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elven glare
elven_ranger wrote in bd_newbie
I am trying to decide between two sets of "bottom halves" on Ebay for a trio of girls in a theatre show I am directing. Set in Algeirs, three slave girls have to [belly]dance to impress the Sheikh. Now some of the shows will be in stantard theatres and some are open air shows during the summer. I simply cant decide between these two types (bearing in mind theres a large range of colours for both, so its a choice of style rather than colour. Also two of the girls are plus size though with nice figures.)

In our shoes, which style would you choose? 


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I'd go with the top one because it flows better with a range of sizes. The bottom one is less forgiving.

with the top endless wave pants, be prepared that you may actually have to wear tights or leggings underneath - the ones I've seen (on other local dancers) have been a bit too sheer and - a bit too short - so if any of your girls are really tall - might be an issue. Never ordered them myself so I wouldn't know for sure.

the skirts I have ordered have been long enough for all but the tallest girls, some of them have a built in modesty panel.

I'd probably still opt for the pants though... because I'm partial to pants personally. Particularly for outdoor shows.

Is this a specific period piece for performance? If so, you may want to look at the costuming for the Ouled Nail who are generally considered to be the historical professional dancers in Algeria.

Is this part of a play or larger storyline? The "harem girls dancing for the sultan" trope is pretty common in literature, but is an inaccurate representation of the history of belly dance and isn't usually in belly dance specific shows for that reason. If you are aiming for a historical reference, the costuming styles above would not be suitable. If this is purely a fantasy creation as part of a play, then it will depend on the costume styles of the other actors as you would want to match them in theme. Do you have a director that you could take your options to for an opinion on what would fit best with the rest of the cast for the show?

Edited to add:
Some reference images for the Ouled Nail:

Edited at 2011-03-03 03:09 pm (UTC)

its a theatre show, on a very tight budget.

I am the director.

and yes its a fantasy show. the bellydance is just a part of it.

In terms of inexpensive belly dance items that are usually of medium to high quality, you can also look at resources like Moon Dance:

If you have a seamstress on staff for the show, there are also easy patterns online for making most basic belly dance skirts, pants, etc.

Edited at 2011-03-03 03:23 pm (UTC)

As the director, are you planning a period piece or a fantasy piece? It makes a huge difference in the costuming styles you can use. For a fantasy piece, you can use anything you like without regards to accuracy. If the rest of the show is an accurate period piece, but the dancers are in fantasy garb, it would look very out of place to anyone familiar with the period. If the piece is overall fantasy, either of the options would work, but I would recommend something of higher quality if it will be worn for more than one of two shows as some of the ones you have pictured can be extremely low quality. It is generally luck of the draw whether you get those well-made or poorly-made.

Will this be performed at belly dance venues or only theatre/play venues? That would also make a difference in which costuming styles would work best.

Agreed, on all of this. It should also be mentioned that the "custom" of the Ouled Naïl dancing provocatively for strange men had more to do with what colonialism did to the economy and customs. Unfortunately, because of this, a lot of photographic images of the Ouled Naïl were specifically set up to please the Orientalist (and prurient) tastes of Europeans, hence all the nakey pics. As I understand it, what travelers took home about the Ouled Naïl may not exactly have reflected a cultural truth.

If the OP is keeping to the "harem concubines appeasing the Pasha" routine (keeping in mind I agree with your take on it), and setting it in Old Algeria, perhaps looking at costuming from the Ottoman Empire -- Turkish-style stuff, IOW -- would be a better bet. Algeria was part of the Ottoman Empire before the French stomped in.

Fantasy is easier to manage than history where these things are concerned, and fraught with a lot less peril of various sorts.

Absolutely agree with you. :) Most of the old postcards were fauxtography, but there are some nice representations in historical archives as long as you are patient enough to sift out the naked and/or blatantly orientalist ones.

Exactly. I wince at the naked ones, because it's so obviously exploitative (as in "marginalized group making a living however they can in a situation where they are powerless" especially because apart from the colonialism and sexual exploitation of the Europeans, the Naili were Imazighen in an Arab-dominant culture, so doubly marginalized). I boggle that anyone can look at these things and think they're reflective of actual cultural tradition.

I will say I love this little 13-second Edison clip of "Princess Ali" dancing, because it's 13 seconds of dignity, even in an undignified situation.

Do you mind if I friend you? I am an anthropologist in my day life and *love* finding other people who are as interested in history and culture as I am. :)

Lovely! I'm afraid I'm only but so interesting, but I'm flattered :D

thats my thought as well, to be honest.

...Also, if this is the theme you have to work with, I'd consider looking at Orientalist art for inspiration rather than trying for authenticity (because the theme itself is an Orientalist trope). Stuff like this. That being said, it seems that something styled like the first skirt would be more in keeping with the "languid drapery half-concealing" theme of all those paintings of odalisques.

i would go for the second style personally.

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