D's Blog

January 13, 2011   ♦   Comments Off on Hypatia / AGORA/ A Movie Review

NOTE:  I submitted this piece to the Gilded Serpent online magazine but it’s been a while and they haven’t put it up. Thus I thought I would post it on my blog while it’s still current. If the G.S. puts it up, I’ll take this entry off my blog. The movie is now on DVD.

Movie Review: AGORA

On my way to my Hawaii retreat last January, I read  a magazine article that a new movie was coming

Hypatia is apprehended and brutally murdered

Hypatia is apprehended and brutally murdered

out about “Hypatia”. How exciting; I couldn’t wait! I love movies that take me back to ancient times and especially Ancient Egypt. This was perfect timing for inspiration because this coming spring, I am leading a tour to Egypt and the city of Alexandria is one of our prime destinations. This is where the historic tale takes place.

I suppose my entire inspiration for belly dance as a teenager was motivated by those old biblical-era movies like “Cleopatra”, “The Egyptian”, “Samson and Delilah”, and “The Robe”. . . The costumes and atmosphere completely captivated my imagination. There hasn’t been a good one in a long time, save for the HBO TV series “Rome” that was totally amazing (more on that another time).

So I was keeping an eye half peeled all year for the movie.  I occasionally asked people about if they had seen a movie called Hypatia, and they just shirked and said they hadn’t even heard of her.

Anyone interested in woman’s studies would, I hope, know Hypatia.

Hypatia (370-415 AD) was a famous Greek Philosopher, Astronomer and Mathematician from Alexandria, Egypt, who was famous for her eloquence and education. She was a teacher and advisor to many important pagans, Romans, Christians and Jews alike. The story that always follows her name throughout history is how she was brutally murderers by a rabid mob of Christians incited by Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria. In fiendish detail she was seized while riding in her chariot, stripped naked and then skinned alive by scraping the flesh from her bones with oyster shells and set afire. Yikes! What did she do? She was said to create religious turmoil by scientific reasoning. (Oh my Goddess, this could have been me!)

I came to find out the movie wasn’t called “Hypatia” but was in fact named “Agora”. Why they choose that name is unfortunate; I think more people would have seen the movie upon its release had it been called “Hypatia”. But it’s not too late! Check it out on Netflix. And it’s not the full story. Although the movie did very well in other countries, because of what was perceived as anti-Catholic overtones, it didn’t get an American distributor until just recently.

“Agora” is the Greek word meaning the center of the city where people meet. This movie is full of where things are meeting: science, religions, astronomy, and human history, tragedy and loss.

The movie takes place in around 370-415 AD. – many years after Jesus – during the rise of Christianity which causes complex tensions. From the accounts of people from many lands, Alexandria at this time in history had a reputation for public volatility. The people would apparently fly off the handle as the slightest thing and tear up the city (making any of us a bit agoraphobic). The city was originally founded by Alexander the Great and established as a place of great learning. The Alexandria Library was burned before this time. The library they are depicting in the movie is the “daughter library” in the temple of Serapis.

The  film stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia. The movie was made by a Spanish film company with English speaking actors, and was directed by Alijandro Amenabar (born in Chile). The movie was made without CGI. All the sets were hand-built and installed in Malta, much like the making of HBO’s  “Rome”. Its budget was a mere 50 million dollars which in movie terms is a shoe string. Each scene is like stepping into an Orientalist painting. The lighting is especially heavenly. Everyone was committed to the project; they did a great job.

At the start, I was a bit repelled by the film because it’s kind of noisy, and I have to be in the mood for noise. However, I have watched it at least 5 times now. I understand the reason for my visceral response. Agora is very textural. It’s the noise of chaos during this time in history as viewed from the quiet cosmos. The population looks like ants crawling on the bones of the city. It takes us to the silence of space and the grandeur of our planet that is home to the passing clouds of history activity.

I love that the film takes us back and forth from aerial views of the Arabian Peninsula and drops us down into the time and place of Alexandria, Egypt 391 AD.  That beacon of light brought people from all lands to a city that was a pivotal point of historic change. The clash was between the fading past glory of intellectual thought which Alexandria represented, and the coming of the new faith allegiance to the One God. It was the end of a time and place where women like Hypatia and Cleopatra could write books and be philosophers, mathematicians, and scholars, and was the beginning of the long onslaught of human history where women would occupy a very subordinate role for centuries to come.

Other reviewers seem to like the movie but argue some historic points, which I think are pretty minimal (from what I read after seeing the movie). It is a movie after all. It is about a time none of us were around for but have stereotypic ideas blazoned into our minds without much question. Dare we question? This questioning is what Hypatia symbolizes in the movie over-all. The director chose to reverse some of these stereotypes and portray Christians as fanatics and more human and fallible than divine. The Jews stone the Christians…

I was surprised once more that this would be a film about science. Science moves me the same way as belly dance does. This was Hypatia’s unquenchable passion to know the answers which she chose to explore beyond love and family. I liked that she represents more options for women. I kind of wished I had gone into science as a career. Hypatia may still inspire me. One day I want to write a book called The Cosmology of Belly Dance because I see mirrored in our dance so much science and physics by the mere use of things like vibration, rotation and wave patterns (again more later).

When I saw the DVD extras about the making of this movie I was again deeply moved. It was created by a team of talented visionaries that all fell in love with Hypatia. I love what this director chos to do with the script. Rachel Weisz plays her well. When it comes to herstoric record, Hypatia deserves more meat on her bones. This movie is her tribute.

Now if they would just make a movie about the novel, ” THE RED TENT” !


323 BC: Death of Alexander the Great and the beginning of the Hellenistic Age. During his lifetime he establishes the city of Alexandria as one of many towns he set up to establish Greek Culture.

320 BC: Sarapis is a syncretic Hellenistic -Egyptian God in Antiquity. Even though Sapapis is older this God comes into prominence after the death of Alexander the Great 320 BC. It is introduced to Alexandria as a patron deity to unite Egyptian and Greek populations. He combines attributes of both cultures’ past deities. On his head he has a grain measure, in his hand a staff. He is said to be Osiris in full but he looks like a Greek Zeus and Hades. Symbols are the Apis bull, serpent, and crescent moon.

280 BC: The famed Alexandrian light house is built.

260 BC” There were reported to be 500,000 scrolls in the library at Alexandria. The catalog is 120 scrolls. There are reports of what the library contained: cosmology, mathematics, physics, natural science, philosophy and more. It is said to house the original worksof AeschylusSophocles and Euripides.

69 BC: Cleopatra VII is born in Alexandria.

48 BC: Julius Caesar meets 21 year old Cleopatra and is said to have accidently burned the Great Library of Alexandria down when he set fire to ships in the harbor. Caesar gives Cleopatra 200,000 scrolls plundered from the library at Pargamum as a gift and put in the  “daughter library” which is the Serapheum; the temple of Serapis.

30 BC: Cleopatra dies 30 years before the birth of Jesus .

370-415 AD: The lifetime of Hypatia; philosopher, mathematician, astronomer.

390 AD: Christianity is made the official religion of Rome.

391 AD: The Serapheum is destroyed by a crowd of Christians or Roman Soldiers that were converting to Christianity.

415 AD Hypatia is murdered and becomes a martyr.

610 AD The Prophet Muhammad has his divine revelations and Islam is born.



January 4, 2011   ♦   1 Comment »

DelilahDress Red BlackPants&Belt99Dear Ladies,

Some of you may remember years ago I found a dress I was really crazy about and thus I shared my find with all my women friends. It was called the “Enchantress Dress” and it sure made alot of us very happy! Well, for 2011 I have another style I am very enamored with and would like to share it with all my friends out there.

It’s an essential piece of retro clothing for the woman on the go. This one I’m making myself! It is completely different in style from the Enchantress Dress, so let me tell you about it.

Delilah’s Shape Shifter Dresses

A Custom Made Garment


I originally found this simple dress in the 80’s when I was looking for clothing easy to travel with. They were sold in major department stores under the name Units, Elements, and Multiples, as well as in pattern books. I bought a few designs but one in particular became an integral piece of my wardrobe. You know how we all have those well loved pieces of clothing that gets worn for years until they are worn to death and there’s nothing left?

My dress was red, had long sleeves, split on the sides and mid length. It was made of a soft tee shirt knit and the sleeves could easily be pushed up to the elbow. I wore it out to dinner and shows with belts over longer skirts, pants or leggings. I wore it beltless to the beach, to bed as a night shirt and as a costume cover up. I often wore it camping with jeans, and I definitely wore it all over the world on my travels. I loved this piece! It folded easily, didn’t wrinkle and was so comfortable.

Then one day in the 90’s, it was stolen off a clothes line to cover up a camera that was being lifted off a picnic table. I mourned the dress more than the camera! It was at least 6-7 years old by then, so I searched thrift stores trying to find a replacement with no luck. I recently read on the Internet that other people loved them too. One note claimed a women would have to be crazy to get rid of one because it would fit you at any shape and size you shape shifted into during your lifetime. No wonder I couldn’t find one. Then, the other day, I was rummaging through my sewing cupboard and I found some fabric and decided to get out my sewing machine and make one.

Long story short:

I have developed a pattern very similar to those dresses from the 80’s. I have added a few of my own design innovations.

1. Adding an extra long cuff to the sleeves gives a more graceful contemporary style to the sleeve.

2. A soft gather piece to the tube that allows it to become

a) a hip hugger belt. Perfect for belly dancing

b) to be worn as a soft scarf that won’t get blown away and looks great with jackets

c) a bra top or empire belt over the dress

3. The Three Split Over Dress (as I call it) looks great layered

with pants, shirts and leggings.

4. Instead of the one size fits all deal they had in the 80’s, I will custom make them,

so there is a little more individual tailoring to my designs.

5.The fabric you get to choose. There are some wonderful stretch jersey knits out there as well as soft cottons.

Delilah Dress AnimationPhotos

• On Monday night I asked a couple dancers if they would model their dresses. Freeman Mester took the photos. It’s amazing how different they look on everyone. They can be worn so many different ways. Sometimes these dresses shape shift into characteristic from different ethnic back grounds; Turkish, Indian, African, Spanish, Tunisia. Ideal for travel. They work for pregnant women for sure. They can be very sexy with a pair of heels or cozy with a pair of boots. Head bands and body tubes give them added character. The tubes can also be worn as tube tops in the summer time or if you travel to warm climates in the winter time. They are so versatile!

• Next I am going to get a couple gals to model the tube top variation and put them up one day soon.

• I’m asking everyone I made one for so far to send me a photo of them selves wearing it if they can. Soon as they get around to it I’ll start a separate scrapbook page.

Over All Description:

A highly versatile and comfortable garment. Triple stitched seams make it durable and add style. It’s simple, chic and loose fitting with a wide boat neck line that may fall to reveal a shoulder if you like. It is long sleeved with an under arm vent that keeps you cool and warm; useful at all times of the year. It can be made supper sexy with the use of slinky and stretchy tubular accessories that can be worn in a multitude of ways; as a cowl neck scarf, hooded head scarf, waist cincher, hip hugging belt, waistline belt, empire belt. The design has extended shoulders and long sleeves with the choice of regular or extra long cuffs. The sleeves can be pushed up on the forearm or elbow. This lovingly hand made garment can be tailored to various lengths and design features to choose from. The fabric you choose can make it more casual or dressy feeling.

Given the ways of air port security and our modern life style, these dresses will be in style for ever and become an integral part of your all our wardrobes for years to come!

I look forward to making you one of these comfy garments!

Pattern Drawings: Click Here>>

• The simple drawings show the different styles of garments so far.

Handmade in the USA

and of course, buying one helps to finance the creativity we deliver through dance and music at VDP STUDIOS each and every day!

HOW TO GET ONE, or two or three . . .

Print PDF Delilah’s Dress Order Form and sent in with fabric and thread.

Yardage details below. Keep reading.

Buyer supplies:

1. fabric in specifies yardage, 2. matching thread and 3. An order form with measurements.

Cost of custom made garment is as follows:
Click Here for an Order Form PDF>>


$75 Over Dress, Regular Dress, Coat/Robe with 1 Tube accessory

$65 Shirt, Tunic, Jacket with 1 Tube accessory,

$15 Extra Tubes (may need 27 inches more material)

$  5 Head Band (may need 13 inches more material)

$10 Shipping in USA


I can pick fabric out for you and add cost on to the bill plus $10 for time.

Fabric needed:

58-60 inch wide knit fabric only.

NOTE: If you have never bought fabric before it comes in different widths. 35 inch, 45 inch or 58-60 inch, and 120 inch (very rare). Look on the end of the bolt for width as well as recommended washing instructions. Two popular mixes are 60% Cotton 40% polly, (machine wash delicate) and 95% rayon and 5% spandex (hand wash).

Cotton or cotton blended jersey, cotton interlock or synthetic jersey, solids and prints best. Stripes *might*work, but I’m not sure. Not suited for obvious diagonal designs.

SAVE: There are usually printable 40%-50% coupons online for Joann’s Fabrics. My daughter had them even scan her i phone in the store for the coupon code! You might have to google Joanne Coupons cause they move around alot. You can buy fabric online too. IMPORTANT 58-60 inch wide remember. Two popular mixes are 60% Cotton 40% polly, (machine wash delicate) and 95% rayon and 5% spandex (hand wash).


Over Dress, Regular Dress, Coat/Robe with Tube accessory  3 1/2 yards

Shirt, Tunic, Jacket with Tube accessory  2 1/2 yards

Thread: Match as close as possible or one shade darker. Dual Duty 250 yard spool.


Petite – may need more information to be custom made. Be prepared to talk on phone.

Small/ Medium – may be made slightly narrower.

Medium, Large, X large – are usually the same unless shoulders are extremely wide or narrow. Make a notation under special notes.

XXL, XXXL – may require different style and more fabric. Totally doable but will need more information to advise according to style.

So call Delilah! 206 632-2353

I am working on new design too, so check back again!