Friday, 27 August 2010

Happy birthday, Sean Connery

On Wednesday, Sean Connery turned 80. 80! In tribute, here's the belly dance scene from "From Russia With Love", featuring Lisa (Leila) Guiraut. Leila, who now lives in Spain, was actually born in England as boring old Shirley Nelson, so there's hope for me yet!

Incidentally, the belly dancer in the opening credits to "From Russia With Love" isn't Leila but Julie Mendez (click the link and follow the thread until you get to the cringe-making clip of her 'On the Buses' performance). When last heard of, Julie was also still alive and living in Brighton:

Next week: the Bond Belly Dance Blow Up continues!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Cher-ly a coincidence?

Above are actresses Cher and Theda Bara. You have 20 minutes to decide who's who.

You're just "uncovered meat" - read it and weep

In 2005, some of my then-dance classmates and I went on a tour of the Middle East with our teacher. I do wish I'd had this article from the World Affairs Journal, "Twice Branded: Western Women in Muslim Lands" by Judy Bachrach to show the women in our group who variously: laughed when the local men verbally harassed us; submitted thoughtlessly to being kissed by a taxi driver in Cairo(!); were totally OK about peeing outdoors in full view of a group of Bedouin men; told the women in our group who were physically assaulted - as I was on a crowded train in Istanbul - that it was 'a compliment'; and generally were very poor ambassadors for Western women.

Let's not also forget that some Western men travelling alone in Egypt are also subjected to sexual harassment - as one hapless bloke of my acquaintance told me with undisguised horror: "I've never been to prison, but I imagine the sexual conditions there to be like Egypt on a small scale."

To which I can only say ... woah.

Bachrach's article is a long but morbidly compelling piece. If you haven't travelled to the Middle East before I hope like hell it doesn't put you off going there. HOWEVER:

"... it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be. This includes France, where only last year a court in Lille upheld the right of a Muslim man to hold fast to his faith and annul his marriage when he discovered his bride was not a virgin. And it includes Germany, where in Berlin in 2005 there were eight murders of young women of Turkish origin, executed by members of their own families. And Australia, where, after a group of unveiled Muslim women were raped, the succinct Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali explained away the crime as an attack on “uncovered meat.” And it includes the United Kingdom, where Scotland Yard has probed 109 suspicious deaths of women, also likely slaughtered by relatives. Islam is an easy rider: it travels everywhere and often brings with it a lot of baggage.

But let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.

Nor is this sort of harassment confined to Islamic women in Islamic nations. Western women who find themselves in the Middle East come in for their own fair share of daily insults, owing to their double deficit as women and foreigners. Every step outside the home or hotel is an invitation to a carefully directed barrage of verbal assaults, their components familiar and unvarying: vulgar and offensive remarks, leers and snickers, the occasional shove, all accompanied by grins of triumph. When I lived in Egypt, everyone in Cairo avidly watched the television series Dallas, and as a result became expert on the sexual habits of American women. And not simply expert, but unrepentantly predatory."

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Retrospective: 2007 and the 1970s

The organisers of the Australian Belly Dance Star competition have been pretty slack - I can't find any information at all about how it went or who won. While looking around for that crucial info, though, I found a gallery on AOL's website for the 2007 Miss Belly Dance Hungary competition. For copyright reasons I can't provide any images here, but it looks like a good time was had by all. I particularly like image 5 (the woman in the lime green costume leaping in the air. Note legs of bod otherwise obscured by the TV).

So we'll have to make do with some out-of-rights images from a pair of 1970s Lebanese albums unearthed by blogger Scratchy Buckles. And I think you'll agree, it's a pretty fantastic compromise:

Your eyes do not deceive you

Beneath that tray and galabeya lurks none other than Jessica Simpson. Yes, Jessica "Chicken of the Sea" Simpson, seen here sporting typical fly-catching facial expression.

This still courtesy of her show "The Price of Beauty". I couldn't find a clip of this scene in motion on YouTube, but I suspect that's just as well.

UPDATE 05/11/2010: "There ain't nothin' flat about anything on top of my head." - Jessica Simpson.

The bit you're looking for is at 3mins 50secs:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Australian Belly Dance Star Awards

If you're going to be in Sydney, Australia on 20 August, and you don't object to belly dance competitions, why not check out the Australian Belly Dance Star Awards? Tickets are available from Amera's Palace. Even if you've no vested interest in the performers, Dina is one of the judges so you might be able to get an autograph (cough, splutter ...).

A big zaghreet and good luck to Tais Derbasova, who'll be the only kiwi competing this year. This article, complete with an appalling pun of a title, should be taken with a grain of salt. It says Tais "was surprised to find negative attitudes toward the ancient dance in her new country" (she's originally from Russia) but neglects to mention that she lives in Auckland, which despite being New Zealand's largest city has one of its smallest raqs communities, proportionally speaking.

Tais could be in with a real shot, too: check out her YouTube channel and prepare to be impressed.