Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Dr. Robert A. Rubinstein
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Eastern European Studies | International and Area Studies | Other International and Area Studies
In light of the myriad misunderstandings about the Middle East and its people, this paper will seek to analyze how Middle Eastern culture has been represented in the US through the art of belly dance. This project examines what is currently known about the roots of belly dance, especially in relation to how such origins may be presented within the dance, and the first exposures that the American public may have had to belly dance through literary accounts, theatre, and design in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The representative accuracy and impact of these different sources are discussed as well as how they relate to current representations of the Middle East used in belly dance. The presence of the dance itself in the US, beginning with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 through to current performances, is then examined to see how different aspects of the dance and the culture from which it came are either emphasized or neglected at different points in time.
Building on literature reviews, observations of performances, and interviews with current performers, this project will demonstrate that, since the introduction of belly dance to the US, and by extension much of Western society, the dance has never been authentically Middle Eastern. It has always been subjected to American expectations, interpretations, and some gross inaccuracies, and has changed to such an extent that current performances are no longer Middle Eastern in origin as much as they are American.
Johnson, Elisabeth, "Representation of Middle Eastern Culture through Belly Dance in the US" (2006). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 650.
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