Friday, June 19, 2015

History - Algerian Theatre at the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago 1893

The Algerian Theatre.

The Algerian and Tunisian Village, in which the theatre was the chief attraction, was situated near the center of the Midway Pleasance and adjoining the Street of Cairo. The frontage, as may be seen in the illustration, was not remarkably pretentious, but the main building inside had a Moorish dome with towers and minaretsn and its exterior was covered with the rich-hued glazed tiles of Tunis and Algiers, as, in fact, were most of the buildings.

I here were a Moorish cafe, a Kabyle house and a tent village, the theatre additionally being the main edifice. The desert people were seen about the village engaged in their regulard occupations and jewelry, embroideries and other North African wares to sold. Connected with the theatre were over fifty people, musicians, juggles, dancing girls and some amazing specialists. At the performances most of those who were to take part were in open view. The dancing girls would come on, one after another, to the accompaniment of the shrill, unpleasant music, and would go through with what has been so often described as a contortion, and not a dance at all. Though a little less unconventional than the Persian theatre, the performance was only graceful at times, and as times was but vulgarly interesting. Here the famous « torture dance » was performed, a man, seemingly half frenzied by the music and the movement, thrusting iron skewers through his arms, legs, cheeks and lips, and even behind on of his eve-balls. It was not a pleasant spectacle.

Pics courtesy : Laurent ANTOINE Lemog

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