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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

The Belly Dance Book:
Rediscovering the Oldest Dance

edited by Tazz Richards

 

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Summary

This book is a compilation of articles written by a variety of authors about various aspects of belly dancing. The style comes across as that of an anthology. About a quarter of the book covers history of the dance, another quarter covers costuming, and the rest is divided among snakes, props, use of the dance for spiritual aims, make-up, business, and music. A source directory in the back lists teachers, performers, and vendors.
Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

The Belly Dance Book: Rediscovering the Oldest Dance

Author

Many authors, edited by Tazz Richards

ISBN

0-9700247-03

Publisher

Backbeat Press

Category

Nonfiction: General Belly Dancing Information

Rating

StarStarStarStar

Number of Pages

208

Published In

2000

 

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Description

This book is a loose collection of 25 articles written by a variety of authors about various aspects of belly dancing. The writing styles of the individual authors are quite different from one another, and some are more skilled than others.

About a quarter of the book covers history of the dance, another quarter covers costuming, and the rest is divided among snakes, props, use of the dance for spiritual aims, make-up, business, and music. A source directory in the back lists teachers, performers, and vendors.

Nearly all the articles in the history section are excellent. My favorite ones are written by prominent dance researchers, including Morocco ("Dance as Community Identity in Selected Berber Nations of Morocco"), Tarik Sultan ("It's Not Just for Women - Men in Oriental Dance"), Elizabeth "Artemis" Mourat ("Dances of Ancient Egypt"), and Dr. Barbara Lüscher ("The Golden Age of Egyptian Oriental Dance"). Morocco's and Tarik's articles also do appear on Morocco's web site under "Articles".

The costuming section is almost entirely written and illustrated by Dina Lydia, also known as the Costume Goddess. Dina has published several full-length belly dance costuming books of her own and wrote the Ask the Costume Goddess column elsewhere on this web site. If you enjoy her column on this web site, you'll probably enjoy her contribution to The Belly Dance Book. It contains a solid amount of information that does not appear here on the web. If you already own most of her costuming books, then you'll find that the section she wrote for The Belly Dance Book probably overlaps with what you already have.

Disclosure: I also contributed approximately a quarter of the material in this book, but I was not paid for these contributions, and I am not paid any sort of royalty for sales of it. One of my articles covered props (finger cymbals, cane, veil, sword, candles, tambourine), including history, tips for dancing with them, etc. My other articles addressed how to become a professional dancer, spirituality, and suggestions for song titles for dancing with props.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You enjoy reading magazines — this book's overall tone is very magazine-like.
  • You are new to belly dancing and would like an overview of a variety of topics.
  • You would like to read articles I have written that don't appear on this web site.
  • You're looking for information on the business side of being a working belly dancer.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You're looking for in-depth information on the topic of your choice. (This book is written at an overview level of information.)
  • You're looking for descriptions of how to do some belly dance moves. This book does not contain any of that.
  • You're looking for information on dance styles, such as what differentiates Egyptian style from Turkish.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • The history section is excellent, written by several very credible researchers.
  • Meleah's article about stage makeup is excellent.
  • Dina Lydia's costuming articles provide a snapshot of her writing style - if you're not sure whether to buy her books, you might first sample the chapters she wrote for The Belly Dance Book, and if you find those appealing, you'll find that her own books cover those topics in more much depth.
  • Aziza Said's article about surviving stage fright offers very helpful insights.
  • The overall book design is laid out very attractively, with many photos and illustrations.
  • The large-size format of the book (the same size as a piece of copy paper) allows the photos to be displayed large enough to be easy to see.
  • Unlike the annoying spiral binders on many books published by members of the belly dance community, this one has a real spine that doesn't tangle with everything else on my bookshelf.
  • About 1/4 of the book was written by me. (Okay, I had to say it!)

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • The anthology format used for the book, with a diverse group of writers, makes for irregular quality and continuity.
  • Although some articles cover their topics in a great deal of depth, others come across as short and superficial, such as one of the snake articles.
  • It seems extremely odd for the book's opening chapter to provide in-depth information about the history of belly dance in the country of Finland. It's a very random way to begin such a book.

 

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Conclusion

Overall, the book largely feels more like a large collection of magazine articles bound together than it does a planned, carefully organized book. Still, it packs a large amount of information into its pages and offers excellent value for the money. Dancers of all skill levels are likely to learn something new from it. I think it would make an excellent addition to most dancer book shelves. But, as noted above, I am somewhat biased since I wrote about a quarter of the content!

 

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Disclosures

As mentioned above, I wrote about 1/4 of this book.

 

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