Monday, 30 July 2012

Stars of the 1970s: Mona el Said

Mona was a fantastic dancer who, for whatever reason, never cracked the Fifi/Samia/Tahia pantheon and was always a bit second-tier. Who knows why? Let's not forget that the second tier from the top is a long way away from where most dancers get, somewhere on the bottom level of the multi-level subterranean car park.

Mona hanging out on a flying carpet. As you do.
Mona now lives and teaches in Hurghada. If you want the sharp technique of a mechanised whip and to look as at ease as on stage as Bukowski did in a dive bar, maybe you should look her up.

This costume/stage set combination rocks my world. The only thing that would make this more splendid is if Mona rode off down a rainbow on a My Little Pony at the end:

And check out this symphony in yellow:

Friday, 27 July 2012

Stars of the millennium: Elisa Gamal

Giveaway update
Thank you so much to those of you who have buzzed Jilly - things are now being given away on a first-come, first-serve basis because she's hardly been swamped with takers. The good news is there's still stuff available! (Unfortunately this rather wonderful "David Bowie as the Sphinx" figure by Mod Astrid is not among them, but this pic of it is cool to look at anyway. Enjoy.)

For those of you going to Elisa Gamal's first-ever London workshops this weekend, see you tomorrow! x I've never posted a melaya on this site before because, erm, I don't like it (which is why I'm giving a melaya away...), but this is as good a moment as any and this is ADORABLE:

And hellooo red costume o' my dreams:

Sunday, 22 July 2012

300 posts: You can win, small time!

If you're wondering why I suddenly have a new avatar that is actually of my own gurning dial*, it's because The Occidental Dancer today marks its 300th post. Amazing, innit? Look at how happy Gerard Butler is there, celebrating away for all he's worth, bless 'im.

To mark this auspicious event, and because I am moving into what is effectively a garden shed, I am offering you lucky people the chance to take some of my second-hand crap off my hands receive a heartfelt token of appreciation for giving me a reason to keep this daft contribution of negligible value to the internet going.
Because she has a lot of arms she's not using, Jilly the Belly Dancing Colossal Squid and Agony Aunt is doing the admin for me. Jilly will send the fortunate few their totally wicked booty at my own expense, to wherever in the world you like. Give her a 'like' or send her a message on Facebook (you'll recognise her avatar) and tell her which of the following things you want. If you want more than one thing, please give her an order of preference. And yo, try not to be too greedy:
  • Coined hipscarf (sorry - coinless is gone! Congratulations Eilean).
  • Suhaila Salimpour Bellydance Yoga Fitness Fusion DVD that, because of the obvious typos on the cover, I'm guessing is probably bootlegged (plays just fine).
  • A pair of slightly tatty gold Isis wings, perfect for practise but not for use in a living room only slightly larger than Mitt Romney's heart. They'd be perfect if you've never tried Isis wings before and are wing-curious. They are not performance standard, but I will package them for you as carefully as I can. On their way to long-time supporter Lilith Noor! x
  • A pair of black, flared tribal-fusion pants that I've never worn because by the time they arrived from China I'd eaten all the pies and they're too small for me -- if you're a size 10 I reckon they'll do you.
  • A never-worn purple velour and chiffon tie-front top from Farida Dance with matching hip belt (I can tell you through bitter tears that if you're larger than a C-cup you have no chance of getting into the top. If you're creative, you may find another use for the fabric). Why never worn? Because right after I bought them for a class performance, my teacher decided we were all to wear black. Now gracing the lovely Patricia!
Of course, there is one other thing you could do to make sure that Jilly's fickle tentacles address a package to you. Send her a video or picture of a dancer -- it could be you, or a friend who's cool with you sharing it -- that she's allowed to post here and she will gaze more favourably on your request. A hilarious joke or anecdote never goes amiss with her, either. No guarantees though; she is a squid, after all. She might pick you just 'cause she likes your name.

The house-moving happens this weekend, so I won't have a lot of internet access until we're all settled in. Posting my be a little patchy over this period, but rest assured I will let those of you who've scored some stuff know as soon as I can.

UPDATE: Please provide a second choice if possible. I also now have a few other bits and pieces to part with and I'll be posting pics of everything on her page. Thanks!

*And shoulders clad in my lovely new cover-up from Zara's Zouk.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Stars of the 1960s: Fatma Girik

*Don't forget that the next post is number 300: Seriously, I never thought it would live this long. Give Jilly a little thumbs-up on Facebook or drop her a line at architeuthis @ hotmail (dot) co (dot) uk to be in to receive a token of appreciation for supporting this odd little blog!

And now, on with today's main event -- the lovely Fatma Girik:

No brassiere could contain her!
Thank you to Anala of The Practical Dancer, who identified her from this post. I was all like "Fatma who?" but, as always, dear old Dr Google was on call with the answer.

Fatma, who turns 70 at the end of this year, was an actor in the Ozcan Tekgul/Hind Rostom mold. After starring in close to 200 Turkish films, like many actors, she had a late career switch to politics. From 1989 to 1994 she was the mayor of Sisli in Istanbul, but then went back to acting. Thanks to all the images of her done up as a kindly nana-type I found, I now picture her doing those really campy supersoaps a la Fifi Abdou.

I dig the inauthenticity of her hair in this clip:

For more Fatma clips and images (then and now), hit the jump.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Face me, babes

Hello darling clown fish!

Because we are closing in on 300 posts here on The OD, I have decided to get busy on this Facebook thingy. Initially I had a profile, but according to Facebook I am what is known as "a fictional character" and so am obliged to have a "page". So confusing! Humbly I wave my tentacles at you in apology if you were one of the people who befriended me because you hate 'liking' Facebook pages.

But anyway, if you'd like the chance to get your hands on some of The Raqasa's accumulated dance booty (no, not THAT accumulated dance booty, you naughty sea cucumber) you have to either "like" my Facebook page OR you can drop me a line at architeuthis @ hotmail (dot) co (dot) uk, once the list of goods up for grabs gets posted and you can tell if really want to be in it to win it.

At the risk of blowing my own conch shell, may I warmly recommend that you join me on Facebook. I've got oodles of wonderful raqs, harem dancing and sundry odd images to share, and I'm even compiling a "friends and family" album so you can get to know me better. Here's a pic of some old school chums of mine that I've GIF-ified so you know what to expect.


Jilly xo

Peter Pan (1924) dir. Herbert Brenon

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

It's not about the glutes

OK, so it’s just a little over a week since the Suhaila workshop and let me tell you that the lack of posting is not because of that. (I am actually in the throes of moving house again – farewell to our nuisance ‘neighbour’ Steve with his 3 am jam sessions and unnecessarily vocal girlfriend. Am I happy that I soon will not share a bedroom wall with him? YES! YES! OH, GOD, YES I AM!)*

Today, I am coming out as a Salimpour convert. It’s not that I hadn’t been exposed to the teachings before; one of my teachers in Wellington was Level 3 certified, so I’d done a fair bit of glute squeezing and squat pulsing and what have you. But like anything received second hand, there were loose threads and missing buttons. Perhaps it was a great example of tailoring, but it didn’t hang on my frame very well.

[That’s enough of that second-hand clothing analogy now, thank you – Jilly.]

Right, ANYWAY. For some reason** I had decided that Suhaila’s format was based on ego and athleticism – my two favourite turn-offs. When she announced to us that taking a workshop with her was the belly dance equivalent of a contemporary dancer getting to take a lesson with Martha Graham, I could feel my tall poppy syndrome flaring up. But she’s right, goddammit. Is that really ego or just a refreshing lack of false modesty? “You really don’t need to work this hard to be famous,” she pronounced, surveying the human debris scattered on the studio floor after the warm up (yes, just the warm up). “In fact, don’t. What are you, crazy? But if you want to be a good dancer then you do need to work this hard – either in my format or in some other way. My way is not the only way, but I truly believe it’s the best way.”

I’m paraphrasing. She said something like that – I concentrated as hard as I could over the din of my inner thighs, which were screaming very loudly indeed. “This is a bit like labour,” she murmured sympathetically. “Y’know? It’s awful at the time but before long you forget and you think ‘That was totally worth it. I’m doing it again’.”

She’s right about that too. Despite my misgivings about her cult of personality, I am won over. We were warned that we wouldn’t ‘get it’ over the course of a weekend, but oh my stars I really, really want to get it. At the ripe old age of none-of-your-business I think that, effectively, I’m about to start over as a dancer. Because I’ve been lucky enough to have had awesome teachers this doesn’t mean scrapping everything I’ve learnt already, but it does mean approaching my practise with more dedication and a new attitude. This is scary, but also exciting.

Here I go.

*Stay tuned to win my old stuff! – like Jilly on Facebook to be in with a shot

**Closely related to spending too much time reading bitchy forum threads.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Post-weekend-long Suhaila workshop I wanted to confirm that, Yes, I am still alive. Even better, I am alive in this way...

... and not in this way:

More news soon!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Stars of the 1980s: Suhaila Salimpour

This weekend I'm in the London workshops with Suhaila Salimpour.

If what I have heard about her courses is true, I may not make it back. In which case, thanks for reading. It's been an honour.

Suhaila has been the Great Unspoken of this blog. If you're taking belly dance classes, you've heard of her so I figured it was a bit of a waste of time to post about her. On the other hand, she really matters and I've never quite got away with not mentioning her at all. If I'm ever going to dedicate a "Stars of" post to her, now's as good a time as any.

Going back to the dark ages of 1977 (no really; you can't make out her face), here's Suhaila v1.0:

Ah, 1985. Ronald Regan was sworn in for his second term as US President. We Are the World. The Oscar for Best Picture went to Amadeus, but Back to the Future was the year's highest grossing film. Like a Virgin. The Brixton race riots. 10,000 people were killed by an earthquake in Mexico City. Keira Knightley was born. This:

This is from 1996's Suhaila Unveiled. It's so weird seeing her in chiffon:

By 2007, she's all grown up and performing in Cairo with Khamis. And you know what? He's just not doing it for her. So at about the five-minute mark she gets fed up and lets rip:

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Running to raqs o'clock

Here we are now/entertain us...
Before I begin today's whine about the raqs community's rather lax approach to time keeping, I'd just like to establish that I know I'm in a glass house, OK? Only this morning I got an email from my boss chastising me for my lack of punctuality. I KNOW I HAVE A PROBLEM.

Also, let it not be said that I don’t appreciate the huge amount of effort that goes into organising even the most low-key of shows: the music, the dancers, the scheduling, the venue hire, the lighting, the DJ, the videographer, the health and safety, the payments, the photographer, the seating booking, the compere, the advertising, the ticketing, the judges (if it’s a competition)’s a big job. The people who do it are heroes. Without them all amateur dancers would be trapped dancing in their living rooms forever with only a cat and a wilted pot plant as an audience.


These are all things that can be – nay, indeed must be – organised before the show. If you are going to hold a show in the boondocks on a Sunday night, it’s even more important to start on time because most of your audience has a damn long way to get home. Nevermind the fact that if they’re lucky enough to have a job to go to on Monday morning, most of your attendees will need to get home at a reasonable hour so that they can get some sleep.

Which brings me to my beef with Bellydance Trophies. Although it was a great competition of an irreproachably high standard, it was really let down by the number of times that things kicked off much later than they should have.

We’re not talking a few minutes to quarter of an hour here. On at least two occasions that I attended, we’re talking the best part of two hours later than advertised with no apology and no explanation. “Belly dance time” may well be something of a long-running joke in the raqs community, but Trophies’ level of tardiness just took the piss. Once may have been excusable. But they seemed to start late every single month. This was not only unfair to the contestants, but it was rude to the audience. The most egregious example was the Easter weekend final, which was so late in starting that I missed the last train and then had to take FOUR night buses to get home.

Wembley is not very close to where I live. In fact, it takes me a good hour and a half to get there because I don’t have a car: if I did drive, I suspect that the journey would take me even longer thanks to London’s Byzantine road network. So you can imagine that when an event scheduled to start at 8 kicks off closer to 9 or 10, there is suddenly a rather stark choice to be made: leave at the scheduled finish time so as to make the last train home, thereby missing out on a big chunk of the show (including dancers I’d travelled a long way specifically to see); or stick around until the actual end so as to get my money’s worth, but wind up navigating the streets of greater London in the wee small hours of Monday morning, when there are few other people around. That's not just inconvenient, it's potentially dangerous.

This is exactly what happened on the night of the final. The doors were meant to open at 7.30pm for an 8pm start, or so I was told when I arrived at 7pm. At 8pm, they still weren’t admitting people. At 8.10pm, a mood of rebellion descended and a large group of us (enough to fill the venue!) filed in anyway and took our seats. About 15 minutes later we were kicked out, to the shisha room, for no discernable reason. After another 20 minutes we were readmitted. By now it was about quarter to 9. The compere came out and announced things would be underway in about ten minutes. Twenty minutes later there was still no sign of things starting.

At about 9.15, the compere came back to ask "Are you ready?" The cheek! When we groaned in the affirmative, he began running through where the fire exits and bathrooms were, who the judges, photographer and videographer were and reminding us not to take photos or videos of our own. Seriously -- could all that housekeeping not have been done while we were busy occupying ourselves by taking bath salts and gnawing each others' faces off?

As if to mock us further, there was then a 20-minute break after the first round. So I elected to leave, even though it meant missing the second round i.e. the round I really wanted to see because it was to live music. I managed to get home just after midnight on Monday morning.

But perhaps I have been too harsh. As always, my teacher Shafeek had a perspective I hadn't considered. "When I saw the night they'd scheduled the final for, I knew it would be starting late. It was the same night as the European Cup final, and I'm sorry, but there's no way you'll tear men away from a major football game to watch belly dancing."

Monday, 2 July 2012

Congratulations, Maelle!

Why aren't you taking classes with my friend Maelle?! Last night she only went and bloody won Bellydance Trophies! This is a big deal, y'all. Bellydance Trophies attracted more than thirty dancers from all over the UK and Europe, and first prize is a trip to Cairo.

If you've been following me on Twitter, you'll know that nearly every damn month since December I've been trooping all the way out to Wembley for the heats and finals. At the final last night, Maelle made all that worthwhile.

There were five finalists last night and any one of them would have been a worthy winner, but on the night Maelle just shone that much brighter. Unfortunately I couldn't stay to the end and see the official announcement, and the reasons why will be the subject of tomorrow's post. For now I just wanted to give Maelle some well-deserved props for all her hard work and dedication, and salute all the other dancers in the competition who were so wonderful and made winning Trophies the impressive achievement it is. Yip!