Petronio Fine Photography
Richard Petronio
Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

My fascination with belly dance began several years ago after seeing a performance of a local group of performance artists.  Never before had I seen a dance that is so mysteriously feminine, so beautifully chameleon-like in its ability to express a woman’s individual rhythm and personality.  In Western culture one might argue that the feminine is often misunderstood or even maligned.  The female body moving sensuously in space can definitely be provocative, enchanting and threatening to the culture alternatively.

I have had the great privilege of being an “insider” with the dancers and students of the Mosaic Dance Company in Santa Fe, New Mexico for a period of over two years.  The dancers in these photos let me into their lives and their dancing.  As a documentary photographer I wanted to capture all the different sides of the dance that I saw, from dance studio to dressing room, to rehearsal, to performance.  I have tried to document the trials, the rigors, the emotions and the elations of this mesmerizing dance.

This work chronicles the inner world and evolution of a dance form – within a particular dance company and its particular dancers – and in a broader sense, as a dance that is both ancient yet somehow newly emergent in our times.  Belly dance in America is rapidly changing and adapting to new cultural contexts and aesthetic ideals, as these photos show.  It can take a surprising variety of forms, using widely diverse music and costuming.  Defining belly dance in America as one thing may be difficult if not impossible.

Richard Petronio 2005

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