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Vintage and Golden Era Musings

By Nizana El Rassan As of late, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in vintage and golden era belly dance. I know there is at least one generation that is thrilled about this, and I know I am. Keeping this period of dance alive and well provides a classy foundation for other dancers to learn from. It provides beautiful, elegant entertainment and connection to the history of the dance.

With the number of online dance shows over the past year and a half have come opportunities to present some fabulous videos with vintage styles and editing. I have had the privilege of seeing some excellent performances including from Basinah, Roshana Nofret, Kamala Almanzar and a number of other beautiful and skilled dancers. I love the attention that is being paid to getting back to the basics of Middle Eastern music, costuming and movement. There have been some videos that were very polished, totally capturing the look and feel of that time, that were worth seeing multiple times.

Speaking of videos, there are a wealth of vintage and golden era videos online with performances that range from charming to totally covering the essence of the style. Different opinions describe what decades fall in the vintage and golden age arena, with some dancers being more generous with time than others, but includes some of the greatest dancers of this style. It is generally considered to be the early to mid-1900’s before 1960 and included dancers such as Samia Gamal, Naima Akef and Tahia Carioca. One online show focused completely on having the dancers emulate dancers of that time for the entire show, and it was one to watch for sure!

This era reminds us of the grace, beauty and complex simplicity of the dance. There are less props, tricks and athletic movement, and more isolated technique, softness and connection to the music, which is Middle Eastern music of that era, not alternative or non-ME music. It captures the true essence of the dance. I am one, who as an audience member enjoys the variety of different styles from vintage to fusion, but I consider vintage and golden era more “authentic.” As an instructor, I find it critical to ensure students understand the foundation, culture, movement and costuming of the different styles that form the true dance styles before they venture into fusion.

It is wonderful that there are instructors around who understand the nuances of this style, and are teaching, performing and promoting vintage belly dance. Since the height of the golden era, belly dance has broadened to include a wide range of styles under the umbrella that have ventured far and wide. Bringing dancers back to the music and the vintage era maintains that important connection to the history of belly dance, keeping it alive and strong. Take the opportunity to study with instructors who have a lot of experience in this area, check out some videos and step back into the golden era!

Nizana has long been involved in Middle Eastern Dance as a performer, instructor, student, troupe director, choreographer, event producer, and competition judge. Nizana's articles and reviews have been published in seven Belly Dance magazines and newsletters including Fanoos! Having studied with a wide variety of instructors, in addition to performing Egyptian flavored American Style Belly Dance, Nizana dabbles in folkloric and fusion styles. She is known for her expressiveness and connection to the audience. Nizana is available for instruction and has workshops scheduled in Florida and Washington State.

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