Music for Vintage Style Belly Dance Shows! “Arabian Fantasy!”

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Was absolutely thrilled to find this CD (Available in digital download here) which is also available in “Vinyl.” It was tough for a while to really find Middle Eastern music that really could be set up like an old 5 and 7 part routine without having to just scour through cd odds and ends. (Some of the stuff they put out in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s just sounded like background music for a restaurant not a show). The other crazy thing was realizing that a lot of “public domain” stuff was out there that ended up on new “CD’s” without crediting the original musicians or sources. In fact, they took it a step further and just renamed the stuff and came up with fake bands. That aspect of it remains a problem but I’m happy to report that at least a really good release has come out to serve a lot of tempo changes and the music is divine and sounds more like a show.

Even though we all just love and still appreciate the shows we can do to “live music” it’s great to know that there is a “lively” option with Arabic music to do a show with. (I can elaborate more on Greek choices in another post, etc.) The Arabic music was one of the worst to suffer the post “synthesizer” age.

The CD is called Arabian Fantasy and it is gorgeous! From the stellar version of “Ah Ya Zein,” the lovely “kanoun” infused “Taksim Layali,” to a fabulous drum solo “Beat of the Harem,” you just can’t beat the choices here to mix and match for a show.

The link for the “Vinyl” Version is here:

Arabian Fantasy

I recognize one of the tracks from one of my old Naif Agby records and the name they give it does not match, so again, beware of fake names given to these songs and bands, but they are surely a delight to dance to!

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Egyptian Chick Magazine February 2017

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Moon River”: Memories of Nejma and Her Crochet Costume, Toronto 1962

By Aziza Al-Tawil

My mother had very fond memories of performing in Toronto, Canada in the Summer of 1962. She remembered the timing well because she had only been belly dancing since the previous Winter, and the Henry Mancini theme song to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” could be heard almost any time of day on radio stations up there. Many nights, putting on make-up in the dressing room and getting her costume on was accompanied by the refrain “Moon River wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day…”

Also, appearing with Johanna at the Westover Hotel was an amiable and memorable dancer named Nejma who shared the bill with her. It used to be the custom that performers in show business exchanged publicity photos when they worked together. This time was no different but was made even more special by the fact that my mother got three amazing shots of Nejma in a truly exotic and fabulous costume that was primarily crochet. My mother Johanna said the costume was Turkish made but whether it has the crochet beading on it I cannot see from the photos. That is an entire technique in itself, but either way the costume is brilliant.

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Nejma Belly Dancer 1960’s

Her chosen photographer for “publicity” appears to be a “Gary Amo” of Detroit.

 

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Nejma Belly Dancer 1960’s

Sam Wagman of the “Toronto Merry Go Round called the girls “the two sparkling new authentic dancers” at “The Westover Hotel” which was being managed by a guy named Joe Gollub. Nejma was called “Queen of the Harem” and Johanna was called “Petite Johanna-the Darling of the East.

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Belly Dancer Mystery of the Month

by Aziza Al-Tawil

Thanks to my fiancé’ Billy Jack Watkins finding it on “YouTube” I got to see a mystery belly dancer in the opening credits of the 1974 William Shatner flick “Impulse.” The music was divine, very Anatolian, and the dancer was in a nightclub that seemed to have a multi-tier seating arrangement. I investigated the film further and found out it was primarily filmed around Tampa, FL and the nightclub scene was at “Bartke’s Dinner Theater” on S.R. 60 so not sure if some dancers from that area at this time in history might recognize the place. The dancer is listed on IMDB as Paula Dimitrouleas and sadly this is the only credit listed for her. Would be curious to know if she worked mostly in belly dancing and whatever happened to her. By the way, despite some naysayers, I believe the role of a very mentally deranged killer who had a traumatic experience as a child is one of Shatner’s greatest acting performances. Check  it out.

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Paula Dimitrouleas in “Impulse,”1974

Gift Basket Deal – Valentine’s Day

Dabke Around the World: Same Dance-Different Variations

By Aziza Al-Tawil

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Never forget the time I was playing the flute and my mother was drumming at an outdoor festival in Charleston, WV and a bunch of people started doing Dabke together. Or, I should say, were “trying” to do Dabke line dance together. The fact of the matter is, just like the teacher here mentions, they were from different countries and therefore had different ways of doing it. At one point all these young people stopped and laughed and asked each other what their respective countries of origin are. The answers varied from Iraq to Syria to Jordan to Saudi Arabia. It was quite interesting. They laughed about their differences but never really got the dance together. (My father and mother actually used to do a very old style Syrian Dabke you don’t see much any more). The teacher here seems very experienced and you can probably learn a lot from Dabke 101:Learn How to Dance Dabke.

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Fairouz Record

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Vintage Postcard

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A Warning Letter:

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Hi there,

There’s a deadly pandemic that’s completely rampant right now, and if you wash your clothes with detergent.. you’re likely affected.

If you care about your family, your children, and your longevity please drop what you’re doing right now and watch this video..

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We’re very happy to announce that Dr. Artsvi Bakhchinyan and the State Museum of Lit and Art has published their book “Armenians in World Choreography” and has included our “Editor-In-Chief” Aziza Al-Tawil among the top performer/choreographers in the Middle Eastern Dance field who hail from Armenian blood. More details soon about where you can get a copy that includes the bios of famous dancers from many genres including ballet and modern. Aziza is proud to be included with other dancers in history of the likes of Tamara Toumanova, Leon Danielian, and others.

Egyptian Chick Magazine is published by:

Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”

Billy Jack Watkins, “Research Assistant to the Editor”

Josephine Homonai, “Fashion Consultant and Model”

Contact azizaaltawil@gmail.com

 

 

Egyptian Chick Mag-Vintage Belly Dance Photos On EBay, January Break

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Johanna by Martha Swope Early 1960’s

Hi friends! The weather is lousy and after the frenzy of the “Holidays” it’s time to take a break from our regular issue. That will resume in February with some articles worth waiting for. Right now, the only way I can think of to beat the “Winter Blues” is to stay inside with a robe on and look at “EBay” and work on my costumes for Spring performances. With that in mind please check out the sale of Johanna and her “Oasis Ballet” company original publicity photos-all that’s left from the original printings in the 1960’s. These were when they developed negatives in a darkroom and of course these have a beautiful glossiness to them you don’t see much of any more. The above shot was Maria Stevens favorite photo of Johanna. She left the photo of Johanna (taken by theatre photography legend Martha Swope) up in her NYC club “The Arabian Nights” until it shuttered it’s doors.

I’m only selling photos that I’m able to keep a few of as souvenirs. These photos were kept in a safe place and are in wonderful condition with no signs of wear. They are not from an agent’s file, etc., therefore they were not rifled through over the years. (Some of the other photogs represented in this collection are Kriegsmann, Jack Mitchell (“Dance Magazine”), and Diaz, NYC. There are also some Flamenco and Adagio photos going up soon). The link to the sale is below and will help this magazine expand and continue and possibly help fund some other creative projects. If you like the magazine so far, please consider buying one of these great shots. I have over 20 listings. Here is the link : Vintage Belly Dancer Johanna Original Photos on Ebay.

 

Esma Redzepova Has Left Us-Special From Egyptian Chick Magazine

Esma Redzepova is Gone!:

By Aziza Al-Tawil

I’m very sad to report that “The Queen of the Gypsies,” Esma Redzepova has passed away at age 73. She was born in Skopje, Macedonia, when it was part of Bulgaria, started singing at ten years old and went on to represent her people and their songs to the world including command performances for various world leaders. She and her husband, bandleader and manager Stevo Teodosievski, fostered 47 children.

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Ezma Redzepova

A wonderful CD called ” Gypsy Carpet” is available at Amazon (Click title for details). I was listening to this and am particularly fond of the song “Bistergan Man” (“You Forgot About Me”). I made a “YouTube” video when I heard the news, remembered another favorite song of mine she performed “Sastalise Tsigane”- a song which I heard many renditions of growing up in the Greek Tavernas which were truly an international scene.

On YouTube: Aziza Al-Tawil Remembers Esma Redzepova

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Esma Redzepova and Band

Love my Gypsy Passions in Fashion:

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Pink Shoulder Bag Handmade Embroidered Elephant Boho Bohemian Hippie Tote Gypsy Beach Bag

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Egyptian Chick Magazine November 2016

 

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Letter from the Editor:

Well, the last few months have been a “roller coaster.” This magazine endorsed Bernie Sanders and his progressive ideas for the Presidency of the United States. Since then, nothing positive has come to light about the way he was treated, yet, we’ve had to move on for fear of even worse. The disaster of the “Standing Rock” protests at the reservation that straddles North and South Dakota give us pause and make us realize that now is a ripe time for a resurgence of “The American Indian Movement.” (As of today at least 2 policeman have turned in their badges telling their bosses that this was not what they “signed up for”). I could not help but think as I watched this incident “unfold” over the last few weeks what the iconic Tom Laughlin would be thinking about now. Truth is, if “Billy Jack” had not died in 2013 at the age of 82, chances are,  if he had any strength left at all he would be with them. Delores too. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, representing the “old guard” of “activism”  did make it there on a horse and was greeted by actor Mark Ruffalo.

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Tom Laughlin as the iconic Indian hero “Billy Jack.”

The crisis goes on beyond damage to “Native” artifacts, in fact it threatens the very water people drink. (Coming on the heels of all of this is the  ridiculous verdict that the perpetrators of the armed “takeover” of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are innocent. In other words, if they were a First Nations people or black they would have never made it to trial, they would be dead). Also, it has not been but a couple of years since those of us with a heart were horrified at the cruel treatment of “Baby Veronica” and her Cherokee military vet father Dusten Brown. It seems to be “open season” once more on native rights.

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Delores and Tom in later years.

Another hero of mine that stirred the pot of “Activism” in my heart was Tom Hayden, and hearing of his death several days ago brought back memories of reading his autobiography “Re-Union” when it came out. Tom Hayden was another champion  of “Civil Rights” whose bravery took him into dangerous places in the 1960’s South where some did not return “alive” as well as the protests at the tumultuous Democratic Convention of 1968. In fact, our Bernie Sanders saga was similar to the “fractious” 1968 Democratic Party divisions when 80 percent of primary voters had voted for “Anti-War” candidates yet delegates crushed the “Peace Plank” of the “Platform” resulting in the “shut-out” of Senator Eugene McCarthy.

 

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The late activist Tom Hayden when his “memoir” “Re-Union” was published.

Discovering heroes like Tom Hayden and even Ceasar Chavez and Martin Sheen was sort of a part of the 1960’s nostalgia that started up around the late 1980’s. The twenty and thirty year mark of some important achievements were coming up around that time and it was actually a time to reflect-on what went “right”- and what went “wrong” with our “idealism.”

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Tom Hayden and then wife Jane Fonda, whom my mother Johanna met when Jane was still married to Roger Vadim and they came to Greektown, NYC to see her dance.

I do know that if Tom Laughlin and Tom Hayden were brought to life and made young again, they’d be right there on the front lines of “Standing Rock.” In their spirit “Egyptian Chick Magazine” “Stands with Standing Rock!”

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Belly dancer with snake scene that had to be cut from “Billy Jack Goes to Washington” because they had to cut hundreds of minutes from the film.

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Gifts from Eleni

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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I was thrilled to meet with my former dance pupil and longtime friend Eleni upon her return from a trip to NYC a few weeks ago. My mother Johanna and I had trained Eleni when I was a child during the heyday of belly dance and we re-connected a few years ago when I returned to Charleston, WV to live while a film I’m in was being shot here. Eleni had reminisced about while in NYC several years ago she managed to snag a private class with Serena, my mother’s old pal from her years at the “Egyptian Gardens.” They had a great time and Serena complimented Eleni’s skill at dance as learned from Johanna, etc. Eleni was therefore touched to hear of Serena’s death not long after the private lesson.

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When we first met Ellen she had gone out into the world at college age to experience new things. Her adventures saw her from everywhere from a dairy farm in Virginia to cocktail waitressing in New Orleans. She remembers the first time she decided to look into belly dance classes, “I saw an article in Cosmopolitan about it and said, wow that looks like fun-I want to do that!” She reminisced with me about a lot of different things that Johanna shared with her in conversation. Even that “Arab men think a woman looks sexy in black.” I can remember working a Greek Church function with “Eleni” when I was a child and she was excited to report to my mother that I had shown her how to get tips. Ellen’s parents were nice too-having us to dinner one time-I remember her mother gave me a long string of pearls like flappers wore. I even danced the “Charleston” wearing them when we did jazz dancing with the “Strawhatters” Dixieland Band.

Back then Eleni had a boyfriend that dabbled in drumming and they had spent time on an “Ashram” at one point. One time Ellen and Michael met us at the Charleston, WV Amtrak Station. They were floored that my mother had “14 suitcases and a baby.” I might have been seven on that trip back but I was still considered a “baby!” By the time we returned to Charleston again when I was a teen, Ellen, who had become a registered nurse, had married a young, local lawyer who shared her passion for championing “rights.”

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So when I heard that Eleni was headed for NYC this last time, I told her about the Serena Museum at “Showplace” gallery in Chelsea. Eleni stayed in Astoria, Queens but made sure to go over to Manhattan to catch the exhibit. Even though she went on a weekday when the exhibit is only viewable from windows, she still said it was a marvelous experience. She enjoyed the exhibit so much that she was kind enough to bring me some souvenirs and gifts. She brought me pamphlets and cards from the Serena Exhibit and to my delight a stunning, vintage, “Art Deco” style mesh choker with onyx accents, and also a delightful and educational postcard from the “Ellis Island” museum. This is how thoughtful “Eleni” is and has always been. Just knowing her is a “gift in it’s own right.”

“Virtual Phone System”

Shelley “Yasmela” Muzzy – Founder of “Bou-Saada Troupe”- Passes Away

By Aziza Al-Tawil

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Yasmela in her first “Publicity Photo,” Early 1970s.

I had the pleasure of knowing Shelley Muzzy on Facebook through a now defunct group “1970s Belly Dance.” Shelly fought a long hard battle with Ovarian Cancer and it was inspirational to see her continue her love of life and colorful things in the world for as long as she was able. She was the founder of the “Bou-Saada” dance company along with fellow dancer “Cassima” that toured the Pacific Northwest, Western states and Canada in a bus living a very enviable carefree and artistic lifestyle that looking back seems the epitome of the “Hippie Era.”

In fact before moving to Bellingham, Washington she was in San Francisco studying from Jamila Salimpour and then performing in Nakish’s dance company. In recent years I know that Shelly went on a few pilgrimages to favorite places in the world including not just foreign countries but the old “Haight Ashbury District” of San Francisco. After retiring from dancing in 1990, she kept up in her later years her love of exotic textiles, jewelry, and beads running the “Bijoux Trading Company” on Etsy and I enjoyed talking with her a time or two about ethnic beads, etc.

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Silk Uzbek dress Circa Early 1900’s, Bijoux Trading Company on Etsy

Her dance instructors included Jamila Salimpour, Nakish, Rhea, Aisha Ali, and Mardi Rollow of “Aman Folk Ensemble.” She was a contributor to Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah’s groundbreaking magazine “Arabesque” in the 1970’s/1980s and was also a staff writer for the original “Habibi” Magazine.

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Turkish Silk and Cotton “Kutnu” fabric from the Bijoux Trading Company.

Since their marriage in the 1970s, Shelly had the love and support of the man she called “Mr. Muzzy,” a fellow with an interesting background himself having appeared in some of the “Our Gang Comedies” as a child.

You can learn more about “Yasmela” and reference her articles at this page of “The Gilded Serpent” magazine website.

I know many people are already missing this special woman.

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“Vintage Belly Dancers” for November:

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Belly Dancer Circa 1905

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Belly Dancer in Turkish style garb.

 

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Djemile Fatme, Folies Bergere Program 1913

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Aziza Al-Tawil and Billy Jack Watkins Halloween Short film “Dark Gathering 2: The Hunt for Pristinia” has arrived on “YouTube.” If you like Mel Brooks, Monty Python and Hammer films you will love this little film. It is a sequel to last year’s “Dark Gathering”.

“Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Richard Branson Practiced This”

 

“Countess Dracula”: Gypsies and Belly Dancers

Egyptian Chick Magazine “Halloween Supplement” October 28th, 2016

“Countess Dracula”: Gypsies and Belly Dancers

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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The Gypsy Dancers from Hammer’s 1971 flick “Countess Dracula”: Lesley Anderson, Biddy Hearne, Diana Sawday, and Nike Arrighi.

Had the great fortune to see the fantastic performance of horror legend Ingrid Pitt in Hammer’s “Countess Dracula” (1971) a couple of weeks ago on the CometTV channel.

Her performance as the despicably selfish Elizabeth Bathory of Hungarian history was so brilliant I actually applauded in my living room at the conclusion of the film. Indeed, the whole cast was excellent and I consider it to be one of Hammer Film’s best. The version I saw, while a bit bloody, was truly not as graphic as it could have been and in a way the story benefitted from that rather than was depleted somehow. I do believe CometTV may have edited out a scene or two, but the overall film was sensational anyway-nothing seemed missing from the narrative.

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Hulya Babus, the dancer in the Café “Countess Dracula” (1971)

The dancing in the film was interesting and was a nice addition to a film already lush with period costuming evoking Medieval Transylvania where they moved the locale from Hungary to fit more into the “Vlad the Impaler”/Dracula connection. The dancer in the café, Hulya Babus, wears a charming costuming with a pillbox hat. This costume fits well as a lot of the patrons are wearing “Turkoman” and “Tatar” influenced outfits-such as might be some of the passers through in this region at this time.

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NIke Arrighi is the ill fated gypsy dancer/fortune teller.

Some people who have seen the film, compare the presentation to a “Greek Tragedy” in moral, theme, and tone. This is a brilliantly achieved component of the film.

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Ingrid Pitt in her “Countess Dracula” role (1971) J. Arthur Rank Organization/Hammer Films

(Another film that was interesting to me from a dancer’s standpoint was the “New Wavy” 1985 flick “The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf.” This time, the presiding sexy lady of horror is Sybil Danning, and the scenes of townsfolk including gypsies and musicians that was filmed in Czechoslovakia are quite colorful and entertaining).

The timing was quite fortunate for watching “Countess Dracula” as it would only be a couple of weeks later that Billy Jack Watkins and I would start on the sequel to last year’s Halloween flick “Dark Gathering.” As an actor everyone knows that it’s great to draw inspiration from others. 2 of Ingrid Pitt’s best “Countess Dracula” and “The Vampire Lovers” are available in a set at Amazon-click here for details…

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Aziza Al-Tawil “Scream Queen”: The New Publicity Pictures

The actress, and founder and editor of “Egyptian Chick Magazine”, soon to be seen in director  Joseph Anderson’s new flick “Gravecaller,” got in the spirit of “Halloween” and Ingrid Pitt, and posed for new publicity shots. The film, wherein Aziza plays a fraudulent psychic in the 1980s, will be released soon and we can expect a major announcement about just that in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more info.

“Dark Gathering 2: The Hunt for Pristinia”

Coming this Halloween 2016

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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The poster I created for last year’s Halloween flick from “Al-Tawil Films” (2015) “Dark Gathering.”

Last year’s Halloween short from my company “Al-Tawil Films” was “Dark Gathering.” The professional court Jester Rodolpho finds his kind suddenly out of favor in England so he travels to a strange foreign land in the Mediterranean to meet his new employer whom he thinks is a “Countess” but is really an evil “Sorceress.” He is in store for a surprise when he arrives late-just when she needed his help in preparing for a sinister event at her abode.

This year’s sequel finds the sorceress “Vindictiva” wanting to send her lackey “Rodolpho” on a special mission against the good natured Goddess of the forest “Pristinia.” Last year’s short was rather “Monty Python” meets “Hammer” in spirit. This year it may be a tad more “Mel Brooks.” (Just recently watched  “Dracula:Dead and Loving it.” More great timing for inspiration!)

Filming on “Dark Gathering 2: The Hunt for Pristinia” continues and the film should be out on YouTube by Halloween night. Here are a few stills from the shoot so far.

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Billy Jack Watkins and Aziza Al-Tawil on the set of “Dark Gathering 2”

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Billy Jack Watkins and Aziza Al-Tawil on the set of “Dark Gathering 2”

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Billy Jack Watkins and Aziza Al-Tawil on the set of “Dark Gathering 2.”

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Billy Jack Watkins as “The Ghoul” in “Dark Gathering 2”

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Egyptian Chick Magazine September 2016 Issue

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 “Sexy, Chunky Jewelry”

“African Black Soap”

 

Letter from the Editor:

Well, here we are, in the last “throes” of Summer and there is so much to “say,” “do,” and “announce” that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

Let me start out by saying that I have even more exciting news about the legacy of my mother’s dear friend, the late Serena Wilson. After I mentioned in last month’s issue that her longtime West Side studio was closing on the West Side and starting a new “lease on life” at “Belly Dance America,” I was excited to learn that a new “Serena Belly Dance Museum” has opened in Chelsea at “Showplace Design Center,” 40 West 25th Street, Gallery 110, New York City, NY. The exhibit, which opened August 21st, will run until December 30, 2016.  Serena’s son Scott Wilson and his wife Leni will be there Sundays 12-4:00 p.m. or by appt. For appointment contact mellow111@aol.com. This native “New Yorker” knows that what could be a better time to be in New York seeing the sights than the lovely Fall and Christmas season?

The exhibit also brings back some attention to the fact that so many in the “biz of belly dance” have had secret yearnings for a “Museum of Belly Dance” where “collections” could be housed “permanently.” America, once a real “potboiler” of activity in the art of “dance” in general has seen a decline. In a society that ditched music in the schools for more of a bent towards “science and technology” we’ve turned into somewhat of a “Protestant Work Ethic” culture wherein a giant finger wags over us as if to say, “Now, now! Get a REAL job and pay for your own useless hobbies!”

Following along this general theme this month’s issue will include an interesting story about legendary dancer La Meri ( Our “Cover Girl” this month) and a shawl she once owned.

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La Meri’s Shawl

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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Johanna in the beloved shawl she purchased from “La Meri.”

In the 1950’s my mother and her husband and dance partner Bill decided to study Flamenco with the famous Juan Martinez and Antonita. Maestro Martinez was very beloved by his students. In the class with Johanna and Bill was La Meri’s sister Lillian Hughes Newcomer. La Meri was the Louisville, KY born “ethnic dance” pioneer who co-founded the “School of Natya” in NYC with the equally intriguing maverick Ruth St. Denis. By the late 1940’s La Meri’s book on the art of “Spanish Dancing” was in the personal library of Johanna and Bill. (One of their first Flamenco teachers was film legend Rita Hayworth’s uncle Paco Cansino). Lillian liked Johanna so when her sister La Meri had a sale of personal items, she arranged for Johanna to get a “special price” on the shawl.

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La Meri’s Shawl recently-still lovely.

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Close up of La Meri’s shawl recently.

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Miss Lillian from her sister’s 1948 book “Spanish Dancing.”

For years, not much was spoken of about Juan Martinez and Antonita. He was born in 1896 and passed away in 1961. His personal papers (1932-1962), which are mostly in Spanish, were only donated to the “Jerome Robbins Dance Division” of the “Lincoln Center Branch” of the “New York Public Library” in the year 2005. Cataloging and compiling of them was not completed until the year 2014. According to these papers, Juan Martinez was born in Burgos, Spain and began performing and touring with his family as a child. He married Antonia Fernandez whom he formed an artistic partnership in 1938. Johanna seemed to remember that he had a first wife and dance partner who passed away from altitude sickness when they were in Mexico City to perform.

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Juan Martinez and Antonita. Spanish dance instructors of Johanna and Miss Lillian.

In a book called “El Maestro Juan Martinez Que Estaba Alli,” the author Manuel Chaves Nogales recounts meeting Martinez in Paris and hearing the hair raising experiences he and his first wife Sole encountered when they became trapped in the “Bolshevik” revolution while performing in Russia in 1917. “After a successful tour of the Central European cabarets, flamenco dancer Juan Martinez and his partner Sole were caught by surprise in Russia by the revolutionary events of February of 1917. Unable to leave the country, in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev they suffered the fall-out of the October Revolution and the bloody civil war that followed. The great Spanish journalist Manuel Chaves Nogales met Martinez in Paris and, shocked by the stories he shared, decided to compile them. The result is this book which narrates the changes the protagonists were faced with and how they figured out a way to survive. Its pages include traveling artists, prodigal Russian dukes, German spies, Chekist assassins, and speculators of a different ilk.”

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I viewed an interesting “Press Release” online which came from The Museum of Modern Art dated May of 1941. It declared that for the third in it’s “Coffee Concerts” series it was to “present an entire Spanish Program Wednesday May 14th at 9:00 p.m.” The show was to consist of Spanish folk songs sung by Sophia Novoa and her only accompaniment was to be “tambourine and castanets.” It also mentioned that “Martinez and Antonita” were to be featured. It continued: “The Gaiteros, a group of Spanish peasant musicians, will be headed by a bagpiper, Jose Belion—the only known Gaitero in Now York. The Spanish bagpipe is of Celtic origin but has a smaller bag and only one horn instead of three.”

It continues:  “The accompaniment is made up of a bass drum (bombo), a trap drum (tambourine) and two dancers. Also appearing on the program is Jeronimo Villarino, the only known flamenco singer-guitarist in the United States. Oriental in character and suggesting Moorish influence, flamenco folk music is sung and played on the guitar mainly in the south of Spain.” 

The concert program was as follows:

“1. Anda Jaleo, Jaleo (Andalucía); Si Quieres Que Te Quiera (Asturias) Jota (Navarra) Sofia Novoa and Jeronimo Villarino
2. Las Majas (Andalucía) Juan Martinez and Antonita
S. Medias Granadinas, Guitar Solo (Andalucía); Caranelos—Street Crier’s Song (Andalucía) Jeronimo Villarino
4. Malaguenas. … Juan Martinez and Antonita
5. Muinera (North Spain); Uyu, Yu, Yu—Swinging Song (Andalucía); Sal A Bailar (North Spain) Sofia Novoa with Tambourine
6. Zambra, Guitar Sole (Andalucía); Los Minerofi Del Fondon—Miner’s Song (North Spain) Jeronimo Villarino
7. Jota Aragonesa. Juan Martinez and Antonita
8. Group of Songs and dances from North of Spain, accompanied by Gaiteros (Bagpipes), Drum Tambourine, and Conchas de Santiago (Cockleshells) Gaiteros and Muinera Dance 9. Vivan Los Aires Morenos (Extramadura); Gamine Don Sancho—Old Ballad (North Spain)j Carretero es mi Amante (Castile); A La Valerosa (Castile); Fado (Portugal) Sofia Novoa
10. Holy Week in Seville 1. Saetas. . .Jeronimo Villarino accompanied by trumpets and drums. Cuadro Flamencos. . . Juan Martinez und Antonita and Anna Maria.”

It also said: “Tickets for single concerts are $1.50.”

Juan Martinez and Antonita were known as wonderful people and wonderful artists. Hopefully, in future, more documents will turn up to shed light on the careers of those in the arts so places like the “Jerome Robbins Division” can preserve the information for posterity.

 “Online Fashion Shopping Platform”

“Yoga Burn” 

Remembering Rameses: The Exhibit that Took America by Storm

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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In the Spring of 1988 I was dating a neighbor of mine in Boston, MA. He was tall with medium brown hair and very pale blue eyes, and he worked in the banking industry. Originally from Texas, he claimed to be a cousin of our then President of the United States George H.W. Bush. There I was, in the middle of the “hippie folk revival” in Boston, buying protest buttons at “George’s Folly” in Allston, MA and there he was this “conservative” young man a few years my senior. The “whoosh” of my “India” skirts on the stairs must have intrigued him (or maybe it was the days I was wearing “leggings” like all the other 80’s chicks)  because after doing laundry together a few times we started “seeing” each other socially. We went for pizza at “Bertuccis,” saw a couple of concerts, went to a Boston Red Sox game in the rain and got glared at by one of his jealous female co-workers. We were attracted to each other but there wasn’t too much of an “emotional connection” so really this was no great romance. Cordial goodbyes were made though when he transferred with the bank to another town a couple of months after we started going out. Though this was but a brief interlude in my romantic life, one thing we did together stands the test of time.

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After “King Tut and his Treasures made a splash in this country in the late 1970’s, the “Egyptian Museum in Cairo” decided to go one better and bring a tour even more sensational to America about a decade later, making sure to go to a different set of cities than “Tut.” This Fall marks the 30th Anniversary of the “Ramesses the Great Tour” arrival in the United States. After it’s run in Denver, the exhibit made it’s way to the Boston Museum of Science. It was this showing in the Spring of 1988 that my “banker boyfriend” took me to (Well, at the time he was just a “teller!” He may be a “Bank President” by now!).

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Just a few months ago I was in an antique store in Charleston, WV when I saw it. An official “souvenir” set of color slides from the showing at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. I had saved two brochures from the show in Boston but it was really cool to find the color slides. The images are quite stunning and brought back some interesting memories from a time when I was young and marveling at a world which was quite old.

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“High End Oriental Rugs Cheap” 

Serena’s Mentor: Ruth St. Denis

Ruth St. Denis by Nickolas Muray

Ruth St. Denis Photo by Nickolas Muray

 

 Ruth St. Denis in Algouari Dance Drama, Photo trio by Nickolas Muray

“Johanna Dances Malaguena with La Meri’s Shawl on YouTube”

“Cute, Sexy Egyptian Belly Dance Ala Ghawazee by Aziza Al-Tawil”

Coming soon: “Belly Dancing with Aziza Al-Tawil Cifte Telli and Maksoum”

 

 

Egyptian Chick Magazine August 2016 Issue

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Letter from the Editor:

Well, here we are to August! The Spring and Summer have been very interesting for me as I traverse the “ups and downs” of publishing a polished online magazine. In just a few months I have covered artists, belly dance history, archeology, social causes, “17 year Cicadas,” antiques, fashion, and took a wild ride with the Bernie Sanders campaign. Two of the most exciting things to happen to me in a while was meeting and hearing Bernie Sanders speak in person and performing for a WV flood survivors benefit. The movement Bernie set aflame was truly historic and the fact that it has ended on a bad note is actually tragic. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ended up resigning but it was “too little too late.” Also, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouths are the incidences of apparent “voter fraud” in a few states-lost votes. Our democracy had not shown a “crack” in it’s veneer like this since the Al Gore “hanging chad” debacle. This is the reason that “moving on” is so difficult for Bernie’s followers.

Then the rains came, weaving a path of destruction through parts of the state of WV. It was extremely fulfilling to be allowed to help raise money for the survivors. To help your fellow man is a truly noble calling.

I’m sure Bernie would be proud.

“Falling Tides” : Lifting Spirits and Raising Money for WV Flood Survivors by Aziza Al-Tawil

Huntington and Charleston, WV area belly dancers Tiffani Ahdia and Susan Hughart decided to join an effort to ease the suffering of the many people displaced by the floods that battered parts of WV recently. On July 16th, I was honored to join them and some other wonderful entertainers to help raise money for “Elk River Backpack Blessings” an organization dedicated to gathering necessities for people displaced by the floods who may be in and out of temporary shelters.

The owners and management of the “La Belle Theatre” in South Charleston, WV were kind enough to donate their facility and equipment for the show. The line-up for the evening included Tiffani Ahdia, Susan Hughart and her daughter Sara Hughart, Jon Hawkins playing classical Spanish guitar, folk singers Drew Hussell and Russ Kennedy on acoustic guitar, Charity Hairston modern dancer, singer, and poet, “Samadhi” dance company with a vintage hula dance tribute, Gretchen Addison with jazz vocals, and myself, Aziza Al-Tawil with a song and dance tribute to the golden age of Greek tavernas and in particular, “The Sirocco,” owned by legendary guitar player Aris San and frequented by stars like Anthony Quinn and Telly Savalas. Throughout the evening we were also charmed by “magical” appearances of “Twinkle the Fairy”-AKA Cari Stone whose handle on classic mime and comedy charmed everyone.

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Actor Billy Jack Watkins (“Hallowed Eve Escape 1 and 2,” “Dark Gathering,” “Jayne Mansfield and Protozoa”) meets up with “Twinkle the Fairy”(Cari Stone) for a fun moment after the show!

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Relaxing after the show, “Mrs. Ripley, WV” Morgan Mandeville Adkins, Aziza Al-Tawil, and former WV belly dance pioneer and performer “Eleni” (Ellen O’Farrell).

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Charity Hairston and “Mrs. Ripley, WV” Morgan Mandeville Adkins who was the “Mistress of Ceremonies” for the evening’s festivities.

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Billy Jack Watkins and “Eleni” (Ellen O’Farrell). Billy wears a souvenir T-Shirt with the image of late WV and NYC dance legend Johanna. “Eleni” was once Johanna’s pupil and protege’.

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Gretchen Addison and proud hubby Eric.

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Sara and Susan Hughart.

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Sara and Susan Hughart are joined by “Eleni” (Ellen O’Farrell).

If you missed the “Falling Tides” show you can still donate to “Elk River Blessings” at this link: WV Flood Relief.

Want to have your belly dance business listed in our directory? Click here…

“Photography Masterclass”

Newsflash! Serena Studios is Relocating After 40 plus years! By Aziza Al-Tawil

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After years and years of being located on 9th Ave. between 55th and 56th St. the legacy of the late great belly dance performer, teacher, and pioneer  is now moving to a new location. You might ask “why after all these years?” The answer is very simple: The landlord raised the rent too high! If you are looking to take classes with the lovely protégé’s that still carry the torch of her knowledge into the new “millennia” you can do so at “Belly Dance America,” 265 West 37th St., second floor. Here is a link to Serena Studios website with updated class and location info: “Serena Studios Online”.

“Online Fashion Shopping Platform”

“Exclusive Fashion Products”

“Red Smoothie Detox”

Funky Bottle Collecting: A Display featuring “Snake Charmer Shiraz” By Aziza Al-Tawil.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A recent purchase of roses inspired this impromptu display

Billy Jack bought some roses the other day and he and I set out to make a display using one of them. McLaren Vale “Snake Charmer” Wine and a fake plastic skull really make this shot. Along with a charming ceramic frog in a top hat Billy’s mother made. The pot is one of a set of two my mother and I used to balance fire on our head in during “Laz.”

Here are some more “snake charmers” from the past!:

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“Total Money Magnetism”

“Survive in Bed”

Online and by mail Middle Eastern Dance Instruction:

 “How to Dance Dabke with Samir Hasan”

“Aziza’s Vintage New York City Belly Dance Course”

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Turn the World Into Your Office

Egyptian Chick Magazine July 2016 Issue

Egyptian Chick Magazine July 2016

Premium Rose Water By Cortas Canning Co. 10floz

“Exclusive Fashion Products…”

Letter from the Editor:

In this month’s issue I have the pleasure of getting a bit of perspective and history of “Nubian Dance” from the lovely Alia of Melbourne, Australia. She had the great fortune to study with many peoples of Egypt including the Nubians while belly dancing there in 1996 and ’97. Alia, a native of New Zealand, was also the only foreign dancer requested at the time to dance for then President Hosni Mubarak. (Our cover girls this month are Alia reclining with the Isis wings on the lower left and Johanna circa 1964 in the upper right).

My mother always said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” In fact, I’d just about say it was her motto. That could not have been more true than when Johanna found that she had encountered through sheer co-incidence all the main players in the “Kennedy Saga” – one person in particular proved to be somewhat of a mystery and his identity will be revealed here in this issue. (The article also features several photos from “Ghost Town” at “Knott’s Berry Farm.” While preparing the article I did not realize this Summer is the “75 Anniversary” of “Knott’s Berry Farm” and all season special events are being celebrated at “Ghost Town.” Congratulations are in order).

A tidbit about “Tahitian Dance” and a memory of Danny Thomas are in this month’s issue. (Planning August’s issue will prove to be a challenge-with raising money for flood victims in WV to the controversial Democratic Convention in Philadelphia- it may be the most daunting yet! Stay tuned). Hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Exciting news from Aziza coming soon-be sure to subscribe to “Egyptian Chick” to get the latest info.

 Help West Virginia Flood Victims through “Save the Children”

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Johanna on the cross country trip she took with her husband Bill in 1966

Onassis Lost Love: The Belly Dancer Who Might Have Changed the World

By Aziza Al-Tawil

I would tell you that this is another crazy “She slept with the Kennedys story” but that would not be the case. At the risk of disappointing you I will say it’s a story of unusual connections and happenstances that occurred over a decade or more in the life of my mother Johanna and her husband Bill.

My mother Johanna was a beautiful girl from Charleston, WV when she went into show business with her husband Bill, a “malaria survivor” right after World War II. From the mid 1940’s through the late 50’s they starred in ballet companies, studied Flamenco with film legend Rita Hayworth’s uncle “Paco” Cansino, and toured as a nightclub act doing “adagio.”

After moving to NYC, every few years when they could fit it in, Bill and Johanna would go home to visit relatives in Charleston. One such occasion happened to be when John F. Kennedy, Jackie, and his brother Robert were in the middle of their famous campaign stops in West Virginia. Lifelong Democrats, Bill and Johanna not only met John and Jackie in a receiving line but found themselves joined by Robert F. Kennedy in the choir loft of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Charleston. Johanna thought they seemed to be nice people, especially Robert, and both she and Bill voted for John that Fall.

By the late 1950’s/early 60’s the popularity of “Dance Teams/Duos” was on the decline. Flamenco, a part of the long running “Latin” craze in music and dance was also a bit in decline by the 1960’s. Johanna was thirty two years old and ready to retire when Flamenco teacher Lola Bravo begged her not to quit “dance.” At the same time, belly dancer “Morocco” strong armed Johanna into trying belly dance after Johanna’s first reaction to it in an agent’s office had been less than “positive.” The cigar chomping agent had, while trying to describe belly dance to Johanna, actually placed his hands on her belly. My mother was horrified and burst into tears and ran out of his office. The fact that “Morocco,” a fellow “Alexandros” rehearsal studio regular, talked her into it finally was a miracle.

“Greektown” in NYC was a district around 8th Ave. and 29th St. dense with nightclubs that literally sprang up even more after the Greek hit movie “Never On Sunday” exploded onto the American pop culture scene.

Hungry for all things “Greek,” fans packed the venues for their oriental music “fix.”

Some of the many famous patrons who were fans of Johanna included jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Jane Fonda and her then husband Roger Vadim, and Aristotle Onassis and his young daughter Christina.

Johanna made a big splash in “Greektown” working all the clubs. She recognized belly dancing as a “folk dance” and soon her nickname was “Naraitha” or “Wood Nymph” in Greek. Also known as “Dryads” they are dancing faeries of the trees in Greek mythology.

It was at the “Egyptian Gardens” that Aristotle first fell in love with “Naraitha”- Johanna.

Ari, who always brought Christina with him, would leave his table to wait patiently at the side of the dance floor for Johanna to finish her act. Then, careful not to touch her skin inappropriately, he would place a large bill under her bra strap.

Aristotle began inquiring about Johanna, constantly seeking to arrange a meeting with her through “go-betweens,” but Johanna would have none of it. “I’m married!” she would exclaim in horror. The waiters would reply with equal horror, “But that’s Onassis!” Johanna really thought Ari was a nice man but her husband Bill was the love of her life. (At that time they did not hire male dancers to work in Greektown so when my mother started missing her husband as a dance partner that became the catalyst for founding “Johanna’s Oasis Ballet.” They had already been doing that for a few years when Ari started pursuing her).

One night another dancer showed Johanna a ruby eyed snake ring a friend from Italy had just given her. She asked Johanna what her favorite gem was. Johanna told her that she loved the ring and that rubies were indeed her favorite. It turned out the dancer was getting info  on behalf of  Aristotle who readied to ply her with jewelry, but before he could take it any further, for love of her husband, she made clear she wouldn’t budge.

Ari finally gave up his quest and for a while it seemed that would be all Johanna would hear about it.

In 1966, Bill suddenly got the notion to take Johanna on a cross country trip to California to see an old friend he’d worked with in the printing department of the New York Times. Al Rojas and his wife Rosemary lived in Fountain Valley, CA now with their small daughter.

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Johanna at “Viscaya” in Miami. Former members of the Dade County Ballet, they decided to go here first and then head West on their “cross country” trip.

 

 

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Bill with some feathered friends at the “Parrot Jungle” in Miami.

 

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Johanna and Bill, San Bernardino National Forest

 

Unbeknownst to Johanna, the reason for the trip was so Bill could get away from a young model named Barbara whom he was already having an affair with in NYC. The liaison with the twenty one year old began when the “Times” changed from “Linotype” to “Teletype” and their famous building in Mid-Town Manhattan was flooded with young female secretaries. Barbara was one of these women. 

 

Rosemary, Alfonso, their daughter, and Johanna

Rosemary and Al Rojas with their daughter Alexandra and Johanna at “Ghost Town” at “Knott’s Berry Farm” in California. Al came from a famous “Mariachi Band” family in Mexico.

 

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Bill and Al with a couple of “Friends” they picked up at “Ghost Town” at Knott’s Berry Farm in California.

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Johanna and Bill with Alexandra Rojas in “Ghost Town” at “Knott’s Berry Farm” in California

The trip West was for pleasure, Johanna thought. The pay for belly dancers in California was notoriously low so it had not entered her mind to make the vacation a “working” one. However, this did not stop Bill and Johanna from wanting to take in a show or two at local Middle Eastern Clubs and one encounter she had at one such place would turn out to be one of the most shocking and end up haunting and confusing her for years.

Johanna went to what she thought was the “Cleopatra Lounge” (although it could have been Lou Shelaby’s “The Fez”). A young oud player with a sweet disposition began talking to her and then started telling everyone that she was his wife. He went on and on about her being his wife even in front of her husband. Though he must have been joking it went on uncomfortably long. The oud player told her his name. It was “Sirhan” he said. Johanna’s impression of this young man was that he was very childlike and sweet.

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Johanna on the trip West in front of some unidentified “Moorish” looking architecture.

 

Johanna did not care for the smog in Los Angeles at the time as it gave her bronchitis. (Johanna actually loved San Diego). Therefore, she expressed displeasure at Bill’s request they remain there and take up residence. Johanna’s refusing to move to Los Angeles sealed her fate as she was soon to find out when they returned to NYC. Bill, in full, “Mid-Life Crisis” mode, resumed his affair with Barbara. Johanna was horrified when she learned of the affair.  Bill had been cheating on her all along-while she was turning down the romantic overtures of one of the richest men in the world!

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Bill reaching up for a lady, “Ghost Town” at “Knott’s Berry Farm, ” CA

 

Barbara called their apartment. Johanna told Barbara to leave her husband alone as he was going through some “issues” and was not “in his right mind.” Barbara growled into to the telephone sarcastically “You’ve had him for seventeen years! Now it’s my turn!”

After hanging up the phone, my mother picked up a finger nail file and headed downtown to the New York Times building. She approached Barbara there and stabbed the young woman in the stomach with the finger nail file enough to break the skin. Just then Bill had arrived and he and his boss broke up the “catfight.” He said to Johanna later that day, “If you had meant to kill her you’d have brought a knife.” Johanna said, “I was so upset at her attitude – I just picked up anything that was handy!”

Bill and Johanna “separated” but continued to live together in their apartment at 255 West 55th St. Interestingly enough, Bill and Barbara’s relationship turned sour apparently and he wanted to get back together with Johanna but he would not apologize. This was something Johanna felt she deserved. One night Bill said he was going down to the corner for the newspaper. He did not come back.

Johanna was beside herself but kept plugging along. To her astonishment, Bill’s boss at the New York Times actually came to the “Grecian Palace” where she was performing to try to talk her into getting back together with Bill. She said she wanted Bill to say he was sorry-not send “go-betweens” to smooth things out.

Bill told Johanna he wanted a divorce and since she was distraught he offered to go to Mexico himself to obtain it quickly.  Things went downhill for Johanna after that. (Bill was not only walking out on Johanna but letting the entire company down of the “Johanna’s Oasis Ballet” which was booked solid, even asked to perform in Djakarta, Indonesia by the Sukarno government. The dance company was in existence about 2 1/2 years).

Despondent and alone she fell into the clutches of Samir Al-Tawil, the “black sheep” cousin of comedian Danny Thomas and the child star Anissa Jones. By this time, Ari Onassis had long given up his pursuit of Johanna and was at about this time about to become engaged to Jackie Kennedy. The ring’s gemstone? A ruby.

Samir, mostly remembered now for composing the Middle Eastern disco hit “Linda-Linda,” left Johanna penniless and pregnant after marrying her in a sham ceremony and stealing $5000 from her which was her entire savings. It was not long after that Johanna watched in horror the coverage of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination and the alleged perpetrator of the crime, Sirhan Sirhan. Could he have been that sweet young man she encountered in that nightclub in California? For many years she believed that was whom she had met. She believed him to be some sort of “Patsy” like Lee Harvey Oswald who could have easily been “hypnotized.”

Johanna engaged in a bitter paternity suit against Samir. Ironically, as all of this was going down, Aristotle Onassis finally married Jackie Kennedy on the Island of Skorpios. Aristotle had finally given up on Johanna. She felt like a fool.

When I was one year old , Johanna and I were performing at the “Parthenon” club in Houston and another Onassis “connection” was made.

This time it was the chef from the yacht “Christina,” who was now working in the kitchen of the Parthenon so his seriously ill daughter could receive treatment from heart surgery pioneer Dr. Michael DeBakey who was president of the nearby “Baylor College of Medicine.”

Johanna always says, “Well at least I got to eat the food prepared by the “Christina’s” chef. It was delicious!”

A few months after my mother Johanna’s death in 2012, I finally got a puzzle piece about the oud player that said his name was “Sirhan.” Some belly dancer friends in California told me that the oud player Johanna encountered was likely Adel Sirhan – Sirhan Sirhan’s brother. Adel played the oud on the Los Angeles and San Francisco circuit and was a beloved “sweetheart” to all who knew him. The Kennedy debacle was very hard for him. According to the dancers, they never knew Sirhan to have played the oud.

It’s only been in the last couple of years that I became aware of an article that actor Robert Vaughn wrote about the RFK assassination for the UK Daily Mail around 2009. In the article, Vaughn, a long time personal friend of Robert’s claims that the plot to kill Robert did not take shape until early 1968. He continues to claim that through meetings with a woman named Helene Gaillet she revealed to him that Aristotle Onassis had confessed to her his bankrolling the RFK assassination. Apparently, a grudge had been started early in Robert’s career over Greek shipping and Red China (Onassis ships were not involved but blocked anyway) and Ari developed a desire to get “even” with the Kennedys somehow.

Whether this is true or not, I can’t tell you. I can only provide a link to the Vaughn article and let folks decide for themselves. The only thing that strikes me so, all these years later is wondering that if the story is true, how could my mother’s acceptance of Ari as a suitor and perhaps husband have changed the course of history? It seemed that his mind was not on Lee Radziwell or her sister Jackie when he made a very passionate and public play for Johanna (although this went on in Greek Town and the general public has never had a clue until now with me telling about it). If Johanna had said “yes,” would Ari have had less social communion with the Kennedys and been too pre-occupied with her to continue a grudge? At least not in such a drastic manner?

As for Sirhan, many believe he was under hypnosis by those who knew how to “program” those who are “malleable” in that sense. In February, of this year, Sirhan came up for parole for the 15th time. Paul Schrade, a confidant of RFK who is 91 years old now and among the five people shot at the Ambassador Hotel that night testified that Sirhan should be released because “The evidence clearly shows you were not the gunman who shot Robert Kennedy.” RFK was shot from behind three times and three bullets entered his body from that direction. (Sirhan fired his gun in front of him). Audio also captures 13 shots being fired and Sirhan’s weapon held only eight.

Many sad years march on, after a while, we lose an ability to find the truth.

The only thing I really know to be true is that turning down Aristotle Onassis was considered by my mother to be the biggest mistake of her life. “You’d have been Greek!” She always told me. Another thing my mother used to add, “If I had life to live over again-I wouldn’t have be so nice! I was just too nice!”

Actor Robert Vaughn’s Account of Onassis Link to RFK Assassination

Sirhan Legal Case Update as of 2013

Nubian Dancing Girl Upper Egypt

Nubian Dance

by Alia

As with any topic in the genre we label “Beledi” as a dance form, Nubian might be simplistic in it’s steps and movements, however, it’s incredibly complex in that it carries the full weight of it’s history and traditions, the feelings conveyed as well as being part of the current geo-political scenario.  This is why I presented a workshop on Nubian Dance, I explain to the participants, it would be incredibly boring to spend 2 hours going over the one step, which is basically all that Nubian Dance consists of, and they would, perhaps, feel “ripped off” if that is all I presented as a choreography.  It would have been also remiss of me to just teach a dance without delving into the reasons why Nubians dance the way they do and all the influences that have compounded onto that one step.

If I could just digress for a moment, I remember several years ago having a wonderful debate and in-depth discussion with Hossam Ramzy on the question of “Beledi”.  Although it translates as a collective possessive noun meaning “village” [of my village] or anything that is referred to as folkloric, we came to the conclusion that a better interpretation of the word (and concept for western minds) would be to use the word “community”.  That way we can think of it being more intangible, and as a concept, the cultural aspects becomes mentally and physically transportable, rather than in the western thinking of a traditional dance that is only defined by it’s geography.  This is particularly true of Nubian Dance where its geographical location has been obliterated from the late 1960s to 1972 when Lake Nasser was formed due to the Aswan High Dam and the commencement of Egypt’s hydro-electric program.

For centuries, Nubia was a country situated between Egypt and Sudan, until The Nile River was dammed.  The result was the diaspora of the Nubian people and relocation of an entire nation to either north and become automatically Egyptian citizens, or go south into Sudan. Everything that was tangible evidence of their culture has been lost for ever under what has become the largest man-made body of water on Earth.  The only thing that these people could take with them were their traditions that were carried on through their language, songs and dance. And as so often in communities, it’s dance that is the “glue” that keeps people together and their customs alive.

However, Nubian culture has come to the point where the people have forgotten why they do certain customs, the reasons for them have been lost to time (and water).  This too is a point I raised in the workshop, and although I teach the authentic steps and movements, as taught to me by the Nubians I met in Aswan, their dance is in danger of being lost, or perhaps fused and blended with the cultures of the countries that have taken them in.  Their dance becomes a paler version of what it once was as a new generation of Nubians growing up in essentially a foreign land, and without their roots, their traditions are memorized parrot fashion, to be put on display for western tourists who just want to be entertained but not really immersed into someone’s culture.  Or, their songs have changed to reflect the emotions of losing their home land and subsequent diaspora created from moving into these countries.  They are not necessarily sad, such as the well know Belly Dance piece “Salaam Cairo Salaam”, from a Nubian song embracing a new life in the exciting city, but certainly don’t reflect the proud traditions of their ancient world.

To the Egyptians, Nubian dance, music and songs were interesting from around 2005 until  2010, but more as something that was useful for the tourism industry to show off Egypt’s cultural diversity.  (This was until the “Arab Spring” and subsequent turmoil, and now any western research and further joint Egyptian archaeological exploration into any remains of what was Nubia in and around the Wadi Haifa region (on the boarder between Egypt and Northern Sudan) have been thwarted due to Islamist uprising or more pressing geo-political and financial issues.  Coupled with the downturn in tourism, this has also meant a lack of interest within Egypt of Nubian culture).

But getting back to the point of Nubian people presenting their culture to western audiences.  Like any Beledi dance, this genre is really participatory, for an entire community or of a family grouping of people ranging in ages/generations rather than a dance as a performance piece.  So most of what is seen has been adapted to present on stage, as well as utilizing traditional dance movements to showcase elements of their culture, such as a traditional wedding, which can take anywhere from five to seven days, and subsequently shown to audiences as a “wedding dance” which encapsulates all the various elements of the entire wedding ceremony into five minutes.

All Nubian dances are performed as a group, either male dances which are usually portray fighting with the Tahkteib (large stick), that also doubles as part of the rhythmic structure of the music; female dances which show elements of the lead up to the wedding ceremony, or of daily life; or if men and women are dancing together, they dance in segregated lines.  The women often coming into the performance space and weaving in and out through the men, in their own choreographed patterns, also utilizing rhythmic clapping, but they don’t play any instruments.

It’s interesting to note that both men and women use rhythmic clapping while standing in a line and alternating, one will clap above their head, the next down at the knee, then swapping.  This is kept up through the song.  Also when men and women dance together, the men often take a secondary role, or a background role to the women, and often lower their head height to below that of the women, or actually dance on their knees or in a crouching position when dancing near women.

Other elements, for both men and women, include the “arm swing”, where the arms are kept low, and elbows in at the waist (unlike any other kind of Middle Eastern dance form where the arms are always kept away from the body).  The arms swing from out either side of the body, then swung inwards up to the chest, and outwards again.   This is done in conjunction with what I call “The Nubian Step” – a shuffling gait with the left foot turned inwards with right foot placed slightly behind.  The heel of the right foot is raised, and the movement is executed through the ball of the foot.  This step is repeated throughout the dance, either stationery or used as a travelling step.  The women usually have a shuffling step without the turned foot, or just a quick. short “running” step while maintaining a “gliding” gait.

It should also be noted that while the men show emotion and joy by smiling while dancing, traditionally the women do not, which was pointed out to me on numerous occasions by the Nubians.  They do make a point of saying that this particularly sets them apart from the Egyptians, and they do get annoyed with the fact that when Egyptians presented Nubian dance in their cabaret shows in Cairo for the tourists, that the female performers were smiling.

The women NOT smiling while dancing is so ingrained in their culture, there is even a comic dance where the men utilise funny movements, or pull faces to try and make the women laugh and drop their demeanour. The women respond with expressions of cool detachment.  This is not due to current religious sensibilities but because as a society, the Nubian culture is by tradition, very matriarchal.  For centuries Nubia was ruled by a succession of Warrior Queens, known as the Kandake (pron. KAN-DAI-KAY), and later the Nubian word evolved to Kandasay or Kandayce (which, incidentally, is where we get the present day female name CANDACE or CANDICE).  These ancient women were highly trained to use swords and other weaponry, and to this day, in a traditional Nubian wedding, the groom presenting his sword to the bride is the symbol of marriage.  Even today, for Nubians living in Egypt, property inheritance is handed down the female line and not the male side.  Another element that sets them apart in today’s Egyptian society.

This article is just a snapshot of a fascinating culture and dance, and can’t really be fully appreciated unless you have had the opportunity to experience it.  I was lucky enough to have been taught by numerous Nubian people who were willing to impart to me their knowledge during my time in Egypt from 1996 – 1997, from which I made copious notes, managed to video as much as I could, and that they gave me permission to teach this dance form at any opportunity, in the hope that their culture doesn’t disappear.

About Alia:

Alia is a professional Belly Dancer, and has worked all over the world, especially in Egypt, where she earned her Performer’s License there (which is the highest qualification you can earn in the Middle Eastern Dance world).  While in Egypt, she had the unique experience of being the only foreign dancer to have performed for President Mubarak.

She has had almost 30 years of dance and teaching experience and brings a wealth of information, and in Melbourne, AU, Alia performs at restaurants, weddings and functions, both in the cabaret and folkloric styles.

She is especially interested in teaching Belly Dance for women’s health, and has taught workshops extensively around Australia and overseas, to a large variety of women’s groups, including dance therapy classes for disabled women.  Alia was also approached by several hospitals in the Melbourne area to write a paper for them on the health benefits of Belly Dance, particularly for Pre/Post Natal and dance exercise during pregnancy.

Alia has appeared in numerous dance shows, TV appearances and has taught workshops all over the world, as well as around Australia.  She has also facilitated for some of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of Belly Dance and Music, most notably:

Laurel Victoria Grey

Hossam & Serena Ramzy

Omar Faruk Tekbilik

Issam Houshan

Michelle Joyce

for further details contact:

Alia (Deborah Kananghinis)

0418-525-684 (for International drop the 0 and add +61)

or 

(61 3) 9497-5727

FACEBOOK: Alia Bellydance

www.bellydancealia.websyte.com.au

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Flea Market Find: “The Dance of Tahiti”

In the 1970s we were still in love with the “exotic” and the preservation of ethnic cultures through dance and art. It is in that spirit that Jane Freeman Moulin wrote the book “The Dance of Tahiti” (1979) after much studying and graduating from schools like “The Institute of Ethno Musicology” in Los Angeles.

Her work on this book though comes from the very intimate experience of actually moving to French Polynesia and becoming a performer of these dances herself. I’ve only posted a few photos of the book and it really does not do it justice. There are scores of beautiful photos of dancers page by page and some in depth instructional illustrations. Even though, as a dancer myself, I know that the written page in general is not the best place to learn dancing, I still applaud the effort put forth in this book and it is something I feel anyone like me would be really excited to find in good condition in a thrift shop or flea market. It looks so interesting I can’t wait to read it!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

“The Dance of Tahiti” by Jane Freeman Moulin 1979

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One of the instructional pages from “The Dance of Tahiti” by Jane Freeman Moulin 1979

 

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One of the many lovely dancers in photos throughout “The Dance of Tahiti” by Jane Freeman Moulin

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Photo Memory: Danny Thomas in the 60s

Danny Thomas

Lebanese Comedian Danny Thomas Mid 1960s

The wonderful comedian, actor, and philanthropist Danny Thomas. He hired Johanna and Bill (“Turhan”) for his Danny Thomas Brotherhood Award Show in Miami, FL. This photo is either from that event in Miami or might be when they visited Las Vegas on their cross country trip in 1966. Danny was the founder of both the Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and “ALSAC” –  the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities.

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