The seven veil dancer dates back to biblical times, commonly referenced alongside John the Baptist. However, the tale of the Seven Veil Dance goes much deeper, offering up a rich history of a dance that is rooted in ancient life, but still performed today. Read on to learn more about this unique dance form that, while not nearly as popular as other styles of movement, still holds a level of distinction in many cultures and societies.
What is Seven Veil Dancing
Often associated with today's belly dancers, also known as Oriental dance artists, the seven veil dance is exactly as the name suggests - it is a Middle Eastern inspired dance that involves veils or swaths of sheer fabric (veils) as props. The movement is choreographed through a series of movements known as "veil work" in American culture, and the dance can be either extremely traditional, or liberally interpretive. The beauty of dances inspired by the Far East is that they have plenty of freedom to evolve, and the dance of the seven veils has done that, while still managing to be associated with ancient beginnings.
The Legend of the Seven Veil Dancer
It is very important to note that while the Seven Veil Dance is credited as being of Middle Eastern descent, the truth of the matter is this is simply legend. In fact, the dance actually comes from Europe and has been cultivated and refined by mainstream entertainment in many countries that have grown attached to the original legend of mystery and allure. According to legend, the "original" dancer was Salome, who was a woman in biblical times who danced for King Herod while wearing seven veils. As the dance progressed, she would strip away one layer, until nothing remained - much like an ancient striptease. Herod was so enraptured by Salome that he ended up promising to give her whatever she asked for in exchange for performing her seductive dance. She asked, after being instructed by her mother, for John the Baptist's head on a platter. This is how John the Baptist was killed, even though Herod had no intentions on doing so until he made his vow to the young seductress. However, going back to the actual Bible, there is no mention of Salome being the name of the exotic dancer, and there is also no specific mention of veils or other removal of clothing. These were brought in by various other sources and influences, making up this "biblical" legend that many of us still credit as valid today.
Further Evolution of the Seven Veil Dance
The story of the Seven Veil Dancer continued to be embellished and altered by Europeans, including a mixing with the myth of Ishtar, which was written in the late 1870s. Later on, other writers and influential people from around the world jumped on the seductress bandwagon, continuing to pin Salome to the John the Baptist story. This included Oscar Wilde's play titled (you guessed it) "Salome", which was published in 1891. This further spread the word about the Seven Veil Dance, even though in reality Salome was probably just a young girl far from the seductive world she is often falsely associated with.
Modern Seven Veil Dancing
Outside of belly dancing (where many modern artists do perform it for fun and show), the Seven Veil Dance has evolved into a much more scandalous and yet easily recognizable form of art in the United States. In short, the Seven Veil Dance has become the modern day striptease. Both Hollywood and live theater continue to promote the promiscuity behind the dance, and today it is commonly associated with sexuality and allure. To be a dancer in this genre does not necessarily mean you are an exotic dancer, however many exotic dances take their cue from the original seven veil legend and many moves are rooted in the legend and history of its choreography.