The Belly Dance Book : Rediscovering
the Oldest Dance
by Tazz Richards (Editor)
Backbeat Press
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"The Belly Dance Book"
Edited by Tazz Richards"

Reviewed by Sadira

This book has a surprising change of format from all the various books that have been published recently, trying to summarize the origins, or various aspects of "belly dance". For the amount of material covered in this book, it is very well organized. The information and writing is excellent, and the whole piece flows beautifully into a resource book for dance research or personal enlightenment.

This is one of the first books I have read that has been done on a serious level of ethnographic research on the various backgrounds of dances throughout the Middle East; from the time of the Pharos to the personal and dance backgrounds of male performers.

"The Belly Dance Book" includes articles from ethnographic historians, and others who had done detailed research on each article they submitted. Along with each article are footnotes, exactly as you would find in an anthology or serious study, where you can go back and check the references for more details. This also shows the great amount of study, and dedication that has gone into the articles themselves.

It is amazing how much material is covered in this one book. It begins with a superb beginning essay on the background of Belly Dancing, which was compiled by Kajira Djoumahna. From these beginning pages, you begin to see a structure and living history emerge; facts that are predominantly known throughout the dance background.  It is interspersed with new materials, which are fascinating and that become a comprehensive and fascinating adjunct to one's understanding. Each article is well edited so that it is not overdone in length, yet carries a strong impact. The most important details of each piece are dramatically engaging. I was especially pleased to see an excellent anthology of how the dance developed in its different phases in history.

There is an entire section,devoted to the history of the Egyptian Cabaret method of dancing, that developed in the '30s and '40s. Every page has photos or drawings relevant to the material being  discussed. There is a unique article reviewing the dance from the Pharonic period that goes into far greater detail than"the birth ritual".

As a researcher myself, I was extremely happy to see this quality of writing about the dance, its origins, its cultural influences, and its historical backgrounds from well documented sources.

Another essay that surprised me was by, Tarik abd el Malik on the background of the male presence in "Oriental Dance". This alone would be a journalistic prize. He presents references, drawings and outlines that in all my years of dance and research, I had never heard about. I applaud his diligence in finding and developing this information.

Beside the excellent reference work done by the varied authors regarding dance history;, is the complete variety of what is offered in this book.

The amount of information contained in this beautifully produced book is over whelming. Not only is it a valuable resource guide, or help for looking up information and using it also within a teaching setting, but the layout, photos and drawings, make it visually a stunning book to display.

In a condensed way, the chapters cover a vast array of information. There is the history of various dances, past/present, also a section on spiritual or sacred connection to the dance. The theme of an important chapter is dancing with snakes...which, as a veteran snake dancer, I can tell much needed. How to use various dance props, what they were originally used for in Egypt. One example of such props would be the Candelabra dance origins (Raks Shammadan), used by the dancer at the head of the wedding party to light the processional. There is an excellent, professional section of both make-up techniques and costuming that could make up one book by itself.

Music, composition, and famous composers are also heavily and basically broken down to give good background information to all dancers. >I believe this book is a gem! I think everyone from beginners to professionals would find something of value in it. The publication, set-up, design and writing are all first rate. Don't hesitate about buying another book on "belly dancing ", when it comes to "THE BELLY DANCE BOOK , Rediscovering the Oldest Dance", Edited byTazz Richards. It is something you will cherish and refer to repeatedly.

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