Princess Ali (1895)

by popegrutch

Princess Ali

Alternate Title: Egyptian Dance

I don’t know much about this movie, but it is clearly a Kinetoscope short made in the Black Maria, and was shot in the Spring of 1895, when interest in Kinetoscopes was already starting to flag. It shows a woman in Middle Eastern dress dancing, and may be the first “belly dance video.” There are three musicians behind her, also in what looks to me like Arab costume (one has a turban, they all are in robes). Two of them, at least, are men, while the third is mostly offscreen, so it’s hard to say. According to Charles Musser in The Emergence of Cinema, these were performers brought in from Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. He also makes an allusion, in an interview for “The Invention of Movies,” to belly dancing as a “forbidden” spectacle, something that was shocking at the time. No doubt this was intended to drum up interest even as the novelty of the technology began to wear off.

Director: William Heise

Camera: William Heise

Run Time: 27 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.