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ME-dance-msg - 5/13/08


Middle Eastern dance, "bellydancing". Sources for Medieval Middle Eastern dancing.


NOTE: See also the files: dance-msg, dance-par-art, fd-Mid-East-msg, ME-feasts-msg, fd-Turkey-msg, jewelry-msg, drums-msg, instruments-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: hashiri at aol.com (Hashiri)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Documentation on "belly" dance?

Date: 18 Feb 1996 14:12:38 -0500




I myself have attempted to do historical research on the dance.  There is

very little out there.  Most of the books I have found agree that belly

dancing has been around for 1000s of years and in many different cultures,

but there is little to no documentation before the 17th century.  The best

book I found was by Wendy Buonaventura:  Belly Dancing - The Serpant and

the Sphinx, 1983, Virago Press Limited (London).  She had the best

research into pre 17th century dance.  


Hope this helps!

Christiana Ivarrsdottir, mka Christine Wilson

aka Hashiri

Barony of Bjornsborg, Ansteorra



From: hashiri at aol.com (Hashiri)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Documentation on "belly" dance?

Date: 21 Feb 1996 09:38:29 -0500


I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with the assertion that only

prostitutes danced with body parts exposed.  Belly dance has many forms

from many cultures, with different mores.


While many people point out that the Ghwazee dancers wore dresses that

covered from neck to ankle, and that this is a 'correct' or 'authentic'

style of dress, everything I've read about the Ghwazee dancers says that

when they danced, they would unbutton the dresses to the navel and dance

bare-breasted.  Granted, this practice was documented in the 1700s,  but

this is the time period from which most of the research availible comes



I think it all depends on how far back your dance persona goes, and what

educated  guesses you can make from the little information out there.


So I guess what I'm saying is keep an open mind, have fun, and live happy!


Christiana Ivarrsdottir, mka Christine Wilson

aka Hashiri

Barony of Bjornsborg, Ansteorra



From: aceia at onr.com (Robin Gammon)

To: bryn-gwlad at eden.com

Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 09:02:54 +0100

Subject: Re: Revel


Sounds like it could be fun....


Could we dancer types request a limit on how many drummers drum at one time

(not more than 5- it gets too loud and too confusing about who is lead

drum)?   We would also like to encourage drummers to include a little

variation in their rythems and try and be aware of the dancer.  If the

dancer speeds up then you speed up.  If the dancer slows down then you slow

down.  If the dancer looks tired then please find an ending and STOP!

Please don't take this as rude.  Drumming is an art, I agree.  However,

trance dancing is very different from middle-eastern dancing.  As a dancer

I tire too quickly and get bored when there is only one unchanging rythem

to dance to.  Remember- you are drumming for the dancer, the dancer is not

dancing to you.


Robin Anderson of Ross

Alternate Personna: Roshan (dancing girl of Conor Sigmundson)

Ex-officer 2 years running of ABA and student of Jeanette, Nisaba and Elmaazah.



From: DDFr at Best.com (David Friedman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 11:21:50 -0800

Organization: School of Law, Santa Clara University


> I have drummed for the past few years for belly dancers.  is there any

> evidence of SCA Period Belly Dancing?


> Baron Achbar Ibn Ali

> Achbar at worldbet.att.net


So far as I can tell, by asking lots of questions over the years of people

who claimed to have such evidence, there is evidence that dancing was being

done by women for entertainment in the Islamic world (although references

in the literature to singing girls seem much more common). There is no

material (at least that I have been able to locate) from which you can

figure out what they were doing in any detail--i.e. nothing sufficient to

reconstruct a dance. It is rather as if we knew that medieval people had

feasts, but had no recipes or menus.


The issue gets confused by the fact that people in the dance community use

"authentic" to mean "what is being done now, or what was being done

recently, among people where such a dance is a tradition." That is a

perfectly legitimate way of using the term, but it does not tell us whether

the same things were being done by those people four hundred years ago.


Two exceptions:


1. There is a modern Turkish book, which has been translated, that

describes from (I believe) a period source, a dance. But it is not what we

think of as belly dancing--it sounds more like a masque.


2. A friend in the society who I consider reliable tells me he has a

description of a sword dance, from period, which involves a blindfolded man

with a sword striking out "at" his female partner, who avoids the blows. As

best I remember, he does not have steps for it--just the description.





From: dani at telerama.lm.com

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 20 Oct 1996 15:06:27 -0400

Organization: Telerama Public Access Internet, Pittsburgh, PA USA


Baron Achbar Ibn Ali <kuba at worldnet.att.net> wrote:

>is there any evidence of SCA Period Belly Dancing?




And, having said that, let me hedge and elaborate. Establishing a

negative is always an unsatisfactory business, so I'm not going to

say that we can 'prove' that what's done in the SCA as belly dancing

wasn't done in period.  I will say that if anyone has evidence *for*

its being done in period, it's a well-kept secret.


For a number of years now, I've been asking Middle Eastern dancers

about this, and the usual answer is of the form "I don't personally

have documentation, but so-and-so has researched the topic, and if

you ask her, *she'll* tell you."  Talking to so-and-so generally

gets you an answer of the form "Here are the names of a couple of

books on Belly Dancing Throught the Ages, but if you want more detailed

information, you should talk to such-and-such."  If you follow that chain

of references to its end, you generally wind up talking to someone who

is knowledgeable, has done extensive research, and has left behind a

trail of students who don't understand the limitations of that research.


What the documentation that I've seen and that I've heard described

comes to is that we know that Middle-Eastern dance was done in period.

We are fairly sure that it was a style of dance we would recognize as

Middle Eastern dance, and that it included moves similar or identical

to relatively modern ones.


This is roughly on a par with stating that we know that European

dance was done in period, that it was a style of dance we would

recognize as European (as opposed to, say, Middle Eastern, or Oriental),

and that it included steps similar or identical to steps found in some

relatively modern European dances.


The specific dances or dance styles presented in the SCA as Middle

Eastern dance cannot be documented earlier than the nineteenth

century, though they clearly have earlier roots.


AFAIK.  I'd be pleased to be proven wrong.


Note, this isn't to say that belly dancing has no place in the SCA.

Rather, it has about the same place as 'Korobushka', as a modern

artifact that has become part of the SCA culture.


-- Dani



From: ejpiii at delphi.com

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 96 22:50:04 -0500


Katherine Crowe <kuba at worldnet.att.net> writes:

>I have drummed for the past few years for belly dancers.  is there any

>evidence of SCA Period Belly Dancing?

Greetings from Eddward,

I have seen close up photos of a bas that depict a celebration of some sort.

I was interested in it because it shows a young girl juggling 12 objects.

At the time I was studying juggling, so the rest of the picture was kind of

ignored. However, it did show what appeared to be dancers, wearing tight

enough fitting clothes that they could be called 'belly dance' like. I'm

not trying to establish provenance here, and am certainly not qualified to,

but it should interest you to note that to the best of my recollection this

was supposed to be an egyptian carving. I can't recall from which era, but

the whole point was to show me how 'old' juggling was. So we have at least

an interesting tidbit from the right area, but literally thousands of years

early! I will try to find this refence, but it was 20 years ago, and several

professional changes, so it may not be easy.




From: polearmed <polearmed at worldnet.att.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Sun, 20 Oct 1996 23:01:48 -0400

Organization: Raleigh, NC


Asalaam alia qum!


Although I cannot locate my source, now(isn't that how it works everytime), I do recall an article with cites posted to soc.culture.islam that dealt with this very question.  


While there is little or no documentation for the dances itself, there is a local law that was recorded during the advance of Islam.


It seems as though a Caliph, with the intent of "cleaning up his streets" in his

subjection to Allah, made it a law that all dancing girls were to be clothed while dancing.  Knowing that laws can be interpreted a number of ways, even in the 8th century, made specifications for the clothing they were allowed to wear while dancing for entertainment.  The shoulders and breasts were to be covered, along with the navel.  The hips to the ankles must also be covered(what a decadent period we live in today).  


In literation, the women covered their shoulders and breasts and legs to ankles, and began wearing "jewels" to "cover" their navel.  With this the only bear skin being shown, the belly, the dances eventually acentuated those parts of women's most wonderful physique.


Without this blessed occurance, you may have never seen the shimmy;)




Donald Wagner                            Falcone al Rasool ibn Muhajir

Raleigh, NC                              Barony of Windmasters' Hill

Knowledge Engineer - AT&T                Kingdom of Atlantia

dswagner at attmail.com                     polearmed at worldnet.att.net




From: whymzee at aol.com (Whymzee)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 21 Oct 1996 09:02:32 -0400


: Baron Achbar Ibn Ali

: Achbar at worldbet.att.net

: kuba at worldnet.att.net


Unto Baron Achbar, does Avril Boulle send greetings;


Evidence of period SCA belly dancing ....


"Belly dancing", from the French danse du ventre (circa 18th or 19th C.),

usually refers to the arabic raks sharqi,  which is the oriental form of

the dance, popularly seen in night clubs and restaurants. In the middle

east "the dance" has a history of at least about 5,000 years.  While there

are some  traditional dances performed in a folkloric style (an example -

the shamadan, or candelabra dance - a balancing dance with 19th century

roots)  the dance is not a dance that tells a story or is fixed in style

as some pacific or Indian dances might be.  The tradition in the dance is

one of emotional interaction with the music (which makes it a personal

interpretation) using isolated movements that are natural to the human

body (as opposed to the grandly forced, seemingly impossible movements of

ballet and such). There are typical movements, gestures, postures,

isolations that are common to the dance, but they would be representative

of a cultural body language,  than fixed, required steps in a dance. There

are class of movements that would be less commonly used as well (leaps,

high kick, splits, severe, hard, power movements.) Although the presence

of dancers is documentable, (through records of ancient contract

negotiations) the notation of dance is not,and the dance is highly

mutable.  The tradition of playing finger cymbals would be that old and

older.  The folk tradition of dancing with a cane, in imitation of the

village shepards might be.  Dancing with a veil, as belly dancers do

today, has American roots, with dancer like Isadora Duncan, Ruth St Denis

and a whole passel of "Little Egypts" and "Salomes" that cropped up after

1893, but undoubtedly somebody picked up a cloth somewhere and did

something with it in period.  Dance has existed throughout millenia in the

middle east for both men and women.  It's reason for being is a

celebration of joy, and its purpose is to delight, however that may

translate through time.



whymzee at aol.com

(mundanely, performer, teacher, lecturer, archivist for Arabesque




From: msaroff at moose.erie.net (Matthew Saroff)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 21 Oct 1996 16:25:40 GMT

Organization: ErieNet


dani at telerama.lm.com wrote:

: Baron Achbar Ibn Ali <kuba at worldnet.att.net> wrote:

: >is there any evidence of SCA Period Belly Dancing?


: No.


        YES.  Specifically, my wife has a tri-lingual (English, Russian,

and Uzbek) book which has plates from an Uzbek museum where an artist

illustrates one of their legends (you'd have to write her at

sindara at pobox.com) for more details.  There are paintings of women dancing

in poses that are identical to those in traditional belly dancing. I may

be wrong as to the book, as I she has quite a few, and I am not touching

her library until she is through preparing for Laurel Prize down here in

Ansteorra, I value my life.  I believe that the paintings are c 1500.

        Please note that this is NOT cabaret (the "I Dream of Jeanie"

costume).   The dancer is wearing a veil and the only skin that one sees

is eyes and finger-tips.

        Seeing as how notation for coreography is a little more than 100

years old, that will be the best that you can find.  It is a picture of a

woman dancing for an audience in poseses essentially identical to those

used now.

        BTW, my wife does not belly dance, she got it for the garb

pictures (which are exquisite).


--  Matthew Saroff| Standard Disclaimer:  Not only do I speak for

       _____      | No one else, I don't even Speak for me.  All my

      / o o \     | personalities and the spirits that I channel

______|_____|_____| disavow all knowledge of my activities. ;-)

  uuu    U   uuu  |



From: JR Lacey <jrlacey at slic.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 17:29:12 -0500

Organization: St. Lawrence Internet Connection


from Gaia Wildmane:

excellent reference book, "Serpent of the Nile", by Wendy Buonaventura.

Period art showing dancers, a lot of them Persian. You can jump from

there to other sources. Absolutely, belly dancing is period. The cabaret

costume was an invention of about 1920 or thereabouts. I'm questing for

contacts. Let me know if you come across anything interesting. Good




From: Lord Wolfger SilberbŠr <mfoster1 at voyager.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 05:05:37 -0700

Organization: proto-incipient Shire of Altenberg


Katherine Crowe wrote:


> I have drummed for the past few years for belly dancers.  is there any

> evidence of SCA Period Belly Dancing?


Check out Compleat Anachronist #70 "The World's Oldest Dance; The

Origins of Belly Dancing". I haven't read it myself (no interest), but

that should answer what questions you have.


-Mike Foster                    Lord Wolfger Silberbaer

mfoster1 at voyager.net            GKMIT for the mythical Shire of Altenberg



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: lindahl at deshaw.com (Greg Lindahl)

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Organization: D. E. Shaw & Co.

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 00:37:38 GMT


Lord Wolfger SilberbŠr  <mfoster1 at voyager.net> wrote:

>Check out Compleat Anachronist #70 "The World's Oldest Dance; The

>Origins of Belly Dancing". I haven't read it myself (no interest), but

>that should answer what questions you have.


The author has graciously made this document available on the net; it

is at:




It doen't answer all my questions, but I always have more than a

single document can answer.


Gregory Blount



From: miviv at aol.com (MiViv)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 23 Oct 1996 01:49:22 -0400


I thought the questioner was looking for information on a documentable,

in-period dance connected with what is being referred to as belly dance,

not a justification that it existed, or a discussion on what to wear.


Belly dance is a post period, 19th century phrase.  What we are discussing

here is neither Uzbekian, nor Persian dance, both of which are also

ancient (and roughly from the region, as opposed to Europe or Japan) and

have more stylized movements.


What you will find in the SCA is the achievement of recreating the

ambiance and tradition  of the dance.  You can see both a more folkloric

style, and a more urban style (such as would be the entertainment at a

court or other major celebration event.


You will not find a documented source in period for the particular dances

shown.  It was not the tradition of this dance to reproduce another's

interpretation  of the music over and over.  You will see the passion, and

the softness and the spice of the dance, the tradition of celebration of a

woman moving naturally as women do, interwoven with the pulse of the drum

and the songs of the various instruments.


At this past Pennsic, Mistress Farasha and I (representing  the Middle

Eastern Dance Cooperative) hosted a two and a half hour exhibition of the

dance, joined by groups and soloists from throughout the Knowne Worlde in

twenty-five separate numbers.  The crowd who attended was delighted at the

depth and variety of the dance that was exhibited that day.  Since the

dancers all had a great time, and we will be doing it again, I cordially

invite all to attend next year.  


(For the dancers reading this who would like to participate, this is an

unofficial, open invitation to let me know that you are interested!)


There is indeed dancing representing the ancient tradition of the middle

east to be seen in the SCA and it is wonderful.  



whymzee at aol.com



From: cromabu at aol.com (CromAbu)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 27 Oct 1996 01:31:53 -0400


There are many referances available. Inter-library loan can aquire from

the University of Utah many sources, including 'Serpent of the Nile". The

costumine in period was what one will find under traditional folk wear. In

period the thought of "lifting up on one's heels" was thought abhorent and

unstylish. Most women only danced at home for their husbands, to allow

ones wife or daughter to dance outside of the household was to equate them

as prostitutes. Public dancing, other than at the trance like dances of

the Dirvishes, was considered advertising of wares, reserved for the

Gawazee who were considered as outcasts generally ( some like the Empress

of Byzantium were exceptions in rising above this lot). The dance of

period was called the Baladee (spelling?) and the style was adapted

through the Moors into Spain by the Gawazee who went there as the

Flamenco.  Traditional "Belly Dancing" can still be seen in the dance

styles of North Africa.  What most think of as Belly Dancing only emerged

in the later 19th century due to the great Worlds Fairs, and was

originally called the "Hoochie Kootchie Dance", and was a means of

bringing people into the sideshows.  Look into sources regarding the

Worlds Fairs for pictures and descriptions of how this evolved. at the

time that sort of dance was not done in the middle east. Little Egypt,

and Hollywood came up with the costume style known as Cabaret in the very

late 1800's and early 1900's (others helped too, but I will need to dig

out my thesis to give you names and specific dates. National Geographic

around 1920's did an article on this with pictures included of actual

traditional Baladee folk costume, which covers all but the eyes and hands

(no gauze) with loose fitting clothes which are in accordance with the

Koran, the shape of the human body is required to be concealed not just

covered.  The dance which would be period is best found in sources

regarding Folk Dance, not Belly Dance. Avril's posting is quite correct in

the origins and the magazine he refers to did an excellent article on it

several years back which many sources use for referance. There are many

myths and opinions regarding belly dance, but a few Professionals have

shown a trend in the past few years for a return to the traditional

styles. If you can find a knowledgable Imam to point you in the right

direction, that's how I got started, I called the local Mosque.

       Sir fitz



From: Barb at DISTANT-CARAVANS.reno.nv.us (Barbara Morgan)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: 29 Oct 1996 06:22:31 GMT

Organization: Great Basin Internet Services, Reno, NV


Several years ago a friend and I put on a Middle Eastern Collegium here in

the West.


Unfortunately I can't find the Mistresses SCA name that taught the class

on Ladies Middle Eastern Garb, however the thing I remember most from her

class was the number of period pictures she had showing belly dancers

performing. (The class included a wonderful slide show.) There where

Middle Eastern minitures of ladies dancing with a tray, decanter and cup,

dancing with a cup and jug or just a jug, dancing with swords on their

heads, dancing with two small peice of cloth in each hands, dancing with

two short sticks in their hands which where probably used like zills

(finger cymbals are used today).


Many of these pictures also showed the ladies in poses that could only be

assocated with some of the current belly dance moves we use today.


Another thing we need to remember is that the tradition of belly dance has

been hand down, mother to daughter for centuries, so some of the moves

that where around in period have probably survived the centuries.


Remember there really is nothing new under the sun.


Amaryllis Alexandrea de Lacey

Barb Morgan, e-mail: Barb at DISTANT-CARAVANS.reno.nv.us     

Distant Caravans: http://www.greatbasin.com/~caravan/                 



From: DDFr at Best.com (David Friedman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 01:04:39 -0800

Organization: School of Law, Santa Clara University


> Unfortunately I can't find the Mistresses SCA name that taught the class

> on Ladies Middle Eastern Garb, however the thing I remember most from her

> class was the number of period pictures she had showing belly dancers

> performing. (The class included a wonderful slide show.) There where

> Middle Eastern minitures of ladies dancing with a tray, decanter and cup,

> dancing with a cup and jug or just a jug, dancing with swords on their

> heads, dancing with two small peice of cloth in each hands, dancing with

> two short sticks in their hands which where probably used like zills

> (finger cymbals are used today).


What are the sources for the pictures? Given my experience with SCA verbal

tradition, your memory of what you saw and were told several years ago is

not very strong evidence. Nor, I should add, is the fact that the show was

by a "Mistress."


> Another thing we need to remember is that the tradition of belly dance has

> been hand down, mother to daughter for centuries, so some of the moves

> that where around in period have probably survived the centuries.


Verbal tradition in the SCA drastically distorts facts within a decade or

two. Mother to daughter from 1600 to the present, at twenty years to the

generations, is twenty generations. That is enough time for an enormous

amount of change. Look, for example, at the drift in meaning of words, or

the changes in cooking, for both of which we do have evidence.


> Remember there really is nothing new under the sun.


> Amaryllis Alexandrea de Lacey


I can't "remember" it because it is not true. There are lots of modern

things, and nineteenth century things, and eighteenth century things, which

we have good reason to believe were not fourteenth or thirteenth or twelfth

century things.





From: salazar at sprynet.com (Kim Salazar)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 18:09:53 GMT


DDFr at Best.com (David Friedman) wrote:




>My impression is that a fair number of people simply take it for granted

>that we are doing "authentic" period dance--because they are confusing the

>folklore sense of "authentic" with the historical sense. Others take it for

>granted that the relevant information does not exist--without showing any

>awareness of what sort of period textual material does exist.




I agree with his Grace on the extension of the folkloric term

"authentic" to cover "historical." The same blurring of the lines

occurs in needlework research.  The folktale origins of Fair Isle and

Aran knitting patterns are prime examples.  However at least one

period mention of some sort of exotic dance of Moorish origin does



Pierre de Bourdeille (Abbe Brentome) wrote a fascinating treatise on

court life and morals in mid 16th century France and Italy.  He wrote

pieces of his work  between 1560 and his retirement around 1610.  He

died in 1614.  His work is a mix of eye-witness accounts, scandal,

rumor, innuendo, gossip, retold tales, and quasi-legendary stories.

Even in the 1930's vintage translation I found (with the delicate

parts rendered in the original French or Latin), it was a wonderfully

entertaining and informative read.


In his Second Discourse, in passing Brentome likens the debauchery of

Ancient Rome to (then) modern excesses.  The translation of one

passage  relating the depravity of the Roman Emperor Galba's fetes to

the goddess Flora states:


"Think of it!  Never a fiscaigne ('tis a lascivious dance the loose

women and Moorish slave-girls dance on Sundays at Malta publicly in

the open square), nor saraband did come near these Floralia for

naughtiness; and never a movement or wanton posture or provocative

gesture or lascivious twist and twirl did these Roman dames omit..."


There is no further mention of the fiscaigne - what it looked like,

what the steps were like, what the dancers wore, whether it was

performed anywhere besides Malta, or why it was done on Sunday in



One note, Brentome was widely traveled and served as a mercenary

military attache for many years before becoming a (nominal) holder of

ecclesiastic office.  He was on Malta during this service, and his

mention of the fiscaigne may well be an eye witness account.


Here is the full citation:


de Bourdeille, Pierre (Seigneur Abbe de Brentome). Translated by A.R.

Allinson.   "The Lives of Fair and Gallant Ladies."  New York:

Liverwright Publishing Co.  1933.  


During Brentome's liftime this was published in two volumes:   Vie de

Dames Illustres and Vies des Dames Galantes.  They were also called

Brentome's Premier and Second Livre des Dames.  


The book also includes many stories of noble  women taking up arms and

fighting in defense of home and family; and in at least one case

fighting a one-on-one bout to recover her ransomed husband.  


Ianthe d'Averoigne

Kim Brody Salazar

salazar at sprynet.com




From: sindara at pobox.com (Sharon R. Saroff)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Period Belly Dancing

Date: Fri, 01 Nov 1996 04:45:40 GMT


There are 3 books from Uzbekistan of Period Persian illuminated

manuscripts that I have.  Some of the pictures mentioned below are in

these books.  I believe that some date back to the 1200's.





From: tdewinter at aol.com

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: authentic bellydance costume

Date: 17 Mar 1997 06:08:18 GMT


zigs66 at aol.com (Zigs66) writes:

>     This is not meant to bring up the age-old issue of whether or not

>bellydance is period or authentic or whatever.  What I'm interested in

>knowing is what sources dancers who are _trying_ their utmost to be

>authentic are using in order to create their costumes.   I've recently

>begun learning middle eastern dance and would like to make a non-cabaret

>costume to wear when I dance.


>---Anfelise of Tintagel


Middle Eastern sections of museums usually have some documentation of women's costuming.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has various manuscript pages (15th-16th century usually) that show women.  One page last year (they've since removed it) showed a serving girl in a knee length "ghawazee" dress that looked just like the types of dresses I wear for dancing.


There are several books out there that document women's clothing in the Middle East that you should be able to find in the larger book stores.  Perhaps someone else reading the Rialto can give you specific titles to look for.


If you would like to privately email your address to me I can send you a (very) rough sketch of a couple of dance outfits.


Countess Tristana de Winter


tdewinter at aol.com



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: bq676 at torfree.net (Kristine E. Maitland)

Subject: Re: authentic bellydance costume

Organization: Toronto Free-Net

Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 17:47:45 GMT


Bona dies, tutti!


I see that this issue has come up, yet again.  Well, I thought that I

would take the time to add something to the arguement(s).


My cousin Valizan does middle eastern dance as does my friend Viscount

Roak (both of Ealdormere).  They were both wondering about the

"peridocity" of MALE middle eastern dancers so I said that I would take a

look about it sometime -- theCA on the topic was interesting but I felt

that it was lacking in some areas.


Well, I was doing my usual browse at Robarts Library (U of T) and just by

fluke I came across this article:


Anthony Shay. "Dance and Non-dance: patterned movement in Iran and

        Islam." in _Iranian Studies_, vol 28 #1-2


This is a MUST READ for those studying middle eastern dance.  What Shay

notes is the fact that what WE in the west would call dance those in Near

and Central Asia would not, necessarily.  For example in our context, we

don't count baton-twirling as dance but in other countries they might

(dance in New Zealand comes to mind).


Shay also says that dance researchers have not, until recently taken this

into account fully.  So this is why dance research in this area is

sketchy at best.  It might be a good idea for those interested in this

topic to look Prof. Shay up a ask HIM about it.


hope this helps,

Inez Rosanera




From: DDFr at Best.com (David Friedman)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: authentic bellydance costume

Date: 24 Mar 1997 19:36:10 GMT

Organization: School of Law, Santa Clara University


bq676 at torfree.net (Kristine E. Maitland) wrote:

> My cousin Valizan does middle eastern dance as does my friend Viscount

> Roak (both of Ealdormere).  They were both wondering about the

> "peridocity" of MALE middle eastern dancers so I said that I would take a

> look about it sometime -- theCA on the topic was interesting but I felt

> that it was lacking in some areas.


The book _Mohammed's People_ contains a description of the characteristics

of the ideal dancer which looked to me as though it was describing male

dancers; I don't remember the exact cite. A good book, incidentally.





From: Elaine Ragland <er37 at columbia.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: dancing at demos

Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 17:52:19 -0500

Organization: Columbia University


On Sat, 22 Mar 1997, Mark S. Harris wrote:

> "James A. Barrow" <redfalcon at thomson.net> wrote:

> >While I love to see a truly talented and well

> > trained dancer in an itty-bitty costume (please excuse my chauvinism), I

> > realize that, talent or ability notwithstanding, while such attire is

> > perfectly acceptable for an event, it has no place at a demo.  


> Since the cabaret clothing is not authentic, why do you find it

> "perfectly acceptable" for an event?


> And yes, I enjoy seeing dancers in "itty-bitty" costumes. I just

> don't find much of what I see being worn as really appropriate for

> SCA use.


Well, I have a picture of a Fatimid manuscript illustration, depicting a

dancer in either tattoos or body paint, and nothing else. Cabaret costume

seems modest in comparison.  Then there are the dancing maidens on

Sassanian silver ewers.  At first glance, they seem naked. Then, if you

look closely at the detail, you see something around the wrist that is

probably an embroidered cuff, and swirls around the ankles that must be

the hem of the dress.  When I made a Sassanian dance costume, I made it

out of the sheerest of silk jacquard.  I wear it with a flesh-colored

leotard, and I don't wear it to demos at all, but that's a personal

choice.  The ewers make it very clear that no underwear is worn with the



Yes, I agree that everyone should dress with modesty at formal demos,

particularly those at schools or churches.  However, the argument that

dancers who show bare flesh are "not appropriate" to SCA events is really

a fallacy.  When I see a cabaret costume, I think of the body tattoos and

I'm reassured that the dancer is at least wearing clothes. I did once see

a nude dancer at an SCA event, but that's another story. I don't think

the authorities would approve.  


Elaine Ragland

aka Melanie de la Tour



From: Elaine Ragland <er37 at columbia.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Belly Dance Costume (long)

Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 19:43:12 -0500

Organization: Columbia University


I've had several requests to post the information regarding the Fatimid

illustration of the nude dancer.  Therefore: Rachel Milstein,_Islamic

Painting in the Israel Museum_, Jerusalem, 1984.  The illustration is the

first one in the book, on p. 20.  It's labeled: Courtesan.  Drawing on

paper.  H. 280, w. 180.  Egypt, said to have been found in Fustat (old

Cairo).  Fatimid period, 11th century.


The note on the figure reads:  


"Nude woman, wearing necklace, bracelets and anklets, and a ribbon around

her head.  Tatoos adorn her face, breasts, pubes and especially her arms

and legs.  She holds a six-string ud in her right hand and a wine goblet

in her left.  Her body lacks proportion - the head and arms are too large

for her short body and thickset stock legs.  The head is presented at

three-quarters, the body frontally and the legs in profile with one leg

slightly raised.  The figure occupies most of the page surface and the

small remaining space shows a shelf bearing a jug and a wine-bottle with

the vase of flowers underneath.

...Surviving literary and other sources testify to the fact that in the

palaces of Muslim rulers depictions of nude figures decorated the harems

and baths, far from the eye of the general public and the disapproval of

the orthodox.  

... As the drawing has no inscription, its precise function cannot

be ascertained.  It may have served as a "planet figure," with the girl

representing Venus playing the ud.  But her presentation in the nude, her

sensuality, the size of the figure relative to the page and the filling in

of the empty space with objects suggest that this may have been a study

for a fresco, similar in style to frescoes from the Ummayyad and Abbasid

periods, and, in addition, from the Fatimid period in Sicily.

Yet another possibility is that the drawing is a realistic portrait

of a well known period figure whom the artist wished to immortalize."


It also notes that this is not the first time the illustration has been

published.  Two other occurrences may be easier to get via interlibrary



Jones, D. "Notes on a Tattooed Musician:  A Drawing of the Fatimid

Period,"  Art and Archaeology Research Paper, June, 1975.


Rice, D.  "A Drawing of the Fatimid Period," Bulletin of the School

of Oriental and African Studies, #2 (1958), pp. 31-39.


For those of you who want information on Sassanian dance costume, I'll

post more another time.  Dinner, and other research projects, call.


Elaine Ragland

aka Melanie de la Tour



From: Elaine Ragland <er37 at columbia.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Belly Dance Costume (long)

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 14:35:33 -0500

Organization: Columbia University


> The text you quoted said nothing about this figure being a dancer.  How did

> you conclude that it is?


> Arval d'Espas Nord            mittle at panix.com


One foot is poised, as if to begin a dance step.  She is also

holding a musical instrument, so she is clearly an entertainer.  Shown in

motion, while holding a goblet and an oud, she personifies courtly

entertainment of the time:  wine, women, song, and dance.


Also, I don't think she's nude for the purposes of playing music.  

I think that she is nude for the purposes of dancing. In the introduction

to the section on Fatimid art in the catalogue, it said that she was

stylistically related to the dancing maidens common in Sassanian art,

usually depicted in transparent gowns.


Fatimid arts were strongly influenced by Persian culture. It's well known

that dance continued to be a courtly entertainment in medieval Persia

(Persian dance was imported to the court of Corduba).  I don't know for

certain that Muslim Persian dancers continued to wear little or no

clothing, as their Sassanian ancestors are depicted, but this Fatimid

entertainer seems to indicate that they did.


As I said before, I will post a longer message on depictions of dancers in

Sassanian art, but I'm engaged in another research project right now and

it will have to wait.  


Elaine Ragland

aka Melanie de la Tour



From: Jennifer Kautz <jk74 at cornell.edu>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Middle-Eastern & Gypsy Dancers in Period

Date: Wed, 06 Aug 1997 11:09:03 -0400

Organization: Cornell University


I beg to differ from the good folk who have posted on this, but

as this is *my* area of interest, I thought I'd pass along some



I have photocopies in my hands right now, of 3 different examples

of middle-eastern dancers well within period. Try looking at some

of the Persian Miniatures, or some of the travellers to the

Ottoman Empire's Accounts. Also, there is a tapestry depicting an

encounter of a French Noble's Hunting Party w/the Rom, circa

1440(?), which specifically shows a Rom woman dancing. There is

another picture (from another tapesty) of a Rom woman dancing

from the same era, and then there is a picture of a Rom woman in

black/yellow/red (eastern europe-style) costume, dancing at a

European Court in 1620.


Granted, these are very few examples, but they all have

similarities that are hard to ignore - the use of hand/wrist

scarves & ribbons, the typical "turkish spin" stance that any

modern bellydancer would recognize. No, they weren't common in

period, but they did exist (both "belly"dancers & "gypsy"

dancers). I would be happy to provide book references, but things

are rather chaotic right now (Pennsic e.ta.= 47 hours...), so

email me privately, or feel free to stop in at our camp to chat!

Not all the costumes are revealing (by modern standards), but the

one tapestry specifically pictures the Rom Dancer in a standard

15th century dress, except that there's a slit up the side to her

hip, & her leg is out & exposed (no chemise)!

Come & chat, we'll be camped with our patrons, Clan Campbell/

Ragnesfolke in the bog!:-)


Rum tum bi salama!



From: XSimmons <"jls9" at  MSG.TI.COM>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Guedra

Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 18:57:43 -0500


Blodwen wrote:

> I am looking for sources mentioning or illustrating the North African

> dance called Guedra.


Can you do an online search?  Excite and Yahoo! both respond to "guedra"

with sources.


Can you access WWW?  If so, you might enjoy looking in:




The dance is a blessing dance (trance dance) of a tribe of Berbers

called Kel Tagilmus ("People of the Veil"), known to outsiders as

"Tuaregs."  This is a North African group, so it is possible that cross

fertilization of dance styles has occurred between the nomads and the

ancient Egyptians.  Of course, we might not expect _total_ consistency

over the last 5,000 years. . . .


It may help to remember that the pyramid-building Egyptians are not the

current inhabitants--the modern Egyptians are supposed to be relative

newcomers to the area, although I don't have specific dates or "target

eras" stored in my brain -- so sorry!      ;-)


BTW, this is one of the "topless dance" legend nominees.  Alas, when the

rumor trackers went into action, words like "prostitute" began to echo

across the ancient desert sands (as opposed to, say, "tradition" or

"hubba-hubba!"  Too bad!    ;-\}          ) Besides, I would doubt that

all the Berber women who ever lived could outnumber the decent ladies of

only _one_ medieval Islamic cultural center/decent-sized city.


The actual dance features a sitting/standing, veiled woman doing

repetitive motions, especially a characteristic "flicking" gesture and

maybe sharp swings of the head (with beaded braids--owee!), while two

choral groups chant simple religious phrases back and forth.  The

phrases reference Allah, ancestors, the king, the trance state, and Ali.


The American Middle Eastern dancer Morocco has done research on this

dance form, as well as others.  Whatever I know is probably traceable to

her from one source or another, so I'd like to credit her here for her

efforts in modern tribal dance research.


How old the Guedra is?  Dunno.  The natives appear to consider it a

spiritual service.


Warm regards, Ly Meara al-Isfahani  (more than you _ever_ wanted to know

about. . . .)



Subject: BG - BG- Middle Eastern Dance History

Date: Wed, 18 Feb 98 14:12:33 MST

From: Aceia at aol.com

To: bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


Check out this web site it is great!



This next site is specifically on the history of dance



I especially found the information about Egyptian dance costumes interesting,

since many people say that traditional dancers never show their waists.

"Women in the Old Kingdom put on the short men's skirts (i.e. aprons) or

danced completely nude on many occasions because the usual long dress was too

restrictive of movement. Nude dancers wore a belt around the waist which

concealed nothing. Otherwise dancers might wear long or short transparent

garments, sometimes with one breast completely revealed. ...

After the last of the Egyptian kingdoms, there is little or no documentation

on what people wore. But a look at the clothes worn in Egypt today show that

little has changed, except that fabrics are heavier and nudity is no longer

so acceptable."


The page on costuming is REALLY informative depending on what culture your

dancer comes from :

Greek/Roman 'castanet' dancers

Persian, Turkish and Ghawazee

Modern and Ancient Egyptian

Morroccan and Tunisian

Spanish Gypsy


There are makeup and hair tips too!





Subject: Re: BG - Middle Eastern Resource

Date: Mon, 11 May 98 19:12:44 MST

From: morganbri at juno.com (Briana Morgan)

To: bryn-gwlad at Ansteorra.ORG


I would like to offer up one of my favorite Middle Eastern resources as

well, in hopes that it will be helpful to anyone interested in the Middle

Ages, Renaissance, Belly Dancing, Ethnic Jewelry, Costuming, and other

wonderful things.


They are called 'Distant Caravans', and if you have a bit of time and

want to check them out, you'll find a full-color online catalog run by

two very wonderful SCA merchants (who also happen to be my parents), from

the Silver Desert region of the West Kingdom.  You can find them and

enjoy to your hearts content at:      www.distantcaravans.com


They carry a gorgeous collection of period-style Afghani Ethnic Jewelry,

Bells and Coins to create or add to your belly dance jewelry, Zills,

Tassel Scarves, Egyptian Coin and Bead Edged Scarves, Drums, Lanterns and

Lamps, various other wonderful costuming delights, as well as lots of

great links to other related sites.


Hope this is helpful.  Enjoy the adventure!





Subject: ANST - RE: Coins for Eastern Dance Costumes

Date: Tue, 09 Feb 99 20:39:10 MST

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG


Thorvald <odin at okom.net> asked:

>I am looking for sources for Eastern Dance supplies specifically

> loose coins. I have been to Chandra's web site but wish to see

> what other sources are available.


I recommend trying South Pacific Wholesale.  They are a wholesale jewellry

supplier who mainly carry stuff like semi-precious and glass beads, but also

odds and ends of other stuff.


In their most recent catalog, they had about three or four types of oriental

coins, pierced for hanging.  Some had one hole, others had one-and-one,

one-and-three, and one-and-four holes on opposite sides. I don't

recall the price, but I just bought 70 lbs of beads for $83 (which included

the UPS costs)... very affordable.


Those of you who are looking to stock up on ransoms for Lyonnesse, there are

also pre-strung necklaces, including semiprecious gem chips, some beaded

necklaces, Mexican silver abalone-set bracelets, carved stone candle

holders, and lots more stuff that would make good ransoms.


Their contact info is:

South Pacific WholeSale Co.


mailto:sopacvt at aol.com

(800) 338-2162





From: jonwillowpel at juno.com

To: ansteorra at ansteorra.org

Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000 15:33:50 -0500

Subject: Re: ANST - Middle Eastern Dance Resource


I really thank for the post. I have been looking for this for days. This

lady, Robin Friend, has been really helpful to the dancers in Ansteorra

and now she has put out a tape "Dances of Iran". The money from the tape

is going to a study group that works on Persian dance. Dancers have a

hard time documenting their work and this lady's scholarly works are one

of the few places we can go. Everyone please check her stuff out.




On Mon, 31 Jul 2000 15:33:28 GMT "Russell Husted" <husted at hotmail.com>


> here is a post sent to a different list. I realize only a few poeple

> will be interrested but it is a bibliography of middle eastern dance

> refrences.


> mahee


> Persian, this time. There's a couple, towards the bottom, that seem

> interesting for our purposes -- one on Pre-Islamic Persian dance

> sparks the imagination....

> <http://home.earthlink.net/~rcfriend/robyn21.htm>;



From: Sandra Jakl <kieralady2 at yahoo.com>

Date: July 14, 2004 1:57:31 PM CDT

To: houstondancers at yahoogroups.com, ansteorra at ansteorra.org

Cc: Subject: [Ansteorra] online articles regarding Middle Eastern Dance


Please see these articles for further information on

this topic:










I make no comment regarding these sources. I post them

for possible interest only.


HL Clara von Ulm

(aka) Sayidda al Sheriffa Sana bint Kieran al Kerra



From: Laylia Bellydancing <layliasbellydancing at yahoo.com>

Date: April 2, 2006 3:19:57 AM CDT

To: stefan at florilegium.org

Subject: helpful link for drummers


I liked your site!  here is a really great place to pass on to people..


I hope you like it!  I use it all the time!


Laylia's School of Belly Dance and Drum

614-312-4252 www.Laylia.com


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org