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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Belly dance was introduced into America by Turkish and Arab dancers, who established the structure and aesthetics of the dance. Appropriated by non-Arab dancers for recreation and personal growth, belly dance has promulgated sensualized Orientalism and gained public notoriety that is problematic and even offensive to those whose culture it apparently represents. This chapter explores three manifestations of belly dance in America: recreational, in which “Arab” aspects are obscured or romanticized; tribal, which entangles the “Arab” and the “primitive” using Middle Eastern elements to evoke an archetypal tribe; and “Arab-centered” (Egyptian),based on the styles and aesthetics of Arab dancers. In the twenty-first century, America’s sensual, fantasy Orientalism fuels the expansion of recreational belly dance beyond the Western world. This appropriated, hybridized dance both fosters the misrepresentation of Arab culture and offers the potential for genuine artistic and cultural exchange with the Arab cultures that inspired it.

Keywords: belly dance, Orientalism, recreational dance, tribal, aesthetics, Arab dancers, Turkish dancers, Middle Eastern elements, Arabs, Arab culture

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