From "danse du ventre" to "belly dance"

Aniseteph

New member
1931 C. BEATON in Wandering Years (1961) 217 The wow of the evening was Carmen, the belly-dancer.
February 13th 1931 - New York, guess where he saw her... MINSKY'S BURLESQUE!

"The wow of the evening was Carmen, the belly dancer. I had never seen anything like Carmen's expert orgy. Even the toughs in the audience hooted in embarrassed laughter".

He didn't seem to rate the "teasers" much, or the audience. I found a reference to Minsky having had a big opening night on 12th Feb 1931 (including Gypsy Rose Lee) at a theatre on 42nd Street - maybe Cecil was at a different Minsky establishment.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
1931 reference

Dear Andrea and Aniseteph,
Was this reference written, then, in 1961, about an event in 1931? By the 60s, the name was established, it would seem, but I am not exactly clear from this reference that this is how it was referred to in 1931.... ???
Regards,
A'isha
 

Aniseteph

New member
The diaries were published in 1961, but this was a diary entry written in February 1931.

From CB's intro:
Let the diaries speak for themselves. Their content remains unaltered, though from time to time I have fused a number of entries to form a single recollection of a person or place.
If he had originally written something else eg. cooch dancer, I don't see why come 1961 he would see the need to edit. It's not as if it's that important an entry, and he has left a couple of references to "teasers" in the paragraph, which would have made more sense to a later readership as strippers or striptease artists.

The OED are pretty strict about what constitutes a first recorded usage of a word or term - maybe they dug out the originals!
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc

Dear Aniseteph,
Thanks for clarifying how the term was used. I do know that occasionally, people change words in original documents to make them make more sense in the time they are writing, etc. I once had to read "Fear and Loathing" and "The Sickness Unto Death", by Soren Keirkegaard. The words were not only translated into English, but also updated to make sense in modern times, ( not that it helped much, what a whiner!!) It does happen. I am not suggesting that this happened with this entry from CB.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
Ah ha, the fabled Minsky's! That would explain that reference, Aniseteph, good goin'! I doubt the "toughs" of a burlesque house audience would have been "embarassed" by real belly dance. Musta been some REALLY hot version of the hoochie coochie!

...
It would have been pretty easy for someone literate to find out what danse du ventre meant at any time in American history. In the 1890's many of the middle and upper classes would have studied some French in school. It was then what English is now, the language of international communication. IIRC there is a mention in the New York Times coverage of the New York Streets of Cairo incidents in 1893, where it is mentioned that one of the constables did not know the meaning of "danse du ventre." This shows two things: (1) it was possible for someone of the lower classes (like a cop on the beat) not to know what danse du ventre meant, and (2) the average reader of the NY Times would have known what the term meant (and would probably have been amused by the constable's ignorance).
As usual, Andrea, you do great input, whether making new points or responding to others!

By the 1940's, euphemisms aparently weren't needed and there was no need to find ways to avoid saying "belly dance" since the term was not as offensive to sensibilities. So it surfaced in force at this point -- probably helped by the fact that the dance itself was resurfacing in American culture and consciousness, and returning servicement from WWII may well have played a big part in that.
I agree on the first point -- certainly Time magazine, a major U.S. publication meant for a middle-class general audience, wouldn't have used "belly-dancer" as a term in 1942 if the times hadn't been a-changing. But, given this evidence and the popularity of Time magazine, we can also say the American readership certainly knew of it well before the end of WWII.

And as we now know that the term had been around in the U.S. even if only as underground slang since the 1890s, there's no reason to believe that U.S. service personnel didn't take it with 'em when they went "over there."

If I remember it correctly, there was a contention made on this forum that because of a comment made by a woman who was a teen-age dancer in the ME during WWII that it follows that "belly dance" must have originated as a term there, when U.S. service personnel saw the dance.

I would love to know more about the context of the comment from the lady herself. Unfortunately, she seems not to have been interviewed where her comments can be read, nor does she speak about first hearing the term "belly dance" on her web site. She's still alive and has a dance studio in Sacramento, so maybe someone will interview her in the near future and we can learn more about her experiences and the background on this comment.

At any rate, I've never discounted this comment, and I do think it's interesting and useful. Professional standards, however, do not allow me to accept this contention, based on an interpretation of the comment, for the purpose of professional-level research.

1) One person's experience hearing the term 'belly dance" in the ME at a particular time is not nearly enough reason for it to follow that that must be the place and approximate time of origination. It's not even close to being evidence all on its own, without being verified and without evidence from other sources to come to this conclusion.

2) This is one of the most well-documented periods in history, and there are still Americans living today who have been interviewed about their experiences serving in the Middle East. There is plenty of documentation (and living memory today!) about the Yank war experience abroad and their slang, too.

To date, there is no evidence anywhere I know of that supports the contention that "belly dance" was invented as a term during WWII by Yanks who saw Oriental dance in the East for the first time.

3) According to Karin van Nieuwkerk, the term was first used in Cairo in the early 1900s. But it doesn't seem to have been widely used, probably because -- for English-speakers, at least -- it was considered vulgar. Badia Masabni, who had probably the most well-known of the Cairo casinos, advertised her entertainment as "danse du ventre" and "Oriental dance" well into the 1950s, according to "Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond," edited by Walter Armbrust

Therefore, it would be no wonder if most people of polite society in the Middle East hadn't heard the term before U.S. personnel brought American slang into the cabarets and marketplaces. That could easily be why one teen-age dancer hadn't heard it before then -- not that the term had not been invented before then.

Yes, U.S. personnel could have returned with tales of the belly dancing they saw in the Middle East and, therefore, helped make the term even more widely used. But we don't have any evidence that they created or heard the term for the first time over there. All evidence, so far, points to pre-1900 origination, quite possibly in the U.S., and much more widespread acceptance in the U.S. by the early '40s.

So -- here's a challenge for those who still think it's an open question.

Ask someone on the forum we all trust to interview Jodette and ask her about that particular comment. Salome would be great, if she has the time and inclination. Let's at least try to verify this comment, and its context.

And those who are Yanks can call up their local chapter of the American Veterans of Foreign Wars and ask if they've got any members who served in the Middle East during WWII whom they can ask about hearing the term "belly dance" for the first time.

(As I've mentioned on another thread, I have asked Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak, the Arab-American impresario of early belly dance music, who traveled in the ME during WWII with the U.S. Army band -- and he said he never heard the term "belly dance" while there, only in the U.S. For what that's worth.)
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Jodette, etc.

As usual, Andrea, you do great input, whether making new points or responding to others!

A'isha writes- Yes, Andrea is fair and honest and usually is one of the least subjective writers in the dance world. She and I have differing opinions on some things, but we always treat each other with respect.

I agree on the first point -- certainly Time magazine, a major U.S. publication meant for a middle-class general audience, wouldn't have used "belly-dancer" as a term in 1942 if the times hadn't been a-changing. But, given this evidence and the popularity of Time magazine, we can also say the American readership certainly knew of it well before the end of WWII.

A'isha writes- This is assuming an awful lot. Not all people even read all articles in magazines and also, many people did not read Time, though it was popular. I subscribe to several magazines. Sometimes I do not have time to read them from cover to cover.

And as we now know that the term had been around in the U.S. even if only as underground slang since the 1890s, there's no reason to believe that U.S. service personnel didn't take it with 'em when they went "over there."

A'isha writes- This is also assuming a lot. Because "belly dance" means a lot to us involved in it, does not mean it is on the lips of everyone else.

If I remember it correctly, there was a contention made on this forum that because of a comment made by a woman who was a teen-age dancer in the ME during WWII that it follows that "belly dance" must have originated as a term there, when U.S. service personnel saw the dance.

A'isha writes- I simply told the forum what Jodette told me. You became offended because I would not just take Sol Bloom's word for it that HE coined the phrase. You decided to take this as a personal affront that somehow implied to you that I did not respect your researches, according to a private letter you later wrote me and copied others on. Not sure how you made that leap.

I would love to know more about the context of the comment from the lady herself. Unfortunately, she seems not to have been interviewed where her comments can be read, nor does she speak about first hearing the term "belly dance" on her web site. She's still alive and has a dance studio in Sacramento, so maybe someone will interview her in the near future and we can learn more about her experiences and the background on this comment.

A'isha writes- So, go and interview her. You are a journalist, are you not? I would do it, but you seem to believe that I am only capable of giving out skewed information. You spend vast amounts of time and energy trying to prove me wrong every time I open my mouth.

At any rate, I've never discounted this comment, and I do think it's interesting and useful. Professional standards, however, do not allow me to accept this contention, based on an interpretation of the comment, for the purpose of professional-level research.

A'isha writes- Actually, you have continually discounted this comment and try at every turn to show just how wrong Jodette was.... or is it me you are trying to prove wrong? Since it was not my comment originally, I do not take credit for it. I can get the original quote off of the album of Jodette's.

1) One person's experience hearing the term 'belly dance" in the ME at a particular time is not nearly enough reason for it to follow that that must be the place and approximate time of origination. It's not even close to being evidence all on its own, without being verified and without evidence from other sources to come to this conclusion.

A'isha writes- And what makes you think that Jodette's view of the world is any more skewed than Sol Bloom's? I see no evidence that he coined the phrase other than his word.

2) This is one of the most well-documented periods in history, and there are still Americans living today who have been interviewed about their experiences serving in the Middle East. There is plenty of documentation (and living memory today!) about the Yank war experience abroad and their slang, too.

A'isha writes- Then they all must be so much more truthful than Jodette, then, in your eyes? What is your point here?

To date, there is no evidence anywhere I know of that supports the contention that "belly dance" was invented as a term during WWII by Yanks who saw Oriental dance in the East for the first time.

A'isha writes- No one said it was "invented" then. Just that American Soldiers made it popular during World War II here in the States. Please do not try to twist what I reported.

3) According to Karin van Nieuwkerk, the term was first used in Cairo in the early 1900s. But it doesn't seem to have been widely used, probably because -- for English-speakers, at least -- it was considered vulgar. Badia Masabni, who had probably the most well-known of the Cairo casinos, advertised her entertainment as "danse du ventre" and "Oriental dance" well into the 1950s, according to "Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond," edited by Walter Armbrust

A'isha writes- It may have been used as "Danse du Ventre" in the 1900s, but it came to the states and was made popular here as "belly dance" later than that. The words in French have been around forever and no one disputes that.

Therefore, it would be no wonder if most people of polite society in the Middle East hadn't heard the term before U.S. personnel brought American slang into the cabarets and marketplaces. That could easily be why one teen-age dancer hadn't heard it before then -- not that the term had not been invented before then.

A'isha writes- Jodette was living in Cairo, not the U.S. Had never been here. She speaks from her own experience. It is her you are trying to disprove; not me. I have no reason to doubt her experience. I certainly have more reason to believe her than I do Sol Bloom.

Yes, U.S. personnel could have returned with tales of the belly dancing they saw in the Middle East and, therefore, helped make the term even more widely used. But we don't have any evidence that they created or heard the term for the first time over there. All evidence, so far, points to pre-1900 origination, quite possibly in the U.S., and much more widespread acceptance in the U.S. by the early '40s.

A'isha writes- Again, this is what YOU got out of the conversation, in response to my telling you what Jodette said. The term was NOT in popular use before then, and there is a lot of reason to believe that Sol Bloom did not invent it as he had claim, a point which you stood by as firmly as I did Jodettes claim of the solider bringing it back and popularizing it,which I still think happened.

So -- here's a challenge for those who still think it's an open question.

Ask someone on the forum we all trust to interview Jodette and ask her about that particular comment. Salome would be great, if she has the time and inclination. Let's at least try to verify this comment, and its context.

A'isha writes- Why would that be a challenge? I did not consider this to be a contest, here, but obviously you do.

And those who are Yanks can call up their local chapter of the American Veterans of Foreign Wars and ask if they've got any members who served in the Middle East during WWII whom they can ask about hearing the term "belly dance" for the first time.

(As I've mentioned on another thread, I have asked Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak, the Arab-American impresario of early belly dance music, who traveled in the ME during WWII with the U.S. Army band -- and he said he never heard the term "belly dance" while there, only in the U.S. For what that's worth.)
A'isha writes- You seem to think Eddie the Sheik wrote the Bible and is very truthful himself, Why do you trust him over Jodette? Simply because you have interviewed him? Have you ever heard his music?

A'isha
 

Andrea Deagon

New member
Aniseteph, thanks for chasing down that reference. Minsky's!! I'll have to actually read this source now ...

One thing I am curious about, in fact, is the extent to which belly dance survives from the legacy of the dancers of the 1890's, versus the extent to which it morphs beyond recognition into burlesque, so that actual belly dance makes a complete re-entry into the US in the 1950's.

What I have read both from scholars discussing the development of burlesque, and from old vaudevillians in reminiscences (which may or may not be accurate) is that danse du ventre very quickly devolved into cooch dancing, and became extremely racy and obscene. So maybe once the cultural exhibition stopped being the main venue for the dance, the solo act in burlesque raunched out. You still had PG-rated Salome dancers by the 1910's, but dancers "performing the East" took pains to distance themselves from danse du ventre.

If the dance essentially dies out in the US, due to the redefinition of cooch dancing in burlesque, then it makes sense that the terms for it would lose some of their popular presence. And it makes sense that when the conditions were developing for belly dance to make its reentry into the mainstream of American popular consciousness in the 1940's and 50's, the term "belly dance" came along with it.

A'isha, one thing I am wondering is where the servicement would have brought back the term *from* -- was it Egypt? Or France? or somewhere else? I'm pretty sure the history of belly dance in France is more continuous than it is in the US, perhaps because Algeria and Lebanon were so much a part of French colonizations and political connections into the 1950's. And perhaps because the French weren't as horrified by the dance as the more puritanical Americans were. So its presence in the US might be via France in the 1940's-50's, as well as in the 1890's (since if the Paris exhibition of 1889 hadn't made such a hit with the Algerian and Egyptian dancers, I doubt they would have been such a prominent part of the Chicago Exposition in 1893).

I hope this is coherent. I'm supposed to be packing for a trip, but made the mistake of wandering into the study to look for a book. And here I still am.

Joy in dance,

Andrea
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Re: where the American GIs obtained the term during WWII. The father-in-law of one of my dancers, a very closed mouth taciturn Wyoming type of man, told a story shortly before he died about meeting Samia Gamal when he was stationed in North Africa during the war. I don't know where he was stationed at the time, but my dancer probably does. Would you like me to ask her? It would at least point to a place where American GIs were exposed to belly dance.

If it is beside the point, please excuse my intrusion into the discussion.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Belly dance, etc.

Re: where the American GIs obtained the term during WWII. The father-in-law of one of my dancers, a very closed mouth taciturn Wyoming type of man, told a story shortly before he died about meeting Samia Gamal when he was stationed in North Africa during the war. I don't know where he was stationed at the time, but my dancer probably does. Would you like me to ask her? It would at least point to a place where American GIs were exposed to belly dance.

If it is beside the point, please excuse my intrusion into the discussion.


Dear Shanazel,
I would say that it is pertinent to the conversation and I would be interested to know where he met Samia Gamal, and all of the details!!

Dear Andrea,
I am pretty sure it was in Egypt that Jodette said the soldiers were, but I will try to listen to the album today to see what she said exactly. I think that she said a location in the Middle East/ North Africa because she commented about the soldiers there, that there were "Many French". I recall being intrigued by her accent when she said it. It was at early place in my dance career that I first heard the double consonant sound that is in some Arab words. Jodette pronouned it "men-ney".

Regards,
A'isha

Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
...If the dance essentially dies out in the US, due to the redefinition of cooch dancing in burlesque, then it makes sense that the terms for it would lose some of their popular presence. And it makes sense that when the conditions were developing for belly dance to make its reentry into the mainstream of American popular consciousness in the 1940's and 50's, the term "belly dance" came along with it...
There was something in "A Trade Like Any Other" that intrigued me regarding the period right after the 1893 World's Exposition -- chapter 3 "Female Entertainment in the 20th Century":

"The Egyptian dance troupe returned home from the six-month trip to Chicago with $500. It was an enormous sum in those days, and prompted other Egyptian dancers to set out for Europe and the United States. Western dancers, in turn, set out for the East. Dancers plying East and West probably brought Western dance innovations to the Middle East."


It's one of those places in her book where she doesn't give exact attribution for this information, but she does mention in her Notes that the publications she researched for that chapter and the rest of the book were seven Egyptian newspapers and magazines dating from 1876 to 1948.

This is interesting to me for the possibility that more cultural exchange between East and West was being done during the earliest development of raqs sharqi, than we know about.

So far, however, there isn't much about real ME or Turkish or other dancers touring the U.S. after 1900, at least not in the general audience venues. The more "respectable" venues might have been put off the distorted reputation of "danse du ventre," and the less-respectable venues, I suspect, were quite happy to hire homegrown talent to do the "hootchy-cootchy."

Except, there are stories of imported foreign dancers performing for ethnic enclave venues. For example, Eddie Kochak remembers his father's coffeehouse in a Lebanese-Arabic section of Brooklyn where immigrants danced and foreign dancers performed, and also at various haflas and other community events.

Kochak says that the immigrants and their children referred to the dances as raqs sharqi, oryantal danzi, tchefetelli, Middle Eastern dance, Turkish dance, Greek dance or Oriental dance, depending on where the dancers were from and whether speaking in their ancestral tongue or English.

He toured with the U.S. Army band during WWII, and it went to the Middle East at some point. He says he didn't hear "belly dance" used until about the 1950s when Americans outside the ethnic enclaves started visiting the coffeehouses and supper clubs where there was Oriental dancing. (He hadn't heard of Sol Bloom, BTW, even though Bloom was a New York congressman from Manhattan for many years. Bloom's memoirs weren't out until 1948.)

Samia Gamal was named "The National Dancer of Egypt" in 1948 by King Farouk, no less, and twas photographed for the U.S. magazine Life, which stirred a lot of interest here. She came to the U.S. in 1950, performed in New York City at the trendy Latin Quarter, and did the first of a couple of Hollywood movies in 1954. Tahia Carioca and the Gamal sisters, Liz & Lyn, also performed in the U.S. in the mid-to-late 1950s but I can't find much info on them in this period. Nejla Ates, "the Turkish Delight", came to New York in 1954 for a two-year run in a Broadway musical, was very popular as she later did the exotic-burlesque circuit, and it looks like other Turkish belly dancers followed her, such as Ozel Turkbas.

Sama was briefly married to a Texas millionaire (and Nejla was even more briefly engaged to him after Samia divorced him). Tahia had an American husband among the many.

Their fame and popularity probably greatly helped the more widespread acceptance of "belly dance" in the 1950s. Most newspapers and magazines of the period that I've found, including Life and Time, referred to them as "belly dancers," not "cooch dancers" -- so maybe high-profile foreign stars weren't considered "cooch" dancers compared to the homegrown talent.

In 1954, there was another Broadway musical that was one of the most popular of all time. "Kismet" featured belly dancing by the female lead, Joan Diener. I don't know who trained her, but she was supposed to have been so good other belly dancers in NYC modeled their acts on hers. Diener did a lot of magazine spreads in her belly dancer costume, according to the summer/spring 2002 article in Bennu, a quarterly by the Associated Artists of Middle Eastern Dance.

The earliest I can tell is about 1960 when American women who weren't from the ethnic enclaves started to learn belly dancing. As there were no classes they picked it up from the immigrants, first-generation dancers and imported dancers still available on the ethnic club circuit. The immigrant and foreign dancers at that level were still mostly Turkish and Greek.

Morocco, Dahlena and the late Serena Wilson all started out this way, and many other American dancers followed, even into the traditional ethnic supper clubs. So it was by the mid-1950s, Kochak says, that people in the ethnic enclaves picked up the "belly dance" term they heard from the newer American patrons and by the early 1960s they applied it to all the dancers, whether foreigners or Americans developing what later came to be called "cabaret" style.

I mention Kochak frequently because there aren't many people still around from this era with his kind of experiences and relevant memories. He is still in the Brooklyn phone book, BTW, and has given many interviews if anyone wants to verify what I've reported. We need to seek out and interview these kinds of folks before they leave us forever!

I may yet interview Jodette, if she'll consent, for posterity -- but I doubt my findings would be, um, quite as universally accepted on this forum in the way someone else's (such as from you or Salome) might be. :lol:

Hope your trip is a groovy one. Cheers!
 
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Andrea Deagon

New member
There is also substantial evidencefrom Western sources for Egyptian and other Middle Eastern performers coming to the US for work in ethnological exhibitions on the circus and agricultural fair circuit in 1893 onward, though the references are scattered and some depend on the fact of different "Streets of Cairo" exhibits playing at the same time in different places.

I am pretty sure the literature from the American side of things plays down the sophistication of these performers, some of whom were well educated and experienced international performers (for example the 3 Algerians and to a lesser extent the Egyptian dancer, who testified in the New York Streets of Cairo hoopla in 1893. (I have read an article from an unspecified 1893 newspaper in a scrapbook in the Lincoln Center NY Public Library which interviews the dancer and praises their fluent French and portrays them as intelligent, well educated women).

I have also found photographic evidence that in the period 1905-1920 or so, native Algerian women who performed in France sometimes wore the pre-bedlah "bra and belt" costume we associate with the Salome dancers. Western variety performers were regularly brought to Egyptian venues, and variety theater was alive and well in Egypt and attended by both Western residents and native Egyptians. So I find it very plausible that Western approaches to Eastern dance filtered over to the East and affected Eastern performers, so that the atmosphere (and maybe costume and ethos of sophistication in Eastern dance) was ripe for the kind of theatrical experience Badi'a Masabni was able to create by end of the 1920's.

Thing is, I really think France rather than the USA is the key to this cross-fertilization. After 1889 and to some extent before, danse du ventre was performed there in venues that also offered the typical can-can style of dance (most famously the Moulin Rouge) and some of the outstanding dancers gained followings and drew romanticized raves from the same people (read: men) who idolized this or that can-can dancer. Belly dancers could become stars (or at least starlets), and that's a far cry from the notoriety America-based dancers had to settle for.

Also, the amount of actual travel between France and Algeria, and even France and Egypt, was much, much higher than the actual travel to/from Egypt to the US.

France was just a much more congenial atmosphere for exotic dance than the USA was. In the US, danse du ventre sank into burlesque so quickly that, as far as I can tell, by 1905 or so there was very little authentic danse du ventre to be found, maybe none. And the Egyptians (and others) who came over to perform it had either assimilated to the US in other professions, or gone back to Egypt. I suspect a fair number of them stayed stayed. The ethnographic exhibits showing danse du ventre were shut down so often in the 1890's that I think the performers and/or their families must have had some alternate way to support themselves, or at least a network they could call on for fall-back employment. But I have yet to find any solid evidence about this so I admit I'm guessing.

I kind of doubt that "Egyptians returning with the sum of $500" story (though I think van Nieuwkerk is the reigning goddess of belly dance research), because I think that figure and story originates from one of the Chicago fair self-congratulatory publications that celebrated the event, and the particular source that both gives that figure (though I think its $600) and talks about how it was an unheard of sum, seems a little too colonialist/orientalizing to me -- the point of the story is "wow, aren't these ignorant foreigners kings in their poverty-stricken country due to our bounty." I think the source is The Dream City, which I believe is available online. I'm sorry I keep posting things with these vague references, but I'll be happy to look them up specifically if anyone wants. Also there is evidence that a number of performers stayed in the US after the fair, so not everyone went back to Egypt to become a "big man" (or woman) in their "native" town.

Anne Rasmussen has a very interesting article in Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young's book *Belly Dance:Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy* in which she details how the development of nightclub venues in the 40's-60's brought Arabs of different traditions/nationalities together and created a "pan-Arabic" style of music. The same principles must apply to the dance. And considering how Nejla Ates was such a star (for a while at least, her image several stories high in Times Square), and how Ozel Turkbas made a similar if lesser splash -- belly dance did make a grand entry in the early '50's.

I guess part of the story of how the dance fared depends on the inner workings of the Arab community in America pre-1950's, and Eddie Kochak's comments are very interesting here! I wonder if any academic historian has done work on this population (whether or not dance was a topic).

Interesting stuff ...
 

Kharmine

New member
...Anne Rasmussen has a very interesting article in Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young's book *Belly Dance:Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy* in which she details how the development of nightclub venues in the 40's-60's brought Arabs of different traditions/nationalities together and created a "pan-Arabic" style of music. The same principles must apply to the dance. And considering how Nejla Ates was such a star (for a while at least, her image several stories high in Times Square), and how Ozel Turkbas made a similar if lesser splash -- belly dance did make a grand entry in the early '50's.

I guess part of the story of how the dance fared depends on the inner workings of the Arab community in America pre-1950's, and Eddie Kochak's comments are very interesting here! I wonder if any academic historian has done work on this population (whether or not dance was a topic).

Interesting stuff ...
I interviewed Anne Rasmussen for The Gilded Serpent regarding early belly dance music record albums from the late 1950s to the '70s. The American recordings reflected a lot of bands and musicians who played for the ethnic enclave celebrations and gathering places -- Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Lebanese, Syrian, etc., sometimes all represented in one band! They learned each other's music so they could do as many gigs as possible. Some of the musicians were later instrumental in encouraging and teaching American belly dancers. Some of the members, like Eddie Kochak and George Abdou, were famous for producing Westernized versions of traditional music, that were extremely popular.

The article is still probably floating around in the Serpent archives, if you're interested.

There's a pretty fair book called "The Arab Americans," by Randa A. Kayayli that gives good info on who came to the States when, and their experiences. And an awesome collection of old recordings called "Music of Arab Americans" on the Rounder Select label has excellent historical and musicology notes.

I remember growing up with a lot of kids of Arabic heritage in California's San Joaquin Valley, but I don't remember any coffeehouses or other gathering places, possibly because most of them, as I remember, were from farm families. They tended to be overshadowed by the Armenians, who had a famous club where one could go see belly dancing -- there's more about that in the Gilded Serpent stories about Northern California dancers in the 1970s.
 

Morocco

New member
French / Western Influence?

>There is also substantial evidence from Western sources for Egyptian and other Middle Eastern performers coming to the US for work in ethnological exhibitions on the circus and agricultural fair circuit in 1893 onward, though the references are scattered and some depend on the fact of different "Streets of Cairo" exhibits playing at the same time in different places.

*1876* onwards! There were numerous performers from various Mideastern / North African & Mediterranean countries at the Centennial in Philadelphia, & there was a 4-week show afterwards at the Forrest Theater in Phillie that featured some of these performers.

Unfortunately, audiences stayed away from that show in droves & as a result there is far less notoriety/ documentation of that than for the much later 1893 Chicago World's Fair & the fantasy "Little Egypts" that came *afterwards* ...

However, it stands to reason that not everybody went home or changed careers. Just pretty much stayed within the ethnic community environs ...

>I am pretty sure the literature from the American side of things plays down the sophistication of these performers, some of whom were well educated and experienced international performers (for example the 3 Algerians and to a lesser extent the Egyptian dancer, who testified in the New York Streets of Cairo hoopla in 1893.

The performers Sol Bloom hired in Paris were not amateurs by any stretch of the imagination, but lifelong traditional professionalsin their own countries and, at the very least, in Paris, France, where Bloom saw them & was fascinated. He knew a good business opportunity when he saw it.

> (I have read an article from an unspecified 1893 newspaper in a scrapbook in the Lincoln Center NY Public Library which interviews the dancer and praises their fluent French and portrays them as intelligent, well educated women).

Praises their French?? Shows the extreme ignorance of the interviewer.

Algeria/ Tunisia & to an extent, Morocco, were French COLONIES by then - French was required, SO her *assuming* that their speaking French showed additional "western-standard" education or erudition was a subtle racist assumption & an American bit of ignorance (continues till today) that because over here there was only one language, knowing more than one was a mark of extreme "civilization".

>I have also found photographic evidence that in the period 1905-1920 or so, native Algerian women who performed in France sometimes wore the pre-bedlah "bra and belt" costume we associate with the Salome dancers.

Performers usually wear what the *hirer* asks them to or what they think the audience expects.

> Western variety performers were regularly brought to Egyptian venues, and variety theater was alive and well in Egypt and attended by both Western residents and native Egyptians.

NOT that early on ... any idea how LONG it took to get there? Even from Europe? After WWI maybe ...

> So I find it very plausible that Western approaches to Eastern dance filtered over to the East and affected Eastern performers,

It is much MORE plausible that the expectations/ fantasies of colonial MALE customers in brothels & "red light districts" (where, of course, they were given exactly what they asked for!) & the artifically posed/ dressed "French postcards" (early porn industry, along with lots of those fancy orientalist paintings) are how those "filters" got over there

> so that the atmosphere (and maybe costume and ethos of sophistication in Eastern dance) was ripe for the kind of theatrical experience Badi'a Masabni was able to create by end of the 1920's.

Possibly.

>Thing is, I really think France rather than the USA is the key to this cross-fertilization.

In some ways in the West, yes. BUT a very important point here is that while the French were there under Napoleon, it was the BRITISH who were in Egypt in great numbers. The French were in the Maghreb & had little to no influence on the Cairo performance scene.

Where there IS a possible connection is that Badia Masabni was originally from Syria/ Lebanon, where things French had more of a cultural influence than in Egypt, BUT due to her rape by a brother's friend, the family left & went to South America when she was very young... Still ...

> After 1889 and to some extent before, danse du ventre was performed there in venues that also offered the typical can-can style of dance (most famously the Moulin Rouge) and some of the outstanding dancers gained followings and drew romanticized raves from the same people (read: men) who idolized this or that can-can dancer. Belly dancers could become stars (or at least starlets), and that's a far cry from the notoriety America-based dancers had to settle for.

Yes & a very important observation/ conjecture ...

>Also, the amount of actual travel between France and Algeria, and even France and Egypt, was much, much higher than the actual travel to/from Egypt to the US.

Yes to both, BUT, as I wrote, far less to Egypt than the Maghreb

> France was just a much more congenial atmosphere for exotic dance than the USA was. In the US, danse du ventre sank into burlesque so quickly that, as far as I can tell, by 1905 or so there was very little authentic danse du ventre to be found, maybe none. And the Egyptians (and others) who came over to perform it had either assimilated to the US in other professions, or gone back to Egypt. I suspect a fair number of them stayed stayed. The ethnographic exhibits showing danse du ventre were shut down so often in the 1890's that I think the performers and/or their families must have had some alternate way to support themselves, or at least a network they could call on for fall-back employment. But I have yet to find any solid evidence about this so I admit I'm guessing.

There was always wedding. moulid & engagement party work within their own enclaves. However, like with most of the musicians I worked with in the 1960s, they had "day jobs" too.

>I kind of doubt that "Egyptians returning with the sum of $500" story (though I think van Nieuwkerk is the reigning goddess of belly dance research), because I think that figure and story originates from one of the Chicago fair self-congratulatory publications that celebrated the event, and the particular source that both gives that figure (though I think its $600) and talks about how it was an unheard of sum, seems a little too colonialist/orientalizing to me -- the point of the story is "wow, aren't these ignorant foreigners kings in their poverty-stricken country due to our bounty." I think the source is The Dream City, which I believe is available online. I'm sorry I keep posting things with these vague references, but I'll be happy to look them up specifically if anyone wants. Also there is evidence that a number of performers stayed in the US after the fair, so not everyone went back to Egypt to become a "big man" (or woman) in their "native" town.

Speaking of *specific* references, I have in my hot little hands the actual physical book: "Bohemian Paris of Today" by W.C. Morrow from notes by Edouard Cucuel - copyright 1899 (written in 1898 or earlier by Cucuel), printed in 1900 that translates "danse du ventre" as ***belly*** dance, so here IS a published US reference/ proof that the MISnomer was known/ used before the much later dates conjectured on this list *&*, as I have conjectured on other lists re this very issue:

Since that "b" word was considered vulgar/ indecent then, of course it would NOT be widely printed in "decent" publications/ periodicals & it would, therefore, be almost impossible to find/ satisfy CURRENT cliche / somewhat fantasy academic research "standards"/ expectations.

AND since this book is one of those "exposes" of the supposedly "forbidden"/ "illicit" *bohemian* (at a time when that word meant loose & lascivious) world in the oh-so-sexy/ daring Paris of those times, it was very likely considered only a tad or two above actual porn.

>Anne Rasmussen has a very interesting article in Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young's book *Belly Dance:Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy* in which she details how the development of nightclub venues in the 40's-60's brought Arabs of different traditions/nationalities together and created a "pan-Arabic" style of music. The same principles must apply to the dance. And considering how Nejla Ates was such a star (for a while at least, her image several stories high in Times Square), and how Ozel Turkbas made a similar if lesser splash -- belly dance did make a grand entry in the early '50's.

Um - sorry. I knew/ know & worked with both ladies.

Nejla never worked on the ethnic circuit. Where/ when we worked together was on an AMERICAN gig - at the Taft Hotel in Manhattan in early 1965 (when I was also prominently featured in a Broadway show), shortly before she left the US for good.

Before that, Nejla had made much better money as a sensationalist bit of "exotica" in totally American venues - like Vegas & the Latin Quarter (after her stint in "Fanny" on Broadway). FWIW, she was an excellent dancer.

As much as I like her, Ozel was never known for her dancing nor any sort of "star" on the ethnic scene, just one of many who shared in the then abundance of gigs, when dance ability was not a big factor. She & her husband were fabulous business people and wonderful at promotion.

>I guess part of the story of how the dance fared depends on the inner workings of the Arab community in America pre-1950's, and Eddie Kochak's comments are very interesting here! I wonder if any academic historian has done work on this population (whether or not dance was a topic).

Rarely. Interest in ethnic dance/ dance anthropology as a field in the first place are very recent.

Been there, done that in person.

Off the Ark & hard at work on that book!
Morocco
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Dearest M.,
My point has always been that the English "belly dance" ( NOT the French Danse du Ventre) came into popular use in the U.S. during/after WWII and that it applied specifically to the dances of the Middle East and not to American dance forms. People thought that what they were seeing were dance forms the exotic countries far away, not from Nebraska.... and that is what they still think when they hear the words, "belly dance". The original issue here was whether or not Sol Bloom had coined the phrase, as it was said he stated in his autobiography, or not. I had heard something different from Jodette . I know that you and she have your differences, but I still have not seen sufficient evidence to show that the term did not come into popular use until after WWII, which tells me that she might have a good premise for her statement. I like her very much and always have...I learned some great basic dance from her.
I am also aware that you do not care for the term "belly dance", but as you know, I have no issue with it, since for most people in the general public, it is simply the English slang for Raqs Sharghi and Oriantal Tanzi.... but then we have talked about all that before and still love each other!!
And Happy New Year
Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
Morocco, as usual, you bring a priceless perspective to a subject that hasn't been nearly researched as it should.

I have the first edition of the same book, published a year earlier with a British publisher. Everything about it is the same as the one Aniseteph found online which I'm guessing is the same as your copy, which demonstrates there were no changes for different audiences, no later insertions by editors, etc.

When you want a fun read, Morrow's book is a very entertaining and sympathetic look at the world of Parisian art students. (And his descriptions of two of Montmartre's most notorious nightclubs, Heaven and Hell, are a hoot.)

FYI, there is an article I wrote for The Gilded Serpent web site about Sol Bloom that addresses some myths and misconceptions about him. In his 1948 autobiography, he carefully does not take credit for translating "dense du ventre" and introducing the English version into underground American slang. He expressed a high regard for "danse du ventre" as real art and deplored the popular denigration into the "hootchie-cootchie." He himself apparently used "danse du ventre" all his life.

This thread has established that "belly dance" originated as a term at least before 1900, was known in the States when the 1893 World's Exposition in Chicago opened, was also used in Cairo by the late 1890s but not in common use (probably because, as in the States, it was considered extremely vulgar) and started coming out of its underground status into common use in the States by at least 1942. (Well, after all, it wasn't until 1939's "Gone With the Wind" that we heard "damn" used on the silver screen!)

It can't be denied that what we're now calling "American Cabaret" or "American Oriental" these days was simply and widely regarded as "belly dance" by most of the folks in the States, and even in the ethnic enclaves that brought raqs sharqi, oryantal danzi and tchefetelli to the States.

That some people would put so much stress on an old, inaccurate slang term does seem ludicrous and a distraction from more important aspects. I like the sound of "American raqs sharqi," but I doubt it will ever take off!

Please get your book out soon, Morocco. Your own findings and experience with the dance's early development in the States, at least, should be gathered together and put on record in at least one source we can refer to in the future. Thanks for stopping in on this thread, and please drop in more often!
 

Andrea Deagon

New member
Hi Rocky, good to see you here! I've been kicking myself for not joining this party sooner.

Just a couple of additions/explanations ...

The 1893 interviewer, interviewed the women in French, and attributed their fluency to a good French education -- in other words, s/he was consciously presenting them as educated, with all that entailed. S/he knew the situation in Algeria and was able to present the women in a way that emphasized their connection with the West in a positive light (fluency in language, some degree of Western cultural literacy, good (Westernized) manners, non-seductive purpose in dancing, etc.). This was in contrast to the NY Times coverage, in which the dancers were portrayed as incoherent, ignorant, tempestuous and lacking in self-control. The NY Times only reported that they had to testify through an interpreter. No mention that the language "interpreted" was French.

There's evidence of Eastern dance in the US from 1876, but it seems to be an "evolutionary dead end." I figure the first real impetus for the later flood of practitioners of danse du ventre was the Paris exposition in 1889, since Bloom wasn't the only one who suddenly realized that there was money to be made in oriental dance. I think this was when oriental dancers began making appearances in the US in numbers. Of course, 1893 was the tipping point for the widespread appearance or the dance (or an approximation of it) in popular culture.

Regarding variety theater in Egypt, I am following Zeynip Celik and Leila Kinney in *Assemblage* 13 (1990), who briefly discuss the appearance of Western variety performers in Egypt at the times of the big Parisian expositions 1889 and 1900, but dang in, I can't find the theater book I am drawing on regarding other aspects of Egyptian (and Syrian) theater -- I'll see if I can locate it. I was surprised at the amount of Westen theater available in Egypt, that in some cases it was open to both Western colonials and native audiences, and that theater in Arabic language was thriving to the extent that it was. Cairo in the 1900's-1920's must have been an amazing place.

Point taken about the French communication being primarily with the Maghreb, though there were French in Egypt at the turn of the century, just not in numbers as colonists. There was also, to push things in another direction, a lot of visiting of Parisian nightspots by English tourists, which may have brought the notion of the danseuse du ventre as a potential star(let) to the English imagination.

I don't intend to deny Badi'a Masabni's agency in creating what we know as raqs sharqi today. I think it's very likely that without her, we all wouldn't be chatting on this forum in the here and now. But if there were elegantly clothed dancers of Eastern origin performing variations of Eastern dance for Western audiences *somewhere* in the world, I have to think that they had some effect in creating the medium in which Masabni thrived. And those dancers *were* in France. Did they conform to audience expectations in their costumes and presentation? Of course, as do all performers, and undoubtedly there was a lot of self-exoticizing going on. But I think they did have some agency in how they presented themselves, and in contrast to the USA, their dance did not immediately plummet to the lowest common denominator.

I really should get myself to France to do some archival research, but that is not going to happen for a while. Sigh. Anyway, Rocky, as always I love what you have to say and the ways your insights push me further along the path.


Joy in dance,

Andrea

Oh -- BTW my examples of Nejla Ates and Ozel Turkbas were only to point out that these dancers were "poster girls" (in Ates's case, literally) for the "exotic new dance" in the 1950's, not an endorsement of their influence or ability. I read articles in 1950's mainstream media that made a big deal of announcing that they were being imported for some theatrical event -- Fanny in Ates's case, and I think a production of Aida for Ozel.

And off topic completely, my introduction to the dance was kind of hippy-ish, so when I first saw Ozel's book, I remember being completely astounded by both her deep cleavage and her high heels. I'm still quite amazed, in fact. :)
 

Morocco

New member
Call it by its rightful name ...

Well, considering that I'm sorta the one who got out here & started digging the trenches in 1961 & I'm not ALL that old (my usual smartass remarks about the Ark notwithstanding!)

> I have the first edition of the same book, published a year earlier with a British publisher. Everything about it is the same as the one Aniseteph found online which I'm guessing is the same as your copy, which demonstrates there were no changes for different audiences, no later insertions by editors, etc.

EXACTLY!

> When you want a fun read, Morrow's book is a very entertaining and sympathetic look at the world of Parisian art students. (And his descriptions of two of Montmartre's most notorious nightclubs, Heaven and Hell, are a hoot.)

I KNOW - I first read it over 40 years ago, then forgot about it because at the time I was SO ticked off that it was in the context of/ about what was then considered a totally "immoral" & licentious "world".

I put it in the ranks of the sort of fantasy "harem of the sultans" semi-porn crap they sell a tourist bus stops in Turkey, that has been mentioned on med-dance a few times, but at least we have it.

The thing to remember here is: CONTEXT.

Have you ever read "Fanny Hill"??? (& I didn't really "get" the title till I was in Oz in 1998 & found out that a very *polite* word for derriere in the US is a very vulgar word for "the other bottom" there & in the UK!!)

Like Morrow's book, the language is VERY "polite" by our *current* standards, but it was out & out porn in Victorian times. (BTW: read it when I was a kid, so now you know what sort of brat I really was ... FWIW at the time, I thought it was the funniest thing I'd read to date ...)

I want to remind (or reveal as the case may be) folks that when I first started doing LIVE interview shows on TV (1951 - before videotape was invented!), I was warned by EVERY producer/ director/ host/ sound man NOT to dare say "belly" dance. Couldn't even say "Oh, my God!"

I would've been cut off the air right then & there if I had. *1961*

I remember very clealy in the late mid 1950s that Otto Preminger's film "The Moon is Blue" was almost prevented from being released at all because it contained the words *pregnant* & *virgin*!!!

Newpapers & proper folks used "in a family way" or "expecting".

When my mom was in school, if a married teacher was pregnant, she had to stop working so the children would not see that she was pregant! (Excuse me: "in a family way"/ "expecting" ...)

One MUST read everything in the context of when/ by whom/ with what agenda it was written.

> FYI, there is an article I wrote for The Gilded Serpent web site about Sol Bloom that addresses some myths and misconceptions about him. In his 1948 autobiography, he carefully does not take credit for translating "dense du ventre" and introducing the English version into underground American slang. He expressed a high regard for "danse du ventre" as real art and deplored the popular denigration into the "hootchie-cootchie." He himself apparently used "danse du ventre" all his life.

Again, *context*!

I have his autobio *&* there were several things I noticed - foremost that he almost never mentioned the horrendous & pervasive anti-semitism he had to deal with his entire life, since it WAS a fact of life.

(Check out the film "Gentleman's Agreement" that was considered very daring/ bold in the mid 1940s!)

In spite of all of it, he rose to the post of advisor to the President, but still had to keep his mouth shut about the ongoing Holocaust ... Reread that part.

He took care to be VERY VERY dscreet about his personal life & the ladies. NEVER forget that saying "belly" then was the equivalent of "c--ks----r" today. & notice what I just did here myself... :D

> This thread has established that "belly dance" originated as a term at least before 1900, was known in the States when the 1893 World's Exposition in Chicago opened, was also used in Cairo by the late 1890s but not in common use (probably because, as in the States, it was considered extremely vulgar)

Unfortunately, outside of our teeny demographic it still is, just not as much.

> and started coming out of its underground status into common use in the States by at least 1942. (Well, after all, it wasn't until 1939's "Gone With the Wind" that we heard "damn" used on the silver screen!)

See my comment above re "The Moon is Blue" & *pregnant*. Nowadays it seems SO ludicrous, but that was the situation. Our Puritan forefathers have a very long reach!

> It can't be denied that what we're now calling "American Cabaret" or "American Oriental" these days was simply and widely regarded as "belly dance" by most of the folks in the States, and even in the ethnic enclaves that brought raqs sharqi, oryantal danzi and tchefetelli to the States.

Um - NOT in the ethnic enclaves. They always used the names in their respective languages & never announced us as "belly" anything. I only heard it from/ in American venues until the late '60s, though it was occasionally used in newpaper ads by those few ethnic clubs that even thought to advertise in English-language papers.

> That some people would put so much stress on an old, inaccurate slang term does seem ludicrous and a distraction from more important aspects. I like the sound of "American raqs sharqi," but I doubt it will ever take off!

Please get your book out soon, Morocco. Your own findings and experience with the dance's early development in the States, at least, should be gathered together and put on record in at least one source we can refer to in the future. Thanks for stopping in on this thread, and please drop in more often!

The book isn't about that - though there is a bit here & there mostly to refute the tremendous amount of steer stool & myth that still abounds, despite so much evidence to the contrary.

It's about the real dances that I know from in-culture/ on-site extended experience. What's folk, what's fake, what's Oriental, what's the Secret of Life & the Juxtaposition of Irrelevancies in Outer Mongolia....

Mucho Smoocho,
Yer wisecracking
Aunt Rocky
 

Morocco

New member
Hi Rocky, good to see you here! I've been kicking myself for not joining this party sooner.

DITTO! MY STUFF IS IN CAPS, SO I CAN BREAK IN WHERE NEEDED ... (TILL I BETTER FIGURE OUT HOW POSTING TO *THIS* FORUM WORKS!)

> Just a couple of additions/explanations ...

The 1893 interviewer, interviewed the women in French, and attributed their fluency to a good French education -- in other words, s/he was consciously presenting them as educated, with all that entailed. S/he knew the situation in Algeria and was able to present the women in a way that emphasized their connection with the West in a positive light (fluency in language, some degree of Western cultural literacy, good (Westernized) manners, non-seductive purpose in dancing, etc.). This was in contrast to the NY Times coverage, in which the dancers were portrayed as incoherent, ignorant, tempestuous and lacking in self-control. The NY Times only reported that they had to testify through an interpreter. No mention that the language "interpreted" was French.

WE TEND TO FORGET NOWADAYS THAT SOME *CURRENTLY* RESPECTED PUBLICATIONS STARTED OFF AS SENSATIONALIST OR TOOLS OF THE "WHITE MAN'S BURDEN" TAKEOVER CAMPAIGN - LIKE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC & YES, THE NOW SOMEWHAT VENERABLE NY TIMES!

I AM STILL TOTALLY GROSSED OUT BY THE SORT OF OUTRIGHT RACIST CRAP THAT WAS PRINTED, ACCEPTED & GOTTEN AWAY WITH RE ME/NA PEOPLES IN THE THEN SO-CALLED "RESPECTABLE" NEWSPAPERS!!

GOT PLENTY OF IT HERE SOMEWHERE FROM THE NY PUBLIC LIBRARY'S MICOFICHE ARCHIVES FROM WHEN I WAS HELPING PAUL MONTY WITH HIS PH D RESEARCH IN THE EALY '80S

(KINDA TICKS ME OFF THAT THOUGH I''VE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR 47+ YEARS, IT TOOK A BOOK BY A NON-DANCER - "VEILS & DAGGERS" BY LINDA STEET - TO GET LISTENED TO WHEN SHE SAID THE VERY SAME THING I DID ... SEEMS TO ME THAT BEING IN THE REAL WORLD/ IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS DOESN'T COUNT FOR SQUAT, BUT WRITING ABOUT OTHERS' EXPERIENCES OR FROM THE OUTSIDE DOES ... VERY FRUSTRATING!!!)

There's evidence of Eastern dance in the US from 1876, but it seems to be an "evolutionary dead end."

WELL, SINCE IT WAS THEN PRESENTED AS ETHNIC DANCE, *WITHOUT* RESORTING TO A VERY VULGAR TRANSLATION OF A DISMISSIVE FRENCH INSULT - OVERTLY OR COVERTLY - IT DIDN'T ATTRACT THE NECESSARY SENSATIONALISM. NOT *UNTIL* THE 1893 USAGE OF THAT MISNOMER!

I figure the first real impetus for the later flood of practitioners of danse du ventre was the Paris exposition in 1889, since Bloom wasn't the only one who suddenly realized that there was money to be made in oriental dance. I think this was when oriental dancers began making appearances in the US in numbers. Of course, 1893 was the tipping point for the widespread appearance or the dance (or an approximation of it) in popular culture.

Regarding variety theater in Egypt, I am following Zeynip Celik and Leila Kinney in *Assemblage* 13 (1990), who briefly discuss the appearance of Western variety performers in Egypt at the times of the big Parisian expositions 1889 and 1900, but dang in, I can't find the theater book I am drawing on regarding other aspects of Egyptian (and Syrian) theater -- I'll see if I can locate it. I was surprised at the amount of Westen theater available in Egypt, that in some cases it was open to both Western colonials and native audiences, and that theater in Arabic language was thriving to the extent that it was. Cairo in the 1900's-1920's must have been an amazing place.

YEP. SO WAS THE CAIRO OF THE 1950S/70S INTO THE LATE 80S. IT'S NOT EVEN A SHADOW OF ITS FORMER SELF NOW, DANCEWISE. :protest:

Point taken about the French communication being primarily with the Maghreb, though there were French in Egypt at the turn of the century, just not in numbers as colonists. There was also, to push things in another direction, a lot of visiting of Parisian nightspots by English tourists, which may have brought the notion of the danseuse du ventre as a potential star(let) to the English imagination.

THERE WERE STILL NO CLUBS IN THE UK THAT HAD ORIENTAL DANCE THEN

I don't intend to deny Badi'a Masabni's agency in creating what we know as raqs sharqi today. I think it's very likely that without her, we all wouldn't be chatting on this forum in the here and now.

ACTUALLY, I ATTRIBUTE THAT TO DR PAUL MONTY, WHO "INVENTED" ME DANCE SEMINARS & DID MORE THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING TO SPREAD THIS DANCE OVER THE US & *WE* EXPORTED TEACHING IT TO GERMANY & THEN THE REST OF EUROPE.

CURRENT SEMINARS IN EGYPT ARE BECAUSE:
1) I BROUGHT MY FIRST TOUR GROUP TO MAHMOUD REDA FOR A CLASS & THEN ORGANIZED CLASSES FOR OTHER GROUPS I BROUGHT THERE

2) RAQIA HASSAN SAW *OUR* RAKKASAH & LIKED THE IDEA.

THE REST IS CURRENT HISTORY ...:D

IN 1972/73, WHEN I WAS FIRST IN GERMANY FOR A TV SPECIAL (MINE), THERE WAS NOT ONE RESTAURANT THAT FEATURED ME DANCE. IN THE UK, THERE WERE A FEW ETHNIC CLUBS. IN PARIS, THERE WERE A FEW BAR/ BROTHELS IN THE N AFRICAN NEIGHBORHOODS.

ALL THE PRE WWI "DANCERS" IN PARIS - INCLUDING OHANIAN, MATA HARI, LA BELLE OTERO & SOMEBODY NAMED (I THINK) YASMINA, WHO GAVE CURT SACHS A LINE OF TOTAL B.S. ABOUT HER BARE-BREASTED "WELCOMING DANCE OF THE SLAVE GIRLS" ... (GOTTA FIND THAT REFERENCE) WERE CONSIDERED "DEMIMONDAINES" - POLITE FOR HO!

THE LAST 3 DEFINITELY WERE.

But if there were elegantly clothed dancers of Eastern origin

AHEM! ELEGANTLY AS UNCLOTHED AS THEY COULD GET AWAY WITH. REALITY CHECK HERE! MATA HARI TOOK IT ALL OFF EXCEPT FOR HER METAL BREASTPLATES, 'CAUSE SHE WAS EMBARRASSED THAT HER BREASTS HAD "FALLEN" FROM NURSING HER CHILDREN.

performing variations of Eastern dance for Western audiences *somewhere* in the world, I have to think that they had some effect in creating the medium in which Masabni thrived. And those dancers *were* in France. Did they conform to audience expectations in their costumes and presentation? Of course, as do all performers, and undoubtedly there was a lot of self-exoticizing going on. But I think they did have some agency in how they presented themselves, and in contrast to the USA, their dance did not immediately plummet to the lowest common denominator.

MAUDE ALAN WAS AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING EXAMPLE, TO AN EXTENT - BUT EXCEPT FOR OHANIAN, THEY WERE NOT INTERESTED IN DANCE AS ART.

I really should get myself to France to do some archival research, but that is not going to happen for a while. Sigh. Anyway, Rocky, as always I love what you have to say and the ways your insights push me further along the path.

DITTO, MY DARLING ANDREA!!!

Oh -- BTW my examples of Nejla Ates and Ozel Turkbas were only to point out that these dancers were "poster girls" (in Ates's case, literally) for the "exotic new dance" in the 1950's, not an endorsement of their influence or ability. I read articles in 1950's mainstream media that made a big deal of announcing that they were being imported for some theatrical event -- Fanny in Ates's case, and I think a production of Aida for Ozel.

SOMEWHERE I HAVE AN ALBUM COVER WITH HER OLD BOOBS & NOSE. LIKED THE OLD NOSE BETTER.

THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO "IMPORT" OZEL - SHE WAS RIGHT HERE IN GOOD OLD QUEENS!!!

And off topic completely, my introduction to the dance was kind of hippy-ish, so when I first saw Ozel's book, I remember being completely astounded by both her deep cleavage and her high heels. I'm still quite amazed, in fact. :)

WELL, "DANCE"/ MOBILITY WASN'T REALLY A FACTOR, SO ...
Kisses,
Aunt Rocky

P.S. The Hokey Pokey IS what it's all about. Depends on which hokey you pokey ...
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Belly dance, etc.

Dear Gang,
Regardless, we do know that belly dance in the form of Raqs Sharghi and Oriental Tanzi was not in existence much before the time of Masabni. She and her peers created the dance, and it had some of the attributes of different cultures, but became what it was and is through the cultural filters of Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey. What a western audience expects when it thinks it is seeing "belly dance" is that particular product. They do not think of belly dance as a fusion, or a western dance at all. They think they are seeing a product of the Middle East or there abouts, regardless of whatever Orientalist fantasy they are harboring. Danse du Ventre and any references to "belly dance" before that meant something else entirely. It is only dancers and their families who sometimes think of belly dance in terms of fusions, etc. This is easily proved..... just ask 50 people who are not in any way attached to a dancer, "Whrre does belly dance come from?". They never say America. I am the terrible culprit Kharmine is talking about. Until Americans themselves start thinking of the dance as something American, I will stand by my premise that "belly dance" is the English term for Raqs Sharghi and Oriental Tanza..... because it IS. Say anything else to them, including the literal translation "Dance of the East", and they will not know what you are talking about. We can, by educating audiences every time we dance, eventually change this, MAYBE. But first we have to get their attention, and the words "belly dance" give them a clue as to what we are doing, because those words mean to them that they are seeing something that was not born and raised in America, but is from those mysterious countries in lands far away.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Morocco

New member
Dear Gang,
I will stand by my premise that "belly dance" is the English term for Raqs Sharghi and Oriental Tanza..... because it IS. Say anything else to them, including the literal translation "Dance of the East", and they will not know what you are talking about. We can, by educating audiences every time we dance, eventually change this, MAYBE. But first we have to get their attention, and the words "belly dance" give them a clue as to what we are doing, because those words mean to them that they are seeing something that was not born and raised in America, but is from those mysterious countries in lands far away.
Regards,
A'isha
As I've said innumerable times, get 'em into the church, THEN we can preach to 'em!

However, I lways use the correct terminology whenever speaking about thes dance form & subtly correct those who call to inquire.

The resulting increased curiosity level has gottern the majority of them into class ...

Aunt Rocky
 
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