The art of belly dancing and belly dancers themselves have appeared in numerous films over the generations. Everything from Hollywood to Bollywood and all in between. Sometimes the belly dance is to portray the mystic Middle East, other times it is to represent beautiful and graceful girls. Whatever the reason, belly dancers have been performing on the big screen since its very inception, and in this blog, we look at some of the films that have featured this most graceful of dances.
From Russia with Love
This early James Bond classic in 1963 had two scenes where belly dancing was prominently featured. The opening credits of From Russia with Love, featured marvellous dancing from Julie Mendez and it was a taste of what was to come later in this spy thriller from Albert Broccoli. The film was Sean Connery’s second role as agent James Bond trying once again defeat Spectre. Later in the movie there was a Gypsy Camp scene where Julie Mendez was again featured dancing with Lisa Guiraut, the best thing about this scene was that the two dancers were actual belly dancers in real life.
On the Town
How fitting that one of the best musicals to come out of Hollywood in the early 50’s and 60’s should also feature belly dancing. On the Town was set to the music of Leonard Bernstein and the story is about three sailors on shore leave in New York. Hollywood stars Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin sing and dance their way through legendary songs, such as, New York, New York. The three sailors fall in love with Ivy Smith, who turns out to be a cooch dancer at nearby Coney Island. The dance scene is actually the cooch dance and is a short highlight of the film, where the guys dress up in women’s clothes and dance on stage.
Not a particularly inspirational film, Mr. Wrong was released in 1996. The main scenario is in a Moroccan restaurant where Ellen DeGeneres is waiting for a blind date. In the background a belly dancer is performing, the dancing is quite superb and at one point the belly dancer bends backwards over the table and her hair is strewn all over the plates. The dance scene is quite humorous, but nothing can be taken away from the quality of the dancing in this scene.
Son of Sinbad
Released in 1955, the belly dance scenes in the movie were thought of scandalous by many at the time. The dance sequences and the sheer costumes were extremely racy for the mid-fifties audiences. Famous Turkish belly dancer Nejla Ates is at her very best when she dances an exhilarating number early on in the film. It was far eclipsed on the Richter scale of risqué by Sally Forrest’s very sexual pole/belly dance later on.
All these films took the opportunity to celebrate belly dancing, how it can create a certain type of mood and sensual atmosphere. No other dance form can quite generate the same level of sensuality that belly dancing can, and the directors were correct to add it to their movies.