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Although there were dancers of this type at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, it was not until the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that it gained national attention. Belly dancer live love dance poster The term “belly dancing” is often credited to Sol Bloom, the Fair’s entertainment director, but he referred to the dance as danse du ventre, the name used by the French in Algeria. In his memoirs, Bloom states, “when the public learned that the literal translation was “belly dance”, they delightedly concluded that it must be salacious and immoral … I had a gold mine.” Authentic dancers from several Middle Eastern and North African countries performed at the Fair, including Syria, Turkey and Algeria—but it was the dancers in the Egyptian Theater of The Street in the Cairo exhibit who gained the most notoriety. The fact that the dancers were uncorseted and gyrated their hips was shocking to Victorian sensibilities. There were no soloists, but it is claimed that a dancer nicknamed Little Egypt stole the show. Some claim the dancer was Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, but this fact is disputed.

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