Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Just Like I Thought

Out of a misplaced sense of social nicety, most people feel obliged to pretend that they hate saying "I told you so". As for me, I am always delighted to rub various noses in the foul stench of my prescience whenever possible.

Way back in April 2011 I reported on the in-production Just Like A Woman, a Sienna Miller vehicle for which Miller had not read the script before signing on, which was about a woman who runs away from her Sad ExistenceTM to become a belly dancer. 

Plainly in the grip of a caffeine headache, I thumped out the following considered opinion:
"I'll bet my hip scarves that belly dance will not be afforded the same modicum of respect as ballet, in as much as no 'body double' who actually knows how to do the dance justice will be employed to make Miller look good."
Well, the film is now actually A Thing That Exists. Respect -- seriously. I'm reading Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures and it is kind of amazing that any movie ever gets made, let alone released. I guess it helps that Rachid Bouchareb has an Oscar nomination to swing around.

Back to the movie in hand. There are at least two trailers for it. Let's compare and contrast, shall we? Here's the 4-minute plus version for the European market. (Yes, it's waa-aay too long):



And here's the sub-minute version for the US market, sans subtitles:



Interesting, innit? These look like trailers for two totally different movies!

I marvel that for some inexplicable reason Sienna is THE ONLY ONE her teacher could POSSIBLY put forward for that OBVIOUSLY ELITE dance troupe in Santa Fe. (Thank you, expository dialogue!)

FOR THE LOVE OF KANYE, people. He has a room full of students and presumably didn't start teaching the day Sienna walked into his studio, but even so she is his star pupil. (If he ever stumbles across a malfunctioning Henry vacuum cleaner spinning in circles he's going to think he's discovered the next Bozenka.)

I mean, I could sit here and rage some more about the poor dancing on display in these clips. Or the racist assumption that "all Arab women", like "all black people", are inherently good dancers. But I don't need to, because poor Yuska over at the Pink Coinbelt Chronicles has already seen this film and writes a very good, even-handed review of it that I highly recommend.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Straight from the camel's mouth...

Overheard in dance class

For some time now, I have half-heartedly kept a record of some of the more amusing/bizarre/unintentionally filthy/offensive/inspiring/useful things said in the course of belly dance classes and workshops I've attended. Since I attended my first class around the same time Elton John had his first hair transplant, I've got a veritable treasure trove going now. Although I know who said what, at some points I have redacted the name of the teacher to protect the guilty...
"You sound like a wobbly pig!" -- Isa, context forgotten.

"Girls, girls, girls, please! It is not like 'zoo animal'!" -- An exasperated Huda Sabour tries to get a room to zar with grace...and fails.

"That was like an Egyptian wedding and no one had an invitation." -- Shafeek Ibrahim gives up on arabesques en masse.

"OK, that won't achieve anything. It's a buttock contraction, not a butthole contraction." -- Traysi explains basic anatomy.

"Relax. It's only belly dancing." -- Razia Star keeps it in perspective.

"Your applause is my food! So satisfy me!" -- Fifi Abdou really means it.

"Girls, I know how it is. In life, we all have our problems and our sadnesses and sometimes we have to dance even though we want to cry. But no one cares. So please smile. Or I will kill you."

"Shoulders back and down." -- every teacher I have ever had, ever.

"Move it like, 'My pelvis is excited!'" -- Anna Kemper.

"I cannot dance when I am unhappy, and I see you all are the same. Excuse me." -- Randa Kamel buys herself a sneaky cigarette break with a veiled insult.

"Pretend you've got a man under each hand and you're pushing them down...yeeessss." -- Jo Wise tries some creative visualisation.

"If you are bendy, you will be able to do more as a dancer. And probably do more in bed, so there's that." -- Layla advocates cross-training.

"You really don't have to work this hard. You don't. You can just get some Isis wings instead." -- Suhaila Salimpour has no love for pleated lame.

"Don't forget to breathe, because you don't pay me enough for CPR." -- Traysi sets her boundaries.

"I always perform solo. I have far too much ego to share a stage!" -- Galit Mersand laughingly explains why her students always have to take the floor without her.

"My god, child, I've seen a bendy bus turn with more grace than that." -- Sara breaks it to me gently.

"You should always bring something of yourself to your performances, unless you're an unlovable bitch -- in which case, take acting classes." -- Christine believes in 'being yourself', but only to a point.

"If you're young and gorgeous, you can't do this move. It's for the mature woman only." -- Jo Wise demonstrates the R45 hip circle.