Belly dancing in New Zealand: identity, hybridity, transculture.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Distinction)
This thesis explores ways in which some New Zealanders draw on and negotiate both belly dancing and local cultural norms to construct multiple local and global identities. Drawing upon discourse analysis, post-structuralist and post-colonial theory, it argues that belly dancing outside its cultures of origin has become globalised, with its own synthetic culture arising from complex networks of activities, objects and texts focused around the act of belly dancing. This is demonstrated through analysis of New Zealand newspaper accounts, interviews, focus group discussion, the Oasis Dance Camp belly dance event in Tongariro and the work of fusion belly dance troupe Kiwi Iwi in Christchurch. Bringing New Zealand into the field of belly dance study can offer deeper insights into the processes of globalisation and hybridity, and offers possibilities for examination of the variety of ways in which belly dance is practiced around the world.
The thesis fills a gap in the literature about ‘Western’ understandings and uses of the dance, which has thus far heavily emphasised the United States and notions of performing as an ‘exotic Other’. It also shifts away from a sole focus on representation to analyse participants’ experiences of belly dance as dance, rather than only as performative play. The talk of the belly dancers involved in this research demonstrates the complex and contradictory ways in which they articulate ideas about New Zealand identities and cultural conventions. Some of their reflections on belly dancing appear to reflect consciousness of and dis-ease around issues of indigeneity and multiculturalism in wider New Zealand society. Participants in this study also talk about how they explore and perform ideas about femininity, which includes both acceptance and rejection of belly dancing as innately feminine. Looking at New Zealand identities through belly dance, and vice-versa, highlights developing, nuanced and multiple articulations of self and other in a globalised world.