Thursday, July 07, 2005

Loving George Abdo

by Charlotte Desorgher

It's time to come out publicly; I'm a great George Abdo fan. There, I've said it.

But why on earth should I be worried about admitting to my enthusiasm? Well, George Abdo and his Flames of Araby orchestra are a bit of a byword for naff in serious raqs sharqicircles. Really, the name says it all - The Flames of Araby - it makes them sound like extras in films such as
The Road to Cairo or Carry On Cleopatra. And it's true, the music of George Abdo isn't for purists. The rhythms are pretty suspect at times and there is a definite mixing of influences from different countries without too much concern for ethnic accuracy. But for accessibility, for mood and for sheer danceability - for me George Abdo has no equal.

Lebanese-born George Abdo was a star performer in the Middle Eastern supper clubs and night clubs that thrived in the 1970s and '80s in the US. People of all nationalities would flock to clubs like the Averof to eat, drink, smoke, listen to live musicians and watch belly dancers, who would circulate through the audience dancing and collecting tips. Many stars and celebrities would come along in the days before Americans started to fear their Arab populations, Liza Minnelli was a particular fan.

The musicians were typically a diverse bunch of Armenians, Lebanese, Syrians, Turks, Greeks, Jewish Arabs and Egyptians and the music was similarly eclectic. Many of the musicians had arrived in the US when they were young or were second generation immigrants and had little or no experience of Middle Eastern music in the countries of its origin. More

Of Course It's About Sex

by Helen of England

How many times have we heard the tired old harem cliches about our dance and retorted with some variation of "this is NOT a dance of seduction."

It's the reflexive response of self-defence, because we want a quick retort to those who claim that we are one-step removed from being strippers and who say that dancing for the pleasure of men is frankly immoral and therefore we must be too. So we respond by promoting our dance as a legitimate artistic performance and downplay any suggestion that there might be a legitimate sexual aspect to it.

So how come when we watch any of the old classic Egyptian movies featuring stars such as Samia Gamal or Tahia Cariocca we see something that is very different indeed? You'll see pretty girls dancing around very definitely for the attention and pleasure of men, whose faces in turn show that they are certainly enjoying the spectacle at a fairly basic level.

Of course, one can say that Badia Masaabni wanted her dancers' presentations at the Casino Opera to conform to western tastes, the venue was modelled on the British Music Hall after all. But then again, going back to the source, you have to ask whether the original Ghawazee were sexy in their presentations? Well, it's just a wild guess, but if you're in a competitive entertainment market selling to a patron it's unlikely you're just appealing to his aesthetic appreciation of art!
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Friday, July 01, 2005

US Legends : Present Day

Posted by : Helen of England

My previous essay listed those Legends of American Bellydance whose star is already in place upon Bellydance Boulevard. However, that doesn't mean there aren't many dancers across America who, if not there already, are already assured of their induction in the Hall of Fame.

Again, this is just my selection and, if it seems overly California-centric, blame those who have informed my prejudices. I'm in London, so what do I know ?? For the full story and more on each dancer, click here:

Angelika Nemeth - California
Cassandra Shore - Illinois
John Compton - California
Dalia Carella - New York
Delilah - Washington state
Jillina - California
Eva Cernik - Colorado
Elizabeth "Artemis" Mourat - Maryland
Fahtiem - California
Laurel Victoria Grey - Washington DC
Mesmera - California
Shareen El Safy - California
Suhaila Salimpour - California
Suzanna Del Vecchio - Colorado
Tamalyn Dallal - Florida