Filmed in 1974 and released in 1976 under the title Gameel Gamal (Oh! Beautiful Dancer), Gordon Inkeles’ 25-minute short played several film festivals and then vanished for 30 years. It presents a brief history of belly dancing, then tells the story of two young dancers, Katarina (pictured) and Taia, who are breaking into an apparently thriving belly-dance scene in San Francisco.
The new title is appropriate. The film contains entire belly dances by Katarina and Taia, and also by their senior, Amina, who tells them they should perform as if dancing for a king. We later see her dance, and that’s exactly what she does. Though short, the film is a satisfying introduction to belly-dance aesthetics, in that each of these classic dancers brings a special quality, a special talent and a slightly different approach to her work. But the film is something more, an unexpectedly touching document of this city a generation ago. I found out about the film because (full disclosure) I’m a friend of Katarina’s — known today as Stanford acting teacher Kay Kostopoulos and as the vocalist for Black Olive Jazz. I’m glad I did, because even beyond the belly-dance aspect, there’s something magical and wistful about traveling in this time machine and finding yourself on some lost yet vibrant afternoon, watching De Ann Adams (Miss Sonoma County 1968) perform an extended dance by the Embarcadero. Not everyone will be moved, but if you loved the ’70s, you’ll understand. — Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
Stream this classic vintage film on Vimeo On Demand.
Arcata-Arts is now offering the Classic Stars of Bellydance to purchase and limited time rental.
Finalist, American Film Festival –19th Annual American Film Festival