Friday, 22 February 2013

Happy birthday, Tahia Carioca

As you probably know, legendary Egyptian dancer Tahia Carioca (born Badawiya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani) took her name from the Latin dance craze of the same name.

Today would have been Tahia's 98th birthday. Rather than bombard you with clips of her, I thought I'd do something a bit different. Here's Fred Astaire and a 22 year-old Ginger Rogers dancing a Hollywood version of the Carioca in their first-ever film together, 1933's Flying Down to Rio. Since the Egyptian cabaret scene of the time was heavily influenced by these Hollywood musicals, I like to think of young Tahia seeing this on its release and being quietly awed.

And if that didn't float her boat, I bet this dazzling sequence, featuring wing-walking dancing girls on a bi-plane(!) did:

Apparently the girls glued their shoes to the wings!

Finally, here's Tahia dancing with a young Mahmoud Reda (two legends for the price of one!) in The Big House (1949):

Friday, 1 February 2013

Poetry in motion #1

The Dancing Girl

John Barlas [1860 -- 1914]

Gaudy painted hangings, fringed by many a tatter,
  Daubed with bird or beast! Pipe, whistle and scream,
Flute and clarion, trump and drum, and clatter
  Of the doll-musicians, blown by steam!
There before the screen a damsel tinkling
  With a timbrel, timed by bell and gong,
Sashed with scarlet, blue, and tinsel twinkling,
                               Danced and leapt along.

Moorish Dancers (1849), Théodore Chassériau
With her shadow on the painted canvas dancing
  Fitful cast by the jet's flickering glare,
Sinuous limbs, arms waving, quick feet glancing,
  True to cymbal's clash and clarion's blare!
How the pure grace of her girlish motion
  Made the vulgar show seem half divine,
Steeped my breast as with an opiate potion
  Of enchanted wine!

But the shadow on the waving back-ground thrilled me,
  For it seemed a skeleton on springs,
And its jerky leaps and gestures filled me
  With a dream of hollow eyeless rings,
Bony shanks, and blackened teeth a-grinning,
  Lurid damp-fires of sepulchral dew,--
Till my dizzy brain, betwixt them, spinning,
                             Wondered which was true.