Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Tummy Trouble

Hit by sex scandals and rumours of prostitution, the belly dancing scene in Cairo - home of the belly dance - is underthreat like never before.

Two years ago one of the most popular dancers, Dina, was involved in a scandal from which the industry is still reeling. Commanding fees of up to $10,000 a night, Dina was famous for her provocative dances and skimpy clothing. But when her businessman husband fell out with the Egyptian president's son, police raided the couple's apartment and found compromising videos which were then released onto the internet.

At the same time, many Egyptians see belly dancers simply as the playthings of rich gulf Arabs: these rich young sheiks are now a belly-dancer's ultimate catch. Dancers are flown to the gulf for a fee of thousands - and for a dancer (many of whom come from poor backgrounds) these Arab royals are a rags-to-riches fairytale.

Indeed, belly dancing is increasingly suffering from the decline of its reputation. Dwindling returns have led many Cairo clubs to close their doors and while it was possible to earn quite good money through the 80s and 90s, some places now prefer cheaper (in every sense) dancers to the better, more expensive ones.

Today, promoters claim there are around 100 regular dancers in Cairo. In 1957 more than 5000 belly dancers were registered with Cairo authorities.

But the taste of the audience has also changed. Young Cairenes prefer a club over a belly dancing show, while an influx of foreign dancers (manly Russian) means owners no longer pay the rates they used to. Similarly having a belly dancer at your wedding is seen as old-fashioned - DJs or jazz band are often more popular.

Source: YogaTravel

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