Dance of the Seven Veils Day — celebrated every year on January 22 — commemorates one of the momentous events in the “Bible,” the execution of John the Baptist. Did you know that while the Dance of the Seven Veils originated from the bible, it did not get its name until 1893, when Oscar Wilde’s 1891 French play “Salomé” was translated to English? The Dance of the Seven Veils is of Middle-Eastern origin and is similar to belly dancing. When performing this dance, the dancer usually wears a bikini top, pantaloons, bracelets, anklets, rings, and sometimes, a pair of finger cymbals. Scarves are also needed to dance.
History of Dance of the Seven Veils Day
The Dance of the Seven Veils can be traced to the events leading to the beheading of John the Baptist. According to Matthew 14, King Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist for criticizing his marriage to Herodias, who was previously married to Antipas’s half-brother Herod II. During Antipas’s birthday, his niece danced before him and his guests, and he was pleased. That made him promise to give her anything she might ask. Having been persuaded by her mother, Herodias, the niece asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Even though Antipas was sorry, he commanded it to be given to her.
The niece was named Salomé in an account by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus, but he did not mention the dance. The dance first appeared in the 1893 English translation of Wilde’s 1891 French play “Salomé.” The English text included the stage direction, which goes like this, “Salomé dances the dance of the seven veils.”
Wilde is said to have been influenced by earlier French writers, including Gustave Flaubert and Arthur O’Shaughnessy. In his play, Wilde transformed the dance from a performance before the king and his guests to a personal dance in which the king is the only audience.
In his 1905 operatic adaptation of “Salomé,” Richard Strauss included the Dance of the Seven Veils. While the dance was meant to be thoroughly decent, many productions turned the dance into an erotic performance. An example was a 1907 production of “Salomé” in New York.
The Wilde play and the Strauss opera paved the way for the dance to be adapted into films. That includes the 1908 Vitagraph production “Salomé” or the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” the 1953 “Salomé,” and the 1961 film “King of Kings.”
Since 1907, Dance of the Seven Veils Day has been celebrated as an unofficial holiday
Dance of the Seven Veils Day timeline
Wilde brings the Dance of the Seven Veils to life in his French play “Salomé.”
Richard Strauss premieres his opera adaptation of Wilde’s “Salomé” in Dresden, Germany.
Dance of the Seven Veils Day becomes an unofficial holiday.
The Dance of the Seven Veils appeared in a film for the first time in the Vitagraph production “Salomé.”
Dance of the Seven Veils Day FAQs
Did Salomé marry her father?
No, there is no historical evidence of Salomé marrying her stepfather, Herod Antipas. She first married her uncle, Phillip, Tetrarch of Trachonitis, and then her first cousin Aristobulus after Phillip’s death.
Why did the daughter of Herodias want John’s head?
According to the biblical account, Salomé was persuaded by her mother, Herodias, to request John’s head because he criticized her marriage to Herod Antipas.
How much do belly dancers earn?
Belly dancers in the United States can earn roughly $3000 – $4000 per month. While in Egypt, belly dancers can earn up to $3,000 a night.
How to Observe Dance of the Seven Veils Day
Perform the Dance of the Seven Veils
If you are a dancer or a dance enthusiast, you can commemorate the day with your Dance of the Seven Veils performance. You can record yourself while performing and upload it to YouTube or perform before an audience of friends. Wearing the traditional belly dancer’s clothing is not compulsory. You can choose to go with clothing that fits your definition of modesty.
Watch an opera performance of “Salomé”
If you are excited to see what all the fuss for Dance of the Seven Veils Day is about, you can celebrate the occasion by viewing a Richard Strauss “Salomé” opera performance. Many opera houses around the world, including the ones in the U.S., show productions of “Salomé” every year. Search on the internet and book a seat.
Watch film adaptations of the Dance of the Seven Veils
The 1961 film “King of Kings” is considered one of the best film productions that include scenes of the Dance of the Seven Veils. You can rent or buy the movie on Netflix or Amazon, or watch the whole movie on YouTube. The 1953 film “Salomé,” featuring Rita Hayworth, is another classic that includes the Dance of the Seven Veils.
5 Interesting Facts About Belly Dancing
Belly dancing is asexual
Contrary to popular opinion, belly dancing is a dance that both men and women can perform.
Egypt is the center of belly dancing
The country has the best and most sought-after belly dancers, and it’s where you travel to if you want to make a name for yourself as a belly dancer.
It combines movement from different cultures
Belly dancing combines dance movements from different Mediterranean cultures, including North Africa, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and the Arabian Gulf.
The modern costume originated in Egypt
The bedlah style, consisting of a fitted top or bra, a fitted hip belt, and a full-length skirt or harem pants, was created in Egypt to appeal to Western visitors.
Belly dancers appeared in Thomas Edison’s films
Thomas Edison made several films of belly dancers, including “Princess Rajah” and “Crissie Sheridan.”
Why Dance of the Seven Veils Day is Important
It brings to remembrance one of the fascinating biblical events
Dance of the Seven Veils Day is marked to commemorate the events that led to the execution of John the Baptist. It explores the reason for his imprisonment and the intriguing events and dialogue that eventually led to John’s demise at Herod’s birthday party.
Dance of the Seven Veils can be healthy
Despite its dark origins, the Dance of the Seven Veils is a healthy form of dancing. The twisting of the hips and the various movements incorporated into the dance helps improve the back flexibility and strengthens the supporting muscles. It also builds confidence and can be considered an exercise.
Dance of the Seven Veils is fun
The dance is fun, especially when you are learning to dance. In the dancing class, you can meet people from different backgrounds and make connections. You also learn new dancing techniques, which can be challenging at first but exciting once you get the hang of it.
Dance of the Seven Veils Day dates