From Cairo to California

From Cairo to California: A Concise History of Bellydance in Egypt and America

Cairo to California includes stories of the important personages and periods of bellydance evolution from its birthplace in North Africa to its innovations in North America. It is comprehensive but concise, written in an easily accessible language, and thoroughly researched by a cultural anthropologist. If you are a student of anthropology, dance, women’s history, or world culture studies you will find it a valuable resource for your personal or classroom use.

This draft is sort of a bare-bones publication, with minimal design and few photos or graphics. I hope to include these later and publish again on a separate website. I have embedded YouTube links to pertinent examples throughout the text or you can access the whole playlist here.

I am happy to share this version with everyone for free but please respect the work I put into it by not misappropriating any portions of the book. If you have comments or clarifications—especially regarding historical facts—please send me an email at cairotocalifornia@yahoo.com.

What are my qualifications for writing this? I began studying bellydance in the early 2000s when American Tribal Style® and Tribal Fusion were evolving. I came to it quite late in my life after a long(ish) modern dance life. I studied Martha Graham technique and performed in modern dance companies until around 1986 when injuries and wear-and-tear drove me into retirement. I went back to college for my BA then graduate school for my PhD, both in cultural anthropology. Then, as I write in the Forward, Crystal Silmi introduced me to ATS® and I began my own study that summer with Palika Bender. I was 50, had pre-existing injuries, and didn’t care to take my dancing very deeply at that point. I wanted to go broad so I tried out lots of varieties: locally with Palika, Helené Stakem, Sahar, and a few classes each with Janelle Rodriguez, Sese, Siwa, Crystal, and Doreet Gordon. Regionally, when the opportunities presented themselves, I took classes and workshops Debbie Brown, Cassandra, John Compton, Kajira Djoumahna, Hala Fauzi, Amina Goodyear, Leila Hadad, Karim Nagi, Carolena Nericcio, Troupe Salamat, Sahar, Suhaila Salimpour, Aepril Schaile, Colleena Shakti, Shoshanna, Kathy Stahlman, Heather Stants, Amel Tafsout. I also attended Karim Nagi’s 3-day Arab Music and Dance Seminar, Raqs Egypt, San Francisco, CA November 2011. Today, my participation is more intellectual than corporeal, which is why I’ve written this short primer on bellydance history. I hope you enjoy it.

From Cairo to California: A Concise History of Bellydance in Egypt and America

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