Belly dance is NOT the oldest dance, and many 'ethnic' dance and music arts are exquisite classical art forms that have no relation to belly dance. What Americans think of as belly dance has evolved from the dances of the Egyptian Ghawazee at the time of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Developing your own opinion on this matter is a lot of fun, and this page provides fuel for that investigation. Where will you draw your lines? Is an ancient dance art that may have emphasized torso isolation and solo dancing enought to call it belly dance, or do you need some further combination of movement, rhythm and intent?
Don't settle for a second-and-third-generation rehash of a original source document; consult the document links on this page. Dead reckoning builds on the results of the previous reckoning, so the errors in each reckoning are passed to the next one. Celestial navigation is not estimated; it is absolute. It gets one back home.
- 3100 BC
- Narmer unifies Upper and Lower Egypt. The beginning of the Pharaonic Dynasties.
- 3000 BC
- Egyptians use astronomical patterns to anticipate the annual Nile flood.
- 2650 BC
- In Egypt, Djoser builds the first pyramid.
- 2500 BC
- Dravidian civilization
- 2184 BC
- Fall of the Old Kingdom, beginning of the First Intermediate Period.
- 1500 BC
- Aryans invade India and conquer the Dravidians.
- 1400 BC
- The Vedas (Hindu scripture) is written.
- 800 - 600 BC
- Upanishads are written
- 776 - 323 BC:
- Classical Greece. First Olympic games, Golden Age of Greece.
- 518 BC
- Persians conquer Pakistan
- 500 BC
- Buddhism founded in India
- 326 BC
- Aliexander the Great moves into India
- 324 BC
- Chandragupta Maurya establishes the Mauryan Empire in Afganistan and Central Asia
- 323-146 BC:
- Hellenistic Period
- Aristarchus of Samos (310 - 230 BC) proves that the Sun is much larger than the Earth and proposes that the Earth revolves around the sun.
- 272 BC
- Ashoka, grandson of Maurya, becomes Emperor of India
- 185 BC
- Maurya Empire ends.
- 146 BC:
- Greece becomes part of the Roman Empire
- Begin Kushan empire in northern India.
- Gupta dynasty reunies north India initating a Golden Age.
- Greece becomes part of the Byzantium empire, 330 - 1453.
- Begin Muslim invasion of India.
- Begin Arabic occupation of Spain, 713-1492.
- Eastern and Western Catholic Churches split
- Being Delhi Sultanate in India
- Timur conquers India.
- End Byzantium empire assimulation of Greece.
- 1456- 1827:
- Greece becomes part of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire
- End Arabic occupation of Spain, 713-1492.
- Vasco da Gama reaches India.
- Begin introduction of Christianity to India.
- Sikhism founded.
- Begin Ottoman suzerainty over Egypt.
- Begin Mughal Empire in India (Babur)
- 1556 - 1605
- Mughal emperor Akbar the Great reigns.
- Ali I, Shah of Bijapur, triumps over the Vijayanagar Empire at the Battle of Talikota.
- 1580 - 1627
- Shah of Bijapur, Ibrahim II, reigns.
- Queen Elizabeth grants charter to East India Company establishing trading posts in India.
- Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor, builds the Taj Mahal.
- 1658 - 1707
- Mughal emperor Aurangzeb reigns.Tries to force Hindus to convert to Islam.
- Montague publishes a compilation of letters written while she was travelling in Turkey, Her access to Turkish female society and homes, forbidden to white men, made her letters unique.
- The Battle of Plassey: East India Company defeats the Mughal governor of Bengal
- East India company appoints the first Governor General of India.
- Egypt acquires a semi-autonomous status from the Ottoman empire. Muhammad 'Ali is appointed governor, and embarks on a series of military, economic and administration reforms, relying on the expertise of French and Italian advisers.
- Louis Francois Cassas publishes TRAVELS in ISTRIA and DALMATIA: London to Constantinople in Sixty Days. The itinerary and the observations of a very observant artist and traveller.
- Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule.
- Beginning of Greek re-invention of national identity; rejection of 'oriental' and 'eastern' identities, re-investment in Classical Greek and Hellenistic identity.
- Irving Washinton, traveler, diplomat and author, publishes TALES of the ALHAMBRA. This book is instrumental in reintroducing the history of Moorish Spain to the West, which in turn generated a fad in literature, architecture and music, tailored to Western taste.
- Julia Pardoe arrives in Constantinople just before the sweeping Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire. "She thus provides a view of Ottoman women's lives in the last years of the old order and illuminates the nature of Western traveller' experience just before the advent of organized tourism." [Gender, Modernity and Liberty by Lewis and Micklewright.]
- Julia Pardoe publishes THE CITY of the SULTAN and DOMESTIC MANNERS of the TURKS: "That the Turks as a people, and particularly the Turkish females, are shy of making the acquaintance of strangers, is most true; their habits and feelings do not lend themselves readily to a familar intercourse with Europeans; nor are they induced to make any extraordinary effort to overcome the prejudice with which they ever look upon a Frank, when they remember how absurdly and even cruelly they have been misrepresented by many a passing traveller, possessed neither of the time nor the opportunity to form a more sufficient judgement."
- Meadows Taylor publishes CONFESSIONS of a THUG, a semi-biographical book about the life of an Indian Thuggee.
- Julia Pardoe publishes THE ROMANCE of the HAREM, "Genuine tales related by the professional Massaldjhes, or Story-tellers of the East, in the Harems of the wealthy Turks during seasons of festivity."
- Sophia Pool (sister to E.W.Lane) publishes THE ENGLISHWOMAN in EGYPT: Letters from Cairo.
- Lord James Augustus St John publishes Egypt and Nubia, Their Scenery and Their People.
- Botanist Robert Fortune completes the first round of the largest piece of corporate espionage known to the Western world: the theft of Chinese tea seedlings for the East India Company.
- Edwin Lord Weeks, one of the most celebrated Orientalist artists, is born in Boston. His works include scenes from Egypt, Persia and India.
- Bayle St John publishes Village Life in Egypt: With Sketches of the Said.
- Sepoy Rebellion (India).
- Begin British Government rule of India via a British Raj (Indian Viceroy).
- Baynard Taylor publishes A JOURNEY to CENTRAL AFRICA: Life and Landscapes from Egypt to the Negro Kingdoms of the Nile.
- Edward Fitzgerald publishes the first edition of his translation of the RUBAIYAT of OMAR KHAYYAM.
- Edward Lane, who became England's most reknowned scholar in the Middle East, publishes the Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, a thoughtful book about his travels in Egypt.
- 1861: American Civil War begins.
- Isma'il Pasha becomes governor of Eygpt; legal and educational transformations and the development of infrastructure parallel the changes promoted by Ottoman rulers in Istanbul.
- Britain transfers ownership of Ionian Islands to Greece.
- Leon Bakst, who would go on to fame as theatre designer for the Ballets Russes and Ida Rubinstein, is born in Russia.
- Emmeline Lott publishes The English Governess in Egypt: Harem Life in Egypt and Constantinople.
- The Ottoman sultan conferred the title of Khedive on Isma'il Pasha in Egypt, allowing him to sign independent technical and economic agreements with foreign powers. The Khedive negotiated large loans from Europe in order to finance his projects.
- Sol Bloom is born in Pekin, Illinois.
- John Gardiner Wilkinson publishes A Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians.
- Great Chicago Fire.
- Serge Pavlovich Diaghilev is born.
- Charles GOdfrey Leland publishes The Egyptian Sketch Book.
- Isma' Pasha. Khedive of Egypt under the Ottoman Empire, loses control over the country's finances because of debts. A dept adminstration under British-French control was established.
- British Parliment gives Queen Victoria title of Empress of India.
- United States Centennial Exposition of 1876 is held in Philadelphia. Thirty-eight foreign nations take part. Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey, all part of the Ottoman empire, are well represented; their exhibits include fabrics, books, furniture, jewelry, costumes, perfumes, wines, liquors, and opium. The inscription over the entrance to the Egyptian exhibit: " The oldest nation in the world sends its morning greeting to the youngest nation." The Tunisian Cafe featured a scarf dancer in oriental costume. Ten million visitors attended this Exposition, yet no public outcry against the Tunisian dancer is recorded.
- Amelia Edwards publishes the first edition of A THOUSAND MILES UP the NILE.
- John Gardiner Wilkinson publishes Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
- C.B. Klunzinger publishes UPPER EGYPT: ITS PEOPLE and ITS PRODUCTS
- Ruth St Denis is born.
- British occupy Egypt in the id of bondholders. essentially appending Egypt to the British empire.
- Burma becomes an Indian province.
- Indian National Congress is formed.
- 1886: Gustave Flaubert publishes his historical novel, Salammbo.
- Jones and Kropf publish Folktales of the Magyars.
- Nijinsky is born.
- Gertrude Bell publishes Persian Pictures by Gertrude Bell. Gertrude Bell, linguist, archaeologist, and explorer - brilliant, wealthy and well-connected - contemporary and political peer of T E Lawrence - is known, for better or worse, as the woman who shaped post-War I Iraq. Her observations were those of a well-educated Western person who traveled in and loved the Middle East.
- Chicago World's Fair (World's Columbian Exposition)
- Edward Granville Browne publishes A Year Among the Persians.
- W.M.Flinders publishes Ten Years's Digging in Egypt, 1881-1891. Chapter Thirteen is titled The Fellah and is a well-articulated explanation of what Kipling would describe as "The White Man's Burden." The concept became so accepted by American and European cultures that advertisements incorporated the sentiment.
- Sol Bloom designs a popular Midway for the Chicago Exposition (World Fair) and brings an Algerian Village concession to it.
- Dec: Cairo Street concession from the Chicago Exposition Midway opens in NYC.
- Halsey Ives, Chief of the Art Department for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, publishes The Dream City, A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World's Columbian Exposition.
- Hubert Howe Bancraft publishes The Book of the Fair.
- Leonide Massine is born.
- La Meri (Russell Merriweather Hughes) is born in Louisville, KY.
- Frederic Courtland Penfield publishes Present-Day Egypt.
- Charles Dana Gibson publishes Sketches in Egypt, which is, indeed, a sketchbook.
- W.C. Morrow publishes Bohemian Paris of Today.
- Um Kulthum is born.
- The Louisiana Purchase Exhibition of 1904, in St Louis MS, conceived as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of The Louisiana Purchase, tries to outdo the Chicago Exposition with a bigger and better Midway and a theatre that features Arabic, Persian and Indian dance and music.
- British government divides Bengal into Hindu and Muslic sections.
- Maude Allan publishes her autobiography, My Life and Dancing.
- The Ballets Russes opens in Paris with a group of dancers on vacation from the Russian Imperial Theatre.
- Michel Fokine's ballet Scheherazade, designed by Leon Bakst, creats a sensation and sparks a fad for Oriental clothing and home furnishings.
- Michel Fokine's ballet The Firebird, musical score by Igor Stravinsky, is produced, with Nijinski as Favorite Slave and Ida Rubinstein as Zobeide.
- Diaghilev created a permanent Ballets Russes dance company with Michel Fokine as the principal choreographer and Nijinsky as lead male dancer.
- Balkan War (Greece/Serbia/Montenegro/Bulgaria vs Turkey)
- Balkan War II (Greece/Serbia against Bulgaria)
- Greece annexes Crete.
- World War 1 begins on 28 July.
- Elizabeth Cooper publishes Women of Egypt.
- Troy and Margaret West Kinney publish The Dance, Its Place in Art and Life. The book includes thirty pages on Oriental dance which relies heavily on describing the dances of one Zourna the Tunisian, a half-French dancer raised in Tunisia who attended ballet school in France and who became a popular exotic dancer who did "Eastern Routines." She was employed at the Theatre des Arts, an experiental dance theatre, in the early part of the twentieth century, and seems to have been a serious dancer, but she was also a performer who was willing to provide Western audiences with the 'Oriental' dances that they would find most palatable to their Occidental sensibilities.
- Nijinsky marries dancer Romola de Pulsky, and Diaghilev dismisses him from the company.
- Elizabeth Cooper publishes The Harem and the Purdah; Stories of Oriental Women.
- Diaghilev finds a replacement for Nijinsky, the teenager Leonide Massine, who, over the course of a long career, becomes a world-famous choreographer and charismatic performer.
- A five-year series of Russian Revolutions starts with the abdication of emperor Nicholas II and ends with the victory of Lenin's Bolshevik party.
- Lorimer, David Lockhart Robertson, 1876-1962
- World War I ends on 11 November.
- Mary Brooks Pickens, an authority on dress, fabric, design, and sewing, publishes one of her many books, SECRETS of DISTINCTIVE DRESS
- Amritsar Massacre in India.
- Turkish Army burns Smyrna (Izmir)
- Over 1 million Greeks abandon homes in Turkey and become refugees in Greece
- Massive exchange: Greeks and Turks based on religion: Treaty of Lausanne
- The resulting social upheaval and inpoverishment of hundreds of thousands of refugees was the seedbed for Rebetiko music.
- Tsiftetelli, belly dance, also came from Turkey to Greece at this time.
- Mohandas Gandi become leader of Indian National Congress and the Indian independence movement.
- Leona Wood is born in Seattle.
- Guido Carreras becomes La Meri's manager.
- Baba Kashar becomes the first Egyptian dancer to appear in a film; a silent film entitled Leyla.
- Denishawn tours India.
- Jamila Salimpour is born in New York of immigrant parents from Sicily.
- Diaghilev dies. The Ballets Russes breaks up, but his dancers and choreographers go on to new successes of their own.
- Fokine and Massine continue their careers at the De Basil Ballet, reviving many of the works created for the Ballets Russes as well as creating new masterpieces.
- La Meri publishes Dance as an Art-Form, Its History and Development.
- Serena [Serena Black] is born in the Bronx.
- Fairuz is born in Lebanon.
- Government of India act and creation of a new constitution.
- Massine produces the ballet Les Presages to very mixed reviews.
- Begin World War II when UK declares war on Germany.
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah begins movement for a separate country for Muslims, which would be called Pakistan.
- La Meri and Ruth St. Denis found the School of the Natya in NYC.
- 1941 - 1944:
- German occupation of Greece, with resulting occupation by Italians and Bulgarians as well. Famine resulted, with tens of thousands dead. Resistance groups formed, many of them Communist, and Rebetiko began to incorporate political themes.
- Jamila Salimpour, 16, joins the Ringling Brothers Circus where she trains as a bareback rider and aerialist.
- Greeks and British liberate Athens. The Communist resistance groups are outlawed, and Rebetiko becomes associated with Communism, which is persecuted.
- US drops atomic bombs on Japan. End of WWII.
- British government agrees to Indian independence. Indian Muslims hold demonstrations calling for the establishment of Pakistan.
- British and Indian leaders agree to the creation of Pakistan.
- India become independent.
- Jamila Salimpour, now a young divorcee, starts to study oriental dance via famous Egyptian movies. Her Armenian landlady introduces her to the large Armenian community in Fresno, California, where Jamila danced for social events.
- Leona Wood moves to Los Angeles where she continues her career in commercial and fine art painting.
- 1947 -1950:
- Civil War between Greek Army and Greek Communists.
- Gandhi is assassinated.
- Sol Bloom dies.
- 1940s and 1950s:
- Professional music and dancer circuit springs up at nightclubs at Greek ports (Athens, Pireus, Smyna, Istanbul, Alexandria, Beirut)
- Arabic and Far East music begins to influence Greek Music. The dancing in Greek movies starts influencing how people danced at home.
- India ratifies their new constitution. Nehru is the first prime minister.
- Jamila Salimpour begins teaching dance classes.
- Dora Stratou Greek Dances Society Founded
- La Meri retires to Cape Cod.
- Jamila Salimpour moves to San Francisco and begins dancing at 12 Adler and the Bagdad.
- Serena opened her New York City studio.
- Greece becomes a provisional member of the European Union.
- Leona Wood and Tony Shay found the Aman International Folk Ensemble in Los Angeles, California.
- Jamila Salimpour creates Troupe Bal Anat.
- Ruth St Denis dies.
- 1969 - 1975
- Bal Anat reigns as the highlight of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.
- Turkish and Greek-influenced bellydance becomes the cornerstone of Vintage Orientale belly dance in America.
- Egyptian officials inform a reporter for Saudi Aramco World that the Turks (who ruled Egypt for 400 years) are to blame for the existence of bellydance in Egypt. Turkish officials enthusiastically agree. "Of course it started with us. Everybody knows that." Nadia Gamal, dancer extraordinaire, begs to differ with both. "The Turks have nothing to do with it, " insists Miss Gamal. "All they did was to introduce the sagat [zills]." She says belly dancing originated with the Phoenicians, the ancestors of prsent-day Lebanese. It was performed by virgin maidens about to be sacrified to the gods.
- Leona Wood is engaged by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to tour with them and dance to compositions based on folk themes.
- Leon Massine dies in Germany.
- 1970s - 1990s
- Bellydance performers and teachers flourish in Athens and Thessaloniki. Opening schools/teaching dance. Dance influenced by Arabic and Turkish Styles
- Serena and Rip Wilson publish a passionate protest, Spring Cleaning, against what they perceived as a rising tide of dance-by-the-authentic-numbers cultism. (Habibi Vol 5 #9)
- Leona Wood receives a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to stage a Kwakiutl winter ceremonial for Aman.
- Greece becomes a full member of the European Union.
- La Meri dies in San Antonio.
- Habibi Magazine: Vol 17 No 4 Cover Story: Dahlena, An American Classic, by Faida Gamal.
- Oriental dance and music becomes a big item in nightclubs all over Greece.
- Serena Wilson died.
- Jan 25: Protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Eighteen days later, President Hosni Mubarak resigns. Subsequent unrest and uncertainty causes tourism to tank and Islamic fundamentalism to rise, leading to rapid decline of professional belly dance in Egypt.