Dancer Sarah Skinner models her reproduction Mata Hari costume.
Generally speaking, most Middle Eastern dancers (aka bellydancers) don’t try to create characters when we dance. Our time slot is short, we’re dancing in an informal venue (e.g. restaurant or private home), and we’re just trying to interpret the mood of the music and make sure that the audience has a good time. Our costumes are chosen for their color and flash. Middle Eastern dancers and dance shows typically try to create a Near Eastern (or a Western idea of what the Near East is like) atmosphere.
But every now and then we do get the opportunity to create a stage piece, a dance that tells a story.
Most of us know or have heard of Mata Hari–a dancer, femme fatale, and spy who seduced men for information and was subsequently executed as a traitor. Sarah Skinner became fascinated with Mata Hari (actually Margaretha Zelle’s) story and was determined to re-create not only the costume, but the dance performance that made her a star. Orientalism–the West’s fascination by and distrust of the “exotic” East–was a driving force in Mata Hari’s career as a dancer just as it shapes Middle Eastern dance today.
On her blog, ShakeMyDay , Sarah discusses the process of creating the costume and the dance. Unfortunately, while there are many great costume pictures, there are no clips of Sarah actually doing the dance. I may have to break down and buy Gothic Bellydance 2 in order to see it.
Sarah’s costume blog also details her other costumes and performances.