The Origin of Modern Dance

There were ten children in a poor family who had to share a single chamber pot.
That’s how Step Dance was born.

Ancient Egyptian art.

What comes to mind?

  • Pyramids
  • Nefertiti
  • Reliefs showing pharaohs, gods with beastly heads, and a crowd of smaller people representing lesser nobles or slaves, all walking in a funny way
  • The Bangles’ hit of the 80s, “Walk like an Egyptian”.

Did you know that the song was added as a joke to their album? And then the song walked away with a pyramid of prizes. Fate does have a sense of humour.

So, get prepared for a surprise.

There is a museum in Oxford with a strange name, Ashmolean (it got its name from the original donator, Elias Ashmole – and I wonder what nicknames he might have had when he was a kid).

Among Egyptian treasures at the Ashmolean, there’s a stele that defies all the previous knowledge about Egyptians.

Yes, it is a dance. Egyptian clubbing before night clubs were invented.

The dance does look like the electrocuted body-shaking we see today. The girls seem to be snapping their fingers while jiggling their slender bodies, and the girl on the right (in the pic below) is obviously smiling in a very inviting way. And – oh, my – look at their dresses! Chanel didn’t invent a small black dress. She just painted the white one black, and simplified it by adding a skirt.

Now we see boys who come to the girls with an obvious intention of offering them “The Pride of Pharaoh” cocktail:

But the girls don’t care about the cocktails. They just want to dance. Boys! Why are you so darn boring? Is it the bane of boys to be boring observers (well, not all, of course, but most)?

A great artist of the 20th century, upon visiting a cage with prehistoric drawings of animals, said we hadn’t learned anything new in visual arts since those dark hunter-gatherer times.

As you see, this holds true even for the art of dance. Did you dance this weekend? Did you jiggle, wiggle, shake or sway? Well, when you do it next time, think about the stele, and try to include some of the movements from Ancient Egypt. Don’t be afraid to call the spirit of Anubis. Be wary of not hitting someone on the dance floor when you attempt copying the movement from the top picture. Yes, the one done with a straight leg.


  1. I like this post a lot especially because I’m an Egyptian and i’m proud to see something like that (: come have a visit to see my blog too 😀 :

  2. Glad I found your entry. I’m still stuck thinking about the Egypt of the pharaohs through reliefs and paintings where people look far more rigid than they do here. Thanks.

    1. Well, it is interesting to see that quite often our preconceptions about something turn out to be nothing more than a myth indoctrinated by school and mass media, isn’t it? )) Thanks!

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