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“Doing” Belly Dance History – Fact vs. Theory

Topic & Talk: “Doing” Belly Dance History
Research Tip: Be clear on the difference between what is a fact, and what is theory.
Image: Cycladic Idol Figure, Chalcolithic period, Getty Malibu

QUESTION:  Is this a sculpture of a woman dancing?

Perhaps I’m stepping onto a soapbox, but I think as researchers we need to be very clear with our communication and share information about our research as clearly and accurately as possible. Over the past 50 years, there’s been a lot of theory presented as fact in magazine articles, blog posts, and even published books.  Sometimes ideas get repeated so many times, these myths, concepts, and ideas begin to seem or “feel” like facts.

Fact vs. Theory

As researchers, we need to be clear when communicating our own analyses and theories.  The facts are that this figurine is from the Middle Chalcolithic Period, approximately 2800 – 2000 BCE during the Copper Age.  She was made in an era before writing, so we have no concrete evidence of why she was made or how she was used.   
In my opinion, this Cycladic Idol Figure located at the Getty Museum in Malibu is in a very typical dance stance.  By looking at her from all angles, we can see that artist has captured one of the signature poses of dancers from this region today.  Her arms extended, her torso elongated, and her knees are bent.  Could she be a depiction of one of our dance ancestors?  The truthful answer is that we will never know. 

Cycladic Idol Figurine

But I use her in talks and point out her posture and share my theory as theory.  Even the venerable Getty museum has made an assumption by calling her a “Goddess Figure.”  Couldn’t she also be a worshipful supplicant?  Could she possibly be a priestess?    Back and side views from the Getty Publication “Early Cycladic Sculpture.”  It’s available to read online or for download here:
So though we never will know, she’s still a useful figurine to consider when contemplating our most ancient dance roots.  This summer when the travel bans are lifted, I’m looking forward to going to the Getty museum and taking my own photos from all sides to add to my personal archive. 

“Doing” Belly Dance History

Saturday, March, 27, 2:00 pm PT
90-minute Digital Seminar
plus eBook study guide
Only $20
Click through to reserve your space:
Hosted by Sara Shrapnell
This seminar is presented art historical style, with loads of lush images that trace the history of our dance art. If you have ever been curious about my approach to conducting archival research, how I plan and organize my projects, and store the data, this is the talk for you!
Happy Researching!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 19, 2021
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