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Imaging the Almeh: Transformation and Multiculturalization of the Eastern Dancer in Painting, Theatre, and Film, 1850-1950
Bagnole, Rihab Kassatly

2005, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Ohio University, Art (Fine Arts).

This dissertation explores the images of the Middle Eastern and North African dancer, also known as raqisah sharqi, almeh, and belly dancer, and the role of Western and Eastern male artists in developing her persona. It argues that Jean-Léon Gérôme, Oscar Wilde, and Farid al-Atrash position the dancer according to their own agendas and persuade the viewers to gaze at her to advance their art. Al-Atrash, however, enables the dancer to suggest elements other than her sexuality when she dances to his music. The artworks of these artists are examined through the theory of the gaze, the postcolonial double marginalization of women, and the discourse of Orientalism.

The representations of the almeh in Gérôme’s paintings are also explored via methods of feminist art historians that advocate interpretation through the examination of cultural and political context. This methodology reveals the effect of the Middle East in the development of Gérôme’s realistic style and exposes his bourgeois inclination, which is similar to Ingres and Delacroix, in portraying nude women and prostitutes. Gérôme’s almeh complements the representations of Eastern women by other Orientalists.

The exotic dancer also attracted Western women, who liked her freedom and at the time were demanding their rights in the early twentieth century. Consequently, these women forced the film industries to cater to their needs. In response, the silent cinema offered them Rudolf Valentino as a sheik to satisfy their emotional and sexual wishes and to restore patriarchal power. Such films portray destructive aspects of Eastern cultures and emphasize Western supremacy. Other films reveal the special circumstances whereby a Western woman is permitted to adopt the Eastern dancer, who represents the femme fatale, as her ideal.

The Egyptian cinema imitates Western art and presents the early Eastern dancer as an Arab femme fatale. Farid al-Atrash changes this image by presenting Samia Gamal as an artist worthy of international recognition. She, however, succeeds because al-Atrash’s dance-music influenced her to borrow from Western choreography to express her art. The Western and Eastern artists motivate the Eastern dancer and globalize her performance.

Charles Buchanan (Advisor)
349 p.

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Bagnole, R. (2005). Imaging the Almeh: Transformation and Multiculturalization of the Eastern Dancer in Painting, Theatre, and Film, 1850-1950. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Bagnole, Rihab. "Imaging the Almeh: Transformation and Multiculturalization of the Eastern Dancer in Painting, Theatre, and Film, 1850-1950." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2005. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 17 Oct 2017.

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Bagnole, Rihab "Imaging the Almeh: Transformation and Multiculturalization of the Eastern Dancer in Painting, Theatre, and Film, 1850-1950." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio University, 2005. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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