Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Weird Wednesday Woo (Part 4): Dancing barefoot, but in heels

Some bright spark with a knack for Photoshop has been ruminating on the "meaning" of cosmetic surgery and where it might go next. If our fashion and body-obsessed culture is telling us that invasive surgeries and uncomfortable clothing are the way to attract love, success and happiness, why not combine fashion and surgery so that certain wardrobe embellishments can permanently become part of our bodies?

What they've come up with may be pushed into sick reality by an incredibly indecisive Oriental dancer who can't choose between heels and dancing barefoot.

If you are squeamish, then so sorry about this and so on, but really - what are you doing on the Intertubes? In any case, just remind yourself that these are brought to you via the magic of Photoshop:

via Geekologie

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Hair be dragons

This week my friend had a horrifying/hilarious trip to an over-sharing manicurist that got us talking about - of all things - dancers who don't whip off all their body hair.

I must confess that, given the rather limited exposure I give my armpits on a daily basis, I'm kind of relaxed about letting the undergrowth just do what it will when I know I'll be wearing sleeves 99.9% of the time. Only ever once has someone commented on this in class (when I was wearing a tank top and had to lift my arms over my head), and even then I know I wasn't supposed to overhear the horrified gasp of "Ohhhh kaay!". Puh-lease. I shower daily and wear deodorant - it's not like I was about to grab her by the back of the neck and push her nose in there.

Anywho, it seems there is at least one professional belly dancer in the world who doesn't shave or wax her legs either. She's fair and blonde, so I guess she can get away with it. All of which is a rather long-winded of way of finding an excuse to share with you the wonderful world of Maria Smedstad's Em cartoons.
Click to embiggen!
Is a full-body waxing session a compulsory part of performance prep or not? One of my former teachers insisted it was, arguing that no matter what your socio-political views on the subject of body hair, a luxuriant crop of sub-scalp follicles was simply distracting to an audience. If you wanted the crowd to walk away talking about your dancing rather than the perms in your pits, went her reasoning, then you'd best make friends with a razor. (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist.)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Photo du jour

"A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you."
Brigitte Bardot

It's just a shame that this photograph didn't capture for eternity what the dude in sunglasses behind (the now famously Islamaphobic) BB was looking at. This looks like it was one hell of a party.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Weird Wednesday Woo (Part 3): Can Can from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld

But there was nothing too weird about that, right? In fact, the 1970s-Bollywood flavour actually went down pretty well with me.

Oh, I see. Tough customer, huh? Well then, whaaaat aboouut ... Robert De Niro doing the Can Can in vintage ladies underwear?

(From Stardust (2007).)

Boy oh boy. Golly wow. NOW I'm weirded out.

Thought so. My work here is done!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

How I became a dancer

I'm always asked, "Jilly, how did you get into belly dancing, seeing as how you're a colossal squid and all?"

Well, it's not a very exciting story really. After I left school I went to work in a Lebanese restaurant as a dishwasher (pay attention in class, kids. That's all I'm saying). They had a dancer and she and I got on like a house on fire and soon became best friends. We bonded over the fact that we had similar names. I wonder whatever happened to Jillina anyway? If you’re out there, girl, holla!

Pic originally posted on Tribes, artist/freakazoid unknown.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Stars of the 1940s: Houriya Mohamed

Vane is right - yesterday's post was mean spirited. There's no getting away from it and I'm very sorry that I posted while in a bad mood, thereby breaking my own blogging cardinal rule. It's true that Alexandra is far from the worst dancer I've ever seen, and although I personally prefer dancers to wear longer skirts it's her prerogative to wear whatever she likes. The post won't be deleted (though it's pretty tempting), because unfortunately it's unlikely to be the last regrettable post I ever make. Plus, if I hadn't made it I wouldn't have got Vane's feedback. So ... rough with the smooth.

Now that the rough part is over, let's have some smooth.

Houriya Mohamed was one of the first stars of the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema: Edward Said claims that Houriya (indirectly) taught Taheya Carioca to dance. However, as Taheya's star began to rise Houriya and Taheya became bitter rivals - LebDancer's bio info for Houriya claims that either Houriya or her mother once destroyed one of Taheya's costumes prior to a performance, and that the relationship between Taheya and Houriya degenerated so much they wound up in a physical fight. You can read all about such undignified behaviour here.

Bohboh in Baghdad (1942) starred Houriya as Bedour, a Bedouin slave girl rescued from the desert. This is the celebration scene, in which Houriya wears a strikingly simple, modern-looking costume:

And here she is seven years later in Fatima and Marika and Rachel. The plot to this movie sounds a bit like a pub joke - Fatima is Muslim, Marika is Christian and Rachel is Jewish - but in this truly wondrous clip, as good as anything in an MGM musical, Fatima sings a song about "the brown skinned guy" a fortune teller has just predicted she'll meet. The costume is a lot more bling-bling this time:

Although, thanks to the different alphabets, Egyptians often wind up with many variant spellings of their names when they're transliterated into English, LebDancer advises that in Arabic "Houriya" means a beautiful heavenly woman - but Horeyya (as Houriya's name is often spelt) doesn't have any meaning at all. So there you go.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Mad, mad props

While looking for clips of famous Greek dancers, I took a wrong turn on YouTube alley and wound up meeting characters I wasn't looking for. I brought one of them home to meet you - everyone, this is Alexandra, who according to her videographer (if no one else) is the "most famous belly dance[r] in Greece".

To which, if this is true, we can only say, "Poor Greece. As if it didn't have enough problems at the moment":

You have got to be kidding me. She can't dance - and I say this as someone who is standing metaphorically naked in a proverbial glass house and hurling massive boulders of "look who's talking, stumble bum". Her snake arms smack of "will this do?" Her chou-chou shimmy is just a tired gesture towards one (probably not aided by the high heels) and her Isis wings evoke not so much an Egyptian goddess as they do a pigeon trapped against the windows of a disused factory.*

However, she is very flexible and strong and she radiates confidence, even if the blonde hair/blue costume combo reminded me of Smurfette. But the sword/wings overload is a classic example of losing the dance in service of the props - you see it all the time at haflas, where people are just really excited to be showing off a new toy. But at the Hilton? From a top-level pro? You may notice that the clip begins with her discarding a veil, so that's veil, double sword AND Isis wings in one hit. Paint me unimpressed in an impressed kind of way.

I was halfway through this post when I thought "Hold up. Give the woman an even break - maybe without props she's awesome." Unfortunately, when Alexandra loses her props, she also loses her costume - if you're at work, just be warned that the camera operator here is looking for a second career in gynaecology:

Give her back her swords, and her clothes reappear. It's like a truly crappy form of magic!

That's a nice costume, and the dance itself was better but ... I don't know that I'm utterly convinced that Alexandra is great. What do you think?

*OK, I know that's not strictly accurate: she wields those things like a ninja, even if it's like a very wired ninja after a speed ball with an espresso chaser. It's just that she looks quite frenetic with them, and to me there's always been something faintly "billowy curtains in a Meatloaf video" about Isis wings anyway. So I guess I'm a bit prejudiced.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The day in awesome: males in veils

Dangerous Minds reports that Egyptian student Aliaa El Mahdy has set up a Facebook page where men can post pictures of themselves wearing the veil. Some of the gents are taking it one step further and are also rocking a little kohl with a soupçon of coquettish smile.

via Masha Egupova @ Cairo Cat
Said El Mahdy:
"The girls I know who wear the veil do so because of their families or to avoid being hassled in the street. I don’t see why we should always dictate what women must wear and never what men must wear."
Aliaa has form for using the internet to challenge the perception of women - previously she posted nude pictures of herself on her blog (link takes you to an article about it, rather than the blog itself). However, this strikes me as a far more creative and engaging initiative, and far less open to misinterpretation or wilful misappropriation. Mad props to Aliaa and all the guys taking part.

Although it's in Arabic, the ability to "like" her page - called "Resounding Cries" - can be done in any language.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Thought for the day

The last post was so unwholesome and skeezy that I think we all need a palate cleanser:

It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is a sin.
Benjamin E Mayes.

"Sin" is a pretty harsh word there, fella. And also, while I admire Mr Mayes' sentiments, I am willing to bet that he wouldn't have thought it a calamity if the dream to create this had remained unfulfilled:

Mem-Art Ceramics and Gifts
Noble failure or outright disaster? Your call.

(Side note: if you want to be completely creeped out, you should A) check out the unpainted version of this and B) brave the horrors of Mem-Art's unicorn babies.)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Bo Derek learning to belly roll in "Bolero" (1984)

"In your belly is life's greatest treasure..."

Yep, that's particularly true in my case at the moment, where life's greatest treasure happens to be a good slice of chocolate brownie in the process of being slowly eroded by my digestive juices. Aiwa!

Oh. I don't think that's the kind of treasure that the writer of Bolero (1984) meant:
"[Bolero] follows the tale of a young woman's sexual awakening and subsequent journey around the world in pursuit of her ideal lover. Encounters include an Arabian sheik [played by well-known Arab actor, uh, "Greg Bensen" - The Raqasa] and a Spanish bullfighter. Her friend and butler accompany her and help to arrange her couplings. Moderate nudity and soft-porn."
In a review entitled "Not even Bo Derek's naked body can save this", IMDB user GlenGaryGlenRoss wrote:
"OK, I admit it. Bo has a beautiful body. And I will admit this too. Bolero is so bad that it easily ranks as one of the worst movies ever made."
I think I'll give it a miss.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Why yes, I AM a professional belly dancer!"
Helllooo my little limpets!

It has been so long, hasn't it? Well, truth to tell, your Aunty Jilly has been having a few problems of her own of late. Yes, my deadbeat ex-boyfriend tracked me down on Facebook and I foolishly agreed to meet up with him for a "few" drinks for old times' sake.

Next thing you know, we're drag racing pods of killer whales off the Southern California coast during the blue whale migration and five weeks later I wake up somewhere near Alaska, dressed up as an Orion Slave Girl and with the remains of a fishing boat wedged into what passes for my cleavage. My family always told me to stay away from him because he's a Kraken. "He's a drunk!" my mother would holler at me as I'd swim out to meet him in my longest tentacle extensions. "He's an artist!" I'd blub back. I thought the olds were just being species-ist, but it turns out there are good reasons they never liked Aegir: just ask the tattoo of a mermaid I now have on my butt.

But I was young, and he really is an artist. Look at that beautiful drawing he did of me on our trip, still wearing my Orion body paint and hauling some poor sailors to their graves. Of course, he made my chest a little bigger and gave me arms, but otherwise that's a pretty accurate portrait. Let it never be said that your Aunty Jilly doesn't understand the complex workings of the heart - people, I've known trouble. I'm sharing this sorry story of depravity with you so that you will be even more comfortable sharing with me.

Anyway, while I get around to answering some of my mail, please watch this depressing gem, entitled "Why yes, I AM a professional belly dancer!":

Hat tip to Dress for Bellydance!

Monday, 7 November 2011


Yesterday was performance appraisal day, and overall I'm pretty happy with how I did. I didn't fall over, I didn't stare at my feet and I'm pretty sure I actually did move around a bit rather than staring glassy eyed at my class mates. It was a real honour to watch everyone else's dances - not only was everyone just so much fun to watch, but the music selections were great and the atmosphere in the room was really "up". No mean feat, given there were fewer than ten people in the studio. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but ... I actually had fun, even though I ran a bit late thanks to a bit of a "cat-astrophe".* So thank you, Razia!

Watching back the video of my first performance later, however, I could see two things straight away that I'll need to do A LOT of work on: my arms and my footwork. Oh, the arms. How many times have I pratcised lifting with my back muscles and keeping my elbows elevated? Too many times to count. And what happens when I get in front of actual human eyes? My chest collapses in on itself and my elbows wind up somewhere near my hips. Pffft. Now I'm looking forward to receiving my feedback form, because at the moment all I can think about are my limp, inert upper limbs, dangling as uselessly as John Wayne Bobbit's original penis.

Luckily, help is to "hand" (fnar!): the Guardian's rather excellent "MoveTube" dance blog recently spotlighted the importance of arms to the performance of the Dying Swan.

The post is in two parts, the first featuring legendary ballet dancer
Uliana Lopatkina in a traditional interpretation and the second focused on a Brazilian hip-hop dancer, John Lennon da Silva, who self-choreographed a contemporary version of the Dying Swan when he entered a reality show competition. Magic begins at about 1.50:

As Luke Jennings says: "The city of São Paolo, where he lives, is one of the most dangerous in South America, and the closing moments of Da Silva's piece seems to speak of young men like himself, dying before their time." No wonder that judge is weeping.

Meanwhile, I'll be making myself weep by giving this a crack:

*I mentioned we moved - the new pad came with a resident elderly black cat we've named Bernadette. She's poorly at the moment and decided to leave some, erm, leavings indoors. Just as I was about to do my stage face! And then this morning she brought in a mouse and devoured it whole in front of my horrified eyes. Despite all this, I think she might be the greatest roomie I've ever had.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Bellydance Trophies

Apologies in advance for the late notice, but this arrived in my inbox only this afternoon.

If you're going to be in Wembley, London on Sunday - and frankly, if you're not there, you're not anywhere - then you could do worse than to check out the first round of the Bellydance Trophies competition.

A £12 donation to UNICEF gets you tickets to both the competition and the after party.

Plus, Brighton Orient and Zara's Souk will be "exposing" at the event. I am sure that the organisers meant to say that those august purveyors of costuming supplies will be "exhibiting", but maybe it's a burlesque fusion-type thingee.

Unfortunately, I can't go because on Sunday afternoon I have my performance appraisal and plan to spend the rest of the day curled up in the fetal position in a corner somewhere. If you are fortunate enough to attend, you can write down how you found it and slide your review under the door of my padded cell. While you're about it, if you could slip me a slice of processed cheese too I'd consider it most kind.