Monday, July 26, 2010

Peace, love and shimmies

A few years ago I tapped into my inner hippie goddess (it's actually a lot closer to the surface than the glamorous Madame but don't tell anybody) and took belly dance classes.  Best thing I ever did.  I bought a bunch of exotic accessories, listened to groovy music and smelled like patchouli twice a week.  Oh and did some badass dancing.  Every lady person should do it.  Seriously.  It doesn't matter your dance ability or hip/waist ratio just go do it.  Ok you might need rhythm...  I can't remember why I stopped (it was money) but I'm going to do it again.  My coin belts are collecting dust and that is a travesty akin to punching my inner Earth Goddess in the balls!!!  I should be ashamed.

all from here

I really squee for these historical references - these dancers are from the Ouled Nail tribe of Algeria.  I could probably wikipedia it but, meh...  so could you.

Egyptian Ghawazee dancers from here
People commonly think that belly dancing is the old-timey version of strippers/prostitutes but that's not true.  There was no sex in the champagne room even then.  Mostly...  Do these ladies look like whores I ask you??!!  Salome ruined it for everyone!  Word on the street is that it was a social dance that had the added benefit of developing muscles to ease childbirth.  The cutest thing I've ever seen is a girl about 6 months pregnant taking class.  Awwww...  Until I saw her do a belly roll and it was the most freakishly disturbing thing I've ever witnessed because I thought an alien was going to burst from her belly!!  Wait, I mean it was pretty awesome... no judgment.  I can roll my belly both ways but it looks like a slightly mushy glamorous albino anaconda trying to swallow an entire goat and then regurgitating it.  Sexy.

 I forgot the source so he's going to give me the evil eye.

Even dudes can belly dance!  At least I think that last one is a dude...  

Famous turn-of-the-century "belly dancer" and slut Mata Hari.  I just like the headdress really...

Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra.  Ok so no belly dancing in that I don't think.
And then Middle Eastern culture came west and went Hollywood!!!  

But of course I like belly dance when it went mod - all retro and polyester and sequins and smarmy lounge feel.  There's something so wrong and so right about belly dancing in a bouffant.  

I'm pretty sure this is the title of a current rap album but it also made a particularly awesome (and  nasty-looking) belly dance cover.


 Weeeeeeee!!!  I'm in orange!!

all from here
She'll cut a bitch with those eyelashes.

source? Heaven.
There was a time when belly dance went glittertastic in the 70's and 80's in the Cabaret style.  Normally glittertastic really rocks my world but somehow this just ain't workin for me.  But I can't say that because if you are a belly dancer then you give mad props to every lady belly dancer regardless of skill, taste, stretch marks, muffin tops, age, tan or size.  It's part of the Code of Shimmies.  So as a matter of fact I ADORE this lady - FUCK YOU for thinking otherwise!!!   I once saw two glamazons in tube tops and broomstick skirts belly dance/mosh to a Korn song at a hafla and get a standing ovation.  True story.  (no seriously, it really happened.)

Zoe Jakes from here
But I prefer my style more like this.   Other than Cabaret the current trend is called American Tribal Style or Tribal Fusion.  It's gritty, little bit goth, largely improvisational and involves lots of eyeliner and accessories.  I love it.  

Fuck yeah feathers.

Zils or finger cymbals

both from here

 Rachel Brice from here

Um... serious girl crush.

Here's a video showing EXACTLY what Madame Sunday looks like dancing as demonstrated by Rachel Brice.  

A slightly more bootleg feel but equally badass.

Better go dust off my coin belts...


  1. Love it! Thank you for the post!

    Having been a wanna-be belly dancer (and for lack of better word, all other ethnic dances) and wanna-be frame drummer ... this post made my day.

    Thanks again.

  2. @A Seeker - thank you so much! My advice? DO IT! Never known anyone who hasn't loved it. I've also taken an Indian/bollywood style class and adored it as well. Please let me know how it turns out... now go out there and find you a drum circle and shimmy your ass off. ; )

  3. Have you seen this guy?

  4. That was the best belly dancing post I have read all week!

    Seriously, it was really funny.

  5. Years ago I went to an authentic middle eastern restaurant and smoked a hooka even though I don't normally smoke. It's nothing I could make a habit of, but you only live once right!?!

    Anyway, they had belly dancers there and they were hot!

    Before you travel all this way to kick my chauvanistic ass, know that I mean this literally! They gyrated at a much higher tempo than Rachel, and it was clearly a work out for them to "shimmy" for the 30 minutes that they danced for.

    The whole spectacle was awesome, and beautiful to behold! So were the dancers (the architect in me recognizes many forms of beauty).

    Also the hooka smoke made it a bit "spacey" as I recall.

  6. @Extremely Average The internet is overrun with belly dance blog posts so I'm glad you took the time to read mine.

    @Izzy Darlow Fortunately for you I won't have to kick your ass - all those shimmies are part of the Cabaret style. And yeah, that shit is a workout! I personally like the slower tribal style better just for aesthetic reasons - believe me it's a workout too! Glad you enjoyed yourself!

  7. @Kim I had not seen him before but don't know how I managed to live my life without him this long. Thanks for bringing me a little closer to heaven.

  8. What a great article! I loved loved loved the images. In fact, I so want to look like that tribal goth gypsy girl that I might have to take up belly dancing.

  9. It's so worth it just for the accessories! Have a great time if you decide to dance and thanks for commenting!

  10. Rachel Brice is a goddess! I always feel so inspired watching her videos! Another one for you to check out (one of my favorites) is Sera - check out this awesome video of her dancing with Djinn (incredibly cool band out of New York) -

  11. April - thanks so much for sharing! I love her poppin and lockin effect that she does. If she was a superhero the source of her power would be her deadly ponytail! Thanks for stopping by the Sauce!