Dances Sacred and Profane

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Originally released on the infamous GORGON Video label in 1987, this film by Mark Jury features the work of photographer Charles Gatewood in documenting some of the seminal figures and influences in modern body modification culture. The film begins as an exploration of people "breaking the bounds of convention," and Gatewood is followed to Amsterdam for an early tattoo convention, as well as to nudist events and Mardi Gras. Although a piercing scene is shown briefly in the introduction, until two thirds of the way through, the movie could be any one of dozens of "Mondo" films released in the '70s and '80s documenting fringe culture.

The movie takes a "dramatic spiritual turn" (as the PR material reads) when they meet Fakir Musfar. This takes them to South Dakota with Jim Ward and Fakir Musafar for the now-legendary Sun Dance and subsequent photoshoot that featured Fakir hanging ala A Man Called Horse (O-kee-pa) from his chest piercings.

Assorted bodymod personalities pop in from time to time, but it's the Sun Dance that's earned a reputation for the film. Aside from its obvious anthropological value, this film has served as an inspiration to many in the body modification community and has invaluable historical significance.

Screencaps from Dances Sacred and Profane

Introductory piercing scene...
...but then we're back to Mondo
BDSM body painting
Fakir takes kavadi
The Sundance
About to tear free
Starting to lift
Off the ground
Suspending O-Kee-Pa style
Hooks closeup
Ten years later

The movie was re-released in the mid 1990's under the name "Bizarre Rituals", and has remained out of print since then. Mark Jury, the filmmaker, has released a new version, Dances Sacred and Profane Redux which also includes a new interview with Fakir Musafar. The stills above are from the Redux DVD.

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