On Canada’s west coast, a large and active bellydance community has grown and thrived distinct from Middle Eastern ethnic communities. Orientalist fantasies and Egyptian stylings regularly appear onstage alongside western tribal and other ethnic bellydance fusions. These performances do not challenge popular media stereotypes about the Middle East; they comfortably coexist with ideologies linking veiled Arab women with oppressed victims of patriarchy and war. So how do Arab women immigrants and their descendants experience and negotiate issues of identity and representation within the bellydance community? Do they resist or reinscribe notions of difference, authenticity, traditionalism, contemporaneity?
In 2010 & 2011, I conducted ethnographic interviews with Arab women who belly dance. Their narratives reveal the strategies and tensions of negotiating social identities within west coast bellydance and ethnic communities.
Findings are now available in an academic publication of belly dance research, Belly Dance Around the World: New communities, performance and identity, in the chapter titled Arab/Other: Performing identities on Canada’s west coast.