Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Stars of the 1970s (image and text-heavy edition): Juliana

On Google Archives, I found a scan of an old newspaper article about Juliana. Well, not that old: it's only 33.  And because I love you and want you to be happy, I have typed it up for you with my own hands. Also, I am dense and do not know how to convert image-to-text with ease.

Juliana will be familiar to those of you with vintage George Abdo albums in your record collections: she's the bodacious babe whose image on the covers still inspires rabid fandom. (All images are taken from Radio Bastet's LP Cover Gallery, except where indicated.) Juliana and her husband still perform together, though her photo gallery looks a bit...frozen in time. This is good, not only because it records for all time her wide-leg, black-on-white enormous polka dot pants, but also because it serves as the only online record I could find of what she must have looked like when she danced. Astonishingly, there is no video footage on the internet.

There is a depressing sense of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose about parts of this article - but at least the move to change the image of the dance isn't entirely recent. May I also say ... shows that run for a week, twice nightly at $4/$5 a pop? Man.

Click here for a review of this album
The Milwaukee Journal 

20 October 1978

Belly dancing – the art gets new interpretation

By Bill Milkowski special to the Journal

Belly dancing, the art of undulation. It’s come a long way from the days when a curvaceous lady called Little Egypt introduced it to America at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Until recently it suggested carnival hootchie-cootchie, but now more and more women recognize belly dancing as good, sound exercise.

One exponent of this Middle Eastern dance is Juliana Khouri, who will bring her belly dancing revue to the Pfister Crown Room Monday night for a two week engagement. She will be accompanied by her dancing partner, Rafael Khouri, and five apprentice belly dancers collectively known as Les Femmes Orientales – plus an Armenian clarinettist named Set Proodian.

The whole revue, called Shiraz, combines the spirit of authentic Middle Eastern dance with the necessary theatrics to entertain American audiences. According to Juliana, her sole stage name, an authentic or purist form of belly dancing simply would not go over well in a night-club atmosphere.

“The act has to be theatrical because in its pure form belly dancing can get very monotonous,” Juliana said in a telephone interview from her home in Coral Gables, Florida. “Our show is meant to be seen and capture people’s attention. So it’s very colourful and elegant, yet it has to be commercial.”

Angelina who?
Juliana admits that her theatrical sense comes from being a performer most of her life. The native New Yorker began her dancing career 10 years ago as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall and after a year moved on to Spanish dance, performing with many of the top touring companies based in New York City. Within the last six years she has been intrigued with belly dancing.

“I was initially drawn to Middle Eastern dance from the music,” she said, “and I found a close relationship between the Spanish and Arabic styles of dance.”

She characterized belly dancing by the arching torso and undulating movements = patterns with hips, rib cage, arms making circles, arms moving with shoulders in figure-eights, hands curling and opening in snakelike ripples.

But Juliana prides herself in being interpretive and creative within that context. She is constantly adding her own touches, drawing from a background in classical ballet and modern dance. And she works from the improvisation of clarinettist Proodian, much in the same way that jazz musicians motivate and inspire each other to new peaks with the spontaneity.

While there has been a recent boom in belly dancing classes as a means of exercise, Juliana is promoting it as a legitimate art form.
“We’re at the forefront of a whole movement,” she said. “Belly dancing magazines are sprouting up around the country and women are organizing to keep the movement growing. I’m hopeful hat people will accept belly dancing as a legitimate dance form instead of looking at it as something lewd.”

She added that there were still areas of the country in which the words belly dancing had negative connotations. She said some women had even had trouble with local authorities in getting licenses to set up studios and classes.

“The officials saw it as a ‘they’re-going-to-ruin-the-neighbourhood’ type of thing,” Juliana said. “But these women are not trying to be sex objects. They just love Middle Eastern dance, the femininity, the costumes. It’s a good outlet for them.”

Juliana and Shiraz will perform twice nightly at 9 and 11 p.m. through Saturday, Nov. 4. Cover charge will be $4 a person on Monday through Thursday and $5 on Friday and Saturday.

Magic costume: stays in place with hope alone!

...because behind every great dancer, there's a great moustache


  1. I am taking lessons from a dancer who traveled with George Abdo and knew Juliana. From what I hear she was not a true belly dancer. While she did know some basic moves, she was more of a model at the time these photos for the album covers were taken. She made it look good but the skill wasn't there. Naturally, this is just gossip but it may explain why you can't find any footage of her in action.

  2. @Feralhousecat: For starters, I am very envious of your dance teacher's background. Thank you very much for this info. *Starts thoughtfully stroking imaginary goatee* Actually, I've just looked at her photo gallery again and - while she talks a good game - none of the dances she's been photographed doing look very Middle Eastern, do they? Hmmmm...

  3. One thing Juliana was for SURE...FINE!! WHAT A BODY!!! Sure glad she was around BEFORE tattoos and body piercing ruined things.

  4. I took classes from her in the 1970s. She was soooooo far above the others, and recognized my ballet background immediately. Thanks to that training, she gave me lots of one-on-one attention. I admired her so much. I hope she is still alive and doing well!

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