The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron &
Midnight Rose by Wendy Buonaventura
Reviewed by Bonita Oteri
posted September22, 2009
"The Belly Dancer" by DeAnna Cameron
Berkley Books, ISBN# 978-0425227787
"The Belly Dancer" is a delightful, light, entertaining romance novel with unusual twists.The book also affords readers an educational, historical background. This novel, like most historical fictional novels, does make minor "poetic license" leaps in character traits to bridge the gap between their time and ours and to afford us empathy with their situations. However, author DeAnna Cameron deftly peels back the layers of Gay Nineties society and affords a richly descriptive and fascinating glimpse into the life, times and giddy excitement of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. DeAnna has researched turn of the century Chicago and paints a believable atmosphere of this momentous, historical event where Belly Dancing reportedly was first introduced into the United States. While I am no academic, historical expert on the era, I found only one minor editorial oversight that places Ouled Nail Dancers in the Turkish Pavilion/Tent.
The overall carnival excitement, curiosity and wonder of the Chicago Fair visitors is infectious.The pages teem with the unbridled enthusiasm and hope of our still young, shiny and new pioneer nation.
Any fictional heroine such as our intrepid leading lady must also traverse the dark, murkier side of 1890s Chicago. She experiences dilemmas and choices that are relevant in any era – racism, exclusive "members only type" societal cliques and the age old question of "What if you get everything you wished for, and it’s not what you really wanted?" I will not spoil the book by revealing too much… but suffice to say that the conventions of the time and culture are as tight and constricting emotionally and spiritually, as are her corset stays physically. How does she overcome these inhibitions and set herself free? By learning and channeling the power of belly dance to launch all that suppressed inner passion and fire.
My favorite exchange in the book is when the scandalized, gently reared heroine comes upon a choice between a "fun" liaison and the serious marriage choices she has been taught are vital all her life long. She asks her saucy, adorable but rock-steady Egyptian belly dance mentor, "But what if HE meets someone else?" The Egyptian Ghawazee teacher laughs and replies confidently, "What if I meet someone else? "Wow, consider the hours of mutual girlfriend counseling we could avoid if we all shared this positive, self-esteem building, light-hearted attitude.
This book makes for great end-of-summer beach reading or a unique Christmas gift for moms, sisters, adult daughters or girlfriends who might not be dancers themselves but would like a glimpse into what motivates some to study belly dance. Perhaps the tiniest, tantalizing taste…will overcome and seduce them into the next belly dance class opening in your neighborhood….. The cover art is lovely and DeAnna Cameron the author will be glad to send you some bookmarks as supplies last to distribute to your students.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zil Ratings: 3 zills
"Midnight Rose" is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Maud Allan. A British gentleman quips, “She was the Marilyn Monroe of my times.” Maud was an American born dancer who gained notoriety in Europe for performing on stage as Salome, The “evil” biblical temptress.
Her dancing career and her adventurous youth occurred at the dawn of the bohemian lifestyle era, which allowed women to toss their corsets and become flappers of the Roaring Twenties.
She was a contemporary of Isadora Duncan and Mata Hari; and while never as famous as these two women, her dancing appears to have incorporated some of the elements for which these dancers were best known. Her character seems more similar to that of Mata Hari, for whom dancing was a means to an end, than that of Isadora, who was a true pioneer in the modern dance field.
This book blends historical court record transcripts, actual reviews and media articles of the era with fictional dreams and diaries to provide the author’s insight into how this fearless woman might have felt and what might have motivated her behavior, which was scandalous by Edwardian era standards.
Maud definitely walked on the wild side even by today’s societal mores; this fictional account suggests she might have dabbled in threesomes and lesbian relationships. Nonetheless, she is a hypnotic character brought to bold life on the pages by Wendy’s seamless fusion of fact and fiction.
Zil Ratings: 3 zills
The Gilded Serpent Editor asked me to compare and contrast these two novels, which may appeal to totally different audiences.
“The Belly Dancer” has mass marketing appeal to many women as a light, entertaining romance novel; it is a good introduction to the art form which, I believe, will even entice more than a few ladies into our classes. In contrast, “Midnight Rose” has a darker side and is not for the faint hearted who want to read a happily ever after type novel.
Wendy has done a great service to the dance world in painting an unabashedly brazen portrait of this fascinating, incorrigible and yet in some ways vulnerable woman. This more serious, semi-biographical literature will appeal to those interested in the Edwardian era, the dance style emerging at the time and a fascinating tale of the “liberated” woman from the early days of the twentieth century.
This is not the correct price. Check Amazon UK or get direct and authographed from Cinnabar linked above
Buying through this Amazon link does help support Gilded Serpent!
Ready for more?
- 9-1-09 Maud Allan: La Femme Fatale
For, as the trial progressed, in effect, it became a trial of female sexuality. No respectable woman, it was claimed, could possibly take on the sadistic role of Salome unless she was a sadist in real life, and sadism was regarded at the time as a practice verging on the criminal.
- 12-15-08 Love and Romance, Egyptian Style, Book Review of The Poison Tree, planted and grown in Egypt by Marwa Rakha
Bravely baring her soul and laying her innermost fears on the altar of Truth as she sees it, the author gives us a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Love and Romance, Egyptian Style.
- 1-18-09 Dancing with Legends: Interview of Freddie Elias Part 1: When Boston’s Golden Era Rocked to Music Orientale by Artemis Mourat
They do not study the craft in a deep and meaningful way, and everybody’s in a hurry. They don’t get into it right. They don’t think! If you do not work hard, you cannot protect your craft.
- 9-17-09 Pop, Locks and Shimmy x 2, 2 DVDs with Almost the Same Name
So what’s with the title dilemma? who deserves the crown for the first pop, lock, and shimmy DVD, or who did the best one? After dancing along several times to each DVD, what matters most to answer the question who did it right – the appropriate title to the appropriate production
- 9-16-09 Yousry Sharif Makes a Stop in Tennessee
Yousry sat on the front row during the performance, and is rumored to have remarked “that is me dancing up there!” when Virginia made her appearance.
- 8-14-09 Knowledge and Skills for Becoming an Excellent Performer: Sadie’s Complete
Bellydancing Guide Secrets of the Stage Vol. 1 With Michelle Joyce
Common anxiety attacks that almost every dancer experiences before getting on stage are discussed
- 7-17-09 2 Balancing & Sword DVDs Reviewed: The Art of Sword and Shamadan by Princess Farhana DVD & Sword and Tray Balancing for Bellydancers with Cory & Laura
It’s a shame that this DVD wasn’t a remastered version.
- 7-12-09 Heartbeat of the Dance: Review of 4+ Drum Solo CDs Reviewed
Sabla Tolo 1 & 2 by Hossam Ramzy, Drum Attack by Tony Chamoun, Pulse of the Sphinx by Henkesh Brothers
- 2-15-09 Academia? Like it or Trash it! 2 Books Reviewed: Dancing Communities & Dancing Fear and Desire
One thing that I have found within our community is the general lack of scholarship and a feminine voice within the research.