“Certainly Not The Ballet We Learned In School”

A few very interesting videos  of ‘belly dancing’ from the turn of the 19th-20th century have recently turned up on YouTube.

Belly dancing was, according to most reports, first seen in Europe during the Paris Exposition Universale in 1889 (the same where the Eiffel Tower was presented).

See this very interesting dramatized video of the Paris Exposition.

Although it is not clearly state, the women in these videos look western. The ‘Princess Rajah’ video is apparently from the 1904 St. Louis Exposition.

They set up an intriguing case of spread of cultural practices in that era. This was the same period when the exotic Orient was presented by Gerome to the European public in his paintings about nautsch girls and bazaars.

Surely there is an interesting history of eastern dance in Europe out there, or waiting to be written. How did these dance form gain popularity in a European and American public life? What was the role of the expositions and world fairs in spreading cultural forms? Does anyone have more information about this?

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