Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!


I am marking Halloween in style this year. Tonight I am going to see Fields of the Nephilim at the Shepherd's Bush Empire.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Stars of the millennium: Mark Balahadia

As announced on Jilly's Facebook page, next month here at The Occidental Dancer we will celebrate our brothers in arms hips as we mark NOVEMBRO. (Shut up, it was the best I could do.)

Because he's giving workshops in London this weekend, here's New York's Mark Balahadia in a foretaste of Novembro posts to come:



To paraphrase my friend Fiona on this performance, such clarity and delicacy of movement!


Monday, 22 October 2012

The Thamesis Hafla

Exciting news (which partly explains why the blog has been a bit dormant of late): I am co-hosting a hafla!

Yes, I have finally realised that if no one will invite you to dance at their event then you may as well hold your own. Seriously, though ... I am only kind of joking.

More importantly, it gives Christina and I a chance to do some fundraising for domestic violence charity Refuge. This all came about after Elisa Gamal's fantastic workshop in Croydon, when Christina and I got chatting on the train afterwards. Christina asked if I'd be interested in helping her sort out some kind of 'thing'. Since I had been filled with good intentions for ages, how could I say no?

We came to the conclusion that we should try and help Refuge pretty quickly: Christina pointed out that Christmas is particularly tough for underprivileged kids. This is a tacit acknowledgement that Christmas is a stressful time for most families, and if your relationship is a violent one then you're going to be more at risk than usual.

Refuge is also horribly underfunded. Their state support is now next to non-existent and voluntary donations don't fill the gap. In 2009, The Donkey Sanctuary got £20 million in charitable gifts. Refuge got less than £2 million. Donkeys are really lovely and all, but ...

On a happier  note, the hafla itself is coming together nicely. We were sorry when Roxana had to bow out because of family commitments, but are delighted that the delightful Sofeya (a fellow former student of Razia's) and the splendid Maelle, winner of this year's Bellydance Trophies, will be performing. And, erm, it looks like Christina and I will be too.

So we have stars, we have a date, we have a venue, we have a Facebook page, we have a Just Giving page, and -- thanks to the fact that I am married to the Greatest Bloke EverTM -- a really natty logo and flyer, as you see. We even have a gift basket that will be given away on the night at random. All that's left is to get some buzz going. Which is where you come in. Come one, come all and bring your friends etc.

Apologies for the Facebook linkage, but to stay up-to-date with goings on and enjoy photos of the event afterwards, you can 'like' the Thamesis Facebook page (where you can also find out what the hell 'Thamesis' means). For those of you in London on 6 December, this will also be an opportunity for us to meet if we haven't already!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Harem dancing: Goliath and the Vampires


In the lead-up to Halloween, here's a black chiffon and underpantastic scene from Goliath and the Vampires. It's a 1961 Italian film that seems quite confused about exactly what form of undead horror the hero faces:
"Goliath must save the kidnapped women of his village from an evil zombie leader who needs their blood to feed his soldiers."
So is it vampires or zombies? I would be confused even without the fact that this was produced by Hollywood legend Dino de Laurentiis. The dancer might be Annabella Incontrera, but don't quote me on that.

Whoever she is, I honestly can't see the "dog and lamp post" move at 0.49 catching on, can you?

Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn


Ted Shawn and Ruth St Denis in 1916
(Wikimedia Commons)
 They weren't Middle Eastern dancers, but if you don't know about Ruth St Denis, Ted Shawn and the Denishawn Dance theatre company please go here immediately. They're in the pantheon of American modern dance, and their dance school produced no less a personage than Martha Graham.

Ruth, in particular, is an obvious influence on the costuming of many a tribal dancer, and both she and Ted were pioneers in bringing Indian influences to Western stages. You may find the short clip of Ted performing as 'Shiva' rather quaint -- if not offensive -- but since Ruth was the one the "real" interest in East Indian dance, I would guess that he performed this at her suggestion and his heart may not really have been in it.

Ted's was inspired by the macho aspects of American culture -- cowboys, athletes, soldiers -- and he founded America's first all-male dance company, Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers.

They're a fascinating couple, and here's a wee sampler of them in action:







Ruth was also a fantastic choreographer, and created the epic dance scenes from D W Griffith's epic film Intolerance (1916). It featured literally hundreds of people.



Here's a very brief, poignant clip of Ted speaking about the fragile nature of dance in 1963. He died in 1972, at the age of 81:



As an aside, today would have been Ted Shawn's 121st birthday. Happy birthday, Ted!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Be Here Now (Oasis-free edition)

OK, so the blog has been a bit neglected of late. Here's why:



(No, you don't have to sit through the whole thing.) I have been a bit pooped with rehearsals - as a woman who is officially middle aged I do not feel obliged to weather five-hour sessions waving a veil over my head with no ill-effects. So I don't. Sorry about that. It goes without saying that I really need to practise - at the moment I look less like I'm wielding gossamer wings and more like I'm about to start screaming "We can't stop here! This is bat country!" Anyways, regular service will resume when I stop feeling like this:

From Sorry I Missed Your Party

And am back to my usual self:

From Retronaut