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 J Petronio 2005
B.A. (International Relations) American University, 1969
M.A. (Psychology) New School For Social Research, 1973
Ph.D. (Psychology & Communication) The University of Michigan, 1979
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Black & White Photography)
New School University, New York, New York (Black & White Photography)
Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois (Documentary Photography, Dark Room, Documentary Film)
Santa Fe Workshops, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Documentary Black/White)
Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Documentary Photography)
George Petronio, Father & Landscape Photographer
Past Exhibitions & Published Documentary Work
Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan School of Design
Minneapolis Star & Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minnesota
Stone Soup Gallery, Chicago, IL
Pomegranate Studios, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Cafe des Artiste, Sante Fe, NM (OnGoing)
Starbucks Coffee House, Santa Fe, New Mexico
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