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April 04, 1991|DENISE HAMILTON

Belly dancing, move aside.

From Soviet Central Asia by way of Seattle, Uzbek dance is coming to Eagle Rock.

On Sunday at 8 p.m., Laurel Gray will be at Occidental College to give a rare performance of Uzbek dance, which traces its roots to the 7th Century.

The exotic dance is characterized by its flowing and intricate hand and arm movements, dazzling spins, and dips and twists and is performed in ikat , or woven silk robes. The dances blend movements that can be traced to India, China, Afghanistan and even North Africa, a legacy of Uzbekistan's location along the ancient Silk Road trade route.

Gray, who first became interested in Uzbek traditional dance after seeing a traveling troupe in the 1970s, has visited the Soviet Union five times and

has studied with some of the region's best-known ethnic dancers at Tashkent's Union of Theatrical Performers and its Institute of Choreography. She also founded the Uzbek Dance Society of America and is leader of Seattle's Tanavir Dance Ensemble.

Gray says Uzbek dance is practically unknown in the West. In the Ottoman Empire, these undulating folkloric dances were not even performed in public. Uzbek women--heavily sequestered in Islamic society--danced only for each other at home and in harems. Then came the Bolshevik Revolution, which transformed Uzbekistan into one of the 15 Soviet republics and freed its women from the veil.

Tickets for the folkloric dance concert are $7 and $5. To order by phone or obtain more information, call (213) 259-2737.

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