Thursday, 31 May 2012

Stars of the millennium: Alla Kushnir (Leila)

Alla Kushnir (Leila) is a Ukrainian belly dancer with a trophy cabinet more stuffed than Ed Gein's. This is the clip that attracted all the vituperative YouTube comments that inspired this post. Make up your own mind:

Here's her winning performance from Ukraine's Got Talent. It's really hot -- especially that bald judge. Who IS he?   

Facebook (it pains me to say it, but on the wrong side of NSFW) 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday Mind-Melt II: Prince Erkan Serce (redux)

When I found Prince Erkan Serce's DVD Prince Erkan Serce's Belly Dance Show on I was blown away, and obviously compelled to buy The Last Copy Left for someone who I knew would truly appreciate it. When I received it, I found there were two discs: one a DVD, the other a CD.

That's right. Prince Erkan Serce is not just a stupendous dancer, he's also a pop singer. And the Belly Dance Show is just videos for the songs. Deliciously, the videos are like the photos on the sleeve to the power of ten, because they also involve (in no particular order):
  • half-hearted folk dancing in Turkish national dress (not by the Prince, obviously)
  • fountains
  • harem scenes
  • dancing by a pool with a plastic duck floating on it
  • the choreographed slapping of female backing dancers
  • costumes worth more than you'll ever earn over the course of your lifetime.
It looks like it came out in the 1990s, but a parallel-universe version of the 1990s in which Barbara Cartland is not only still alive but also Queen, and 25 December is International Liberace Day. In short, Prince Erkan's videos are really campy, perhaps to the point of bad taste. Also, they are awesome. My friend and I have decided that there is no one on the planet with a more singular commitment to his personal aesthetic than the Prince. Apparently he's also rather nice in person.

But why should my mate be the only one to enjoy the ever-so-slightly creepy stylings of a man who appears to have mugged a Lego minifig for its hair? I risked the ridicule of my colleagues -- and possibly also my job -- to scan the whole booklet for you as jpegs. Then I made The Man spend a Sunday afternoon Photoshopping them to correct the odd scanning angles. Don't mention it. Are you ready?


You're so not. But if you're feeling brave, you may as well travel to The Space Beyond the Jump. Good luck, little voyager.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Kerima picture special

Goubbiah...My Love with Jean Marais
A few days ago I promised you a picture special on Algerian film star Kerima, and here it is. True, she's not a dancer but it's so rare to find evidence of north African stars in Hollywood during the 1950s that I thought I'd make an exception. And, after all, she did play "The Belly Dancer" in a 1972 episode of short-lived UK TV spy series The Adventurer (one of her last roles).

Her career, based mainly in Italy, really seems to have petered out in the late 1950s. Even her IMDB entry is practically empty. Apart from the fact she was born in Algiers on 10 February 1925 I have no biographical information about herEn fait, if you speak French there's an article about her here, with some lovely pics of her visiting a mosque in Paris during a publicity junket for Outcast of the Islands.

From this I gleaned that she was studying medicine when fame came calling, that her father was French and her mother an Arab, and that she married Guy Hamilton, whom she met on the set of Outcast. (Hamilton went on to become a notable director in his own right, mainly of James Bond films including Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever). Or, as the original puts it rather more poetically, "[Hamilton] too was smitten by Kerima's charm and beauty, and it was not long before they were man and wife." Aw! The writer then goes off on one about Kerima visiting a mosque without covering her hair and how she'd never get away with that today and blahblahblah.

Still, great photos, like this one:

"Gazing at herself in this large platter, Kerima evokes the Orient of the 1001 Nights."
More glamour after the jump.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan

Robert Zimmerman is 71 years old today. You're right -- that doesn't have much to do with raqs.


This is a rough-cut of Bob Dylan's You Ain't Going Nowhere, complete with improvised lyrics and music, that some charming soul has created a video for. I have no idea who the dancer is, but although that costume looks familiar I'm guessing she was a burlesque artiste. Otherwise, just what do you call this sort of dancing? "The Bad Posture Shuffle"? "The Leg Flash Mash"?:

Oh Lor', Ma, I could see her knickers!

via Dangerous Minds

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Happy birthday, Joan Collins

Today is the 57th anniversary of Joan Collins' 21st birthday. Happy birthday Joan!

While not a belly dancer, like many of us Joan certainly likes a bit of animal print and lippy (see Exhibit A, above). And she has certainly rocked a good harem dancer's costume in her time.

In 1955, 22 year-old Joan starred in Land of the Pharaohs as greedy Princess Nellifer. The whole back story involves a highly fictionalised account of the construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Nellifer sets out to become the second wife of King Khufu (Cheops), who is known to be amassing a vast fortune in the bowels of the funeral pyramid he's having built for himself. Once married, Nellifer sets out to kill Khufu's first wife, Queen Nailla, and his son and heir.

Along the way, Nellifer is caught cheating on Khufu with his captain of the guard. As punishment, she is whipped:

For some reason, this scene has been looped and put on YouTube. Never mind the flagellation -- that bra looks like punishment enough, don't you think?

With a special treat in the form of subtitles for our Portugese-speaking readers, here's Joan's final scene (so, yeah...spoiler alert!), in which it finally dawns on the hapless Nellifer that the pyramid's architect has tricked her into paying for her misdeeds in the most fitting way possible. It's a technical marvel, but alas there is no dancing.

Land of the Pharaohs is available on DVD as part of the Cult Camp Classics(!): Vol 4 Historical Epics series.

Don't worry, I'm not a total tease! Here's the dance scene, and it's not what we're used to. Still wildly historically/culturally off though.

As an aside, even though this was a Howard Hawks production (he who was to blame for The Conqueror) and made during a time when no one thought twice about "blacking up" Caucasian actors (check out Joan's mahogany hue!), Queen Nailla is actually played by a north African. Unfortunately, Algerian actress Kerima is all-but forgotten now (her last-ever screen credit is from around 1972), but her debut Outcast of the Islands -- in which she plays Aissa, the mute female lead -- has recently been re-released on DVD and she's terrific in it. There'll be a picture-special post on Kerima in the next few days. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Not harem dancing: Durra in "Where the Spies Are"

I've posted so many scenes of harem dancing (i.e. not belly dancing by not belly dancers) in old movies, that it's easy to forget that from time-to-time I may find myself looking at real raqs. Meet Durra and her brother Edmund:

Here's the synopsis left by The Caro Van on this clip:
"From a 1965 film [Where the Spies Are] which starred David Niven as a doctor turned unwilling spy. The bellydancer in this scene is Durra. Originally from Baghdad, Durra was self-taught. After moving from Iraq she was UK-based and appeared in the Beatles movie Help and in an episode of the series The Sweeney. [In Cockney rhyming slang Sweeney Todd = police flying squad] The male dancer at the end of the clip is Durra's brother, Edmund.

Many thanks to Theresa, who is Durra's granddaughter, for supplying the information on her grandmother who was one of the pioneers of Middle Eastern dance in the UK."
For those of you who haven't enjoyed Octopussy's adorable attempt to bring Bond into the age of The Female Eunuch, here's the climactic battle scene. If you can spot Durra in the midst of this incredily hot mess, holler in the comments! (There is no prize, soz.) It goes without saying that Octopussy is Jilly the Belly Dancing Colossal Squid's favourite Bond film.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Good to meet you: Meher Malik

And so to India, where we find that the talent show is just as much of a blight popular there as it is anywhere else. Like a dentist who takes massive chunks out of your bank account and your mouth but at least gives you laughing gas, the TV talent show strips you of your brain cells and your will to live in exchange for precious moments like these. Ladies and gentlemen, Meher Malik:

India's Got Talent:

Just Dance India (2011):

Semi-finals (Egyptian cabaret performance):

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pandemonium in pink: Candi Bell

God, it's grim Up North. Or is it?

No wonder people start teaching. Where else are you going to get a group of dancers to big you up?

This was Candi Bell's 2010 farewell to the Jewel of Yorkshire (JOY) festival, and is a tribute to Argentinian dancer Asmahan of Cairo (now Miami) who was known for her dramatic entrances -- bare-chested men bearing her aloft on a throne and so forth. Here she is "coming out of her shell" (fnah!):

You get the idea. Just don't confuse her with the American dancer Asmahan of London or the Syrian Druze singer, Asmahan.

I've had a link to Candi's now-seemingly-defunct website here since this blog kicked off, but I'd never seen her dance until May's Arabesque Nights, when she came out with shocking-pink Isis wings emblazoned with CANDI in electric blue across the back. I think this clip captures her wit, energy and joie de vivre very well.

(The music is Rania's Hilwa Laabi Di, and you can get it either here or on iTunes.)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Photo du jour: Jeannie R

Source: These Americans
This was found in a box of 1960s/'70s Polaroids someone bought at a garage sale. OK, fine -- "yard sale". Whatever. Anyway, it turned out to be a treasure trove of audition pictures that aspiring strippers had sent to a club owner in hopes of getting work -- it looks like if you made the shortlist they put your name on your photo with a labelling gun. Closer inspection also reveals pin holes at each corner and an old Sellotape mark, so someone liked this enough to keep it on display. If you are at all interested in grimy glamour and kitschy kicks this is the photo set for you, albeit a wee bit NSFW.

Jeannie R here demonstrates the perils of transparent pantaloons, and the kick-ass fantasticness of painting your face in a metallic hue. Gauzy pants aside, this is a really choice costume and the era's taste in grundies has spared her blushes a bit. Check out the coverage afforded by those incongruously modest white cotton knickers!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stars of the 1980s: Z-Helene

My post on Suraiya of Poland was inspired by a misfired practise session with Fiona, where we wound up just looking at YouTube clips in a game of "Have you seen this?" This involved looking sharing "secret stars": well-known dancers who could and should have even bigger fan bases.

Here's Fiona's "Have you seen this?" star, Z-Helene of Austin, Texas. I had never heard of her before, and it's a total wonder. No less a personage than Mahmoud Reda described her as "one of the most exceptional finger cymbal players I have ever seen", so she's earned her rep as "the Jimi Hendrix of zills."

Here she is with her husband and drummer, Mr Rick Fink. Secure your helmet, because it's an incoming zagat attack:

And here she is elegantly demonstrating sensual, not sleazy:

Apart from her zills skills, Z-Helene is known for getting vocal (singing, reciting poetry, doing monologues, chanting) during her performances.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Happy birthday, Rae!

My friend Rae is not only one of the best dancers I know, she is also a totally rad individual who makes you realize that despite the existence of the Republican Party, there are still plenty of awesome people in the world so maybe you should just cheer the fuck up already. All my friends are like that, in my humble opinion, and if you're reading this blog on a regular basis chances are you are too. So, in a way, these nipples are also for you, you divine creature you.

But today is Rae's birthday, and because she isn't in the country at the moment I can't give her a tangible gift. Instead, I am virtually presenting her with this picture of New Zealand's favourite boxer and rugby player, Sonny Boy Williams (not to be confused with blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson). Regrettably, Sonny Boy displays all the intelligence, wisdom, wit and panache of a cheeseburger, but he seems a decent enough sort of a bloke and, as you can see, he has a very nice Samoan tattoo.

In any case, it's about time I started redressing the balance of female semi-nudity on this blog.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday night at the movies special feature: Özcan Tekgül, Queen of Disgrace and Scandal

Özcan Tekgül was one of the great stars of Turkish cinema from the 1950s to the 1970s – like a Turkish version of Hind Rostom.

Özcan was killed in a car accident on 2 July 2011. Thanks to a lack of mandatory birth registration in Turkey, her age was estimated at anywhere from 66 to 73 years old. By the time of her death, she had been all but forgotten (apparently her body lay unclaimed for three days) and information about her life and career is pretty much unavailable in English. I did, however, manage to unearth this gem about the most famous controversy of her life from the archives of The Spokesman-Review, and what appears to be the only two clips of her on YouTube. And, as a special bonus because you've been so good, the comedy Flying Saucers over Istanbul. Here they all are – you're welcome!

The Spokesman-Review

Turkey debates where to put belly dancer's medal 

5 July 1980

via the New York Times

ANKARA, Turkey – Hounded by terrorism, inflation and government crisis, Turks have welcomed their latest political controversy – over a belly dancer.

Sener Battal, the parliamentary spokesman for the Islamic fundamentalist National Salvation Party, challenged Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel’s government to explain why a medal and been awarded to Ozcan Tekgul, one of Turkey’s most famous belly dancers.

A scene from one of Ozcan's classic films,
Flying Saucers over Istanbul (1955)
In his parliamentary challenge, the deputy from Konya asked the prime minister: “Should this queen of disgrace and scandal put the medal given to her by your government onto her belly or do you have any idea as to what proper place she should wear it? Do you plan to put this medal onto the said person yourself?”

The minister of culture, Tevfik Koraltan, hastily denied what he called “trivial” reports that a medal of honor would be given to the dancer. He said the National Turkish Cinema Council decided to give a certificate of honor to artists who had worked in the country’s film industy for more than 25 years.

“Ozcan Tekgul’s name is not included on the list of 66 honorable artists,” Koraltan told the pro-government daily Tercu-man. “No document or plaque has been presented to Miss Tekgul.”

The 38-year-old belly dancer, however, insisted the authorities had notified her that she was on the honors list. The Istanbul movie magazine Ses supported her contention – and the National Salvation Party said it believed her.
Ozcan gives the Turkish Government
a suggestion as to where they can stick their medal

“I am ready to go to parliament to show them my art,” Miss Tekgul said in Istanbul. “I won this prize not for my belly-dancing but for my art. The prize was given to me not because of the 150 films I’ve played in but because of my contributions to the Turkish Oriental dance.”

Miss Tekgul started her career at the age of 13 in Istanbul, her hometown, and later belly-danced in Europe and Africa. In Turkey, where she was once taken to court and accused of “dancing obscenely,” she made her reputation in nightclubs.

“She was very good 20 years ago,” a Turkish editor said. Turkish intellectuals generally consider belly-dancing decadent although it is still popular.

Hey buddy, my eyes are up...oh. Right. Carry on!

There has been a move among Turkish singers to “clean up and modernize” belly-dancing. Ajda Pekkan, Turkey’s representative in the Eurovision song contest this year, sang fully clothed with “modernized” belly-dance movements.

Most Turkish newspapers – from left to right – have reported the affair with gusto. The popular independent dailies Hurriyet and Gunaudin published front-page color photographs of the scantily clad blond dancer, with the caption: “Where should the culture medal be put?”


And from 1954, this clip in which Ozcan appears at the end. The other dancer is Nimet Alp:

And now for tonight's Feature Show: Flying Saucers over Istanbul: