Brief history of sword dancing

From Mish Mish via BellyTalk, a NW discussion group for bellydancers. It is confirmed by what Jamila told us at her weeklong, that she was essentially the one who conceived the sword as a bellydance prop:

"In Turkey and Arabic countries, dancing with a sword is done mainly by men
as a display of skill in combat or to prepare for battle. My troupe used to have
a Druse from Lebanon who did a spectacular sword dance his father had taught him
and I have seen videos of a Persian dance troupe where the men feign battle and
dance in unison.
Dancing while balancing a sword on your head has become popular in the United
States with soloists and troupes but there is no such tradition in Arabic
countries where balancing something on your head is a part of daily life, so
it's no big deal The idea for this dance can be traced back to Jamila Salimpour and her
seminal dance troupe, Bal Anat who became famous performing at the Renaissance
Fair in California in the 1970's. Jamila was inspired by an Oriental painting
from the late l9th Century by French artist Jean Leon Gerome of a group of
musicians and a dancer, probably a ghawazee, dancing with a sword balanced on
her head and another held in her hand. The swords belonged to the Turkish
soldiers in the background who had undoubtedly hired the dancers to entertain
them. A replica of this painting appears on Aisha Ali's recording of "Music of
the Ghawazee" As Jamila's influence spread throughout the USA, so to did the
practise of balancing a sword on your head."

1 comment:

  1. If I remember correctly, Rhea was (or it is said she was) Bal Anat's first sword dancer. She's still sword dancing, I saw her perform in Baltimore this summer.



On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
Powered by Blogger.