- Lisa Lumina
Level One: Undulations Unit, Class 4
Updated: Feb 23
Bellydancers occupy something called a "liminal" space in MENAHT culture. Both an integral part of celebrations, and a profession that is not considered respectable by many parts of society. This can make life hard for professional dancers working in the countries of origin, but is also conveys a certain power that is the subject of this week's reading.
lim·i·nal /ˈlimənl/ adjective:
· occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
· In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete.
Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on Anatolia and Iran. These regional highlights are meant to give a general orientation, and really only scratch the surface of the diversity of arts in the MENAHT/SWANA area (Middle East, North Africa, Helene, & Turkey/SouthWest Asia & North Africa).
If you don't know about the Armenian genocide that took place during world war 1, the movie "The Promise" staring Oscar Isaac tells the story of its impact on people via the fictional characters. This of course led to many Armenians fleeing Turkey. Some to Armenia, some to the US.
When rhythms like kochari and tamzara show up in American dance shows, this is why. Armenian musicians joined with Greek, Egyptian, Iranian, Palestinian, Syrian, Moroccan, and so on to form the bands bringing MENAHT music and dance to the states. Armenian nightclubs and families often would hire bellydancers for weddings and nightclub shows (especially before TV made the idea of "going out" much less popular than it was before the 80s).
Here is an example of Armenian line dancing at a wedding.
Awalim were depicted in many ways, not usually favorable, in Egyptian cinema. In this movie, the main character is from an Awalim family, but she attends university and gains respect.
Thanks to being culturally taboo to publicly perform, bellydancers get to exercise their sass. Here’s Greek-Egyptian dancer Katy.