the Hip Hits the Fan
fan dancing is not considered traditional in raqs sharqi, due
to the increasing popularity of fusion, many Oriental dancers
are exploring fusing the many styles of fan dancing and Belly
dance with stunning results. When used onstage, fans are FAN-ciful,
conveying various emotions to an audience, as well as being
a spectacular visual treat. They can be dramatic and stately,
or coy and flirtatious and are always a crowd pleaser!
ten years ago, I became interested in dancing with fans. When
I became proficient in dancing with single and double fans
of many types, then I began experimenting with incorporating
fan use into my Belly dance shows. I am not alone: many well-known
Belly dancers are known for using fan work in their routines.
Lazarus-Soto and Politti
Ashcraft) often blend the
use of Chinese Mulan fans into their Asian-Fusion dances; Colorado-based Isadora
Bushkovsky does a beautiful
Flamenco-influenced fan fusion, and Bay Area dancer Shabnam
consistently and beautifully worked with large,
Sally Rand fans. Troupes such as Oklahoma’s Gypsy
The Dream Harem from Texas, or San
Diego’s Indirani often
use fans in choreographed group routines. One of the original
proponents of Belly dance and fan dancing fusion is Meleea of
Texas, who not only has
danced with fans for years, but also sells a
wide variety of fans worthy of stage use on her site.
into an overview of history, fans have been used for thousands
of years, and have been a part of every culture on the globe.
Archeologists have uncovered murals and statues depicting
fan use from ancient Egypt, Greece, Assyria, and all over
Asia. Fans have been used extensively in everything from traditional and
folkloric dances as well as in theatrical, classical, fantasy
as well as ritual pieces. They have been used by solo dancers
as well as in choreographed group pieces, as well as props
in non-performance social group dances, such as the 17th and
18th century court dances of Europe.
the days of climate control and air conditioning, men as well
as women routinely carried fans and used them to keep cool. The
folding fan was invented in Japan, in the 8th century,
and later taken to China in the 9th century. Fans
used in the Renaissance period of Europe had lavishly decorated
handles, which pre-dated hand fans. Folding fans were not introduced
to Europe until the 1600s, and were in high demand among royalty
and the upper classes, due to their exquisite craftsmanship.
females always knew the power and allure of fans. In Victorian
times, there was even a language of gesturing with fans,
with various positions (open or closed, held again the face,
snapped open or fluttered, etc.) serving as a secret social code
between women and their suitors these silent movements got
the point across in a non-verbal way that also preserved the
fan’s owner’s appearance and social status.
Asia, fans have been used in court dances, ritual presentation
and classical and folkloric theatrical shows. In Korea, dating
from about the time of the Choson (sometimes spelled “Joson”)
Dynasty (1392-1910 AD) traditional fan dancers pose and move
in circles portraying flowers, swaying gracefully. Chinese
dancing fans, sometimes known Mulan fans, are unique because
they have a ruffle, which extends beyond the bamboo tines of
the fan and flutters beautifully when manipulated correctly.
Fans are also used in Asian martial arts practices as well.
Tai Chi fans have traditional patterns and designs (dragons,
phoenix birds, etc.) embroidered or printed on the material,
and on authentic fans, the staves are made of steel
or some other metal, which I do not recommend
for stage use in a dance performance!
fans have been used in Spanish Flamenco as well as various
other Rom (gypsy) rooted dances from all across Europe. The
Flamenco fans, known as pericons, are typically made of lace,
sometimes combined with another type of decorative woven material,
or light, hand-painted silk, and are used in the Sevillanas
style of Flamenco. In North America, folding hand fans are
used in Mexican Ballet Folklorico, and flat-feathered fans
with rigid handles are sometimes used in the traditional shamanic
dances of various Native American nations.
the best known and the showiest use of fans also stems from
America. Burlesque legend Sally Rand appeared at the 1933 Chicago
World’s Fair and instantly became an overnight sensation with
her fan dance routine, in which she appeared nude (or possibly
wearing a full-body stocking) using two gigantic luxurious
fans made of ostrich plumes to conceal and reveal her charms.
Born in 1903 in Missouri, Sally Rand had been a circus acrobat
and performed on the vaudeville and burlesque circuits. She
also appeared in over twenty silent films, as well as in talkies,
including her famous fan dance sequences in the films “Bolero”
and Cecile B. De Mille’s “King Of Kings”.
It is said that she saved the World’s Fair, attracting a huge
crowd with her fan
wonder she attracted such a crowd: she was
notorious for her scandalous shows and had been arrested
a number of times. She performed the very same fan routine
almost exclusively in her rich career, which spanned over fifty
years. Her legacy lives on even now, and her fan dance has
become a part of theatrical history, as well as a burlesque
staple. Today, the gigantic, impressive ostrich fans used worldwide
are still referred to as “Sally Rand Fans”.
you would like to start using fans while belly dancing, I would
recommend a lot of practice before adding them into a stage
routine. Not only are fans a prop, they should function an
extension of your bodily movement and expression ( like zills)
and cannot be merely flung away, like veils. Practice with
smaller fans at first- the constant movement of the arms and
shoulders can really take it’s toll on your muscles! See what
type of fans you like, or choose those that make sense with
your dancing. Experiment with using fan technique from different
cultures and traditions: haughty flamenco poses, coy geisha
poses, and dramatic gypsy attitude. Incorporate sweeping turns
with the fans aloft, use the burlesque / tease premise of “conceal
and reveal”. Use the fan to frame your face or your abdominal
technique or hip work, use two fans for full-body poses.
are some different fans you may want to play around with:
Pericons- Made entirely
of lace or fabric, and in many cases, a combination
of both, these hand fans are strikingly beautiful,
hand-painted and hand-crafted and sturdy, they can
be snapped open and shut quite easily.
Fans & Fan Veils- These
material fans- version of the traditional Mulan Fan has recently
become a very popular prop with Fusion–style belly dancers…
it’s tail- sometimes a yard or longer in length- flies through
the air dramatically during spins and turns. These fans are
usually made of 100% silk because a synthetic blend won’t
cause the fan to float and “defy gravity” the way it should.
large hand fans are made of marabou feathers, often tipped
with peacock and pheasant feathers, and though fragile, can
look great onstage.
Rand Fans- The reigning
royalty of stage fans, Sally Rand-style theatrical fans have
been a classic staple in burlesque performances for decades.
Mounted on strong plastic staves, these fans open and close fairly
easily, but still will not snap open because of the bulk
of the feathers. These beauties can have a single row
of feathers, or can be layered with up to four rows of large
ostrich plumes. Because of the relative heaviness of the
staves, the large circumference (or “wing span”) and the
potential bulk of
the feathers, these fans may be difficult to handle at first,
and may take a bit of getting used to. Also good to know:
because of the large size of these fans, the slower they
the air, the better they look; but slow movements with such
a large, weighty prop will definitely work your muscles,
and you may experience some muscle soreness when you first
begin to work with Sally Rand fans. These fans are hand-made
don’t come cheaply- expect to pay anywhere from $250.00-$600.00
per pair new, depending on the size, craftsmanship, amount
of feathers and even the colors or custom dying of the feathers…and
you thought Belly dance costumes were expensive!
using any sort of fans, make sure to do a complete warm-up
of the hands, wrists, arm, and shoulders, in addition to
your usual warm-up.
biopage for coming fan workshops
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post Modern Showgirl by
Princess Farhana (Pleasant Gehman)
WAIT!!!”I can hear you screaming, “BURLESQUE IS STRIPPING!”
Great American Belly Dance Veil Routine by Najia El
After having said all that, I must add that American style Oriental/Belly dance
is a distinctive style composed of creative elements that are simply outstanding.
Rituals and Beyond: Exploring Current Controversies in
Middle Eastern Dance by Barbara Grant
If you are like me, (I know that many are not) you first
responded viscerally and negatively to both situations. Then, as
the shock wore off, perhaps you tried to make sense of it all.
along the Nile, Part 1: Raks Al Asaya by Gamila
El Masri, Reprinted with permission, from Bennu, Issue
is strength in the cane twirl but not aggression, extreme rapid
twirling should be held as an additional sensational feat, less
is more. Have your body of twirling be moderate so that you can
vary from slow to climatic; always reflecting the music, it's mood
and tempo. Get down without getting crazy.
New Venue for Rakkasah Festival West by Susie Poulelis
retail, there is a saying that having an item sell out was a
happy problem to have. You want to keep your customers yearning
for more, making sure they won't hesitate to buy the next time
they see something they want.
Buy or Not to Buy –A Guide to Mass Market Belly
Dance Instructional DVDs by Yasmin
producers ask or hire others to write glowing reviews. You will
often see the same people reviewing a producer’s entire
line of product. Those are suspect. Look for the one-off comments.
They will give a better overview, along with anything less than
Career Path Less Traveled: Dancing in Movies and TV
in the'60s, An Interview with Tanya Lemani by John
Smart" I enjoyed working with Karen Steele and Don Adams.
They took some of my lines out and Don saw that I was upset.
Don insisted that they give some of them back to me.
at the Hoover featuring Morocco February 10, 2008,
Hoover Theatre in San Jose, CA Video and photos by
Smith on scene reporter, event produced by The San Francisco
Bay Area Chapter of MECDA
Cabaret to DJ Bellydance
in New York: An Overview, 1988 - 2007 by
Nina Costanza (Amar)
But the primary forums for dancers, the major
New York nightclubs, have closed their doors. Cabaret
is gone; it is the era of the DJ. And the new dancer
has to have another job.