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Books For Belly Dancers: On the Shelves at Studio Davina 2020

Hello Gang, This is part two of the “On the Shelves at Studio Davina” series. In this post I would like to share my top 10 books for belly dancers. I picked an assortment of my favorites, these are all books I’ve read more than once and that have inspired my own research.  These are the books that wind up on every one of my selected reading lists and bibliographies.  These are the books that look used, are filled with marginal notes, and glow with highlighter stripes. 

If you choose to use the links below, thank you!  Your purchase helps support this blog.  However, I do recommend supporting your favorite local book store. Small businesses are struggling and it’s great to support your local community of independent bookstores.  If you are purchasing your books for yourself, always consider picking up a used book. Buying used books is good for the environment and saves money too – my favorite win-win situation.

If you are looking to grow your personal library or want to give a gift to your favorite belly dancer, check out this list of my favorite books.  As I type this, it’s Thanksgiving Day, and I’m thinking of expanding my own library with a couple of key book purchases.  If I pick something up I’ll be sure to share in a future post.  In the meantime, enjoy this peek into my research library.

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina

Before They Were Belly Dancers: European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760-1870 by Kathleen W. Fraser – Link

This is an area that of research that perfectly dovetails into my own current research project.  Fraser has done a deep dive into the archive of travel literature to come up to find the descriptions of Egyptian dancers and entertainers.  During this era of “The Grand Tour,” many travelers returned home and published their accounts in the form of serialized journal articles, newspaper stories, informal travel guides, and personal diaries. If you are a fan of history and Egyptian dance and culture, this book is an essential read.  

Egyptian Belly Dance in Transition: The Raqs Sharqi Revolution, 1890 – 1930.  By Heather D. Ward – Link

This is a fantastic book that traces the evolution of Raqs Sharqi from informal cultural dances to stylized professional performances.  She uses primary documents such as newspaper and magazine advertisements to trace this development and the merging of Egyptian culture and taste, with the British ruling class and tourist entertainment needs.  Perfect for the fans of the history of  Egyptian dance and culture.  I picked up mine on Kindle so I can read it anywhere anytime on my phone!

The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion for the Serious Dancer by Princess Farhana – Link

This is a fantastic book for professional dancers by a professional dancer.  Filled with useful tips and tricks, fascinating anecdotes, lots of advice for living the dancer’s life.  I’m a huge fan of Princess Farhana and recommend this entertaining and informative read to dancers at every stage in the dance journey. 

Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage by Sara Shrapnell et al. – Link

If you are looking for a comprehensive book on being a belly dancer, look no further than “Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage.”  I’m happy to say that I worked on this book, but it really was the brainchild of Sara Shrapnell who has taught thousands of belly dance classes on two continents and is now one of the co-owners of the Belly Dance Business Academy.  And though I’m biased because I wrote three of the chapters, I always tell people this is THE textbook of belly dance.  I recommend to students at all levels.  Topics range from mindset and goal setting, costuming and appearance, to staging and performance and beyond. This book is organized like a teaching text into logical chapters so it’s easy to find the information you’re looking for.  I was so proud of the work I accomplished with this team that we’re finishing up our next book “Pose” that will be out early next year!!

You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi. By Morocco C. Varga Dinicu – Link

I personally have taken workshops, watched shows, and even hosted the inimitable Morocco of New York.  Rather than being organized into a narrative, Rocky has arranged her book in Q&A format, and I believe it’s like having the ULTIMATE belly dance FAQ in print.  My copy is bristling with post-it note tags, has highlighter smears and marginal notes.  It’s infused with Morocco’s vast knowledge, her wit, and wisdom, and is a treasure trove of information!

Belly Dance Rhythm Resource: What Every Dancer Should Know for a Memorable Performance by Richard Adrian Steiger – Link

A fantastic musician and music scholar, Richard Steiger, has brought together musical theory, which can help develop a deeper understanding of Middle Eastern music.  This book provides so many details, beautiful break downs, and comparisons of rhythms.  Essential for the serious dancer who wants more insights on the drum, percussion, and structure of Middle Eastern dance music.  I read this book once through, and now reach for it when I want to refresh my technical knowledge. If you like my book “Zills: Music on Your Fingertips” definitely consider picking up this book!

Bellydance: A Guide to Middle Eastern Dance, it’s Music, It’s Culture and Costume by Keti Sharif – Link

Looking for a gift for someone with an interest in belly dance?  This is a beautiful little book that serves a general introduction to the art.  The story is told through beautiful imagery and clearly explained text.  It’s like a small soft-cover coffee table book that I love to pull out every once and a while and thumb through just for the pure enjoyment of the photography.

Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley – Link

Toni Bentley is a dance journalist and this book focuses on a subject near and dear to my research, Salomania. Although I was already interested in dancers of this period, this is the book that sparked my interest in this topic.  This book reads like a novel and presents biographical information about four important dancers in the first decade of the twentieth century.  Maud Allan, Mata Hari, Ida Rubinstein, and Colette.  This book has been part of my reading list since it was published and continues to be a much re-read book on my shelf.  I love it so much I bought it Kindle too so I can enjoy it on the go!

Serpent of the Nile by Wendy Buonaventura – Link

This book was first released as a luxurious coffee table book filled with beautiful historic images and the myths and legends that many at the time believed were the true origins of the dance. I like to describe this to people as one woman’s love letter in text and images, an ode to dance, rather than an academic tome. Through the passage of time, numerous researchers in the zone of belly dance history have used this book as a jumping-off point for their own deep dives into the history of dance. This book is an important part of our history as it was the first major publication on the subject of belly dance.

Women as Portrayed in Orientalist Painting by Lynne Thornton – Link

Way back when I was teaching orientalist art in my role as an adjunct art history professor, I always snuck this little gem of a book into the reading list. The focus of the book is discussing women as subjects for the disparate artists that worked in the Orientalist mode. The paperback version of this book is a pocket-sized visual delight. But though compact, it presents well-researched information about the various archetypes that women portrayed in these paintings. This book is part of a larger French series “Les Orientalistes” but is so revered in art history that it’s one of the few that was translated into English and continues to stay in print. 

 

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