American Legends Belly Dance History

A brief history of belly dance in America….



The Golden Era of Belly Dance in America  first began when a group of Algerian dances and a so-called  “Little Egypt” danced and shocked the Victorian American public at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. 

It flourished in immigrant Greek, Armenian, Lebanese, Turkish, and Lebanese Arabic nightclubs throughout many U.S. coastal cities in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  Homesick families thronged to clubs that featured live music and belly dancers. The demand for dancers was a far cry from the supply available. Importing dancers became too expensive for club owners and many of these American dancers featured in this dvd filled this void and started their careers in these clubs.

These American icons then introduced terminology, workshops, concert shows, studios and even merchandise to this fresh mainstream market. 

Around the early l970s, they picked up the torch when they noticed the interest in physical fitness, spiritual empowerment, and the attraction to the exotic music, beautiful costuming and fluid body movement.   The “hobby dancer” was born.

Because of the great interest that swelled in the 60s & 70s this American “fad”, aka Raks Sharki, Dance Orientale, Middle Eastern Dance, Oriental Dance, and most commonly known in America-- Belly Dance classes, workshops, and festivals spread to Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia and many other westernized countries around the world.

To be a serious dancer in our Raks Sharqi arena, it is important to understand where we came from; to know the historical dancers from the past upon who’s shoulders we stand on.  We should know their names and respect their contributions to our quality and standard of dance today.  

For sure, there are a myriad of dancers who carved our path, but these classic American names stand out as the Teachers and Performers that opened the belly dance doors in America, created the national & international fads and trends, and had the talent and drive to make our Dance what it is today. Today this dance is one without borders, attracting students and many fans globally.