The Woman Leads: The Belly Dancer in Egyptian Cinema

Instructor: Nada Serhan

The golden age of Egyptian cinema (1940s-1960s) brought colorful life to the intricacies of Arabic and Egyptian culture. Women and their representation were a vast part of the industry, and while female roles could be stereotypical, many were challenging and bold. A crucial but often-overlooked role was that of the belly dancer, with many films helmed by belly dancers, featuring them in leading roles, or having them played by prominent actresses. Under a critical lens, these films reveal a fiercely independent and strong representation of the Arab woman, and particularly the Egyptian woman who attains a unique identity and manages to enjoy different spheres of life more freely than otherwise. The belly dancer emerges as an embodiment of women’s drive and strength.

We will begin the course with an introduction to Egyptian Cinema and female performers. Following this, we wil turn to films that give prominence to belly dancers, analyzing them with a critical eye on the representation of women and how the body functions in different spheres. In discussing the films, we will also highlight the differences in freedom enjoyed by female characters on screen and their performers in real life. Throughout the course, our exploration will be informed by theories of storytelling, performance, film, and feminism. Why does belly dancing automatically evoke a sexualized image? Is that all the art has to offer? As the course concludes, we will not only have illuminated a crucial chapter in Egyptian cinema, but also re-assessed our own attitudes towards women, dance, and their representation in film.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Monday-Saturday, 19:30 – 22:30
20-25 September
18 hours (1 week)


5 Rue des Fontaines du Temple
75003, Paris

All PICT courses are held in person.


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