Someone shared this article with me earlier today, and I think it might be of interest to some of the dancers I know. It’s an MA thesis out of Ohio State University, written a few years ago. It’s a little obtuse in places, but it’s definitely worth the read.
“This study examines the popular appropriation of Middle Eastern belly dance in the United States. Female American belly dancers find themselves engaging in an activity that has been informed by often contradictory discourses of women’s sexuality. These discourses stem from a history including the fascination of European colonialists with Middle Eastern dancers; its importation to World’s Fairs and cabarets; its highlighted role at tourist destinations in Middle Eastern countries; and its feminist appropriation as an index of the shifting views of female sexuality in the United States. Given the various connotations of the dance, dancers need to employ both delimited and expansive strategies as they find themselves constantly in the process of reframing the meanings of their performances, strategically colluding with or working against the meanings embedded in the popular image of the dance.
For the dancers, these strategies are employed most visibly in terms of style, including costuming, movements, attitude, facial expressions, and music, as well as verbal maneuvering within these categories. While genre works to contain the dance and to offer a sense of continuity, style allows it flexibility and becomes the place where appropriation works and change happens. Focusing on the dynamics of style and its importance to the rhetorical strategies of the dancers, this study explores the many ways in which global is annexed into the local practice of belly dance in America.”