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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Mini-Reviews of Television Episodes with Either "Belly Dance" Or Middle Eastern Touches



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Every time a movie or television show features a belly dancing scene or even just a "harem girl" scene, it shapes someone's attitude toward our dance form. It can be useful to show some movie clips to our students to help them understand the role the mainstream entertainment industry has played in creating public opinion. It can also be fun to watch them, to see how portrayals have changed over the years.

It can be overwhelming to look at Maria's List of almost 200 television episodes, trying to decide which ones to seek out in search of belly dance scenes or portrayals of Middle Eastern women. The purpose of the mini-reviews is to provide further information on some of these shows, to help people prioritize which they may want to watch.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.




The Television Episodes

Batman: Hizzoner the Penguin

Episode Season 2. Hizzoner the Penguin (17th Episode)
First Aired November 2, 1966
Dancer Little Egypt
Shira's Feedback Wild, playful, fun to watch.

In this episode of the old 1960's Batman television series, the Penguin runs for mayor. His campaign rally showcases the band Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Little Egypt does a high-energy dance performance with lots of spinning and torso undulations. It's about a minute in length.



I Dream of Jeannie: The Lady in the Bottle

Episode Season 1. The Lady in the Bottle (1st Episode)
First Aired September 18, 1965
Dancers Barbara Eden and Others
Shira's Feedback Silly and playful, but short

Jeannie transforms Tony's living room into a harem scene. She and some lovely ladies that she blinks in for the occasion dance a bit for Tony. Jeannie herself does some good head slides and hip-twist shimmies. The other women have chicken-wing arms as they attempt to do hip lifts and other moves, then they run in a circle around Tony. It's silly and fun to watch, but very short - only about a minute in length.



Max Headroom: Body Banks

Episode Season 1. Body Banks (3rd Episode)
First Aired April 14, 1987
Dancer Suhaila Salimpour
Shira's Feedback Entertaining, but hard to see the dancing

A young Suhaila Salimpour dances in a seedy bar on a stage next to an enormous pig. The mood lighting and makeup make her appear rather unsavory, but her dancing is beautiful and fluid. The dance scene is short, and it's often hard to see her because she is mostly in the background while the show's main characters talk. Altogether, there is about 1 1/2 minutes of dancing, but only about 30 seconds of that is easy to see.

Max Headroom


Sex and the City: The Awful Truth

Episode Season 2. The Awful Truth (2nd Episode)
First Aired June 13, 1999
Dancers Raven and Shantal Riley
Shira's Feedback Insulting to belly dancers.

Although belly dancers are present and appear to be "real" belly dancers, there isn't much on-camera dancing - there's a bit of arm-waving and the occasional veil floats past the camera. The script makes two references to the belly dancers doing lap dances (even though real belly dancers certainly don't, and there is no lap dancing done by the dancers in this episode), and Mr. Big makes an annoying remark about having no money for cab fare because he stuffed all his 20's into the belly dancer's crotch. Yech.

Sex and the City


Sex and the City: Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl

Episode Season 3. Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl (4th Episode)
First Aired June 25, 2000
Dancers Jenna Rosenberg
Shira's Feedback Huh?

This is the episode where Carrie and Miranda, in an effort to be more feminine, sign up for a "Goddess Workout" class. This is also the episode of Sex and the City that Dolphina refers to in her marketing materials when she talks about how one of her belly dance students at Crunch wrote her class into an episode. Well, there isn't much belly dancing to it. Mostly, people in the class are aimlessly waving a pair of scarves around in the air. The closest thing to belly dancing is when the instructor tells everyone to "Pop your hips!" I have to admit, I rather enjoy it when the two heroines decide they're out of there. All in all, the scene is somewhat boring and I don't see what it has to do with belly dance. But if you don't like all the New Age-y chakra talk on Dolphina's DVD's, you might enjoy the way this episode makes fun of her.

Sex and the City


The Simpsons: Homer's Night Out

Episode Season 1. Homer's Night Out (10th Episode)
First Aired March 25, 1990
Dancer Princess Kashmir (Animated Character)
Shira's Feedback Insulting to belly dancers.

Homer goes to a bachelor party, which features a belly dancer as entertainment. Her skimpy costume is basically a bikini with a chiffon scarf tucked into the hip at each side. Later in the episode, when Homer goes looking for her, the places he visits in his search include girlie clubs - the sorts of places that have Vegas-style showgirls in bikinis and feathers. The tone of the entire episode suggests that he did something wrong by enjoying a belly dance performance.



Star Trek, The Original Series: The Menagerie, Part 2

Episode Season 1. The Menagerie, Part 2 (Episode 12)
First Aired November 24, 1966
Dancer Susan Oliver
Shira's Feedback A reasonably positive portrayal, actually. Very short.

There's only about 45 seconds of actual dancing in this episode, but it's quite intense. A character named Vina, with extraterrestrial assistance, crafts an illusion of herself as a sexy Orion Slave Girl. In the Star Trek mythos, Orion Slave Girls are the most desirable females in the galaxy. The dancer is a seductress, a vamp, a creature to be desired.

Star Trek


Star Trek, the Original Series: Wolf in the Fold

Episode Season 2. Wolf in the Fold (Episode 14 this season, Episode 36 overall)
First Aired December 22, 1967
Dancer Tanya Lemani
Shira's Feedback A positive portrayal of our dance form with excellent dancing, but I'm not fond of the "dance of seduction" stereotype it puts forward.

This episode opens with a belly dance scene. A dancer named Kara performs in a nightclub sort of setting as the officers from the Enterprise watch with great interest. The behavior of the audience is somewhat stereotypical — they're a group of men salivating over a beautiful woman, and Captain Kirk has arranged for the dancer to come to the table after her performance to meet Scotty. But I like it in spite of this because the dancing is worth watching.

Star Trek


Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Version Hosted by Drew Carey)

Episode Season 5. Episode 25.
First Aired July 25, 2003
Dancers Veena & Neena Bidashi
Shira's Feedback Not much dancing, because the point of this appearance was to serve as a catalyst for comedy. However, I enjoyed lots of laughs! I feel good about how they represented belly dancers in a comedy situation!

Whose Line is an improvised comedy show, so the appearance of the twins focuses on being a catalyst for comedy, not on dancing. For that reason, if you're looking for a dance performance, you'll probably be disappointed. Identical twin dancers Veena and Neena appear in three sketches as guests. In the first sketch, "Duet", Wayne Brady and Chip Esten sing an improvised song as the twins dance around them with snakes. It's almost 4 minutes in length. I found Wayne's reaction to the snakes to be particularly hilarious. In the second sketch, "Living Scenery", Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie use the twins as living props, such as a milkshake machine, a craps table, and a vibrating bed in the hotel room. This one is about 5 minutes in length. In the third sketch, the twins provide a belly dancing lesson to the regular cast as they read the credits.



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