By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator
Last week’s #Throwback Thursday explored how circuses and carnivals, like P.T. Barnum’s circus, have long been traditions of American and European entertainment as well as a way for women to launch their own careers. Coney Island in New York was the launching place for many a female performer and was the birthplace of the dazzling Princess Rajah’s career as a show-stopping belly dancer and entertainer.
Princess Rajah, or Rose Ferran as she was born, was a headliner on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit in the early 1900s. She made an impressive $1000 per-week as a “cooch dancer” in Coney Island in the 1890s. One of her most popular dances, “The Arabian Chair Dance” (shown below), was recorded in a 1904 film and received rave reviews from the public. Awing audiences with her seductive undulations and her incredible feats of strength, Princess Rajah gracefully balanced a sturdy-looking chair between her teeth while dancing.
“In her Chair dance, the Princess amazes by her strength, particularly her strength of jaw. Taking between her teeth a substantial looking chair, she swirls and swings through a dance that would be intricate and difficult enough were her head entirely free,” according to a 1915 review in the Boston Daily Globe. “Never does her hand touch the chair, and the feats she performs with it are almost incredible.”
Video Courtesy: Library of Congress