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“Doing” Belly Dance History – Avoiding Misattributions

Today’s Research Tip:
Beware of misattributions on user-driven Image aggregate websites and micro-blogs.

Image: Hungarian Dancer and Contortionist Sahary-Djeli known as “La Mystérieuse”

One of the websites I have a love and hate relationship with is Pinterest.  On the one hand, I love that it serves as a storehouse for a wealth of visual information and inspiration. 

However, on the other hand, I’ve learned to question the data that accompanies images should all be questioned.  Other image aggregate sites include Flikr and the micro-blog sites Tumblr and Instagram. 


This image, of Sahry-Djeli, is lovely and dates back to 1910-1913, and I use it as part of ongoing research on Salomania.  

However,  in many places, this is labeled “La Belle Otero” another great entertainer.  These two performers were contemporaries, both working in Europe, but primarily in France, during the first quarter of the 20th century.  They also were performers of the dance du ventre, and appeared in the role of Salome. 

Sahry-Djili was more than just a dancer. She was also a famous contortionist, with extreme flexibility and extension through her body.  Her lithe limberness was her unique claim to fame and made her stand out when compared to the numerous other Salome’s gracing the stage of theaters around Europe.  Look at this amazing position she could get into and hold for the length of time required for studio images at this time.

La Belle Otero

However, at some point, someone noted the resemblance between these two performers and misidentified this image as La Belle Otero.  Since then, this image and attribution have circulated the web.   La Belle Otero was from the previous generation, and by the time Salomania took hold of the stages of Europe, Otero was a seasoned performer while Sahary was an up-and-comer. 

As a researcher, I always question “the source” of the accompanying documentation.   Consider the “Five W’s”  – Who, What, When, Where, and Why (and the sixth “hoW”) when looking at pictures on image aggregate and micro-blogging websites.   If you feel confident that you have the correct information, rejoice!  If you have concerns, as I did for this image, then it’s time to put on the researcher hat and either confirm the attribution or find the real info.

Build Your Own Research Archive

I’ll be using more images of Sahary and discuss how I find, process, and store images in my archive. Wanna join me?  If you are interested in learning more about how to find and use images for your own research, study, and teaching, why not come join me for my talk on Saturday, March 27?

“Doing” Belly Dance History

Sat., March, 27,  2:00pm PT
90-minute Digital Seminar
plus eBook study guide

Only $20
Reserve your space

Perhaps I will see you there!
In the meantime, take care and be well!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 12, 2021

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