Sunday, 30 January 2011

"Timing is everything."

With apologies to readers outside the UK who may not be able to watch the video, the BBC's arts reporter has been to chat to the Royal Ballet's Zenaida Yanowsky about dancing the difference between the black and white swans. While ballet isn't my bag, I pinched a few ideas from her about 'dancing the character' (it's putting them into practise that'll be the hard part!).

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The British Ambassador's Belly Dancer

Nadira Alieva survived a hellish upbringing in Uzbekistan, only to see her reputation dragged through the mud by the notorious British tabloids. Her crime? Being the third party in the breakdown of diplomat Craig Murray's marriage.

Murray, who was already a controversial figure in the UK thanks to his fondness for kilts and breaching diplomatic protocol by daring to speak out about Uzbekistan's deplorable human rights record, would have borne the brunt of the prurient media fall out had Alieva been a cleaner or an architect. Unfortunately for Alieva, she was a lap dancer, young and very good looking indeed. Vicious character assassination ensued.

In 2008 she decided to tell her own story on the stage, using a mix of acting and belly dancing. The result is unlikely to be revived, being as it was intensely personal and the recipient of mixed reviews (though apparently there was no question about her dance ability). The title, The British Ambassador's Belly Dancer, also seems a bit retrograde. Although it was meant to be deliberately provocative, to me that possessive apostrophe reduces Alieva's undoubtedly remarkable life to a mere footnote in Murray's story. Then again, The Uzbekistani Belly Dancer's British Ambassador is much harder to fit on a marquee or a flyer ...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Scandal (from more than three years ago ...)

Dancer's job goes belly-up over fake degree
SEOUL (AFP) — South Korean prosecutors said Monday they have charged a well-known belly dancer with forging an undergraduate degree to get a job teaching the skill at university.
Ahn Yoo-Jin will face trial for allegedly forging a graduation certificate from a university in Sydney, Australia. She used it to get a job as a part-time lecturer in belly dancing at Kwangju Women's University in 2006 but has now been sacked from the post, Yonhap news agency reported.
Ahn, also known as Xena Ahn, is the head of the Korea Belly Dance Association. She established the Belly Korea Academy in 1995 and hosted several televised belly dance lectures.
South Korea's fake degree scandal has spread far and wide since it erupted in early July, when prosecutors investigated Dongkuk University professor Shin Jeong-Ah for fabricating a Yale doctorate.
A probe followed into the academic backgrounds of thousands of professors and civil servants.
In recent months dozens of figures from the cultural, entertainment and religious worlds have either confessed to faking their academic records or were found out.
But she has such an honest face!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Women: Stay away from dance halls!

Why? Because in times of war (and let's face it, in these troubled days when is it not at time of war?), all the men there will have syphilis. Don't take my word for it; ask the government:

That's right - dance halls themselves can give women syphilis! Even if they don't have sex with the infected hoardes within! Why modern medical science has sat on this bombshell is beyond logic. Obviously, all syphilitic men are such fine examples of male pulchritude as those pictured, and presumably being in a dance hall with a group of VD-riddled soldiers renders all women sexually incontinent. Not that I'd know, of course. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe in this context "Syphilis" refers to some kind of looks-enhancing male skin care treatment that also makes the users really, really clumsy and dangerous to be around when they try to dance. But this makes me think that the first conclusion is the right one:

The 'smutty suggestion' here is that 'the famous Zita', she of the 'Dance of the Veil and a Half', is a stripper/hooker. Harrumph. Way to tarnish belly dancers, WWI health poster!

For more horrifying and amusing wartime sexism, check out the full darkly hilarious gallery on Mother Jones.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Happy Burns Night!

Och, aye! It's the night all Scotland lifts a wee dram to Robbie Burns. Let's celebrate with this completely rubbish 'fusion/steampunk/burlesque' belly dance "fluff" thingy made out of purple tartan:

This abomination brought to you courtesy of Etsy, of course. First and last time I ever go there for the purposes of this blog, promise. I'm going to leave it to the talented folks at Regretsy!

Some guys have all the luck

A while ago I found this rather wonderful photo of science fiction author extraordinaire, the late Philip K Dick, awkwardly enjoying himself at a convention. (That's him on the right of your screen.) I just wanted to share it.


This was tagged as 'belly dancer', but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest she's actually a flamenco dancer:

And not a very good one at that. So lacking in skills she can't even earn enough for a dress, poor love.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Mrs Howe's Troupe of Dancers

"The society people of Kenosha are worked up over the discovery that a person known as 'Mrs Howe' is not a woman but a man. He went there some time ago to get up a 'Kirmess'* for a church, and several ladies joined in the performance. The peculiarity of her manners was commented on at the time, but none suspected the real truth. Now there is regret on the part of the participants that they joined 'Mrs Howe's troupe of dancers.'"

The State, 22 December 1892, as quoted in Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy.

*Kirmess: a festival or fair, usually held for charitable purposes.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The "Wardrobe of Justice"

I found this on an old Bhuz thread and since I've been doing a lot of practise at home lately I was interested in this video of a woman who has the ultimate bedroom wigglers disaster. After a few eye-poppingly saucy moves she winds up suffering thanks to what the Bhuzzers have nicknamed 'The Wardrobe of Justice' - here to punish belly dancers who degrade their art form:

I hope she was OK and is no longer friends with whoever posted this. She wouldn't have shared it with the world herself, surely?

EDIT 6/3/11: Poor dear is reported to be Bulgarian and was performing on webcam for her [ex?]boyfriend in Romania, who thoughtfully shared this with the world. DTMF!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Bunga bunga, indeed, Mr President* ....

UPDATE 15/02/11: This just in from the Guardian (10.30am): “Italian judge orders Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial on charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then tried to cover it up. More details soon ...”

Is it the beginning of the end for the last Emperor?
After years of scandal, corruption allegations and broken hearts, it looks like Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may finally get his comeuppance thanks to a self-described "belly dancer".

Yes, it seems that Ruby Rubacuori (or, as her parents know her, Karima El-Mahroug) may be the nail in the coffin of all of Signore Berlusconi's uh ... nailing. Although Ruby is frequently referred to as a belly dancer, a quick search of Google images (which you shouldn't do at work, take my word for it) will reveal that Ruby is, well, quite a different kind of entertainer. I've never seen so many pixelated images in one place.

What hasn't been clearly explained in most news outlets is that while the age of consent in Italy is 14, it is illegal to involve those under 18 in prostitution or pornography. Since Ruby was only 17 when she says Silvio gave her €7,000 and jewelery as a 'thanks for coming to my bunga bunga party!' gift, there are now good grounds for assuming that he may have broken the law.

So while Ruby may have served to lower belly dancers everywhere in the estimation of the general public, at least she may be helping to rid Italy of a deeply unpopular leader. Good work, modern-day Judith!

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes (c. 1598)

UPDATE 23/01/11: The Independent is now referring to the women caught up in Berlusconi's Bunga Bunga of Shame as a "harem". They are emphatically not a harem. I don't know what the collective noun is for sex workers (I suppose what you'd call them would depend on your personal view of sex work), but it's not "harem". Look it up in the dictionary, guys.

UPDATE (12/02/2011): Muslimah Media Watch poses a rather different question about Ruby's identity: instead of whether or not she's a belly dancer, they ask 'But is she a Muslim?' On one thing, though, everyone can agree: she's not Hosni Mubarak's granddaughter.

UPDATE (14/02/2011): As new research shows that Italy has a gender gap worse than Kazakhstan's, the women of Italy (and many supportive men) have taken to the streets to protest. In particular, they are fed up with Berlusconi's treatment of women and what it says about the position of women in Italian society.

"Organisers say the 74-year-old premier's antediluvian attitude to women has been made clearer than ever by the allegation that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer, Karima "Ruby" el-Mahroug.
"The Ruby case has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power," said Iaia Caputo of the organising committee of the protests. "We want to send a message to the country and to the parties that do not see themselves a part of what has happened over the last few weeks – it's possible to change route."
My favourite placard at a demonstration said (in English), "Make love - not bunga bunga".

*EDIT (31/03/11): No one has said anything to me about this, but I would like to point out that I know Mr Berlusconi is the Prime Minister, not the President, of Italy. (The Italian President is Giorgio Napolitano.) No offence is meant to the people of Italy or Mr Napolitano, who does not get on very well with Mr Berlusconi and therefore has, it is presumed, never been invited to 'bunga bunga' party. However, as a blog title 'Bunga bunga, indeed, Mr Prime Minister' just didn't sound quite as good as 'Bunga bunga, indeed, Mr President' - even if it isn't accurate. In any case, you could read it as being said to the President by someone telling him about Mr Berlusconi's misbehaviour. Or something. Look, I just wanted to clear that up.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Stars of the 1940s: Fairouz Arteen Kaleva and Tahia Carioca vs Shirley Temple

"Lebdancer" posted this on YouTube, along with a useful summary reproduced below (in hopes that Lebdancer won't mind!). I'm learning a melaya leff at the moment and it's interesting to see a little girl do it. Although I can understand why someone might feel uncomfortable about a child doing a dance usually performed as a burlesque on 'dock girls', firstly I would recommend reading Lebdancer's explanation of the scene and secondly I would recommend looking at this similarly-aged scene from USA:

This is "Lebdancer's" explanation of the Fairouz clip (I've taken the liberty of editing it a bit and adding footnotes):

"From the 1951 film Fairouz Hanem (The Lady Fairouz) starring Egyptian child star Fairouz Arteen Kalevan. In this film Fairouz plays the part of a young orphan left a huge fortune when her parents died. The executor of the will is the bald man, played by Hasan Faik, who is a thief and is stealing all of Fairouz's inheritance along with his accomplice (played by Stephan Rosti).

In this scene, Fairouz has just arrived at her elegant home with her new-found friends who are from a sha'abi neighborhood*. There is a high society party going on and the executor doesn't want to allow anyone in who is wearing a melaya leff because it's not considered classy, but Fairouz pushes her way in and informs him that these are her friends and she has invited them.

As they walk across the room the guests begin to murmur and whisper as to how women in melaya leffs found their way into an elegant home? Some turn their backs. Then Fairouz, clad in her very own melaya leff, sings about the wonders of the garment. The lyrics of her song are about how there is no other garment as beautiful as the melaya leff in the entire world. This melaya leff dance is quite different from the later version developed by Reda** for his theater show.

Fairouz also sings about the beauty of the [burqa] and the kasaba (the face covering and the nosepiece). Historically, in Egypt the kasaba was sometimes made of metal, and among the more well-to-do sha'abi women it would sometimes be made of silver or gold.

Taheya Carioca dances with sagat towards the end of the clip while Fairouz sings dressed as a little boy in a galabeya. Taheya Carioca plays the part of the sister of one of the melaya leff-wearing women, and her character works as a dancer at a club. For this latter reason she is not on good terms with her father. She has been hired to dance at this party by the executor.

Actress Fairouz Kalevan is the sister of Nelly, who is famous in Egypt and the middle east for the fawazeer^ that she used to do every year during Ramadan. They are the cousins of another Egyptian actress and dancer, Lebleba, and they are Egyptians of Armenian heritage. Fairouz is alive and well, retired from show business and presently lives in Cairo."

*Sha'abi neighbourhood - an urban area populated by (usually poor) migrants from the country.
** Mahmoud Reda (born 1930) - dancer, choreographer and founder/director of The Reda Troupe. Acknowledged pioneer of Egyptian dance theatre. More:
^Fawazeer - An entertainment TV show popular during Ramadan (Muslim festival). In 1958 the first fawazeer in Egypt was a radio quiz show, but it has since evolved into quite an elaborate spectacle. More:

More Fairouz here