Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sonny Lester: How to Belly Dance For Your Husband

The cover of the 1968 release from Sonny Lester - His Orchestra & Chorus:
Little Egypt Presents: How to Belly Dance For Your Husband.

The “Little Egypt” referred to is not a real person but a marketing hook. The name evokes the “original” Little Egypt, the scandalous sensation who bellydanced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. There was probably no “real” person called Little Egypt at the World’s Fair but there were a number of bellydancers from Egypt and Algeria at the Fair and they did create a sensation and a longlasting legacy. The scandal and sensation launched a “shimmying” trend in female dancing that reverberated in carnival sideshows and burlesque halls and strip clubs for decades, and it lives on today in the huge network of US bellydancers and the performances of Shakira and Britney and....

Bellydancing music was HUGE in the US in the 1950s and early and there are dozens of recordings and many amazing covers. The theme was: middle class women, spice up your married lives by bellydancing for your spouse. Belly dance clubs in New York City and other urban centers were hip meccas for middle class whites looking for exotic and wild experiences. has a great archive of album covers and also uploads albums once a month. The Lester recording is still up as of today. I’m not sure about it’s legality but....

Sonny Lester (b. 1924) was an important figure in the “exotica” genre, so popular in the 50s and 60s. (Check out David Toop’s book Exotica for a great account.) He was especially well known for his album, How to Strip for Your Husband, and put out a number of exotica stripping and bellydance releases on the Roulette label. I was somewhat surprised to learn that this release appeared in 1968. I wasn’t aware that the “craze” was still going on at that late date.

The music on How to Belly Dance For Your Husband is in the exotica vein and evokes rather than performs Arab/Middle Eastern bellydance music. It is nonetheless quite fun. Most of the releases I’ve heard from the period by contrast are quite “authentic” bellydance tunes performed by Arab or Armenian or Turkish musicians.

Earlier bellydance posts: a description of an album featuring Özel Türkbas here and covers with Özel Türkbas are here and here. A photo of bellydancing in stereo is here.



Bellydance said...

The title alone has captured my attention and had to check out your blog site. Anyway, for women who wants to have a child, this form of exercise through dance, facilitates natural childbirth, as well as makes an excellent post-natal exercise that helps encourage abdominal tone.

Lauren said...

Thanks for this excellent post! I have had this album for some time. Before I had perplexed by the dancer being "Little Egypt"; all well-known dancers with that stage name seem to have lived and died well before this album ever came out.

The booklet it comes with, purportedly written by "Little Egypt", borders on the absurd: it states that American husbands are brainwashed by the sweater industry, and that you can learn how to bellydance by observing a plate of shaking Jell-O.