Sunday, June 22, 2014

Odalisques: Arts: Discovering My Dancer

"Odalisques strive to become accomplished in arts and skills which are desirable to their master, such as visual arts, the performance or selection of music, belly dancing, cooking meals, baking cakes, or creating clothes. They see these arts and skills as another way of pleasing, rather than as household drudgery only suitable for maids and menial servants." - The Octagram,

I was interested in belly dance for about a year before I actually really got into learning. My motivations were primarily developing a skill that I could use for a master and a little bit of fitness. I started gathering videos and resources while at school, but my ex never expressed enough interest in the idea for me to really pursue it. He was actually rather dismissive when I brought it up, so I didn't start studying the dance until about 3 months after that relationship officially ended.

The Harem Dance. Giulo Rosati.
Found on

I wavered through styles, starting with kind of a cabaret gothic fusion. The videos  I was learning from were from a Moroccan dancer named Tiazza at, who only taught Middle Eastern styles of the dance, but all of my music at the time was pretty much Alt Rock, Metal, and similar genres, so I kind of ended up with a mix.

One of my first videos was to Prayer by Disturbed, which Daddy loves because his favorite band is Disturbed. My first performance in front of people was to King of the World by Porcelain and the Tramps and Relax my Beloved by Alex Clare. Not exactly traditional tracks.

I eventually realized that the various forms of tribal fusion weren't for me. My body didn't move that way and I never felt the same passion and sensuality from tribal performances that I did from oriental pieces. The sensuality is what I wanted, that I found so beautiful, what drew me to the dance in the first place.

Dance of the Almeh. Jean-Leon Gerome
Found on

And I have to say, it's the more traditional styles that feel like they mesh with the odalisque ideal of slavery. The costuming is so luxuriant and vibrant. The movements  very natural and earthy. I have had debates with tribal dancers who feel tribal is more earthy, but I figure it all has to do with what style feels the most natural for your body.

I always seem to dance the best when I'm by myself as well as not in front of a camera. I have never danced for a lover, so I am not sure how I would fare there. Dancing in front of an audience tends to sap my strength with adrenaline and nerves. I can dance for nearly an hour when by myself, but one song has me red faced and breathing heavily and in need of a gallon of water if it's in front of an audience. I'm hoping it's not that way with him. Although, I don't know if he'd let me go more than one song before moving onto more interesting things. ;)

Here are a few dancers who embody what I picture when I think of an odalisque dancing.

This is Alia. She pretty much exclusively does what is known as "Vintage Belly dance" or "Golden Age/Era Belly dance." Her performances are always very sensual and enticing. Which seems to fit, since most of her performances appear to take place at a burlesque club.

And this is Blanca, who calls herself Blanca Odalisca on Facebook, so clearly she had the odalisque idea in mind when she came up with that. She is one of my most favorite dancers. It was a video of hers that really got me into belly dancing in the first place. She is the embodiment of the idea of a harem dancer to me. I love listening to her teach in videos because her voice is very calm and soothing and it matches the sensual style she teaches on her DVDs. I wish she had more.

Lately, I've been exploring raqs baladi. I've always loved this style, but I didn't know what it was called until a few months ago. It's the dance of the people of Egypt. It's very internally focused and the movements are kept close to the body. I think it will help me in my art, because it's a very sensual style in my opinion. It's pretty much always improvised and it's all about your body's natural reactions to the music.

This is the woman who teaches on the DVD I'm learning from and I just love her musicality. Her name is Ranya Renee.

And this is Sarah Skinner, who I also enjoy learning from. I did a review of her Opulent Motion DVD a few months back. I highly recommend her as well as Ranya Renee.

Now, other masters may prefer other styles of stance, but this is the one that I am most passionate about and feel the most beautiful doing. It's a constant process of learning, and I can only hope it pleases him even though I may not be the greatest at it yet.

Harem Dancer. Gaston Guedy
This is my favorite odalisque image, and my
absolute favorite odalisque dancer image so far.
Found on
Join me in discussing the idea of the odalisque as a part of modern consensual slavery by linking your posts on the Odalisques page of the blog!

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