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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Fatima's Coochee-Coochee Dance (1896):
A Film by Thomas Edison

 

by Marilee Nugent ('Venus')

 

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Table of Contents

 

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Introduction

The danse du ventre, French for "belly dance", was also known as the "coochee coochee dance," "Oriental dance" or the "muscle dance." In the wake of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, numerous women performed the highly erotic danse du ventre on the stage. Not infrequently, these performances were halted by the police.(1)

Fatima's Coochee-Coochee Dance, 1896, is one of the earliest existing (2) film records of an authentic Middle Eastern dance artist. To students and historians of Oriental dance, this film provides a brief glimpse of the Middle Eastern professional female solo dance at a point just before its evolution into the internationally recognized stage art, raqs sharqi, two to three decades later. Such an appreciation is an esoteric one, of interest and significance to a small group of contemporary Oriental dance enthusiasts. The film's more general importance lies in its reflection of, influence on, and contribution to the changing cultural values of late 19th century North America, mediated through the growing phenomenon of popular entertainment. In this regard, the content (belly dance performance) and the medium (motion picture) combined to become a powerful effector of social change.

Originally I intended to write on how focus on the erotic elements of danse du ventre, (coined by the French) or "belly dance," served to increase the popularity and notoriety of the foreign dance form while obscuring its cultural and artistic elements. During the course of my research I came to realize that this erotic dance art had an important impact on Western society precisely because of its sexual nature. Professional performers of this cultural dance style often feel compelled to downplay the sexual element in an attempt to de-marginalize it and re-present it as a "respectable" art form. Ironically, I realized that although this dance form is not merely erotic in nature, it is this aspect of the art that worries the boundaries of social convention, stirs up repressed unconscious material, and forces re-examination of existing notions of morality, propriety and artistic expression. These are trademarks of many Modernist artistic movements, although we must recognize that they may not be the conscious aims of the Oriental dance artist. It may be no coincidence that belly dance became popular in late Victorian Western culture at the precise moment of the invention of motion pictures.

Fatima

 

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The Columbia Exposition

Fatima's Dance was not an anomaly amongst the early film subjects; in fact, the Edison staff filmed many belly dancers. To understand the social context in which this film appeared, we must go back a few years before its creation to the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. This event has historical significance on a number of fronts:

  • It represented the spirit of the times
  • It served as the model for future amusement parks, travelling fairs and circuses
  • It introduced Middle Eastern dance to millions of North Americans.

As a side note, Edison had hoped to have his latest invention, the motion picture kinetoscope, on public display at the fair but was unable to resolve technical difficulties in time.

In commemoration of the anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World, the fair would celebrate 400 years of progress in technology, industry, agriculture and the arts. It was a grand-scale example of the modernist infatuations with "progress", "reason" and technological "advancement." In addition to the main section of the fair, comprised of buildings housing technological and (Western) artistic displays, a separate area called the "Midway Plaisance" was set aside for "ethnological exhibits" and amusements. Here licenses were granted to concessionaires offering foreign cuisine, displays and entertainment. "It was foreseen that this area would help offset the massive costs of the event and would "popularize" the fair, drawing more of the working class."(3) The Midway became the most popular feature of the fair. Scientific and instructive displays were foregone in favour of novelty and pleasure:

Rain or shine, hot or cold, day or night, there is one place at the Fair that is always crowded. That is Midway Plaisance. There never has been seen such a mosaic, and there may never be again.... The Plaisance is just a mile in length, and about an eighth of a mile in width. Along this mile there are (or were) representatives of 48 nations, including South Sea Islanders, Javanese, Sudanese, Chinese, Laplanders, Japanese, Dahomeyans, Moors, Arabians, Persian, Bedouins, Turks, and nearly all the Europeans. (4)

 

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Orientalism

It is important here to understand the unique Western perspective on the Orient come to be known as Orientalism. Simply put, this is Western culture's idea or mental construct of the Orient, as distinct from the reality of the Orient. This perception has a centuries-old history through art, literature and colonial occupation, and functions chiefly as a means for defining Western culture by comparing it to what it is not (or, I will say, to what it likes to think it is not). Now we see clearly why the ethnological element of the fair was intrinsic to its overall purpose. The celebration of Western progress is incomplete without some standard of measure, in this case, its comparison to more "primitive" cultures. (Such Arabic contributions to science as the invention of surgery, and developments in astronomy and algebra, would seem to have been forgotten.) Inhabitants of the fair's "human zoo" were described as "heathen," "uncivilized," "lazy," "quaint," "savage-looking," "primitive," and "immoral," the antitheses to implied Western values of industry, restraint, reason, cultivation, decorum, piety and "decency". The irony and hypocrisy inherent in these imagined distinctions are obvious. As Edward Said writes, "Orientalism... has less to do with the Orient than it does with 'our' world."

Additionally, the imaginative examination of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged, first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then according to a battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projections. (5)

Similarly, Karin Van Nieuwkerk writes in "A Trade Like Any Other" — Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt, that " 'The East' as a whole was viewed as the negative mirror image of 'the West'." (6) Such analyses about the phenomenon of Orientalism relate closely to the psychoanalytic descriptions of the functions of repression, rejection of the "shadow" and projection. As I see it, Orientalism represents a culturally institutionalized psychic defense mechanism which functions by making an entire other culture or group of cultures into the bearer's of the first culture's repressed impulses (projection). (7) The double irony here is, of course, that Oriental cultures also demand repression of natural impulses and likewise see Western culture as being morally depraved.

Which brings us back to the belly dancer. (8) Although music and dance are essential expressions of joy in Egyptian culture and professional entertainers are indispensable for important social occasions (births, engagements, weddings), dancers are nevertheless regarded with ambivalence, considered marginal and shameful. (9) Their low status and shame stem from a number of social factors, the chief one being that they earn their living by displaying themselves publicly. In Islamic culture it is taboo for strange males (anyone unrelated by blood or marriage) to view the women of a respectable family. Consequently, in an Islamic household, the women's quarters are haram, or "forbidden". Due in part to the mystique surrounding this seclusion, coupled with Orientalist fantasies, French colonialist painters and writers of the 18th and 19th centuries became fascinated with the enigma of the Oriental woman, a character largely of their own creation, which they appropriated and re-presented to Western culture.

Public dancers were the only Egyptian women that European travelers had access to, although the ruler Muhammad Ali tried to limit their access in order to promote a more positive image of Egypt and to prevent these Islamic women from being defiled by the eyes of infidels. Public women were banished from the capital, but travelers merely relocated, the infamous dancing girl being Egypt's chief tourist attraction.

The Western expansion in the nineteenth century nourished the cult of otherness, particularly of the exotic and bizarre other. Eroticism was one of the main aspects of the exotic "Orient." Travelers were thus fascinated by the "licentious" female dancers, who provided them with a means to express the differentness and sensuality of the East. (10)

This Western audience had definite influence on Oriental dance performance. Travelers' accounts state that Europeans asked for the dancers to perform naked. At times, these requests were refused but other dancers gave in reluctantly. Banishment from their main markets and heavy taxation made it difficult for public women to survive. Though not all dancers were necessarily prostitutes, the distinctions began to blur.

 

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The Midway Plaisance

By the time Egyptian and other Middle Eastern dancers arrived at the Chicago World's Fair, they were greeted by an audience raised on almost two centuries of Orientalist imagery, pornographic novels, and Colonialist policy. Perceptions of the dances performed were coloured not only by Orientalist expectations but also by Victorian prudishness and Western aesthetics. The following observations of fairgoers reveal the confrontation between expectation and reality:

Writers of Oriental stories have created the impression among the uninformed that houris of the East are sylph-like and beautiful; but close contact reveals them as... destitute of animation, formless as badly-stuffed animals, as homely as owls, and graceless as stall-fed bovines.... (T)heir abdominal muscles were the only portions of anatomy or mind which showed any cultivation, while these, to their shame, were displayed to serve the basest uses. (11)

It is not dancing. It is walking about the stage to alleged music with peculiar swaying and jerking of the body, such as tends to excite passion. (12)

Their kinky hair, dirty-butter complexions, bad features, stained teeth and tendency to embonpoint [a genteel expression for plumpness] are dreadfully disillusioning.... (13)

Not everyone shared these deprecating views, however. Sol Bloom, manager of the entire Midway Plaisance, had his own exhibit, the Algerian and Tunisian village which he first saw at the Paris Exposition of 1889 and contracted on the spot. Bloom writes admiringly of the Algerian performers:

I never even got tired of my own Algerian Village.... I spent nearly all my time with the people of whom I had grown so fond and whose performances I so greatly admired. What artists they were! Particularly the ballet troupe, with their great specialty, the danse du ventre. People still talk about it.... As a matter of strict fact, the danse du ventre, while sensuous and exciting, was a masterpiece of rhythm and beauty; it was choreographic perfection, and it was so recognized by even the most untutored spectators. Whatever they had hoped to see, they were enchanted by the entertainment actually placed before them. (14)

Bloom's assessment may have been rare — being in the entertainment business himself he probably had a keener eye and more open mind. Whether the individual spectator found the dancers worthy of praise or censure, crowds poured into the Midway and the Oriental theatres were packed. This popularity drew the attention of vice hunters. As Donna Carlton writes in Looking for Little Egypt:

Their efforts attracted attention in the newspapers all over the country, and soon young men were arriving eager to see more than 'steam engines and electric lights' at the exposition. And now, since "all attractions" were featuring that dance, they could take their choice of a score or more dancers. (15)

Fatima

Other concessionaires began hiring dancers to boost attendance at their own exhibits. Some of these dancers were authentic while others were clearly European impostors, appealing to the basest expectations. Bloom describes the interplay between audience expectation and exploitation of same by presenters:

When the public learned that the literal translation was "belly dance" they delightedly concluded that it must be salacious and immoral. The crowds poured in. I had a gold mine.... Almost at once this dance was imitated in amusement parks all over the country. As it became debased and vulgarized it began to acquire the reputation that survives today-the reputation of a crude, suggestive dance known as the 'Hootchy-Kootchy.' (16)

The Persian Palace introduced a bastardized version featuring performances by Parisian dance hall girls in pseudo-Oriental costumes dancing to popular Western tunes of the day for all-male audiences. Interestingly, when the fair managers were finally persuaded to mount an investigation into the "indecency" of the Midway dancers, the Persian theatre with its ersatz bellydancers, was the only one ordered to stop its performances. The theatre managers obtained a court injunction, however, and the shows continued. Although these popular shows added to the perception of danse du ventre as immoral spectacle, the lack of authenticity did not go unnoticed:

You will note at once the difference between this hall of the Persian Terpischore and those to the other Oriental villages. Women do not come here; or, if they do, it is only by accident, and their modesty soon compels them to beat a hasty retreat. There are many dances and many dancers in the Midway Plaisance, and they range in character and art from the pleasantly picturesque to the brutally vulgar.... But it has remained for the black-eyed odalisques who dance in the Persian palace to present a number of performances which should not be permitted in any place of public entertainment. (17)

It should be noted that although the danse du ventre is known universally and performed throughout disparate regions of the Middle East it should be considered in a separate category from the folkloric regional dances. Contemporary dance enthusiasts distinguish between raqs sharqi (dance of the East, belly dance) which is performed in nightclubs throughout the Middle East but is based in Egypt, having evolved there from the female solo dance, baladi. The other category is raqs sha'abi (folkloric dances) which are regionally distinct, less erotic, less choreographed, more repetitive, use more modest costume and involve movements and themes reflecting daily life. Although dancers from many countries perform a variety of styles on the Midway, typical of the Western attitude towards Eastern culture, these were lumped together collectively as "the dancing girls of the Midway Plaisance".

This tendency makes it difficult to sort out the commentary and to determine which dancers were vilified or praised. Overall, it seems that the Algerian Village's handkerchief dance was accorded the best reviews while A Street in Cairo's Ghawazi seldom received praise for their skills. The "wanton" appearance of the Ghawazi revolted some people, particularly women. (18)

From all this confusion we can make the assumption that individual reactions to the dance were determined by many factors: personal taste, degree of sexual inhibition/broadmindedness, and the particular dance performances or artists viewed. Did a typical fair goer see more than one dance performance? Where they able to make distinctions as to style, authenticity, and skill level? What personal investments were being made and how did they influence the way a performance was seen or which type of show was sought out?

As a result of the popularity gained by the danse du ventre through its showcasing at the world's fair, many dancers, both authentic and imitation, entered the Vaudeville and burlesque circuits, joined travelling fairs and circuses, and entertained at private functions. An item in the New York Clipper, 4 April 1896, cites Fatima as a well-known dancer in the New York area. Another article (New York Herald, 24 August 1894 (19)) claims she performed on the Midway Plaisance, while an earlier report of a policeman stopping the performance in a "Street in Cairo" mentions a dancer named Fatma. (20) Does this suggest that the Fatima of Edison's film is the same person as the Fatma who performed at the Chicago Fair? It is impossible to be certain. Promoters often used "Midway" references as a marketing strategy.

 

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Thomas Edison

Although the organizers of the Great Fair may have been motivated by such high-minded social ideals as celebrating "human industry and skill" and of "enjoying increased acquaintance... with other peoples and [promoting] their better knowledge of Americans," (21) the event proved that there were fortunes to be made in the new leisure and entertainment industries popping up as a result of the changing economic structure made possible by industrialisation. Thomas Edison had already profited from this trend with the invention and marketing of the phonograph as an amusement novelty. After the development of photography, he and others laboured to develop a means of creating moving pictures in order "...to do for the eye what the phonograph did for the Ear." (22)

His first success in motion picture exhibition came in the form of the kinetoscope. This peephole machine was the precursor to film projection (a later and more complicated development due to the problem of producing enlarged images in focus). First public exhibition of the kinetoscope took place in May 1893 at the Brooklyn Institute for Arts and Sciences. Following an introductory lecture, "over 400 people lined up to take turns squinting into the peep-hole machine-a process that took several hours." (23) The first kinetoscope films were soundless, (a later apparatus, the kinetophone, tried to combine the kinetoscope with the phonograph, with limited commercial success).

[Note from Shira: The photo at the right shows a row of kinetoscopes. Click on it to see more detail.]

The first "kinetoscope parlour" was opened in 1894 in New York City at 1155 Broadway and housed 10 machines. Patrons purchased 1 ticket for 5 cents or 5 for a quarter. Each machine showed a different film of about thirty seconds in duration. The titles were displayed on the machine. When a patron made her selection, attendants took her ticket and started the machine (later models were coin-operated). The viewer would bend over the machine and peer into the peephole. The first day of the New York parlour grossed $155.70 from the ten machines-at 5 cents a pop, that's 3,114 viewings!

Kinetoscope

Between 1894 and 1896, 159 short films were produced for commercial distribution (24). Of these, roughly thirty-seven (about twenty-five percent) were dance subjects, eight being Middle Eastern dance. These figures are derived from information collected by researchers from surviving film catalogues (25) and may not be complete — the taboo nature of the danse du ventre, based on real or projected licentiousness would seem to account for it remaining partially obscured from mainstream consumption. In his Filmography of Edison motion pictures, Charles Musser states that many more belly dance films were produced that did not appear in the catalogues:

". . .the Edison staff often filmed coochee coochee dancers. Significantly, few of these films were ever listed in Edison catalogues — and then only long after their production. This suggests that a body of Edison films were circulated more or less clandestinely." (26)

Kinetoscope

In Edison's Kinetoscope and Its Films - A History to 1896. Ray Phillips presents an excerpt of a letter that shows that exhibitors catering to "particular tastes" could obtain subjects not advertised openly:

". . .a letter [from an Edison film distributor] of 6 May 1896 to W D Standifer of Butte, MT, [to] a Kinetoscope peep-show exhibitor who was looking for something arranged for the taste of the copper town: "We are confident that the Dolorita 'Passion Dance' would be as exciting as you desire. In fact, we will not show it in our parlour. You speak of the class of trade which want something of this character. We think this will certainly answer your purposes. A man in Buffalo has one of these films and informs us that he frequently has forty or fifty men waiting in line to see it." (27)

[Note from Shira: The image at the right is from a Disney cartoon titled A Good Time for a Dime. It features Donald Duck watching a kinetoscope clip of Daisy Duck doing the dance of the seven veils.]

Good Time

Phillips goes on to explain that, "Dolorita's dance consisted of an Americanised version of the "Ouled Nail" [Algerian] Girl's dance from North Africa.... this picture held the box office record of the slot-machines of the Kinetoscope parlour on the boardwalk at Atlantic City," (28) until authorities noticed the line-ups, investigated and subsequently demanded the film no longer be shown. While I do not want to make the inaccurate proclamation, as many try to, that belly dance is not erotic or sexual, it is significant that the performers who received the most censure were not authentic Middle Eastern dancers but American impostors exaggerating the sexual element to satisfy Western market expectations.

Edison and his employees were fond of Vaudeville entertainment. The Edison name attracted many of the top stars of the day to his studio for filming, including Eugene Sandow the famous strong man, stage and opera stars, and the likes of Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. Violent film subjects (cock fights, barroom brawls, gun shooting and fencing displays) were also very popular and Edison generated most of his film income from prize fights, which were illegal as live events but somehow freed from prosecution through the virtual nature of film. This phenomenon had its effect on other subject matter as well. Musser proposes that the "absence of presence" offered by film gave protection from social disapprobation and state censorship. As a result, attitudes gradually changed as to what was considered acceptable public entertainment:

Police were constantly interfering with performances of the danse du ventre... these women were often arrested or allowed to continue only if their dress and movements were laughably restrained. On film, such performances posed far fewer problems.... Performances were more readily accepted on film due to the absence of presence, which then made it increasingly difficult not to accept the performance itself-on stage... the powers of photographic mediation took the "curse of presence" off many types of amusements when shown via motion pictures. (29)

Phillips mentions that he has not found a listing for the Fatima film (30) which may suggest, therefore, that it was considered in the same category as the Dolorita film. A censored version of Fatima's dance exists on the same reel — white lines all but obscure her chest and pelvis, presumably reducing the threat of temptation.

Exhibitors could determine which version they would offer. We begin to get a picture of the dynamic interaction between this transported ethnic dance form and the culture into which it was transplanted and re-presented. Promoters of live belly dance performances, and presumably filmed ones as well, advertised the entertainers variously as ethnic dance artists or exotic temptresses depending on the market response desired.

Promise of the "exotic" and "forbidden" appealed to the sexually frustrated and voyeuristic while declarations of anthropologic and spiritual legitimacy attempted to deflect censorship.

Censored

 

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Victorian Voyeurism

Whatever the local attitudes of religious and secular authorities, belly dance, along with many other types of popular entertainment, became more accessible to the average citizen through the medium of the Edison kinetoscope. In mainstream entertainment trends, we see that increased accessibility is usually accompanied by tacit acceptability. Clearly there was an interest in these film subjects, or it would not have been profitable to produce them. While European filmmakers focused on more conservative subjects, Edison and staff recognized early on the market potential of sex and violence.

We would be mistaken if we concluded that these films were of interest only to men. A New York Times item of 3 December 1893, on a performance at the fair proves that Victorian women also took an interest in the danse du ventre:

"Cairo Streets" Performance Stopped by Police Inspector Williams.... A number of ladies, most of whom were thirty years and upward and evidently from very respectable families, were there. They left the place as soon as they could after Inspector Williams declared himself. They blushed and looked frightened....

Clearly, women were interested but feared the social repercussions of being "caught" viewing these performances. Musser points out another new social trend resulting from film presentation of belly dance and other "taboo" subjects:

Female voyeurism was unexpectedly mobilized, within a socially acceptable framework.... They gained access, however limited, to the male homosocial world from which they had been either excluded or kept at the periphery. Motion pictures thus contributed to the breakdown of two discreet and complimentary realms — that of rugged masculinity and that of feminine domesticity — by pulling the veil from the former and exposing it to the latter. (31)

So just how racy was Fatima's dance? Could anything live up to the following promise?

This way for the Streets of Cairo! One hundred and fifty Oriental beauties! The warmest spectacle on earth! See Her dance the Hootchy-Kootchy! Anywhere else but in the ocean breezes of Coney Island she would be consumed by her own fire! (32)

Ibrahim Farrah re-released the Fatima clip in his video: Rare Glimpses. (33) His observation is that her dancing seems innocent by today's standards. Fatima is clearly an authentic Oriental dancer. She does not wear a corset — wearing one would make bellydancing impossible — and her hip, pelvic and shoulder isolations have the practiced fluidity of one who has done it all her life. Although the origin of the puffed sleeves baffle me, (perhaps an adaptation of Victorian chic?) and the skirt design, shoes, stockings and knickers are characteristic of the era, certain costume elements are timeless features of the belly dance.

The placement of the skirt at the hips and the bust hugging vest visually separate upper and lower body in order to make the isolations more visible. The torso, though covered, is highlighted with form-fitting, flesh-coloured fabric. Ornamentation with coins accentuates movement and reflects the itinerant nature of public dancers who wear their entire wealth. Though limited in number, (the clip is too short to represent her full repertoire) Fatima's movements are indistinguishable from those fundamental to the dance that persists into this century.

Whether or not her dancing is racy must surely be in the eye of the beholder. The unrestrained motions of shoulders, breasts, hips and abdomen are in direct contravention of Victorian notions of feminine decorum, modesty and restraint. Fatima's spins cause her skirt to fly up so that we see her lower legs and the bottoms of her knickers. However, she makes no lewd gestures or expressions, only smiling slightly.

Fatima

The brief insights into Victorian perceptions of the danse du ventre afforded by commentaries of the time show us that the response to the foreign dance invasion was far from objective or disinterested. We have seen that where the reality of the performance did not live up to Orientalist expectations it was often altered to do so. While in its native culture it is regarded more often as an expression of joy, Western audiences, both admiring and disparaging alike, preferred to see it as sexual titillation. This perspective results from the assumption that insofar as Oriental dance differed from Western aesthetics concerning feminine behaviour, dress and physical expression, it must therefore represent the opposite of Western cultural ideals.

Characterizing the danse du ventre as primitive, wild, unrestrained, or abandoned represents an inaccurate and incomplete, though amazingly persistent assessment. Such an allure remains today and is often the source of attraction for contemporary Western women engaging in the dance. Thus belly dance represents, for the Western psyche, a release from the constraints of Western morality. This attitude is illustrated in the sideshow advertisements, in the vice-hunters fears and in the newspaper headlines. People are quick to condemn but can't resist a scandal! Yes, it is a sexy dance, yes, it displays the female body in movements not traditionally acceptable to Western culture. But additionally it represents a physical discipline with its own structure and rules which requires years of study and effort to master.

This point seems largely to have been lost on Victorian America, with a few possible exceptions like Sol Bloom. Nevertheless, I believe that Fatima's dance, and the filmed performances of her contemporary entertainers of all theatrical disciplines, played the role of artists in stimulating social change through re-evaluation of social mores. The medium of film further catalyzed these changes by re-framing popular entertainment in a manner that made it more socially acceptable while enabling comparison amongst a diverse range of styles and physical disciplines. At the same time that viewers were challenging their inhibitions, they couldn't help but gain an education and wider appreciation of the scope of the entertainment industry and the unique talents of its stars. At a time when Western society was possibly at its most self-aggrandising stage, Edison's little amusements brought us back down a basic characteristic of human nature: the more we deny it, the more sex sells.

 

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End Notes

  1. "New Danse du Ventre," New York Herald, 14 April, 1894, p. 10. Quoted in: Musser, Charles, Edison Motion Pictures, 1890 - 1900 An Annotated Filmography, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), pp. 131-132.
  2. Other films are: #134 Princess Ali (1895), #239 Turkish Harem (1896), and fragments of #241 Streets of Cairo (1896). Films that did not survive include: #69 Danse du Ventre (1894), #92 Oriental Dance (1894), #153 Dolorita Passion Dance (1896).
  3. Carlton, Donna, Looking for Little Egypt, (Bloomington, Indiana: IDD Books, 1994), p. 11.
  4. Truman, Major Ben C., Davis, G. R., et al, History of the World's Fair, (Toronto, ON: C. R. Parish & Co.: 1893), p. 549.
  5. Said, Edward, Orientalism, (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1979), pp. 12, 9.
  6. Van Nieuwkerk, Karin, "A Trade Like Any Other" - Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt, (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995), p. 21.
  7. Obvious and extreme examples of this phenomenon is White supremicism and genocide which seek to annihilate the Other in order for a group to rid itself of its conflict.
  8. I will use Egyptian professional dancers as epitomes of danse du ventre performers since they were the ones most written about and sought after by travelers. Their more erotic style is different from the "quaint" folkloric styles of various parts of the Middle East. In this century, Egypt persists as the centre for bellydance and entertainment in the Arab world.
  9. For a more detailed analysis, see Van Nieuwkerk.
  10. Van Nieuwkerk, p. 22.
  11. Buel, J. W., The Magic City, (St. Louis, MO: Historical Publishing Co., 1894). Quoted in: Carlton., p. 46.
  12. Kellogg, C. W., "The Great Fair", Savannah Times, 10 Aug 1893. Quoted in Carlton, p. 47.
  13. The Illustrated American. Quoted in Carlton, p. 47.
  14. Bloom, Sol, The Autobiography of Sol Bloom, (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1948), pp. 134-135.
  15. Carlton, p. 51.
  16. Bloom, pp. 134-135.
  17. Carlton, p. 23.
  18. Carlton, p. 46.
  19. Both quoted in: Musser, Charles, Edison Motion Pictures, 1890 - 1900 An Annotated Filmography, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), pp. 220-221.
  20. New York Times, 3 December 1893, p. 3.
  21. Truman, et al, p. 29.
  22. Edison, Thomas A., The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, (New York, NY: Philosophical Library, 1948), p. 64.
  23. Musser, Charles, Thomas Edison and His Kinetographic Motion Pictures, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995), p. 15.
  24. The earliest films were recorded in the first motion picture studio, designed by Edison and situated in West Orange, New Jersey. The roof the studio opened to admit the sun and could be rotated on tracks to follow the changing daylight. Because of its resemblance to police wagons of the time, it was dubbed the Black Maria, the nickname given to those vehicles.
  25. Musser, Charles, Edison Motion Pictures, 1890 - 1900 An Annotated Filmography, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), pp. 131-132.
  26. Ibid., p. 132.
  27. Phillips, Ray, Edison's Kinetoscope and Its Films - A History to 1896, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997), pp. 139-140.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Musser, Charles, Edison Motion Pictures, 1890 - 1900 An Annotated Filmography, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997), pp. 36-37.
  30. Phillips, p. 137.
  31. Musser, p. 36.
  32. Carlton, p. 55.
  33. Ibrahim Farrah presents: Rare Glimpses, Dances from the Middle East Vol. 1.

 

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About the Author

A professional bellydancer for almost 30 years, Marilee Nugent ('Venus') developed and operated a Middle Eastern dance instructional and performance business, Venus Bellydance, in Vancouver for 20 years.

She received a B.A. in Art & Culture Studies and a B.Sc. in Kinesiology from Simon Fraser University in 2004, 2005 respectively. Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in motor control at the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University.

Her current research uses belly dance movements to study hierarchical control in complex voluntary trunk movements. Marilee/Venus has just had her first research article accepted for publication on a study which used bellydance vertical hip figure 8s to show very selective control of different compartments of lumbar back muscles: "Independent Activation in Adjacent Lumbar Extensor Muscle Compartments", Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology.

Venus

 

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