Films by Kader Attia, Breda Beban, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Safaa Fathy, Joan Jonas, Youssef Nabil, Alexandre Paulikevitch and Nil Yalter are brought together by Charlène Dinhut that address what is colloquially known as “belly dancing” at Paris's Centre Pompidou.
A transnational form of entertainment, ritual, tradition and contemporary expression, the exhibition Move/Hips don't lie explores how its complex history and highly personalised cultural iterations leave its exact origins unclear. Tracing how belly dancing has been dichotomously stigmatised and celebrated and its key role in Orientalism through to the dilemma of looking, addressing Western voyeurism, the male gaze, and the perspective of the dancers themselves.
Each artist delves into the poetry of the art form, documenting, updating and recontextualising belly dance in order to deconstruct its imposed exoticism and stigma. Attia’s Shadow (2004) films dancer Samy Gamal in an empty room to emphasise the disparate nature of the figure and their shadow; Beban shows The Most Beautiful Woman in Gucha (2006) which tackles a moment of passion between a belly dancer and a young man from a Serbian Romani community; Bouabdellah presents Dansons (2003) as a statement on intercultural boundaries and geographical expectations by covering a dancer in red, white and blue as they move to La Marseillaise; Fathy’s Ghazeia, dancers of Egypt (1993) is a documentary depicting two ostracised Egyptian female dancers; Jonas’s work Vertical Roll (1972) is created from the disruption of vertical videogram scrolls of her alter-ego Organic Honey; Nabil offers I Saved my Belly Dancer (2015), a chromatically-intense film starring Salma Hayek inspired by loss of the 1950s golden age of Egyptian cinema; Paulikevich’s Tajwal (2012) centres on the choreographer’s interrogations of belly dancing’s movements and meanings; and Yalter’s 1974 The Woman without a Head or The Dance of the Belly tackles the dance as the backbone of feminism.
Move/Hips don’t lie runs until 26 June at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. For more information visit centrepompidou.fr