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Siamese Dancers
Oriental dance history title

            The Oriental dance all over the East, is an integral part of living, much more than in the West. Oriental dance is an expression of worship; a highly developed, royally patronized stage art; an expression so communal that even the children play games connected to the dance. (below some are paraphrased by dancer La Meri).

   The Oriental dance puts the burden of interpretation on the upper body, generally the hands play the most important role (usually

depicting the origin of the dance), with each country having its distinct style. The Pataka or flat hand of India has its prototype in all countries of the East but one is never identical to the other. The Neck and Shoulders as well as the face plays an integral part.

   pre 1257 AD India and China - Non Fighting, Dance of Gesture, Fun, Love and Flights. The dance is characterized by an out-curving back bone, and bent knees. Deep waist bends (masculine & feminine) with the head dropping to the floor. The hands are gentle and pliable with the character being happy and smiling.

   Java - 1200 AD (Worship drama) The Wayang Topeng or Raket developed first with masked actors, for magic and ancestor worship. Then came the Wayang *Poerwa or shadow play (sometimes *Klitik or *Kroutjil), from these grew the Wayang Golek or Wooden Marionettes, with the Dalang (operator) speaking to his dolls. Later came the Topeng Dalang or Topeng Barrangan with the Dalang giving the lines and the masked Actor portrays them. These forms all combined to create the Wayang Wong, the most popular of the Javanese dance dramas. Some of these plays will last several hours and sometimes even days. The movement is very slow and sedate, almost slow motion like with the aim being to soothe and extremely orthodox. There are five styles of technique for the women; The Djoged allus (lyric hero), Djoged Kasar (the demons, giants), The Clown (ad libs), The Shrimpis (royal blood, groups of four), The Badayas (attached to court, groups of nine). The Ronggengs, or professional dancers are not recognized by the Krida Beksa Wirama. There originally being two centers for Javanese dance drama 1) Soerakarta (solo) and the 2) Djokjakarta or Djokja (faster) with the men doing the Djokja and women doing the solo.

   The origin of the dance is said to be the mimic steps which the Ame-no-Iwato offered to the Sun goddess. Some prehistoric dances exist today such as the Kume-mai type. The Gigaku a religious masked dance is said to be of Indian origin. After the Gigaku, the Bugaku arrived. The Noh-drama is an offspring of the Bugaku with the Noh being the artistic perfection of all ancient aristocratic dances (Sugizama and Fuujima). The Shosagota originated among the folk but today is refined and beautiful as is the Kabuki being a modern version of the Noh as well as being a much faster pace. In the Japanese temples are found the enfants-bonzes, the small boys who perform religious dances before the Buddha. They wear footless stockings, and with a charming suppleness and lightness execute cadenced movements which have been heretically taught them. Their dance is accompanied by the chant of priests, who recite the litanies in a gay measure.

The Nihonbuyo
   is divided into three classes; Mai (Slow), Odori (gay), Shosa or furi (dramatic or Mime). Pieces are used to mime effects such as a fan or scarf as well as the sleeves of the Kimono. Men have spread knees while the women can hold a card between hers.

The Guéchas
   (Geishas), who perform their choreographic exercises in the teahouses. Were trained in the conservatory of Yedo, and also the Djorôs, exhibit more art in their dances than the ballerines of Africa. By their graceful movements they depict heroism, glory, and love, especially love, says Jean d'Argène in his Arc-en-ciel. A great many qualities are required of a Japanese dancing girl, or Maiko (apprentice); she must be young, beautiful, graceful, musical, and witty. No feast in Japan is considered complete without the Maikos, who are taught at an early age to perform their figures to the chant of the national poems. Dancer and singer are one. When the Maiko has lost the first blush of youth she makes place for others, becomes a Geisha-girl, and accompanies the dancers, strumming and chanting the tune of the melody. A Maiko moves very slowly and in gliding fashion; but above all she is an artist in posturing, and she continually changes from one perfect pose to another.

   800 AD Chinese and Indian mix. (Including Siam and Cambodia).
The Indian and Chinese cultures met here but the Indian is much more fluent here except in costume (pagoda type, prachadee headdresses etc.) with masks sometimes worn by villains. Double jointed elbows turn inside out and wrist turn back again. The dance is performed in the Hall of the Dance before a palace or temple.

   The Origin is attributed to the old Hindu God 'Indra'.
Bali`s kingdoms are now gone, but the Hindu religion is still alive and well and continues to be practiced by the vast majority of the island's population. Ritual dance is vital to Balinese Hindu ceremonies. Every move and gesture has a religious or spiritual meaning. Balinese gods were all accomplished dancers. Very little Hindu nature in the dance, the dance drama reflects daily living and may last throughout the night. The dance being mainly done for exhibition and not communal. The dance is vigorous and moved. The most beautiful of the Bali dances is the heavenly dance of divine myths called the Legong, a pantomime done by two girls with straight backs, bent knees and lightning quick movements.

   The dance starts with an introductory solo dance by the 'Condong'. The Condong moves with infinite suppleness, dipping to the ground and rising in fluid endless motion, her torso raised, elbows and head held high, with her fingers dancing around her wrists, slowly she turns to meet the arrival of the legongs. Of all classical Balinese dances, it remains the quintessential expression of femininity and grace, performed by young women who must be the prettiest and most gifted pupils. It is highly stylized drama of a most purified kind - intended to display the supreme talent and perfect artistic talents of the performers. A modern version of the Legong is the Djoged with the boys in the audience dancing with the girls. The Sang Byang is a Legong danced in a trance. Puppets and a Dalang are sometimes used in these dramas.

   The plots are taken from two Indian Epics; the Dedori (Bali Nymphs) and the Topeng (two-three actors). The romantic history is preserved in the ardja (erotic opera sort). The Baris (ritualistic weapons type) and Ketjak (Choral type) are performed by men. The traditional Kebyar or Kebiyar is another modern version created by Mario except that it is performed sitting down. It has the dancer leaning forward and arching their backs, dancers perform the graceful steps. Kebyar was the first Balinese dance to be performed from a sitting position. While sitting, the dancer must often create movement by beginning to rise, and his movements are dictated by the music.

   The Yudapati, is another traditional dance of Bali. This dance uses stunning choreography a warrior about to embark upon a battle. Interestingly, although the dancers are sometimes men, it is generally women who carry out the performance - clad convincingly in male costumes and elaborate headdresses or crowns. The ceremonial Janger is a youthful dance that is only performed by a group of twelve men and women who dance face-to-face, taking turns singing a local song. The men dance very energetically and the women sway from side to side as they sing. The women are usually adorned with an elaborate headdresses and use the traditional fan. Traditional Ramayana, is an ancient tale of love, epic warfare, knightly quests, and daring exploits which is very popular among the villages.

   AD 618-907 - Virtuously lost thru time, but still done today. The Chinese word for dance is 'Ou'.
The Emperor Shun, ( 2255 B.C.,) was the first to introduce the dance into the ceremonies; in the third year of Yung-Ming, AD 485, an Imperial decree ordered the dance to be kept as part of the Confucian rites. The Emperor Cheên-Kuan, (AD 650,) introduced military dances into the ritual. There were civil dancers, who held a long feather in one hand and a stick in the other, dressed in full court dress, and military dancers, who wore full uniform and held a shield in one hand and an axe in the other. Masculine and Feminine techniques differ widely. Men spread knees being the most obvious. Each character has his/hers own hand posture. An example would be the strong spread fingers of the Shen (male) and the helpless hands of the Tan (female). Within the tan roles there are seven different types. Lao-tan (old woman), Chini (Virtuous women), Hua-tan (soubrette), Kuei-men-tan (young), Tao-ma-tan (military), Ch'an-tan (Comedienne), Tsi-tan (wicked). Costume color indicates the character; Yellow=Royal, Red=Honorable, White =Young etc. Face paint color also reflects character. The steps are very small with some waist movements while the head is never quite still.

   The Bayaderes, who dance in the temples of India, perform these religious exercises with chaste and cautious movements; but the Bayaderes are divided into two classes: Those who are not consecrated to the temples dance in the palaces for the amusement of the maharajahs; they are artists in their way, maintaining a special attitude, and are regarded with respect. They are very well-informed, poets and musicians, and as an accompaniment to their dances they extemporize songs and set them to music; copper castanets are used by many of them.

   In old Hindu Religious writings, the Hindu "dancing girls" were called Almèh, because they were better educated than the other females and of high morals of the country, in which they formed a celebrated society. The entertainment which they supplied was well respected and called natch, or the feats of dancing-girls. The almèh of the higher class knew, perfectly, all the new songs and dances; they committed to memory the most beautiful elegiac hymns that bewailed the death of a hero, or the misfortunes incident to love. No festival was complete without their attendance; nor was there an entertainment in which the almèh was not an ornament, or the chief excitement of pleasurable sensations. The most distinguished class of the almèh were introduced into the saloons of the great, not alone for their merits as dancers. They repeated with exceeding grace, and sung the unsophisticated harmonies or airs of their country. The Almèh gained admittance to the favor of the public, and were solicited to attend marriages and every kind of entertainment, including funerals and other occasions of solemnity. There was a lower class of Almèh, who were basically a low class of dancers.


   The Soudaniens of Cordofan have the tam-tam, but it requires very skillful men. The dancers wore girdles composed of goats' feet, and the clashing of the small sabots provides an accompaniment which served as music.

   India invented the egg-dance before Mignon. The dancer, dressed in a very short skirt, wears as a crown a wicker wheel of moderate diameter. A number of threads are attached to it at an equal distance from each other, and on the end of each is a slip knot, held open by a glass bead. In this equipment, the young girl approaches the spectators; she carries a basket filled with eggs which she asks them to examine that they may be sure of their reality and not think them an imitation. The musicians play a monotonous air, the dancer begins to turn rapidly. Seizing one of the eggs, with a quick movement she throws it into a slipknot in such a skillful manner that it at the same time tightens the knot.

   The rapid whirling of the dancer produces a centrifugal force which draws the threads straight. One after another the dancer must throw the eggs into the slip knots. When she has finished this difficult operation, it seems as though her head were surrounded by a halo. The speed of the dance still increases until it reaches a point where the features of the young girl are no longer distinguishable. The moment is critical; at the least false step, at the least want of measure, the eggs would strike against one another... But how is the dance to be finished? There is but one way of ending well; the dancer must withdraw the eggs in the same manner as she has placed them.

   At the canter of the hall ceiling is fixed a ring from which eight cords hang, each one of a different color. Four small girls and boys hold the ends of these cords. The music begins and the eight children start a dance, the movements of which are ruled so that the young performers twist the cords together. After they have turned in this manner, the orchestra plays another air and the twist is unwound; it is reformed and again unwound. The play of colors which unite and separate, as if by enchantment, produces the most pleasing effects. The color of the clothing of each child is the same as that of the cord which it holds. This is very pretty; isolated from each other at the moment when the cords are separated, they cross, mingle and blend to form the brilliant twist under which they appear in a group, combining all the colors (Sounds similar to the Maypole dance.) The graceful enfantine of Mysore may be performed by as few as four of our young girls and boys.

   These dances were said not to be specially graceful; they are slow in movement, and similar to Oriental dances, reminding us of the East because they consisted mostly of movements of the body and arms, and because they have no steps worth mentioning. Threshing-floor is generally the scene of the dance, and its season is mostly that of harvest or vintage.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Asia varies / ancient varies varies
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Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Related Sheet Music Covers

Music preview clip

Various Music Titles

The Dancer 1905 - Japanese Fan Dance Video Clip not available at this time 1873 - Orientale (Cui)
      1919 - Chinese Lullaby
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Dance of the Almeh
      A Song Of India Sadko Video Clip not available at this time Dance of Yao Nationality
      Bo-La-Bo Egyptian Fox Trot
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Geisha Gir (Hank Locklin)
      I want to go to Tokio
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Om Gam Ganpataye Namo Namah I Ganesh Mantra
      On The Road To Mandalay
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Om Namah Shivaya (Anuradha Paudwal)
      Oriental Dance Sensation
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Rose of the Orient (Pantation Jazz Orch) 1920
      Oriental Foxtrot (cui's Orientale)
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Sayanora (Miyoshi Umeki) 1953
      San Oriental Fox Trot        
      The Japanese Sandman        

Night Clubs

Temples, Theaters


Balinese Room (Clairidge Hotel, TN) Borobudur Temple (Jav) Bali , Burma , China , Djokjakarta (Jav) , Egypt, India , Indo-China , Japan , Java , Malaysia, Siam , Vietnam
Krida Beksa Wirama (Jav society) Kabuki Theater (Jap)
      Shinto Shrines  
      Takaradzuka Theater (Jap)  
Video Clips (pop-up)

related Films


Ballets / Stage

Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1894 - Imperial Japanese Dance n/a 1830 - Le dieu et la bayadère (Taglioni)
Video Clip not available at this time 1894 - Oriental Dance       1901 - Pan American Exposition
Video Clip not available at this time 1899 - Fatima, Star of the Orient       1939 - Golden Gate Expo
Video Clip not available at this time 1901 - Scene in Beautiful Orient: Pan-Am Expo       Wayang Wong (Jav)
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Eight Japanese Dancing Girls       Arjunawawaha (Jav)
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Geisha Girls       Ringit Tyang (Jav)
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Hu-Ki-Si, Japanese Dancer       Oriental Impressions (Pavlova)
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Japanese Acrobats        
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Japanese Dancing Hall        
Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - Japanese Yuma Dance      


Video Clip not available at this time 1902 - National Geisha Dance of Japan, The       $ 2003 - Monk Dancers of Tibet
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1921 - Tony Sarg's Marionettes in the Orient        
Video Clip not available at this time 1930? - Pathe Newsreel: Hindu Dancer        
Video Clip not available at this time 1937 - Daughter of Shanghai        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1944 - Dream of the Red Mansions        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1943 - Kismet (Anil Biswas)        
Video Clip not available at this time 1944 - Kismet (American)        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1952 - Geisha Girl      
Video Clip not available at this time 1952 - Trance and Dance in Bali      
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1954 - Alibaba and 40 Thieves (Mahipal, Shakeela)      
Video Clip not available at this time 1954 - Javanese Dancing        
Video Clip not available at this time 1957 - Sayonora* (Shochuku)        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1958 - Phagun        
Video Clip not available at this time 1961 - Flower Drum Song        
Video Clip not available at this time 1962 - Cafe Oriental        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1964 - Leader        
Video Clip not available at this time 1967 - Geisha        
Video Clip not available at this time 1968 - Dance of Shiva        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1968 - Sangarsh        
Video Clip not available at this time 1986 - The Dance of the East        
Video Clip not available at this time 1987 - Dance Raja Dance        
Video Clip not available at this time 1994 - The Dancing Girl        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
An Introduction to Bharatanatyam        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
Bank Manager (Zara Apni Nigahano ko Sambhalo)        
Video Clip not available at this time Dances Of India [DVD] (Bharata Natyam)        
Video Clip not available at this time Hana Yori Dango        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
Old Bali        

Other Related Dances of the time...

... also see top of page Dragon Dance Mysore dance Saman
Almeh (Awalim) Fan Dance Odori: Japanese dance Topeng
Batak Kathak (see Joanna Meinl) Raket Tori-mai (chicken dance)
Bharata Natyam Kebyar dance (Bal) Raks Sharki Wayang Wong
Belly Dance Manipuri dance Ribbon Dance  
Cilinaya (Bal) Musume Dozyozi dance Samurai dance  

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


1912 - Sein-Kadon (Bur) Ruth St. Denis King Dharmawanga
1912 - U Po Sein (Bur) Shochuku Kagekidan Girls Revue* Souryadnigrat
Hsu Lu (Ribbon dancer) Tang Jiali  
Kimura Komako Yeichi Nimura  
Mei Lan-fang (Chi)    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Odori: Japanese Dance Matida, Kasyo 1938 n/a
Dance Encyclopedia Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes
Dance through the Ages Sorrell, Walter 1967 n/a



Poets / Writers

Cui, César (1835-1918) Ito Shinsui Vyasa - Mahabharata (200 BC-11th Cnt)
    Ting Shao-Kuang    

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Ganesha Komori-Kisen [ballets] (Jav) Nats (Bur) Posture Girls (Bur)
Izu Lakon [theater piece] (Jav) Natya Sastra Yang Kwie-fei (Chi)
Kabuki Dancer [Jap] Mediums (Bur) Pokok [combat dance] (Jav) Shinto
舞 (Dance) 歌 (Song)    


Ancient Egypt to Present - Costume and Fashion
Ancient Egypt to Present
April 25, 2013