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The Shake Dance

        The Shake dance is a non-rhythmic specialty eccentric dance that became popular around the time of Little Egypt at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. Its roots can somewhat be traced back to the origins of Raks Sharki (aka: Belly Dancing) and the later African-American Grind. Some people call it the Hootchy-Cootchy dance, but the Hootchy-Cootchy was a catch all name for anything Erotic in dance.

    The shake dance began as a woman's dance but a few southern males gradually developed their own versions. It's evolution can be seen from Little Egypt in 1893 to Bert Williams doing it with the Mooch dance in 1903, Aida Overton Walker who used the Shake dance in her Salome routine in 1910,

James Barton upset the Broadway critics with it in 1923 and finally Clifton Webb set it on fire when he performed it with the Snake Hips in 1929. It may have roots in the Eskista / Esketa which is a traditional dance from Ethiopia (North-East African or Abyssinian) which can be routinely seen on TV in their country today (unconfirmed) However it's roots are more ikely in Bey Dance. . In the video clip on the left a Belly dancer performs the shake dance as it probably has roots in Raks Sharki (aka Belly Dance) seeing how it got popular with "Little Egypt" and Belly dance has a "Shake Dance" (Shimmy). But whatever, as it's roots we may never know and this particular pages version changed somewhat over time.

    The dance consisted of many undulations of the body with a common step to be known as the Belly Roll, which became common in other dances, it included other movements as well such as the Shimmie, the Mooch, the Grind, etc. but these became their own separate dances in time. By the 1920's almost every chorus line had its own Shake dancer on the stage.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

U.S.A. 1890's ?   Erotic / Ragtime Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Music preview clip

Music Titles

n/a n/a Video Clip not available at this time Shake It and Break It (King Oliver) [mp3]
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
1978 - Shake and dance with me (Con Funk Shun)
    Video Clip not available at this time  
    Video Clip not available at this time  

Night Clubs



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Films / Movies

Ballets / Stage

n/a Dixie to Broadway (Florence Mills)

Instructional Videos


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Other - Possibly Related Dances

Belly Dance Cootch, the (Hoochy Coochy) Hootchy-Cootchy Shimmie
Buzzard Lope Harlem Shake, the Raks Sharki Shimmie Sha-Wabble
Eskista / Esketa     Snake Hips

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Aida Overton Walker (1910) Little Egypt (1893) n/a
Bert Williams Louise 'Jota' Cook  
Bessie Dudley Mae West  
Clifton Webb Ola Jones  
Florence Mills Princess Aurelia  
Gilda Gray Stringbeans  
James Barton Tondelayo  
Kalua Whitman Sisters, the  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
$ Jazz Dance: The Story of American ... Stearns, Marshall 1994 Da Capo Press




Poets / Writers

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

Buzzarad Lope Raunchy dance    
Erotic Dance Shimmy Dance    
Harlem Shake      

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