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The Belly Dance Reader 2 Paperback – July 29, 2014
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In the past few years serious academic analysis of this beloved and intriguing dance form and its world have really taken off, and the first Belly Dance Reader is a worthy contributor to it. This second edition is arguably even better. It's a fatter book at 343 pages with many lovely, albeit black and white, illustrations. As well as quite intellectual material and some great, up to date approaches to history, the Reader contains many practical articles on subjects that are important to working dancers and dance teachers - evaluation, technique, business, approaches to musicality, competitions, costuming, travel...
There is a lot of space given over to what I think of as the serious meat and potatoes of this dance form in all its manifestations - the stuff that is often lost when we become obsessed with technical perfection or drills or "authentic" presentation of our particular preferred stye of belly dance. I have not seen articles like the ones on tarab, dancing with musicians, improvising and staging your performances before, never mind gathered in one volume, and this is incredibly useful stuff for dancers in far-flung communities (like mine in New Zealand) where we simply don't have quite the breadth of experience available to us. This is not style-specific stuff - any dancer can learn from these articles. I'd argue they would be of interest even to dancers and performers outside the belly dance world.
There are some big names contributing to this work, as in the first Belly Dance Reader, both on the academic side and the practical side. And there are multiple voices at play on related topics, which provides a much more nuanced picture than your average "how to" book or a workshop or class with a single teacher.
On a shallow level, I love the "postmodern orientalist" cover - that's a photo you're looking at - but what I really love most about this book, as a dancer at a certain stage in my dance journey, are the articles like Amani Jabril's piece on zeibekiko, which is really about seeking an authenticity that is personal rather than just imitative, and Emma-Lucy Cole's article on the tensions of representing authenticity at the cost of others.
Unlike many books that strive to tell dancers about how to bellydance, this, like the first BDR, is a peer-reviewed journal. There are a few typos that weren't picked up in the proofing process, but overall, it's a handsome volume that invites dipping in and out of.