“Authentic Native Egyptian Dancers” at the Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1895

Here’s an interesting tidbit on Egyptian dance at the Barnum & Bailey circus from an 1895 issue of The New York Times that I came across while researching a paper on ethnographic presentations and photography at circuses. Enjoy!

The impossibility of a scrubwoman who has been employed In the Garden for some years to conceal her astonishment when the Egyptian dancers came in sight incidentally revealed quite a little romance. One of the dancers, gorgeously arrayed in pink, gauze, and tinsel, had the loveliest pair of “real Irish eyes” that one would see In many a day’s journey. But she spoke in the language of the Egyptians and danced in the peculiar custom of the country with an ease that equaled any of her associates.It was learned that, three years ago, that young person was a scrubwoman in Madison Square Garden. She had come to this country from Ireland in search of a recalcitrant lover. The leader of a troupe of Egyptian dancers, who Is an accomplished linguist and a very well-Informed man, fell In love with, married her, and took her to his native land. This year she reappears here as a “native” dancer. This story was corroborated by a gentleman who has known the husband very well for a long time.”

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Sole Food Dance Shoe Reviews: Ballroom/Social Dance Shoe

Welcome to Sole Food, a review segment on finding the best shoes for your dance needs. Depending on your dance style, costuming, and venue, you need to find the right shoe for the job. Like any costume element, make sure to practice in your shoes before hitting the stage.

Ballroom/Social Dance Shoe

Capezio ballroom dance shoe with 2.5" flared heel

Capezio ballroom dance shoe with 2.5" flared heel

What is it? Ever wonder why your feet hurt after a night of dancing in heels? That’s because regular high heels aren’t made for dancing! Ballroom/Social dance shoes are specially manufactured for a dancer’s needs and include reinforced arches and heels as well as flexible suede soles.

What’s it made of? Leather, suede, synthetics, plastics, etc.

What kind of dancers will wear it? A beautiful pair of ballroom dance shoes is like the icing on the cake for a gorgeous cabaret-style costume. Egyptian and Turkish style dancers take notice! Most ballroom shoes come in black, tan, cream, gold and silver, but there are even prints and other special fabrics. You can even customize your shoes by gluing on rhinestones.

Silver glitter ballroom heel by GoGo Dance Shoes

Silver glitter ballroom heel by GoGo Dance Shoes

What kind of surfaces can I dance on with it? Excellent for hard, smooth, clean surfaces. Do keep in mind that your toes and heels are uncovered and exposed to whatever may be on your dance space’s floor. Not recommended for grass, turf or textured surfaces (blacktop, etc), as the suede and leather on the bottom of the shoe will get damaged.

Who makes it? Brands include Capezio, Sansha, Veryfine, Featherlite, GoGo, Bloch and more. Different brands have slightly different widths and styling. Custom shoes are available from some manufacturers. Capezio Brazil has also partnered with the belly dancer Esmeralda to create a high-heeled shoe specifically meant for belly dance, though the word is still out as to whether they really differ from conventional ballroom shoes.

Leopard print ballroom heel by Sansha

Leopard print ballroom heel by Sansha

Sizing tips? Ballroom shoes often run smaller than street shoes, and some dancers even prefer to wear them several sizes smaller than their usual size. Make sure to consult the manufacturer’s sizing chart, or try on a pair before purchasing. Different styles (flared, Cuban) and heights of heels are also available; I like a 2.5″ flared heel.