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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Real Stuff

Fifi Abdo dancing. Surprised? She's not wearing sequins or a dress split up the thigh! You know what, she doesn't have to. This is the real thing, people - a folk song and dance, shared with friends, not that Hollywood bullshit.

Some food for thought:

While die-hard fans wax lyrical about the great Egyptian stars of the past, the better foreign dancers are bringing respectability to a profession most Egyptians view as one veil short of prostitution. "Ninety percent of Egyptians see belly dancing as shameful," says Essam Mounir, a 37-year-old agent who has taken on Russian dancers for lack of local talent. "Foreign women are educated, they are not maids or poor girls looking for rich husbands and they show up on time and love to dance," he says. "But as for feeling our music, not one of them really gets it [emphasis mine]."

Man, does that statement haunt me. I hope that I get it. I hope I do. I want to.

The eroticism of the dance itself didn't disturb Egyptians. What scandalized them instead was the shame of Muslim women performing unveiled (and often naked) before infidels. Inspired by Napoleon's 1798-1801 expedition, a flood of Western travelers arrived in Egypt in the early 19th century. So many dancers crossed the line into prostitution that in 1834 Mohammed Ali, Egypt's Ottoman ruler, exiled them from the capital to towns in Upper Egypt, where they became as much a tourist attraction as Pharoanic temples.

Didn't know that? Most people don't. I didn't. What a pity it still distorts the dance today. I want to change that.

"Ninety-five percent of my customers are foreign," says Ahmed Dia el Dine, the John Galliano of costume designers, waving a sheet of faxed orders from Australia in his atelier on Cairo's Mohammed Ali Street.

"It's true the style is no longer truly Oriental," he sighs, showing me an antique Turkish costume made from strings of rose-cut diamonds and an old piece of embroidery with the word "Allah" sewn in silver sequins. "Thirty years ago it took 35 meters [38.5 yards] of fabric just to cut the skirt for a dancer; it wasn't about naked thighs but the swirling of the cloth around the female body. The overseas customer just wants to show her flesh. I can design a costume that uses just two meters of fabric, but I struggle to avoid pornography."

I've thought about that, too. My costumes are quite modest compared to what's out there - people are oftentimes surprised.

They are also surprised at how wholesome it is. I love to dance for children especially because they make the best audience - they are not ashamed, they just gawk right at me and sometimes move with the beat. It's about enchantment. When we were children, we all got it.

UPDATED: Okay, this is for Dogscratcher, who needs to get those Ken Russel stereotypes out of his system! A very nice performance by a Colorado dance named Sadie.

As you can see, the dance is mostly about keeping the rest of the body still, not just what she is moving. It's difficult!

SECOND UPDATE: Okay, I think the men kissing Fifi's legs were play-acting but this struck some people as still pretty risque so here's Nagwa Fouad in a 50's film dancing at a wedding. I mean, it's all going to strike westerners as risque - we're not taught to move these parts of our bodies. But think about it - a ballerina lifting her leg and showing the underside of her thigh is pretty risque, yet it doesn't bother us, because we're used to it.

All dance is sensual, ultimately. Even when a woman is covered from head to toe, as in this Middle Eastern-Flamenco fusion:

My whole point here is, if anyone out there watching me dance ever yells, "Quit with the goochie! Take it off!" (as has happened to a few women I know), that person is dead meat!

Yeah, I'll take it off, all right! ;-)

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Blogger Martyne said...

Enjoyed your post although I am not a bellydancer myself, but I have a good friend who is. Visit me and click on Bellydanceclub. I am sure you girls will have a lot to talk about.

August 22, 2007 9:05 PM  
Blogger dogscratcher said...

"They are also surprised at how wholesome it is."

I have to admit, that isn't the way I envision it. Damn Ken Russell.

August 22, 2007 11:00 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Thanks for visiting, Martyne, I'll check it out!

Okay Dogscratcher, here you are - more what you're expecting, but still wholesome. ;-) (Very nice performance by Sadie - a lot of belly dancing on You Tube is simply awful.)

August 22, 2007 11:38 PM  
Anonymous 386sx said...

Enjoyed your post although I am not a bellydancer myself,

I'm not a bellydancer either. Just in case anybody thought I was. Well, I'm not. This is my "coming out" moment. Welcome to the club martyne. It's okay.

August 23, 2007 1:06 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I am so honored to be the one to share this huge moment with you, but maybe Martyne needs time, 386sx! But you and I know that we
1. admit that we are helpless in the face of our addiction, that our lives without shimmies had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a shimmy greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. We call upon our Higher Pow--

Aw, forget it. ;-)

August 23, 2007 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kristine, please say you are not starting to post a ten shimmies program? Are we going to have to refer to you as Kristine H? Excuse me if I do not use the initial to name the group. Just think about it and you will understand.


August 23, 2007 9:32 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Kristine, please say you are not starting to post a ten shimmies program?

I'm just there for the coffee.

Are we going to have to refer to you as Kristine H?

Well, his last name does begin with H... ;-) (I'm not crowding you, Barky, just couldn't resist that one! Hahahaha!)

Just think about it and you will understand.

My AOL isn't working and I (apparently) left my cell phone at home! Arrrggghh! Understand what?

"Himmies"? What? I don't get it.

August 23, 2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

I am clearly not terribly knowledgeable about belly dance, although I am learning a LOT about it
and I appreciate it as a true at form. (I plan to enjoy much more of this in my lifetime!)

Folk dances are affairs that take place in a community setting marking a celebration and usually include all members. This seems a little different to me.

The video has a woman in a rather provocative dress surrounded by inebriated men only. There is table dancing and one man even apes kissing her legs. This is folk dancing, but it is decidedly risque' - bordering on the indelicate.

It is hard for me to imagine any man that appreciates a woman's body
not being drawn into a sense of eroticism watching this.

I would like to see a example of what you feel is raunchy dance or Hollywood style.

Perhaps this is what you speak of - the dance performed by the green slave girl from Orion for Captain Pike in the Star Trek episode "The Cage" - a little belly dance, part Isadora Duncan...but Hollywood none the less.

August 23, 2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

Oh, and Mae West claims to have "invented" the shimmy. She apparently picked it up in the 20's while visiting the night clubs in Harlem, and then she turned it loose on the theater crowd and then onto Hollywood when she moved from the NY stage to Movies in the '30s.

Maybe she is partially to blame, but really, I think what you are objecting to may be the influence of Burlesque on popular belly dance - or vice versa.

August 23, 2007 12:49 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Yeah, I must admit that I never danced on a table while men kissed or pretended to kiss my legs! But this is just an example. (Also, women tend to not frequent nightclubs and cafes in Egypt anyway.) There are others, like Nagwa Fouad. You'll notice that, while she bares a thigh, she has her midrift covered. There are many styles (though now it's much more constricted in Egypt today).

Yes, when he learned that I was belly dancing, a relative asked if I danced like "the green woman in Star Trek!" But when he saw me practicing, he said, "That's very subtle, and graceful."

Much as I adore Mae West, she didn't invent the shimmy. There are a lot of people to blame for the burlesque vision of belly dance - and I'm of two minds here too, since vaudeville gave us Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin, etc.

Oh, and Barrrkyyy - "harem" means "forbidden," as in, men cannot enter. ;-) It's where women cook, and clean, and perform other daily tasks (presumably masturbation). :-D

The Persians had the eunuchs watch over the women in the harem as they cooked certain vegetables, to make sure that they remained sexually pure for the big man. I am not kidding! I am not kidding at all!

(Okay, Janine, I can't guess. "Excuse me if I do not use the initial to name the group. Just think about it and you will understand." I am thinking about it. "Hurries"? Himmies and herries? I can't figure it out!)

August 23, 2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous JanieBelle said...

Ooo. Can I play?

"Hi everybody. I'm JanieBelle M., and I'm a shimaholic."

August 23, 2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Welcome, JanieBelle M. I've known for a quite a while and was wondering when you'd finally come out. We understand how difficult it was for you to say that, and we feel your pain. It takes so much courage just to come here.

Now - shake it!

August 23, 2007 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I was not able to post anything earlier, the storms here in the Chicago area knocked out my connection.

To answer your question, Kristine, shorten Shimmiers Anonymous.


August 24, 2007 3:57 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Oh. I detect a little jealousy here, Janine? I'm not saying, just asking. ;-)

Take care down there in Chicagger.

August 24, 2007 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh? Right now, I don't get it? What jealousy? Just confused.


August 24, 2007 4:29 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Oh, sorry, bad joke - one of my more incomprehensible puns.

I was thinking sha!nonymous. As in, shaaa! Well, forget it.

It's Friday, and I'm stir crazy! (Can I plead PMS again, too?)

August 24, 2007 4:48 PM  
Blogger Martyne said...

I would love to shimmy but I simply do not have any wobbly girly bits. I am too slim. If you have just formed a desire to scratch my eyes out I will understand. I am more of a souk girl. Shopping rocks. Need you to explain something to me 386SX. What are you "coming out" from, and to?

August 25, 2007 8:14 AM  
Anonymous 386sx said...

martyne, I was just making it known for once and for all that I'm not a bellydancer. Everybody thought I was a bellydancer. Well, I'm not. And I'm okay with that. I'm not ahving an existential meltdown!!!

August 25, 2007 11:28 PM  
Blogger Martyne said...

Glad you are not in meltdown mode 386SX, and thanks for the reply. I would just like to reiterate that I am not a bellydancer but I have a good friend who is. All the best dear.

August 26, 2007 4:45 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...


Do not be ashamed of your inner bellydancer. You are not alone. You are not alone. Don’t deny it. I’ve been there. Think you can put one over on me?

Run away, go ahead, but you’ll be back! You’ll be back when the shimmy DTs hit – call me – I’ll sit up with you on the phone with some Hossam Ramzy playing in the background. ;-)

August 27, 2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger Martyne said...

Liked the quip about "DENIAL" kristine. Very good. And topical. My last comment does read like I am trying to kid myself but I promise you it is not denial, it is detruth. I do get turned on watching bellydancing but that is a matter probably best kept between me and my therapist.

August 28, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I do get turned on watching bellydancing but that is a matter probably best kept between me and my therapist.

Therapy usually is! ;-)

August 28, 2007 9:10 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Of course I am beholden to Stuart Smalley for the "Denial" quip. Stuart Smalley, who is going to be our next Senator from Minnesota!

Because he's good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like his bellydancing!

August 28, 2007 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought he was a wrestler. Oh dear, what if you combined belly dancing and wrestling?


August 29, 2007 1:38 AM  
Anonymous JanieBelle said...

Belly dancing + wrestling = NC17 rated jiggling jello commercials

I'm pretty good with that.

... a little jiggle in the wiggle when you...

J-E-L-L- oh my!

August 29, 2007 4:56 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I thought he was a wrestler.

Are you thinking of Jesse the Body?

Oh dear, what if you combined belly dancing and wrestling?

I think that’s flipping brilliant, Janine!

Actually, some years ago when Margo Abdo O’Dell was teaching a class, there was judo going on in the studio close to ours, and judo people make those weird yells, you know, like a rhinoceros caught in a revolving door – and Margo said, “Let’s invite the judo guys to dance with us!” I let out a hauwgh!, made a karate move, then added a shimmy, and the class burst out laughing.

Belly dancing + wrestling = NC17 rated jiggling jello commercials

Thank you, Janine! I'll get my NC-17 rating yet! (What is this blog, still rated G?)

August 29, 2007 9:54 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

G for Grrrrr! ;-)

August 29, 2007 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not mean Jesse. I thought Al was a wrestler while in school.

Humm... Was not try to bring the nauthy bits here but what the hell. All I was trying to do was add a little surreality. HA!


August 29, 2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Al was a wrestler in high school? I had no idea! Forgive my cluelessness!

You always add the perfect touch of surreality, Janine. The naughty bits are all JanieBelle's fault. (I should check what rating my blog is now... been awhile...)

August 29, 2007 11:20 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Some context.

I just checked again! And I'm PG-13 again! What up? I am going to wig!

And I have PMS, so I'm not responsible for what may happen to the earth's supply of chocolate.

August 29, 2007 11:25 AM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

I'll be driving through Baraboo WI again on the way back this Friday - any candy requests?

August 29, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Just yer sweet self - although if you want to cover yourself in chocolate that's fine with me!

Chocolate-covered potato chips are my fav, although I think the ones to get are in ND.

Keep it simple - no chocolate-covered iguana or anything else fancy. I'm a simple gal. ;-)

August 29, 2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

"Simple" means a chocolate-covered lizard in heat. Hint.

August 29, 2007 5:31 PM  
Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitor said...

I think I've just been turned into a confection.

August 29, 2007 6:13 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

What's that you say, Sweetness? You've been turned into a confeciton? Not jelly? Just wait.

August 29, 2007 11:01 PM  

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