Thursday, 28 June 2012

Not even harem dancing, really: Martine Beswick

From the Hammer Film vaults comes this delightful bit of camptastic nonsense, Prehistoric Women (aka Slave Girls) (1967).

The IMDB synopsis is a treat:
Jungle guide David Marchand is kidnapped by a tribe of natives who want to sacrifice him to their white rhino god. Just as he's about to be killed, however, he is thrown backwards in time to a kingdom of brunette women and their blonde slaves. David rejects the advances of Queen Kari and sides with the blondes, which leads to him being imprisoned in the dungeon. Can David find some way of returning to his own time? And if he does, what will be awaiting him when he returns?
Hmm. What will be awaiting David when he returns? A redhead? Or a long life regretting his appearance in a film that was made only to offset One Million Years B.C's £140,000 budget blow-out by recycling its sets and costumes (true!)?

Queen Kari is played by Jamaican-born beauty Martine Beswick (who was also in One Million Years B.C, in which she had a memorable fight scene with Raquel Welch). Basically, I'm just posting this because I dig her look and her taste in home decor:

Beswick had quite the career and was a Bond girl twice, once in From Russia With Love and again in Thunderball. Here she is as Zora, fighting over some bloke with former Miss Israel Aliza Gur (Vida) in Russia's most famous scene:

This scene comes right after Lisa Guiraut comes out and does her thing, which I have already posted here.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Photos du jour: Mysterious girls

I would be a stone-hearted mama indeed if I didn't share this eye-popping photo set of raqs sharqistas from Glam Galz. Entitled "Beautiful Arabian Belly Dancers", it features a variety of hotties from the recent past, most of whom are about as Arabian as the Swedish Chef. But why quibble over details? Most of the images are black and white and celebrate the va-va-voomness of a number of unnamed dancers and models. I could take an educated guess at who a few of them are, but not with any degree of confidence.

My two favourites happen to be the Colour Queens at left and below. The lady languishing on her soft furnishings has an expression that plainly says "THIS is how you wear a beehive and chiffon, babes" -- those eyebrows brook no arguments.
If I had to choose just one image to take in my wallet to the desert island, no question it's the dame on the left. Back in the day, men were men, women were women and the economy was so awesome that a wodge of pre-chewed gum would buy you a Carribean island.

There was no such thing as "resizing", though, so if your costume arrived and it was six sizes too small that was just too damn bad. You just had to keep on truckin' man, so you took your tiny costume and made it look even smaller by boosting your hair to the heavens and your cleavage to the max. If some bogus cat in the front row dared give you the hairy eyeball, you threatened to unleash the Raqs Beaver on his ass. Remember, kids -- she did it so you don't have to. Can you dig it?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The 7 people you [might] meet in dance class

1. The Simon Cowell
Simon Cowells have little-to-no discernable talent of their own, but don't let this stop them from ripping apart other dancers. For some bizarre reason people are willing to accept The Cowell's opinions as fact, further confirming Cowells in their belief that they are the shizz and everyone else* is shit. The most irritating thing about Cowells is that, inevitably, sometimes they have a point (see number 6).

*Apart from the handful of dancers The Cowell considers to be "useful friends" (see number 4).

2. The Beyonce Knowles 
She's pretty. She's talented. She's smart. She knows everybody. She wins every competition going and she's been dancing for only two years. You'd hate her guts, except that when you were running late for a performance once she helped you with your hair and makeup. Afterwards she left a note on your Facebook wall gushing about how beautiful you looked and how much she'd enjoyed your set. What a bitch.

3. The Lindsay Lohan 
A fantastic dancer and initially you can't work out why she's not really famous. She seems so lovely and outgoing! But you make the mistake of sharing a room with The Lohan at a weekend of dance workshops, and by the time she's vomitted in your gig bag and shaken you awake at 3am to tell you that the CIA is after her, you're beginning to get an inkling as to why more festival organisers aren't clamoring for her services.

4. The Diana Ross
Hugely successful and there's no doubting The Ross's credentials. However, every diva/divo battles insecurity. Fail to kiss The Ross ass on a regular basis and you're dead to them. Dead, I tell you! Quite likes sitting next to The Cowell at student shows, sniggering about the lameness of other teachers' choreographies.

5. The Liberace
Once upon a time it was probably about the dancing, you know? But gradually the spectacle took over and now it's all about the costumes. Somewhere underneath those £6,000 Swarowski crystal-encrusted Isis wings with the built-in wind and smoke machines there's a really good dancer. Somewhere.

6. The Madonna
Puts in a lot of hours to look this ripped and get technique this sharp, and you had better notice it when The Madonna dances. Has no problem with doing moves other dancers would consider more Stringfellows than Samia Gamal, and hence butts heads often with The Cowell and The Ross. Although her no-shit-given-or-taken attitude may be laudable, in The Madonna's hands belly dance becomes a soulless martial art.

7. The Jason Segal
Genuinely believes they are "just a hobbyist dancer", so at tax return time The Segal is shocked to find that they have been earning more money from gigs and teaching than they have been from their day job. Has just the one costume, but is so gosh-darned nice and devoid of ego that it seems rude to hold a hafla without inviting them to perform.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Weird Wednesday Woo: Oblivion Neutron Bomb

"Oblivion Neutron Bomb" was what my Dad used to call Olivia Newton John. Hi-larious. As "Dad jokes" always are...

But then again, he's a big Johnny Cash fan and maybe he knew about her 1977 album of disco-fied country covers. With apologies to music and lovers of good music everywhere, here's Olivia's tortured and torturing version of Ring of Fire. Burn, baby, burn indeed:

I have no idea who any of the dancers are or where this clip came from but it is FABULOUS and should never have been linked to this aural assault in any way. The last time such a horrible noise troubled this blog it was courtesy of Florence Foster Jenkins, and at least she was singing with love and integrity rather than with the aim of making a quick buck.

via Dangerous Minds

Monday, 18 June 2012

Photo du jour: "Jilly" and "The Raqasa"

Hello there my darling little shrimps

As you all know, I exist to smooth your beautifully shiny hair off the silky smooth skin of your troubled brows, but I hope you ungrateful barnacles on the butt of the world will indulge me in a gripe of my own for once.

Recently Raqsy and I attended a photo shoot with a well-respected photographer. All we wanted was a nice portrait of ourselves that we could use on invitations to a party to celebrate 300 posts on The Occidental Dancer -- a landmark occasion that will soon be upon us.

Our only requirement was that we look like "presentable versions of ourselves", by which we meant professional hair and makeup (for Raqsy, obvs), pro lighting and a flattering camera angle. We did not mean "airbrush and Photoshop us to hell", mainly because Raqsy and I have enough vanity to believe we don't require DEFCON 5 level retouching.

Obviously our photographer disagreed, and we should have sensed trouble when he told us he was going for "a Baywatch/Swamp Thing-type feel". For the record, I am orange and a Colossal Squid, while Raqsy is brunette, on the mortal side of 30 and the proud owner of thighs. Mmm. Tasty, tasty thighs...

But I digress. This is the "best" photo from our shoot:
To make matters worse, that's meant to be me on the left. Look at those stubby tentacles!


Jilly xo

Friday, 15 June 2012

Harem dancer: Have we seen Miss Jones?

This is from 1965 Italian cheapie Desert Raiders (aka Falcon of the Desert. The original Italian title, Il Dominatore del de Deserto, is rather more impressive), and comes with bonus Greek subtitles and terrible English overdubbing.

There's a very good reason why a lot of the dance clips from old movies I post are rare; they're from films that really sucked. Desert Raiders is a good example – it has an IMDB rating of 3 out of 10. Ouch. But I think this is nicely filmed (I particularly like the way you're made to feel as though you're moving through the crowd), and the dancer's costuming and demeanour are far more dignified than the usual cheesecake standard. This is reflected in the other odd thing about this clip: all of the dialogue in it is about Samira; both the respect shown by the men in the tavern towards her performance, her elegance, and how she is "different from every other dancer". It's quite rare to find a scene like this where the dancer is the focal point, rather than a break in the main action or a bit of set dressing.

One of the drawbacks of posting clips from Z-grade fare is that when these films disappear from the pop-culture landscape they often take the identities of their uncredited bit-part players with them. Such is the fate of today's harem dancer, who may or may not be Erika Jones. Erika herself was only ever credited in one film in which she appeared, so I defer to the arcane and encyclopaedic knowledge of the author of Peplums for her identification.

Desert Raiders sometimes crops up as late-night space filler on Maltese TV, because insomnia is a crime in Malta and this is the government's way of punishing sufferers.

[This post was edited on 16 June 2012.]

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stars of the millennium: Irina Akulenko

I can only echo the sentiments of Aluko79: "This is sooo beautiful! Why the whole world isn't talking about her?!" [sic] Well, people, the talking starts here. This first piece, in which Irina personifies Lady Justice complete with her blindfold and sword, is exquisite:

Many thanks to the divine Ritu, Irina's former student, for turning me on to her.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Stars of the 1950s: Lys and Lyn Gamal

Lys and Lyn strutting their stuff at the Eden Roc Hotel (Miami Beach, Florida) in 1958.
Five more photos of Lys and Lyn in action over at What Makes the Pie Shops Tick?
Lys (sometimes Liz) and Lyn Gamal were twin sisters from Cairo who became a major sensation on the American cabaret scene in the 1950s, and a significant influence on many American dancers of the era (notably Morocco and Dahlena). They had forged a modest career in Egypt as featured film dancers. According to Helen Waldie over at Belly Dance History, they are "fondly remembered, especially for the fact that their parents chaperoned them to every one of their gigs, even after they married."

Sourced from fellow kiwi The Caro Van and her YouTube channel of wonders is this lovely clip from 1954's Al Anisa Hanafi (Miss Hanafi). Lys and Lyn kick things off -- I believe the soloist in the second half is the legendary Zeinat Olwi:

As a wee extra, here's a great interview with Morocco, friend of Lys and Lyn, from Casbah Dance.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Wilson, Keppel and Betty's "Sand Dance"

This is a Vaudeville/Music Hall routine inspired by the vogue for all things "Oriental" during the late 1920s/early 1930s from long-lived American comedy trio Wilson, Keppel and Betty. This clip dates from about 1930.

According to legend, there were six Bettys over the years (formed in 1917, Wilson Keppel and Betty were still performing in the late 1950s) and they took their own sand with them everywhere they performed.

It's quite incredible just how long those street dance moves have been around!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Harem dancers (centenary celebration edition): Maria Montez, Queen of Technicolour

The poll results are in! I say that like it’s a new thing, but they’ve been in for ages and I just haven’t done anything about it yet. Frankly, the voter turnout was so small that it was hardly worth my while. You know those ads for beauty products where they say “90% of women agreed!”, but what they mean is “90% of the ten women who bothered getting back to us agreed, but the other 11,990 women just didn’t respond and for all we know they’re in hospital because our product made their faces melt off”? Well, like that. But without the face melt.

Anyhoo, the results of the poll to determine whether or not this blog’s readers were OK with all the ‘harem dancing’ posts were as follows:
  • 8% said “I don’t care, post what you want.” (I can see why they felt compelled to have their say.)
  • 16% said “Yes, I do like dance scenes from old movies and this blog should have more of them.” (Bless!)
  • A whopping 75% said “Yes, I do like dance scenes from old movies and the balance on this blog is about right.” (Kissing up gets you nowhere.)
That is a Putin-esque landslide victory for the Chiffon Shimmiers right there, folks.

So although I've posted some harem dancers since the poll closed, this lady is possibly the grande dame to end all grande dames as far as harem dancing is concerned -- "The Carribean Cyclone" herself, Maria Montez. Had she not drowned in the bath in 1951, at the ripe old age of 39, today she would have turned 100.

You can read all about Montez's posthumous influence on experimental film maker Jack Smith here, but meanwhile please enjoy these visual treats.

From the wind-swept set of Arabian Nights (1942) comes this Asmahan-esque entrance. I can't even begin to tell you how hilarious I find the moves that kick in around the 2.58 mark. Even the girl sitting in the lower left of the screen at about 3.18 looks like she rolls her eyes!

The 'human sacrifice' dance from Cobra Woman (1944). Although the dance itself is underwhelming, the next time you're confronted with rude audience members I urge you to recall this scene and pretend that you've got the power of life and death over them. It's really charming that the real snake in the close ups is plainly not the vacuum cleaner hose that Maria is wriggling around, and the way the crowd pumps its fists in the air looks a bit odd because heavy metal hadn't been invented at the time of filming:

Monday, 4 June 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

[Lost] Stars of the 1970s: Sahar Hamdy

Known for her vulgarity/cheekiness (depending on your point of view), Sahar is one of those stars who's not well-known outside Egypt. I only heard of her because I saw Candi Bell performing a tribute to her last month. According to this rather moving (though hideously formatted) piece by Yasmin on Serpentine, part of Sahar's obscurity may be down to her battles with alcohol throughout her career -- which allegedly prompted her to accept a massive bribe from a wealthy religious extremist to retire in the 1980s.

Apart from her raunchy stage persona, Sahar's other claim to fame is that she popularised the lip-synching that has become one of Dina's trademarks.

Here's a tabla solo; it's the only clip I could find on YouTube that I'm certain is Sahar dancing:

And this may well be a convincing look-alike if it isn't Sahar, but who cares if it's not? This tiger-print catsuit really deserves a post in its own right!: