Accepted Paper:

In search of a new femininity: Oriental dance in Stockholm  

Author:

Karin Högström (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will discuss the practice and understanding of Middle Eastern dance in Sweden in relation to the unsettling or reinforcing of established understandings of the feminine, the masculine, the Swedish and the foreign.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will focus the Oriental and Egyptian dance in Stockholm in relation to the unsettling or reinforcing of established understandings of the feminine, the masculine, the Swedish and the foreign.

Oriental dance (Middle Eastern Dance) is becoming increasingly popular all over the World, not least in Europe. I will discuss the practice and understanding of oriental dance in Sweden using ethnographic examples from two different schools of oriental dance in Stockholm. A majority of the dancers are of Swedish descent, and many of well educated middle class.

Choreographical creativity and the ability or ambition to accommodate diverse cultural elements will be related to the dancers' understanding of authenticity and their relationship to the Oriental "Other". I will also discuss the oriental dance in relation to the wider social context of contemporary Stockholm, and the search for a new female embodied subjectivity that motivates many of the Swedish performers of oriental dance.

The school labelling itself Oriental Dance is similar to traditional "belly dance", and looks to modern Middle East for inspiration. The Swedish dancers strive to use movements and attributes that would be recognized in Cairo or Beirut. The performers of the Egyptian Dance have, on the other hand, transformed not only the movements of the traditional oriental dance, but also the dancer's expression, attitude, costume and attributes. Most important to these dancers is not trying to make a performance similar to dance in contemporary or historical Egypt, but the dancer's ability to express the music and herself as an individual. In experimental performances the "Egyptian" dancers of Stockholm create hybrid forms that combine elements of dance, music and attributes in new ways. The "Oriental" dancers of Stockholm, by contrast, typically use established choreographical forms for oriental dancing.

Panel W062
Dance, Europe and the ethnographic encounter