What is it about dance that brings so much satisfaction for the dancer and those watching? Depending on the type of dancing, the reasons range from admiration of a physical skill to erotic intrigue. Dance for personal and mutual satisfaction is, by no stretch of the imagination, a new form of entertainment. The power of dance has its roots in the beauty of the human body, which means it has been used as a form of entertainment since humanity’s beginning.
Prehistoric cave dwellings found in southern France display drawings depicting ritual dances meant to appease deities of fertility. They feature central dancing figures performing standard steps and ceremonial phases within groups of onlookers. These drawings have been determined to be more than 20,000 years old. There are other pictorial and written records of exotic dancing throughout ancient history. There is even a reference in the Bible to an exotic dancer being paid generously in Herod’s court. In this story, a wealthy man’s daughter danced for King Herod. She performed the Seven Veils dance that was common in that time period. Herod loved the dance so much that he offered her a gift of anything she desired. She demanded payment in the form of John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
One thing that is commonly misunderstood about ancient exotic dancing is that it was not an exclusively female trade. Beauty ideals of both genders have been embodied by exotic dance in almost every society that has existed. Male and female exotic dancers were admired in ancient cultures from Mesopotamia to South America. Rome and dynastic China were completely enamored by male and female exotic dancing meant as high-class guest entertainment. Even in the Renaissance and Classical periods of Europe, both genders were lauded in their artistic and private dancing roles. This included event reenactments, and ballet.
Modern society’s notion of exotic dancing formed only recently. Dancing designed to serve a completely erotic role didn’t emerge until the middle of the 19th century. As a money-making venture, several touring groups formed in Europe and the United States. These groups featured mostly women donning extravagant outfits. Dance routines were formalized, and paired with complex stage props, lighting, and even circus animals. These shows had a vibrant entertainment factor, but always included seductive gestures.
Fast forward to the 20th century. The seductive gestures evolved into thematic mini-shows performed by cincinnati strippers that constantly pushed the boundaries of social acceptance and censorship. Most notably, was the exhibition of generous amounts of skin. In a way, it is only in modern times that exotic dancing has been considered taboo. This classification is a reaction to exotic dancing being “perfected” by modern dancers.
The range of dancing styles and venues today represent all that exotic dancing throughout history attempted to accomplish. Trained modern dancers can exhibit varying degrees of eroticism, costuming, artistic expression, or sheer visual entertainment. They still represent human ideas of fertility and beauty, but are completely taken with being professionally novel and innovative. The satisfaction found in modern exotic dancing is that it has finally achieved a historic pinnacle.