A dancer with a Vina

dancerwithavina17thcent This picture is 17th century Persian, although originally found in Turkey. It is a leaf from a manuscript, 11 cm by 19.1 cm. The dancer is holding a vina, which is an Indian instrument. The picture is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Recommended reading about Indian music
Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music edited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis. Via Google Books.

Musical Instruments of the Indian Subcontinent by Allen Roda. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

History of Indian music by P. Sambamoorthy. Via Internet Archive.

Ouled Nail

This dance was done by Aisha Ali, who is well known for her folkloric dances. She is dancing in the style of the women of the Ouled Nail, a tribe from the north of Africa. Unfortunately there is not much information out there about the Ouled Nail dancers in period, as their work did involve prostitution and erotic dances. However, there is quite a bit written about them by foreign travellers out of the Medieval period which only enhanced the licentious reputation.This video is from 1938, showing a woman dancing with a man and her daughter.

If you have any information on the Ouled Nail, I would love to see it!
The Ouled Nail of Algeria by Jasmin Jahal.
The Ouled Nail by Maggie McNeill on the Honest Courtesan Blog.
Earning Power, Ethnology, and Happily Ever After by Andrea Deagon, Ph.D. Article in the Gilded Serpent.
Danse du Ventre: A Fresh Appraisal by Leona Wood and Anthony Shay. JStor article.
The Lost Berber Villages of Eastern Morocco and Western Algeria by Richard I. Lawless. JStor article.
Cutthroats and Casbah Dancers, Muezzins and Timeless Sands: Musical Images of the Middle East by Ralph P. Locke. JStor article.
Exploring Algeria 1944: Barbaric Beauty by Starlight by Sgt Len Scott RAPC. A first hand account of Algeria during WWII.

Dancers on clothing

This is an ornamental shoulder band, made in Byzantine Egypt, in the first half of the 7th century. It is a linen base with wool tapestry weaving. It is 5.45 cm high and 60.65 cm wide, using indigo and kermes dyes. Currently in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Sorry, this is the largest picture I could find. It is two naked dancers, woven in silk. Thought to have been made in the Ummayad or Abbasid period of the 8th century, it decorated a tunic. The dimensions are 15.5cm x 14cm, the fabric is a weft-faced plain weave with inner warps. The dancers are holding pomegranates and branches. From the AMICA Library.

Both of these textiles are from Egypt.

Two Persian harem dancers

Both of these tiles were made between 1600-1640, in Isfahan, Iran to decorate the bathroom of the Harem. The tiles are fritware, with enamel colours, length 26.7cm and width 15.9cm. Both are currently in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I am not sure why they are described as dancers, as they just seem to be women bathing. If you have an idea why, please post. I find it interesting that they are wearing quite a bit of jewellery, such as anklets on both ankles, bracelets, necklace and earrings. The hands are a solid henna dye, very dark showing that these are women of wealth. Interestingly the feet have been left undecorated.

Ivory dancers with accompanying musicians

I found this picture on Tribe.net but it unfortunately doesn’t have much information as where the object is, let alone a good picture. It is on the cover of a book called Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam by Delia Cortese and Simonetta Calderini. I will be borrowing  the book as soon as I can, as it is available in a University library I have access to. However, I have found a similar picture in a JStor article helpfully put up on Scribd.

This gives the information that the item is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. It is quite likely both pieces are in the same museum and while the Bargello has a good site, there are very little pictures. Hopefully more will go up soon. The article on Scribd is called Music and Musicians in Islamic Art by Walter Denny. It can be read on Scribd or downloaded from JStor. If you have any information or even better pictures, please let me know.
The Human Figure in Early Islmaic Art by Eva Baer. Via Google Docs.
Five Essays on Islamic Art by Terry Allen.
A Study on Islamic Human Figure Representation in Light of a Dancing Scene by Hanaa M. Adly. Via Google Docs.