STAVROS STAVROU KARAYANNI
Grammar and Politics of Dance: The case of the Tsifteteli
by Stavros Stavrou Karayanni
SUMMARY: Examining the orientalising of the Rebetika Gail Holst-Warhaft makes the interesting assertion that the oriental fantasy in some rebetika suggests an orientalist depiction of exoticism far removed from the immediate environment of the rebetes. Warhaft goes on to identify this detachment of the exotic experience as a "safe strategy" meant to distinguish the oriental harem girls from the Greek women. In my presentation I will take Warhaft's assertion further by elaborating on orientalist and gender themes in rebetika. I will argue that rebetiko orientalism serves a number of functions not limited to a masculinist distinction between female ethnicities and ontologies. More specifically, references to alluring, exotic locales and the yearning for experiences of sensual excess with exotic Arab women signify in a variety of ways for the rebetes and their audience. Firstly, they promote a kind of self-exoticization. Secondly, these fantasies license the use of maqams that would otherwise be censured by the Greek establishment. Thirdly, such songs distance even further a geographical locale and a sensibility that are uncomfortably close. However, in a striking paradox, through a musical reification of, for example, the oriental harem fantasy the Greek disenfranchised and marginalized performer expresses desire in familiar and much beloved musical textures. Therefore, he is able to pull closer and push further away (hence the paradox) the fantasy of an exotic domain with all its alluring possibilities.
CV: Stavros was born in Nicosia, Cyprus and pursued English studies in Canada. He is the author of Dancing Fear and Desire: Race, Sexuality and Imperial Politics in Middle Eastern Dance (Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2004) a book that explores Oriental dance as a system of signification that engages race, sex and national identity and reveals the intricate ways in which the present tradition of this controversial dance has been shaped by Eurocentric models that define and control identity performance. Stavros has presented and performed at international conferences and cultural festivals. In 2003-4 he was a Visiting Scholar/Artist at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver.
Stavros Stavrou Karayanni (PhD)
11 Regas Fereos Street
Ayia Varvara, NICOSIA
tel: 357 9 942 2071