"Ancient Figures, Timeless Dancers" Gallery

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Visit the "Ancient Figures, Timeless Dancers" Animation Gallery

Crete and Mycenae
1700 ~ 1400 BCE
This image combines the Mycenae Citadel House devotee with two figures from Minoan seal rings.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Tanya Joyce spent many happy hours watching authentic-style belly dancing by the Dancers of the Pharoahs and students of Shukriya, who produces the annual Rakkasah Middle Eastern Dance Festival in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1989, as a project separate from dance, Tanya started looking at ancient figurines from recent archaeological explorations in several parts of the world. She began to see familiar movements suggested in poses of some ancient figures, movements she knew as Middle Eastern dance.

Harappa, Pakistan
2500 ~ 1500 BCE
The figures are dancing with an animal in the antelope family. Figures and animal are surrounded by phases of the moon and by the sun.

It took Tanya seven years to isolate and explore dance movements shown in archaeological discoveries so that she could present what she first perceived in visual arts form. The images in this virtual gallery are from Tanya's series "Ancient Figures, Timeless Dancers," shown at Rakkasah in 1996 and 1997. Tanya had planned a short talk to introduce dancers to her series, but found that the dancers knew what she was presenting before her display was even fully set up!

c. 5350 ~ 5050 BCE
The figures dance in a circle surrounded by scorpions. In other images, scorpions are shown assisting women in childbirth.

This rich tradition goes back eight thousand years as documented by current archaeology. Tanya is fascinated by the endless variety of ways in which people all over the world make art to show their experiences and attitudes. One of her current projects is to make books of "moving pictures" from hundreds of ancient forms she has sketched.

Isopata, Crete
Second Palace Period, 1700 ~ 1580 BCE
From a seal ring. A divine female descends among iris, lilies, and other flowers.

Another is to adapt the art of henna tattooing, Mehndi, to simple designs from multiple cultures, similar to tattoos found on the Ice Man in the Alps and on mummified figures in the former Soviet Union and in China. "I want to limit the temporary tattoos," Tanya says, "to images I know something about. I don't want to draw images at random or just because I like them. I want to have as good an idea as possible about what they meant when they were created in earlier times."

Mycenae, Citadel House
c. 1500 ~ 1400 BCE
Priestess or devotee dancing with vegetation in her hands, probably grain. She wears a fawn skin over her dress.

Tanya's background as a researcher has come in handy for this endeavor. She has read about astronomy in ancient Ireland, copper mining in Sumer, hydraulics along the Indus River, sculpture in the Maldive Islands, and cliff paintings in the Tassilli area of southern Algeria to facilitate her understanding of images she plans to make available as temporary tattoos.

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