Gilded Serpent presents...
Vision of the
by Piper Reid Hunt,
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.
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?).
arrived for the festival riding in from the desert on camels.
You know those "camel tassels" worn on tribal style costumes?
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.
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.
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.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Cabaret: Is it a dirty
word? by Piper Reid Hunt, PhD
Cabaret, the original fusion belly dance, is accessible and fun
for everyone, regardless of one’s dance education.
The Universal Language:
Dancing Makes Us Beautiful and Depression-free
After a long time living with my depression, I found something
that is better than any kind of pill or therapy.
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!
presents Ahlan Wa Sahlan Oriental Dance Festival Opening Cairo
2003." A video review by Mara al-Nil
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.