I took bellydance lessons and performed, then became interested in costume. The historical relationship of dance and culture is fascinating.
Scene In This Classic Bond Movie
Where did all the dancers go? Old movies with belly dance scenes
Most of the old movie clips, the best ones, come from the Egyptian "Golden Age" of cinema which created famous stars of some of the belly dancers of the time. Hollywood was not to be outdone, and they would slip a sequence of their own belly dance interpretation into a film to provide exotic flavor and a little scintillation.
This was authentic belly dancing by some of the "greats".
Probably the best remembered belly dance scene from Hollywood movies is the one from the James Bond Movie of 1963, From Russia With Love. This was at the height of America's fascination with the exotic Middle Eastern dance... and belly dancers were in high demand, with classes popping up all over the USA.
James Bond Enjoys Belly Dancing
Dancers Like Samia Gamal were some of the stars in movies from Egypt's Golden Age of Cinema, and the offshoots of their fame. They directly influenced American belly dance styles and costuming.
I didn't know Zeta-Jones did this scene, did you? Watch all the belly dance scenes. Julie Newmar is in the last one.
Belly Dance in the Old Movies
American movies of the twenties had belly dancers, or some facsimile thereof to add exotic flavor to the scenes in such movies as the silent film of 1916 "Intolerance"; "Road to Morocco" of 1942, Humphrey Bogart's "Sirocco" and others included lively scenes of Oriental style dancing.
Don't you love those old Bogart movies? And the Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour trio can't be beat for entertainment. Unfortunately little attention was paid to creating an authentic type of Oriental dancing.
Most of what I've seen is more akin to the modern dance of the time, crossed with Broadway. Still, these were entertaining dance sequences, as long as they weren't taken too seriously. (And I don't think they were meant to be taken seriously.)
If you wish to see actual performances of the style incorporated into a movie you are really limited to the Egyptian movies, or old movies featuring the Egyptian stars such as Samia Gamal.
Sexy Ava Gardner
The Little Egypts - America's Fascination with Oriental Dancing
A Little Background History
Perhaps it was one of the "Little Egypt" dancers that sparked the inclusion of dances from exotic places inside mainstream Hollywood movies. See for yourself what captured the hearts and the interest of Americans at the turn of the twentieth century during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Read an account of the timeline of bellydance portrayed in American movies, here.
In America, the Oriental dance was something of a curiosity, a look at a foreign culture and a dash of scintillation thrown in for good measure. Sexy, but cloaked under the benign rationale of learning about foreign cultures. In one film it is noted that the censor added obscuring lines to something that we deem completely unoffensive.
Professional American bellydancers in recent decades have worked hard to keep it free of the seedy ethics of the practice in Middle Eastern countries, where women were often second class citizens. Dance entertainers, while part of events like the wedding parties of both the common people and upper class, were not considered of a good reputation in that dichotomy of attitude that is characteristic toward women in these cultures.
Here, dance is considered an art form, in countries such as Egypt and others, Islam forbid such entertainments, and dancers lived in the demi-monde world of questionable nightclubs. "Little Egypt" was the sideshow performer of early days brought to America for such events as the 'World's Columbian Exposition', and belly dancing has morphed considerably since that time. It is interesting to see the short clips recorded by Thomas Edison.
Odds and Ends of Movie Trivia
Are you hip to these facts?
In the sixties belly dancing was quite a social fad, and that is reflected in the way it gets inserted into all sorts of movies. Usually short scenes, and oftentimes not authentic belly dancing at all. The following scenes might provide that best overall examples.
Compiled by a bellydance fan named 'Maria':
For almost a minute in the Season 2 "Hizzoner the Penguin" episode of "Batman", a campaign rally has 'Little Egypt' doing a belly dance performance, full of spins and undulations.
The first episode of "I Dream of Jeannie" has a few representative shimmies.
"Star Trek" had a few episodes in the original series.... Season 1, Episode 12, Season 2, Episode 14
"Abbott & Costello Lost in a Harem" grand Hollywood style dance scene that was popular during this era.
"Around the World in 80 Days" How many of you remember Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Sultan with his belly dancers in this movie? Then catch the dance scene in "Conan the Barbarian".
See the movies - find the belly dance scenes
Sandwiched inside actions movies, they add a little light entertainment for the protagonist and for us, watching the whole scene.
Are belly dance scenes lowbrow?
Do you think that belly dance scenes in TV and movies are lowbrow attempts to grab attention?
More Belly Dance in Movies?
Autograph this lens, please - am I the only fan of belly dance scenes?
anonymous on September 16, 2012:
Belly dance scenes give a little Femininity, Magic and mystery to masculine films.
I remember seeing lots of amazing Movie's as a child and the ones that stick out the most are the ones with belly dancers inn.This opened my eyes to the many wonderful cultures from around the world. They should feature more belly dance in films...