Little Egypt (dancer)

Alternate meaning: an area in southern Illinois.

Little Egypt was the stage name for two popular exotic dancers, Ashea Wabe who danced at the Seeley banquet and Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, who appeared at the "Street in Cairo" exhibition on the Midway at the World Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. She also used the stage name Fatima.

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Little Egypt

The dance performed by Little Egypt had also been called "Hootchy-Kootchy" or "Hoochee-Coochee" (the origin of the name is unknown), and "danse du ventre", which is French for "belly dance".

After the fair, Ashea Wabe became front-page news item in 1896 after she danced at a New York Fifth Avenue swank bachelor party for Herbert Seeley. A rival dancer falsely reported that Wabe was going to dance nude and the party was raided by the vice squad.

The raid brought some amount of fame to Little Egypt. She was hired by Broadway impresario Oscar Hammerstein I to appear as herself in a humorous parody of the Seeley dinner. She would have then been forgotten except for a series of photographs taken by Benjamin Falk.

After that, several women adopted the name of Little Egypt and toured the United States, until the name became somewhat synonymous with exotic dancers generally. Spyropoulos then claimed to be the original Little Egypt from the Chicago Fair. Although no dancer used that stage name at the fair, Spyropoulos, because of her size, had been given the nick-name Little Egypt. Recognized as the true Little Egypt she always disliked being confused with the other dancer from the Seeley banquet. Spyropoulos danced as Little Egypt at the 1933 Century of Progess in Chicago at the age of 62.

Rhonda Fleming starred in the title role of the movie "Little Egypt," a 1951 Universal International Production. Rock and Roll tunesmiths Leiber/Stoller penned a song entitled Little Egypt that was a 1961 hit for the Coasters. Elvis Presley performed the song extolling the virtues of belly dancers in his 1964 film, Roustabout and included it in his legendary 1968 T.V. show, Elvis. Donna Carlton wrote "Looking for Little Egypt", a historical account of Little Egypt at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

See also: The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid

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