Native Motion and Imperial Emotion
Karayanni, Stavros Stavrou
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Stavros Stavrou Karayanni challenges the Orientalist notion that belly dance was historically a female performance genre through an investigation of the 19th-century male dancers of Cairo. Analysis reveals the breathless hypocrisy of travelers who had an "imperial gaze" (Gustave Flaubert, Vivant Denon, Gerard de Nerval) and who lingered over the performances of highly popular male belly dance performances in 19th-century Egypt, at the same time pronouncing them obscene and indecent. Karayanni recuperates the art of these dancing bodies, which had been erased from history by scandalized colonial writers and postcolonial subalterns. Also considered are historical male dancers, as well as their contemporary counterparts whose choreographies continue to negotiate gender, sexuality, and imperial standards of masculinity.