Tampa Bay Times

The origins of Mata Hari

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In National Geographic, Pat Shipman writes the origin story of Mata Hari: “Executed 100 years ago, the exotic dancer broke the rules in the early 20th Century. But did that cost her her life?” Read “Why Mata Hari Wasn’t a Cunning Spy After All” in full at http://on.natgeo.com/2xqkLdF. Here’s an excerpt.

Colored by her travels and sorrows in the Indies, Margaretha Zelle reinvented herself as something startling and new: an exotic dancer called Mata Hari. In 1905 Mata Hari — a Malay term for “sunrise” or the “eye of the day” — broke onto the social scene with a performanc­e in the Musée Guimet, an Asian art museum in Paris. Invitation­s were issued to 600 of the capital’s wealthy elite. Mata Hari presented utterly novel dances in transparen­t, revealing costumes, a jeweled bra, and an extraordin­ary headpiece.

Under any other circumstan­ces, she could have been arrested for indecency, but Margaretha Zelle had very carefully thought through her position. At each performanc­e, she took the time to explain carefully that these were sacred temple dances from the Indies. Mata Hari was sensuous, beautiful, erotic and emotional; she told tales of lust, jealousy, passion and vengeance

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