be a Mediterranean country: the land of the Pharaohs, an ancient trading partner of the Phoenicians and Minoans, the southern part of the Roman Empire, a center of culture and learning during the European Dark Ages, a poor country struggling to become part of the modern world. The first time I flew to Cairo over Crete from Athens, I hadn't thought about the fact that I was switching continents.

In retrospect, this seems stupid, but all of a sudden, the fact that I was on the continent of Africa hit me like a shock wave! It was this shock that triggered an epiphany for me, a comprehensive view of world dance --with Belly dance at its center.

The feet are the focus of much of the dancing in Europe. Think of: flamenco, the minuet, clogging, Balkan line dancing, even the Ballet. In Asia, dance tends to focus more on the upper body, with the hands and eyes telling a story. African dance tends to be more visceral and grounded, the movements become soulful expressions of the self. Yet, the Belly dance incorporates all of these elements from the east, west, north, and south. As I left that mosque under the bright desert stars, a vision came to me. My vision was one of Belly dance as either the progenitor of all dance forms, or the synthesis of dance styles brought here to the cradle of civilization from the rest of the world by travelers, slaves, and conquerors. As a living, continuously evolving art form, perhaps our dance is both of these things at the same time.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
7-5-04 Cabaret: Is it a dirty word? by Piper Reid Hunt, PhD
American Cabaret, the original fusion belly dance, is accessible and fun for everyone, regardless of one’s dance education.

12-2-04 The Universal Language: Dancing Makes Us Beautiful and Depression-free by Adry Svraka
After a long time living with my depression, I found something that is better than any kind of pill or therapy.

11-12-04 Mystery Dancer #1: Iklas
Gilded Serpent is looking for clues to the story behind this lovely dancer! If you have any information, please contact us!

6-1-04 "Raqia Hassan presents Ahlan Wa Sahlan Oriental Dance Festival Opening Cairo 2003." A video review by Mara al-Nil
While my personal preference is to focus on the dancers, some people may enjoy celebrity spotting, or looking for friends and fellow dancers fortunate enough to have attended the gala.

creat with

 ad 4
ad 4 oasis dance company
ad 4 Coins by Susie

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines