Everything About The Fan Dance: 7 Famous Fan Dancers In History | Kidadl


Everything About The Fan Dance: 7 Famous Fan Dancers In History

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A handful of dancers occasionally exhibit a form of dancing using fans called a fan dance.

The literal meaning of fan dance is a dance performed with fans. The fans travel either in elliptical patterns, while some complete patterns include helicopter blades, perfect windmill, or even Carmen's skirt. 

The fans can be made of any material like ostrich feathers, velvet, silk, and sequined fabrics. This type of dance has been famous in private spaces and the clubs of America like the Gentleman's Club from the 1900s. After removing the solid pin from the center in 1970, the dance form saw a revolutionary change in its moves, allowing more fluidity. The unifying movement in all types of dances of this form is the spin or the fan staves, which gives an exciting edge to the dance. The fan dance dates back thousands of years ago but western culture adopted the style of this traditional dance into a more erotic performance. This new type of fan dance was performed mainly by women, but it was not exclusively restricted to one gender. There have been many performers of fan dancing, but the most famous fan dancer was Sally Rand, she was the one who popularized fan dances in the west.

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Who was the famous fan dancer?

Sally Rand was an American burlesque dancer popularly known for her balloon bubble dance and ostrich feathers fan dance. She was also known by the name Billie Beck even though her actual name was Helen Gould Beck. Sally Rand started her career in the 20s as a stage actor and also worked in silent films. After the arrival of sound films, she showed interest in dancing and became a noted fan dancer from her popular performances in the Paramount Club of Chicago.

Rand became famous for the style of her dancing and manipulating the fans. She used to position the feather fans in the front and behind her in such a way that it made her look like a winged bird swooping and twirling on the stage beautifully. Her admirers were in awe of her performances because of such postures. It is said that the way she positioned the fans appeared as if she was playing peek-a-boo with her body. The most famous performance of Sally Rand was the one at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933, which was known as the Century of Progress. The live orchestra in the background played its charm on the audience. This performance, directed by Art Frasik, became one of the most iconic fan dance performances in the history of fan dancing. Rand continued to be a fan dancer and appeared on stage till the 1970s.

However, even though Rand popularized this dance form in the 1930s, another dancer performed fan dances from the 20s. Her name was Faith Bacon, and she is considered the pioneer of fan dancing in America. She was an American Burlesque dancer who began her career in Paris in the 1920s. When Bacon was at the peak of her career, she was described as America's Most Beautiful Dancer. After the World's Fair of 1933, her career gradually declined as Sally Rand's performance grew into popularity. She even tried to sue Rand for copying her style, which was later dismissed. Her last on-stage public performance was supposed to be in New York City in 1939. For the entire 40s, Bacon danced at various clubs, and her career petered out after that.

What are fan dancers called?

Fan dancers did not have any particular name until they were adopted by the countries in the west. In America, this form of dancing was known as burlesque dancing, and the dancers were referred to as burlesque dancers.

At present, burlesque has been revived as a dance form on both coasts of the Atlantic. Some notable neo-burlesque dancers are Julie Atlas Muz, Dita Von Teese, and some groups like Cabaret Red Light. The concept of these dances is not only confined to the subject of erotism but has also included diverse acts such as political satires. Previously, American burlesque was an industry dominated by women, but as society modernized, many male dancers became interested in the dance form.

The unifying movement in all types of dances

When was fan dancing popular?

Fan dance has been a traditional dance of China for approximately 3000 years; it is a form of expressing art. One of the minority groups of China called the Chaoxian started expressing their emotions through this dance form. Traditionally the form was only restricted to the female dancers, and they performed in groups. Currently, even male dancers have been observed to dance with the fans on stage.

In such traditional fan dances of China, the performers wore lavish costumes and carried large satin or silk fans having various shapes and sizes. They depicted images of birds, flowers, peacocks, waves, and butterflies, commonly with the help of these fans. Gradually, many ethnic groups began adopting the dance form across China because of the use of extravagant colors and shapes. Still, pop culture throughout Asia incorporated the style of fan dances in many performances. It is used to highlight the graceful movements of the performers. Like most other folk dances, fan dance began as a way to share stories and communicate emotions without the use of words. This type of communication was important to the Chinese people as dances were created before discovering Chinese symbols.

Another Asian country that adopted fan dance is Japan. Many years ago, under the reign of Emperor Jimmu in Japan, the first dance with fans was choreographed. It was performed exclusively for private dances, and the prop was added to highlight the Japanese hairstyle and bold makeup. The dance was always performed in compliance with the musicians. This type of dance in Japan was a symbol of social status. It was featured at special events such as parties and weddings. Depending on the significance of the event, the fans were carted in different designs with ivory, sandalwood, or pearl.

In America, fan dancing became popular in the 1900s. This type of dancing flaunted the feather of the fans, and the disco art was performed in an erotic way. The dancing was called burlesque. An annual AIDS remembrance event included an act of fan dance as opening and closing performers. These ritual dances are performed on the death of a person or at a child's first birthday celebration of life to remember all the children who did not survive.

Some Popular Fan Dancers

Modern fan dancing has been revived by burlesque dancers who use feather fans as one of their props. The iconic burlesque dancer Catherine D'Lish revived and popularized the use of fans in dancing. Catherine began dancing with feather fans from her teenage years in the 90s. For the next few decades, she pondered this form of dancing and influenced more people to become fan dancers. Catherine herself took inspiration from the fan dancer Sally Rand. She crafted some fans herself using previously unsourced material and began performing with them to bring something new in burlesque dancing.

Catherine is considered to be the benchmark of modern fan dancing by many dancers. While fan dancing can be challenging, the way the dancers use their fans to create a playful essence is the central element of this dancing style.

Imogen Kelly is considered to be the Australian queen of burlesque for her exquisite moves. One fan dance artist named Michelle L'amour truly employs and enjoys her props on the stage. She employs the full potential of the large fans on stage to put up a gala performance. A good fan dance has both beauty and tease. Michelle's dance on stage is both enchanting and strong, mixed with the erotic nature of the burlesque form. Her iconic tribute to Sally Randy was a turning point of modern dancing. According to Michelle L'amour, fan dancing requires a strategy to perform on stage. To be a good fan dancer, the dancers have to be comfortable with their bodies as they will highlight every area of the body instead of masking them.

In Seattle, another fan performer Iva Handfull has always managed to look effortless while performing. According to her, a dance performance only brightens if the performer can move effortlessly with the fans in hand despite their size, weight, and technique. While the props don't start to look effortless in hand overnight, there's another dancer who pursued and practiced this dance style until she became a natural.

The Miss Exotic World 2009 Kalani Kokonuts was always inspired and intimidated by dancing with the huge feather fans and made a custom-made fan for herself to try this style. She took a year only to get the hand strength to handle the fans while dancing and a year more to get comfortable while dancing with these fans.

The Miss Exotic World 2014, Midnite Martini, also became a part of the fan dancing community. She can wield the fans so skillfully that it appears as if the fans have become an extension of her own body. The Australian dancer Lola the Vamp is said to be the doctor of burlesque. She believes that the fans can enhance the beauty of their style for the good dancers, and for the rest, the fans will only shadow their dancing.

In 1998, Thelma Houston, with 40 other fan and flag dancers, performed on the stage at Chelsea Piers for a dance on Manhattan Fundraiser on the Queen of Hearts paddlewheel boat. There are also some male dancers who have mastered the art of burlesque dancing shows. The top male dancers of the world like Matt Finish, Ray Gunn, and Captain Kidd have presented some of the most innovative performances of fan dancing which represented the perspective of a different gender. On social media, related posts on this art form are pretty popular.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for everything about fan dance: 7 famous fan dancers in history, then why not take a look at 21 famous truss bridges around the world: location and facts or here are 21 famous West Virginian talent world should know about?

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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