Thanks for coming to Belly Dance “Prop-tacular” at the 2011 FIGMENT festival in NYC!
The flash of metal. A glimmer of a sharp blade. A dancer’s sinuous movements and deft skills. A historical fantasy?
Maybe. Sword dancing (raks al sayf) is not traditional among Egyptian women, but it does have a historical presence elsewhere in the Middle East, and even in some present-day men’s dances. The 1893 World’s Fair featured Algerian women–probably the Ouled Nail–who were photographed holding thin, straight swords. Paintings of dancers and harem women in the Orientalist paintings by Ingres and others may have contributed to the present-day popularity of sword dancing among belly dancers, though it is likely that the swords in these paintings were the imagined fantasies of the painters, as were may aspects of their works. An exact date for the introduction of swords into belly dance is unknown, but it is generally traceable to the 1960s or 1970s when the American dancers Leona Wood and Jamila Salimpour began to use swords in their performances. Today, swords are used by belly dancers of all stripes, from cabaret style to fusion performers. While very common in the US, Europe and elsewhere, sword is less commonly used by female dancers in the Middle East.
For more information on Najla’s performances and classes, visit her website.
For more information on FIGMENT, visit their website.
(For those of you who aren’t coming to this page from the festival, this blog entry is part of a series of posts on the different belly dance props being showcased during Najla’s festival performances at the Colonels Stage on Governors Island at 1:30 pm on June 10 and at 12:00 pm on June 12, 2011. Audience members will be able to scan a QR code next to a picture of each prop in order to learn more about it. )