Sunday, October 31, 2010

Princess Raja - 1904

Country: United States
Princess Raja bellydancing - 1904
Princess Rajah performs an "Oriental" or belly dance, and a balancing chair act in her teeth like that often found in folk performances in various cultures from Northern Africa to Greece. Shot outdoors in a street scene at the St. Louis Exposition, the film captures her act in an extreme long shot.
Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.; 3June1904; H46819.
Camera, A.E. Weed.
Performer: Princess Rajah.
Duration: 1:11 at 16 fps.
According to vaudeville historians Joe Laurie, Jr. and Douglas Gilbert, Princess Rajah started as a "cooch" (an early form of what was considered/called belly dance) dancer at Coney Island in the 1890s. She was booked for a time at Huber's Museum in New York City before Willie Hammerstein presented her in her vaudeville debut at Hammerstein's Victoria theater on 42nd Street. In addition to her dance with a chair, she also performed an Oriental dance with snakes. Princess Rajah was a featured act in the "Mysterious Asia" concession on the Pike at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. She later married agent Clifford C. Fischer.
Summary description provided by dance ethnologist Michelle Forner, 9/25/96.

1 comment:

  1. It's "belly" that should be in quotes & not Oriental, which is the correct translation of both Raqs Sharqi & Oryantal Tansi (Raqs-i-Sahane) what the people to whom this dance belongs call it. They should know.

    "belly" dance was a racist, sexist, colonialist insult to the dances & cultures of those peoples & was considered an extremely vulgar word at the time (1890s).

    "Cooch" comes from "hoochy-koochy", which came from the French hocheque, to shake the tail & is what Raqs Sharqi/ Oryantal Tansi, Hula & all other dances using the hips were called by Westerners/ colonials before it was superceded by the much more insulting "b" word.

    Red my book for further clarificarion.