Serena Wilson

As a student of the library sciences I often debate critical thinking and the legitimacy of source materials in regards to scholarship. I would like to thank Stella Grey for pointing out that the portrayal of Serena Wilson in the title Shall We Dance? was not a very accurate representation of a dancer who remained vibrant and vital until her unexpected departure from this world. Stella was kind enough to forward me the following images of “The Dancer” at 72 so that I might present a better view of a woman who had a powerful influence on the belly dance of New York City and beyond. I would also like to thank photographer Sal Romano for allowing me to publish these images.

I Am a Woman
By Serena Wilson

I am a woman, wrapped in chiffon and jewels,
Thin silks and girdle of gold.
I stretch my arms…
The embrace encompasses a universe.
I can control a quiver in my hips,
Tell a thousand stories with my eyes,
Skip with child-like glee,
The smile of experience on my lips.
Glide in innocence, endure with age.
Spin like a dervish; undulate in sensuality…
Excite, promise, create, change, tease, mock,
Unveil my passion.
Untiringly seduce the world as I move my body,
For I am a woman…
I am the dancer.

One thought on “Serena Wilson

  1. Dear Eric,

    Thanks again for posting Sal’s “accurate” pictures of the “real” Serena and for publishing one of her many lovely poems. BTW, my personal favorite is #1534: a typical pose of Serena’s with her hands on her hips, smiling out at her audience, playfully inviting everyone into her show. In the words of the Borg, “Resistance is futile.” That was the Serena I knew: delicate, strong, generous, whimsical, masterful, and above all, feminine.

    Photos are funny things. Sal Romano was what I’d call a straight shooter. (I’ve put this in the past tense because lately Sal hasn’t been coming around as much as he did a couple of years ago.) He photographed us because he loved us and loved what we were doing. Sal’s photos were about us, not about him, or his perceptions, or his ego. He made no pretense of being an auteur. Consequently Sal’s work was about as honest as dance pictures can be. Looking at Sal’s shots after the fact was the same as looking at a show while it was happening. Sal didn’t encourage people to project their own stories and meanings onto our images nor did he use his photos of us to tell us or anyone else about him.

    And that’s precisely where the problem is with the artsy shot of Serena that so disturbed me. That photo was a vehicle for the expression of the photographer’s intentions. It told his, Bruce Lanker’s, story, not his subject’s truth all the while presenting itself as a portrait of a specific person. The photographer placed the importance of his concept ahead of his subject’s reality. This stance would have been acceptable if his subjects were anonymous, or were, à la Cindy Sherman, constructions created using himself. This photographer is not trustworthy: for all we know, the portrait of Doris Eaton Travis is as much of a fabrication, a falsehood, as the one of Serena.

    I was going to just drop the subject after my original private thank you note. However, DjB’s kind of strange analysis of the Serena image got me riled up all over again, making me feel a need to go public.


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