While researching Victorian-era vaudeville and the early days of cinema for DANCING AT THE CHANCE, I spent a lot of time watching the kind of old flickers that appeared in kinetoscope parlors. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love research?) These early films aren't seen much anymore, but they really are wonderful. This one, Annabelle's Serpentine Dance, is one of my favorites, probably because it's a perfect bridge between my longtime love of belly dance and my new passion: vaudeville.
The dancer is Annabelle Moore, who later became (and was more commonly credited as) Annabelle Whitford, and finally Annabelle Whitford Moore Buchan. Her performances were captured on celluloid several times by Edison and Biograph in the 1890s, and those films became some of the most popular views of the day.
If you take a look, you'll see why. The way Annabelle twirls and swirls her skirt is lovely to see -- and quite like the way modern belly dancers use their Isis wings. Yet for me, it's the way she kicks up her heels with abandon -- as if she's dancing for the sheer joy of it -- that really draws me in.
But why take my word for it? You can see for yourself. :)
MUSIC ALERT: The video contains a rousing ragtime soundtrack that you might want to turn off first if you're viewing at work.