Regroup, Recap, and a Spring Break 2019

Do you ever have that moment when you bite off a little more than you can chew?   Well, due to a variety of things I’ve fallen incredibly behind. I’m a feeling a little like that frog that is jumping from lily pad to lily pad. Or in my case, from project to project?

In March, I launched a series of posts on belly dance history to celebrate women’s history month. I shared this series on my FaceBook wall and it went pretty well.  It ran a little behind, but I finished in early April, only a few days late.  Many people enjoyed this series, but as it neared the end of the series, many people asked me to move it over here so the content is more searchable and shareable.

Sharing the content on this blog sounded like a really great thing!  So without taking something off my plate, I said “SURE!”  Well, the hard truth is that it takes a lot more time to put up a blog post than it does to whip up a social media post.  I did get as far as day 16, but other time-sensitive business projects were more pressing.

Two Blog Series?

So the big issue was that I had made a promise to start a blog series without carefully thinking about the amount of time putting these blog posts would take. It wasn’t until after I jumped right in when I found myself realizing that I had lost my way.  I simply used up all the extra bandwidth in my work schedule.

I also inadvertently interrupted the flow of the posts about the creation of this gold costume. Several people were following this costume design series and were confused by my sudden change in direction!

The Gold Goddess costume was finished in March has been seen at several restaurants in San Francisco and beyond.  I’m looking forward to planning a formal photoshoot to get photographs on Shalimar.

Catch a clip of Sara and her troupe Neshee Dolu at a recent halfa

Writing Projects

This history blog was also threatening to derail my work with my co-authors Sara Shrapnell and photographer Alisha Westerfeld on our next release, Pose.  I realized that I had quickly dashed off my Belly Dance History posts on FaceBook. Each post needed either a good edit or even a full rewrite. In addition, the blog images all needed to be formatted and resized. All that “writing/blogging” time was eating away at the time I had already committed to the Pose Book!

The truth is, I can only write and wordsmith for several prime hours a day. The new blog series was threatening to derail our book schedule!  After three posts, I found myself abandoning the new project in order to spend quality time on the book in progress.

Sewing Projects

In the world of self-employment, the key to economic success is to develop multiple streams of income.  For me, that means devoting time every day to progressing my sewing and design projects.  Over the past two months, I’ve worked on three bedlah sets that needed me to put hours in at the sewing table.

Spring is the start of the belly dance season and there are lots of costumes that need adjustments, refurbishments, and redesigns. Before the end of April, I need to finish off two other smaller projects as well.  All-in-all, it’s quite a bit of work on the agenda.  I’m feeling a bit of pressure because I “stole” some time away from sewing at the beginning of the month for the blog.

Meanwhile, over on Social Media

For the month of April, I’m sharing Orientalist images and discussing this cultural phenomenon by sharing paintings, illustrations, and photographs. Each day, I’m picking an artist, subject or theme and sharing it on Facebook. Although these are short little posts, they contain a lot of information about Orientalism and the 19th century.  While the days are quite aligned I’m planning on rolling through with this series into May to get a full 30 posts completed.

Moving Forward – Resting, Regrouping & Refocusing

I really need this time to play catch up on my other outstanding projects and to make a better plan for the upcoming quarter.  It’s time to give the sewing studio a big deep clean, touch base with all of my design customers, and basically, finish up outstanding time-sensitive projects.   When I return in May, I will resume the Golden Goddess Costume Design project first, and then I will press onward with a couple of long history posts until both of these projects are complete!

I hope that you have a great couple of weeks, I’ll be back in May!

Happy Dance & Costuming
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
April 17, 2019




Women’s History Month & Belly Dance History – Part 3

March is Women’s History Month – Part 3

Hello there!  Today I’m doing something a bit different.  In honor of International Woman’s Day, which falls in Women’s History Month, I’m sharing a bit of belly dance history each day over on my FaceBook page. I’ve decided to put up five posts this month that round up those entries for the week.  This is post #3 in this series. If you haven’t read them all start with the first post and here’s the second post.

Day 13 – Johanna and Turhan, 1960’s – Black and White Glossy Promotional Photo

One of the sources of 20th-century belly dance costume information is black and white glossies. For more than 40 years, from the 40s through to the 80s professional entertainers would supply venues with photographs to use for promotional purposes. These 8″ by 10″ photos might be sent to the press as part of a promotion, placed in signholders outside of the venue, or used as interior decor to share past stars.

These photographs were as essential for a dancer’s marketing and publicity then as a website is today. Black and white glossies offer the belly dance costume historian a wealth of information from eras before amateur video recording made it easy to document performances.

This 1960s era black and white glossy features a dancing duo from New York, Johanna and her dance partner and husband Bill who danced “Middle Eastern Style” under the name Turhan. Johanna founded “The Oasis Ballet” and the troupe performed in NYC and beyond.

Johanna’s daughter by her second husband, Belly Dancer Aziza Al-Tawil, wrote a detailed biography of Johanna along with lots of great photos.…/johanna-white-was…

Watch Johanna perform a Spanish style dance to Malaguena

Here’s a later performance of a scarf dance

Day 14 – Uknown dancer on Arcade Card c. 1918-1925

During the first quarter of the 20th century, before the advent of TV and talkie movies, people living in metropolitan areas would go to coin-operated arcades for entertainment. These penny arcades came in different styles and varieties and might be more child and family oriented. Others were more adult in theme and tone and might be attached to a bar or tavern.

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Coin-operated machines would include games, like pinball, flip-show action animation and in the 1920’s you could even see short movie clips. While there were dedicated arcades at pleasure destinations, individual or small groups of coin-operated machines could also be located in other entertainment venues. They were especially popular at early theme parks, especially those at sea-side pleasure Even in today’s movie theaters, small arcades are included, a tradition left over from the silent movie era.

There were three ways you could get a collectible photo at the arcade. The first was to buy candy, gum or cigarettes with a collectible card inside. This practice dates back to the very beginning of the penny arcade. Later, companies like the Exhibit Supply Company of Chicago 1900 – 1966, produced post-card sized images like the one I’m sharing today. Cards were produced in “Sets” and they often featured dancing girls, sports figures, Hollywood celebrities.

This lovely is from my collection. You can find these vintage postcards at ephemera and collectible shows, at antique dealers both in person and online.

Day 15 – Mata Hari

Well, Facebook didn’t want this post about Mata Hari on their site – apparently, they thought you could see her nipples or that the shadow in the image below didn’t obscure enough of her body. I only see jewels and strategic shadows, but ya know, it’s not their site, so here it is on mine!  Unfortunately, I lost the original text I wrote!  However, I wanted to share that she is probably the best-documented Orientalist dancer due in large part to her reputation as a spy. There are many movies have been made about her, television documentaries, and loads of books, both biographical and fictional.  I have quite a few in my library and recommend this one.

During more public performances, Mata Hari wore “Pinks” or flesh-colored body stockings that created the illusion of nudity. However, she became notorious for dancing in various levels of nudity.  We definitely know she frequently went nude for still photographs.  Compare the two shots below, both taken in 1905.  The left photo is from a public performance at the Musée Guimet.  While in the studio photograph below that became a widely traded post-card, she is partially nude, but with strategic shadows.

Mata Hari naked 1905

Day 16 – La Belle Otéro.

In Paris c. 1900, The Follies-Bergère was one of the most popular places to go for variety entertainment in Paris. The shows included music, singers, comedians, and dancers.

Between 1900-1910, the Spanish born, La Belle Otéro was considered THE star of the show. Though she started off her career as a dancer, she was also known for her acting abilities and her numerous love affairs with wealthy patrons of the art. During her career, she became fabulously wealthy and quite notorious.

She was best known for her sultry Spanish Gypsy style. We can get a sense of her style in the one surviving movie clip from 1898. In it, she’s performing one of her signature Spanish dances. You can spot this vintage clip as part of this informational video.

As Salomania swept the globe, Otéro also created a Salome dance. Due to her high-ranking status at the Follies, her costume was captured in a photo shoot for a series of postcards. Unfortunately, there’s no surviving video of her performing in this piece.

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In 1954, French actress Maria Felix portrayed the famous dancer. Notice how her Oriental costume designed for the movie reflects the style and taste of 1950’s bedlah sets.  Here is a clip from the movie of with Maria performing a Spanish dance.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, cloud, sky and outdoorSculpture of La Belle Otéro by Camilo Seira, located in Valga Spain. If you are interested in learning more about Caroline Otéro aka La Belle Otéro, many research libraries hold copies of her 1927 memoir.

I really hope that you are enjoying this series!
Happy Dance and Costuming, 
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 25, 2019.


Women’s History Month & Belly Dance History – Part 2

March is Women’s History Month – Part 2

Hello there!  Today I’m doing something a bit different.  In honor of International Woman’s Day, which falls in Women’s History Month, I’m sharing a bit of belly dance history each day over on my FaceBook page. I’ve decided to put up five posts this month that round up those entries for the week.  This is post #2. If you haven’t read the first post – check it out here.

Facebook, the site we love and hate

As I’ve worked on this project over on Facebook, I ran into a few troubles. One day in March, Facebook and Instagram had a global outage.  While it threw off my timing by a day, it was just a minor inconvenience.  A bigger problem was Facebook removing two posts due to the illusion of nudity.  While it was just an illusion, they are sticking to their guns and disallowing the images. Consequently, I had to change up some of my plans for later posts.  History is broad and deep and there are many, many images and anecdotes to share, so I just had to change things up a bit.

Day 9 – Nai Bonet and Shirley MacLaine

Back in the 1950s and 60s, many popular films featured belly dancers either as important characters or as part of the backdrop for the flow of the story.

Throughout the 1950s, belly dancing scenes appeared most often in quasi-historic “Sword and Sandal” flicks, spy films, or Orientalist Fantasy pictures. By the 1960s, belly dancers began appearing in more humor films.

One of these more humor-focussed films was “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home” of 1965.  In this film, Shirley Maclaine appears in a scene with a group of belly dancers.

To prepare for this film, she took some classes with then Las Vegas-based belly dancer Nai Bonet.  In this photo, you can see Shirley, an accomplished Broadway-style dancer, learning to do a classic belly dance move.

Nai, however, is the star of the belly dance scene.  But if you follow this link and watch this entire clip, you can catch Shirley’s shimmy!

Day 10 – Serena of NYC

During the 1970’s the first wave of belly dance instructional books hit shelves and every major publisher connected with a belly dance teacher to share the mystic art of belly dance with readers.  Belly dance had gone mainstream.

Serena of NYC published her book, “The Serena Technique of Belly Dancing: The Fun Way to a Trim Shape” in 1972.  This book went through several editions appearing in hardback and paperback versions.  My mum had this book when she was dabbling in learning the dance.  I bought my first copy from a Goodwill in San Diego for .25  Today you can pick up a vintage copy for as little as $3 on Amazon.  –

This photo was part of the publicity campaign for the book release. A photographer from Life Magazine went to her New York studio to photograph the celebrity dancer in action.  It appeared as part of a photo essay on the last few pages of the Feb. 4, 1972 edition.  It’s nice to know that “Perfectly Respectable” women were taking up the hobby.

After her passing, her studio, and later the NYC store Belly Dance America hosted an exhibition of her memorabilia.  Mahin of Phoenix  visited the exhibition and documented in this video:  

Day 11 –  Rue du Caire Poster,
The Exposition Universelle du 1900, Paris

Today’s image is a promotional poster from the Exposition Universelle of 1900, a world’s fair to celebrate the artistic and industrial achievements between 1800 and 1900. There was a new arts sensibility sweeping France called Art Nouveau and this poster really captures the essence of the style.

By 1900, the World’s Fair exhibition model was well established and codified. So along with the newest technology, like the telegraphone, the first magnetic audio recorder, and the escalator, there were repeat pieces such as the iconic Tour Eiffel and the imported Ferris Wheel.

During this era of Imperialism, there many cultural exhibitions, many of which were reimaginations of exhibits from the previous Paris exhibition from just 11 years before.

The Rue du Caire was an exhibition for the 1889 Paris Exposition and it was so popular it was reborn for the 1900 exhibition. In this poster, our dancer is in the act of a mighty hip thrust with arms held high. You get a real sense of what her costume looked like, with her transparent chemise and wide-legged striped pantaloons and cropped vest. These pieces are the iconic Turkish costuming elements worn by dancers throughout the lands once or still ruled by the Ottoman empire.

Artemis and Yasmin of put together a great video about the Rue du Caire from the 1889 Exhibition available for view on YouTube.

Day 12 – Özel Turkbas, “Music For Belly Dancing”

In the 1970’s one of the most acclaimed belly dance performers was the lovely Özel. And, very much like today, she worked hard to develop multiple income streams to support her career. In addition to performing and teaching, she also was involved in a series of albums, books, and back in her native Turkey, she starred in several films.

In 1977, Özel published a cookbook entitled “The Turkish Cookbook” and went on a book publicity tour which included several stops on the talk show circuit including the Dinah Shore show. Her appearance on this show includes a short performance, her teaching a few moves to the other guests (including the stuffy actor Ted Knight) and then a demo of how to prepare the Turkish Dish Lamb Papillote.

Her book, The Belly Dancer in You, is still on my bookshelf and I really enjoy pulling it down and thumbing through the pages.

Today I’ve included the front and back of her album “Music For Belly Dancing” so you can enjoy reading the blurb on the other side.

Thank you for sharing the obsession!

I appreciate you joining me for this 31-day series. If you have questions about belly dance history, and I know the answer I’m happy to share.  It’s been a pleasure to put together these posts, and I’ll be back next week with two more posts.

Happy Dance and Costume
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March 22, 2019