Dancing in Ancient Egypt

Like both antique and modern cultures, ancient Egypt was a thriving center of artistic innovation. While it is impossible to witness a dance performance from this society, evidence of dance is found in archeological evidence: paintings on the walls of tombs, notes on papyrus (reeds that were pounded to paper) and decorations on ostraca (shards of pottery).

Dance in ancient Egypt had many religious purposes. Funeral processions and the embalming process required dancers as either mourners or assisters in the passing of the dead into the next life. Within the temples, there were musicians and dancers who performed exclusively for the priests, the pharaoh (who was perceived as divine), and the gods. Religious festivals, such as the “Festival of Opet” and “Festival of the Valley” were for the public population; it was at celebrations such as these that the everyday people were privy to the religious dances.

In a secular environment, dance was home entertainment. Private banquets and parties had professional performers, usually skimpily clad women, who would dance. These are perhaps the most well – known depictions of dance in ancient Egypt. Professional dancers were paid “in kind” by bags of grain or other trade items and later, in money. Dancers were regarded as highly skilled, but did not achieve a high social status. Usually, this was because performers traveled often together; it was improper for that type of intimacy between unrelated males and females.

Costuming for dancers differed very little from the everyday attire: men wore customary short kilts, and women wore a shortened version of their gowns (the higher hem likely was to free the legs). However, there are depictions of dancers being nude or wearing only a scarf or belt on the hips. Men and women dancer wore their hair short; if a woman did opt for longer hair, stone disks were attached to the ends to swing the hair in time with the movements. Flower garlands, piles of jewelry and elaborate eye makeup were also worn by dancers.

            The music that accompanied the dancers were mainly percussive, made of drumming, clapping, and castanets. Harp and lute – like string instruments were used as well. Singers were present during a dance, though as a separate performer.

            Remains depict the context and the details accompanying the dance, but one does not have full understanding of the true movement or physical embodiment of the style. Partly, this is because the artwork showing dance is done in the flat, two dimensional style associated with ancient Egypt. The full shape and spiral of the body is absent in these drawings. Portrayals of Egyptian dance were painted not to be instructional or explanative to an outside viewer, but because dance was an integral part of the daily life. Anyone in their society would have understood that a painted figure was dancing. In this way, ancient Egyptian dance appears to have an insider understanding and privacy akin to that of the flamenco dancers, or the indigenous American tribes.

            Ancient Egypt was a society with a stable culture with little change. However, it is very possible Egyptian dance was influenced by outside travelers; some paintings show Nubians dancing with the Egyptians, suggesting a fusion with early African forms. If Egyptian dance was full of rigid, sharp lines that are shown in the art, that quality is present in modern Egyptian folk dances. The scarves and belts tied about the hips in the ancient portrayals suggest an emphasis of undulation of the lower body, which is present in belly dancing. Ancient Egyptian dance was thus one of the earliest building blocks for later forms.

By: Kat Delorme

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The Roots of French Cabaret: Where it all begun

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“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”- Moulin Rouge

“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.”- Moulin Rouge

Cabaret specifically originated from France in 1800. Cabaret is a French word which means any sort of gathering performance that provides and serves alcoholic beverages. Because France was considered to be a peaceful economic prosperity modernized location, the upper middle class (bourgeois) enjoyed Cabaret performances. This form of entertainment includes music, songs, comedy, dance, and drama. The performances occurred in restaurants or nightclubs which included, a stage for the performers and entertainers, and a dining area with tables and chairs for the audience to enjoy the food, drinks, and entertainment. 

The first cabaret was called “Cabaret Artistique” which was opened in 1881 in Montmarte, Paris. This cabaret was created by artist who had seen the transition from the third empire to the third republic. This transitional period had an effect on the performance in which was created. Not to long after it was created they renamed the performance to “Le Chat Noir”. This first cabaret became a site where many new cabaret artist were able to explore and try their new acts. 

My ultimate favorite cabaret and honestly the only one I knew before further research on cabaret is Moulin Rouge. This cabaret was created in 1889 and was famous for the red imitation windmill on the roof. It was first built in the “red light district” of Pigalle. Like many cabarets, Moulin Rouge was first introduced to society as a seductive dance. But the “can-can” portion of this cabaret transformed the stereo-type of seduction into entertainment. Today Moulin Rouge is a major attraction to tourist due to the tremendous amount of shows provided all over the world. 

In cabaret dances, specifically Moulin Rouge, the thing that caught my attention is extravagant costuming in both the men and the women. For women crazy feathers, sequins, and rhinestones were the basis of the costumes. The tops, bottoms, and hair pieces were decked out in all three of these details. The costumes were very flashy and varied in color. Usually the women wore corset tops which incorporated the rhinestones and sequins and the bottoms incorporated the multiple amounts of feathers. The men’s costuming in Moulin Rouge was similar to the women’s. Still having a flashy look, men wore black tuxedos with tails going down the back. White bow-tie’s, gloves and a top hat were involved in men costuming to make them have a classy look. The luxurious setting decked out in sparkling unique designs provided extreme abundance of royal and traditional elements which made a daring and theatrical statement. 

Over 120 years ago, ever since Moulin Rouge came to the stage the worlds most famous, extravagant cabaret’s has been born. Since then this show is still touring the world. Many new cabarets have been established but nothing can and will ever be able to compare to Moulin Rouge. Its outrageous and over the top performance will always live. 

By: Jenna Ellis

http://www.hartnell.cc.ca.us/westernstage/press_releases/CABARET/Cab_suppplement.htm

http://www.parissweethome.com/parisrentals/art_uk.php?id=91

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/12/french-history-is-taught-sung-in-‘cabaret-lecture’/

http://www.cabaret-paree.com/about/bio