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The Male Dancer in the Middle East and Central Asia
Pomona Faculty Publications and Research
  • Anthony Shay, Pomona College
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Middle East,
  • Central Asia,
  • male dancers,
  • gay men,
  • homosexual identity,
  • solo improvised dance
"That night ‘Abdi Jan’s troupe had been called so that the harem occupants could watch the show. Of course, you remember ‘Abdi well. Let me, nonetheless, give you a description of his looks. He was a lad of about twelve or thirteen, with large black eyes, languid and incredibly beautiful and attractive. His face was tanned and good-looking, his lips crimson, and his hair black and thick. Renowned throughout the town, the boy had a thousand adoring lovers. Being a dancer, however, he was unworthy of being anyone’s beloved." (Taj Al-Sultana 1993, 163) Within this quotation the reader may find a rich description of historical and even contemporary Middle Eastern attitudes toward dance and male dancers in particular, penned from a native point of view.¹ In this article I address those attitudes, but more importantly challenge several cherished, long-held assumptions and theoretical stances expressed by native elites and Westerners interested in Middle Eastern dance and dancers.
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© 2006 Cambridge University Press
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Citation Information
Shay, Anthony. “The Male Dancer in the Middle East and Central Asia,” Dance Research Journal 38, nos. 1 & 2 (Winter, 2006), pp. 137-162.