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Little Egypt 1896

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Uploaded on Jan 8, 2012

'Fatima's Couchee-Couchee Dance' also known as 'Muscle Dance'
Thomas A. Edison / Black Maria Studio 1896 (Kinetographic Theater)
Director: James H. White
Camera: William Heise

This is the original Edison film (censored at 0:32) featuring the most scandalous hips of the 19th century. The censor tag was a concession to earning those pennies and avoiding refusal of distribution on the part of Kinetoscope house proprietors fearful of raids by the moral enforcement thugs of the day. Film historians consider this the first film to suffer so.

From the Midway of Chicago's Columbian Exposition to the Midway of Brooklyn's own Coney Island.

"Step right up! See Little Egypt and Pharaoh's harem of harlots bare it all live on the inside."
The legend and lore of Belly Dance in America most likely begins at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, the first World's Fair in the United States. The main attraction for fair visitors seems to have been the Midway Plaisance, a crowded boisterous main street with rides and a carnival atmosphere that led to the pristine 'White City' of beau-arts architecture and major attractions of serious exhibits.
This was also the fair at which Captain Paul Boyton of Coney Island's 'Sea Lion Park' fame had his start, bringing the idea for Coney Island's first major attraction 'Shoot-the-Chutes' back to New York with him http://tinyurl.com/7j9uhc6. George C. Tilyou, creator of the future Steeplechase Park also came away inspired, having seen a new ride designed and built by England's G.W.G. Ferris. Tilyou built his own scaled down version of the wheel on Coney the next year.
The Midway itself was filled with representations of cultures and countries from around the world. Among those small self contained 'cities' were a number of Middle Eastern representations including Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisian, Algeria, Turkey and others. But one had an entertainment that became the 'talk of the town', a show called "the Streets of Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun which featured snake charmers, camel rides, and the unfamiliar but attractive strains of exotic instruments.
It was upon the Midway stage before the entrance that performers did their thing in hopes of attracting customers to the foreign magic and exotic treasures within. One such performer was Farida Mahzar-Spyropoulos seen in the film here, a member of "The Algerian Dancers of Morocco". As men in turbans accompanied on instruments she and other girls danced a dance formally called Raks Sharki, a traditional dance not so traditional to a culture used to staid formal waltzes and prim propriety. While a number of dancers were usually present to entertain and entice it was Farida .a.k.a. Fatima who apparently shook it best. Here was a specimen of feminine pulchritude showing her bare arms, gyrating in a provocative fashion and probably smiling about it. Women were shocked into gasps of Victorian dismay and men were shocked into undivided attention, and probably smiling too.
Sol Bloom, entertainment director for the expo (and later a Tammany Congressman for New York) had the biggest smile of them all as lots of spectators parted with lots of coin to see more inside. Bloom was quite the impresario, barking ballyhoo and drawing crowds with introductions to watch them "shimmy and shake"! Known to some as "the Music Man" he claimed to have "improvised the melody on the piano at a press briefing in 1893 to introduce Little Egypt." The song most associated with danse du ventre (literally 'dance of the belly'), so named by Napoleon's men after seeing this strange entertainment in Egypt after invasion earlier in the century. Bloom never bothered to copyright his composition which he may have swiped from North African or European Orientalist musicians, inspiring later variations and rip-offs with as many different titles: From the Vaudeville inspired Hoochy Koochy to Hoolah! Hoolah!, Kutchi Kutchi, Dance of the Midway, Coochi-Coochi Polka, On the Streets of Cairo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A5yJ..., Kutchy Kutchy and probably the most famous of them, the Snake Charmer [a brief sample: http://tinyurl.com/3s4ev7m] He also claimed to have coined the term "belly dance", but this may have been the self promoting hyperbole of a carny. The word "coochi" was derived from the French "couche," past part of "coucher" which means "to lay down" (not sure what laying down has to do with this dance, though I suppose one could easily imagine)

01/08/12 - 50 ระบำหน้าท้อง

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