Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Shake Sheik Shake

This is a Channel 4 documentary from a few years ago. According to its director it went 'a bit pear-shaped', but to her this snippet captures what she was trying to say:



Full disclosure: I'm currently one of Jo Wise's students.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

House of Tarab

House of Tarab are a Seattle-based band and, as Razia put it, are real musicians making real music -- tasty.
Obviously they put all their heart and soul into their art rather than their website or their album covers. I mean that in a loving way.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Isadora Duncan

There is only one known piece of film footage of Isadora Duncan dancing - and it's about five seconds long. She wasn't a belly dancer, but her approach (in terms of focusing on using the body's natural range of movement and eschewing the often physically damaging aspects of ballet) is one that many raqs practitioners can relate to.

What's lovely about this is that she's wearing her favoured garment, a variation on the Greek chiton.

Diaghilev dancers?


Update 30/01/11: After attending Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909 - 1929 at London's Victoria & Albert Museum, I'm wondering if these are costume designs for one of his productions. Anyone know?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Lost in translation?

Lebanese sensation Haifa Wehbe has been in trouble over allegedly racist lyrics penned by an Egyptian. Wehbe claims she had no idea that the line 'I want my Nubian monkey' was a slur rather than a reference to a popular Egyptian street game. The furore has inspired this piece by Nesrine Malik, in which she discusses racism in Egypt more generally (naturally, the comments veer from the reasonable to the outrageous and back again).

To me, the whole controversy highlights how careful western dancers who don't speak Farsi/Turkish/Arabic/Darsi etc need to be when selecting music. Even instrumentals aren't a completely safe option: Turkish belly dancer Ozgen has an amusing/cringe-inducing story about a tribal dancer he saw performing to music that is traditionally used in Turkey to accompany circumcisions. I don’t know if he said anything cutting to her about it afterwards. Ba-DOM-dish. Thank you. I’ll be here all week – try the veal.

As unpleasant as this controversy about Wehbe's lyrics is, it makes a nice change from the last time a Lebanese pop star and an Egyptian got any kind of coverage in the British press. If anyone knows how Moustafa's appeal against the death sentence is going, let me know.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Don't try this at home

One of my classes was discussing the difficulties of the 'rolling a coin up your abs' trick, when my teacher memorably sniffed, 'I don't go in for circus tricks, myself'.
I guess in her book the subject of today's post would qualify as stunt work rather than dancing, but you can't deny that everyone loves a good balancing act:

I think this photo is of Melina from Daughters of Rhea performing her sword and dagger dance - with zagat, no less!* I tried balancing a cane on my chin for five minutes to see what this does to the neck. The result was nothing pleasurable, let me tell you.

This really is Melina:



The picture quality is terrible, but you get the gist.

PS: Apparently that's her mother who comes on at the end looking concerned. Sweet.

*Edit: OK, it must be. Her website claims she is the only person in the world who does this, and I believe it.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Baghdad beatdown

From last weekend's Guardian Observer:

'The raids came just before midnight a week ago. At the start of Eid al-Adha, the four holiest days on the Islamic calendar, hundreds of Iraqi police and soldiers stormed each of Baghdad's 300 or so nightclubs.
...

"Dancing clubs are gone, so are singers and bars. Welcome to the new Iraq." For the large numbers of Baghdadis who believed an older Iraq was on its way back, the raids, and what they signify, are a bitter disappointment.'

Monday, 7 December 2009

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Ugly Costume Goddess

I bought my first bedlah in Cairo, from a costumier on the Khan el Khalili. Being young and inexperienced, I figured 'It's authentic. He's been making these for years. Even the worst costume here will be fabulous.'

It's a black and silver job with a paisley-esque motif. Even at the time, I thought that the single paisley design on each cup of the bra looked like a pair of eyes mesmerising the audience from atop my nipples. Once I got it home, that seemed even more creepy. (The belt, though, is beautiful.)

When I found Amulya's blog, What Were They Thinking?, I thought about my first bedlah, which has never been worn and is now in storage. There are a lot of 'boob eyes' on her blog.


Don't look directly into them! You'll turn to stone!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Radio Bastet

The Occidental Dancer dedicates this inaugural post to the international language of music, as it is beamed to the world from Portland, Oregon.

The Radio Bastet podcast is brought to you by the charming Marisa Young. If you've not tripped over her vintage sequined grooves before, the complete podcasts are available either here or from a myriad of alternative links provided on the site. She's so lovely, you can even subscribe free to her podcasts on iTunes.

EDIT (2/3/12): Follow Marisa on Twitter - @RadioBastet. Also ... awesome goddess Bastet tattoo!