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OF EMPERORS, AIR SHIPS AND TIC TOC
„Steampunk“

by Anna Maria Cancelli

Foreword by Marcel Bieger
and Konstanze Winkler)

Foreword:

(This is not Anna Maria Cancelli speaking, but Konstanze & Marcel, the publishers of this belly dance site, please forgive us, you all out there). With the exception of politicians, bankers and lawyers and some others probably everybody is talking about “steampunk”. And like it is with all new waves it’s the same with “steampunk”: Everybody seems to have something to say about it, but nobody knows the whole picture.

In this year one could see more and more of “steampunkesque” dressed up girls, dancers with edgy moves on every event, just one or two in spring, flocks of them in summer, and we bet, in fall/autumn places will teem with them (yes, we know, it’s posh to say “venue” nowadays).

At first we thought oh, great, another “vague nouveau”, so what? Like others it will probably not hold longer than half a year. So why bother. But then we discovered that there is more to “steampunk”. It not only spreads in modern belly dance, but also in music, in fashion, and in games; and it stems from literature, is a sub genre in science fiction (please don’t use “sci-fi” as this is just another rubbish expression from media lingo with which they love to pollute our language). A new aesthetics is arising, and serious people give serious thoughts to find new insights and expressions not only for fusion but for belly dance in general.
After we received the permission of Anna Maria to translate and publish her article on our site (and the permission of “Zaghareet” as well, thanks to Sharina), we had to face another fact: There is no terminology existing, so we had to think quite a few new (and fitting) expressions up.

For instance, English was NOT the “lingua franca” at the beginning of the 20th century – and so it didn’t feel right to just adopt the English words. Posh people and other important persons spoke French in those days. To be accurate or authentic, steampunk dancers ought to do the same – and we would love to hear “au contraire”, “quelle surprise”, or “enchantez” – no kidding.
Author of this article, Anna Maria Cancelli
Purely on a whim we invented the expression “Dampfpunk” and confronted some of our American friends with this translation of “steampunk” (Dampf means steam), and some of them thought it funny. But that probably will be it for “Dampfpunk”. This expression will never make it.
We gave our German version the title “Von Kaisern, Luftschiffen und Tick Tack”, meaning “Of emperors, air ships and tic tocs” to put a more historical note into it (funny, isn’t it, that English and German clocks make slightly different noises.)

And by the way, next time you see a “Zeppelin” or air ship in the sky, think for a moment of steampunk, because these giant gas filled cigars are very much related to the air ships which play such a prominent role in this new sub genre.

Once again, please forgive us, Anna Maria, for bothering the people with our ramblings and preventing them so long from reading your superb article … And the rest of you, please excuse our meagre English …
Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor
Victoria, Queen of England
And now the stage is yours, Anna Maria Cancelli:

Aficionados of all things belly dance are always on the lookout for innovative aesthetic trends and avant-garde movement styles. Victorianesque costume pieces and accoutrements have been en vogue for several years now.  Some Victoriana became more industrial in appearance, and when combined with metal and mechanical embellishments, morphed into an aesthetic called Steampunk. Steampunk made its way off fabric and trim and into the realm of the kinesthetic as evidenced by pop and lock and “ticking” movements. Steampunk has also made its way into performance musical selections, and sounds reminiscent of London train stations, broken wind-up toys, and antique carousels can be heard echoing through hafla halls and shows. 

Interestingly, the term Steampunk originated as a sub-genre of literature. This pleases me to no end because I am a literature instructor, and I love knowing that a literary movement is at the heart of a belly dance aesthetic and style.

Steampunk, a term coined in the late 1980s by science fiction writer K.W. Jeter, is “a subgenre of speculative science fiction set in an anachronistic 19th century society,” according to the online dictionary Allwords, the ever so popular Wikipedia states that Steampunk “denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used” and has “prominent elements of . . . fictional technological inventions,”and the trustworthy Oxford English Dictionary explains that Steampunk fiction is set in 19th century industrialized society that features machines powered by steam.
Author Jules Verne
*8.2.1828 † 24.3.1905
Title of Verne's novel: Robur, the conquerer
Simply put, Steampunk is the name given to a sub-genre of sci-fi literature set in the Victorian era that is reminiscent of the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and focuses on a world full of fantastical inventions, on what many call “a past that never was,” a past replete with characters who wear vintage garb embellished with mechanisms, metals, and other items futuristic and technological in appearance.
Actor Rod Taylor in the movie "The Time Machine"
by H.G. Wells
Author H.G. Wells
* 21.9.1866 † 13.8.1946
Photos: Anna Maria Cancelli © A. M. Cancelli,
others = Source: common Wikipedia
graphics and layout: Konstanze Winkler
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But when we wished to take an in depth look at this new dance art, we had to discover that there was near nothing around. Nobody had set any landmarks, no smart definition and analysis were to be found. Till one day we stumbled over this remarkable article of Anna Maria Cancelli’s in the (even slightly more remarkable) belly dance magazine “Zaghareet”. After reading it we were delighted and exited. More so the author is a college teacher and knows a thing or two about organising, structuring, and handling knowledge transfer – and that in a very entertaining manner.