Laurel Victoria Gray:
Dancing Along the Silk Road
Internationally recognized dance scholar, choreographer, performer, and costume designer, Laurel Victoria Gray has mastered dances from Silk Road cultures and beyond. She combines her degrees in history with decades of field research and teaches dance at George Washington University. Gray's scholarly articles have appeared in many publications including the Oxford University Press International Encyclopedia of Dance, the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, and the Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Culture.
Known as “the pioneer of Uzbek dance in America,” Laurel founded the award-winning Silk Road Dance Company (SRDC) in 1995. She has lectured and performed throughout Europe, Central Asia, Australia, Qatar, Singapore, Canada and the White House. Her workshops and performances have taken her to Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.
Laurel has lived and studied dance abroad, including two years at the invitation of Tashkent's State Academic Bolshoi Theater. She was a member of the jury for Uzbekistan's 1997 UNESCO-sponsored Sharq Taronalari Festival in Samarkand.
Gray won the 2013 Choreography Commission Award from Dance Metro DC. She was a finalist for the 2014 Washington Area Theatre Community Honors for "Outstanding Costume Design in a Play." The Fremont Arts Council funded Gray’s special Silk Road theme choreographies for the 2012 Solstice Parade. In 2011, Gray received the prestigious “Arash” Iranian arts award and in 2009 delivered the Fulbright Association International Dance lecture. In 2007, Gray was honored by the Ministry of Culture of Uzbekistan for her work in promoting and preserving Central Asian dance. She is the recipient of the 2006 Metro DC Dance Award for Excellence in Costume Design; the 2005 Distinguished Service Award from the Embassy of Uzbekistan; the 2003 Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project Award; and the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED) Awards for Best Choreographer (2003) and Best Ethnic Dancer (1999).
In 1984, Dr. Gray founded the Uzbek Dance and Culture Society and in 1994 established the annual Central Asian Dance Camp. She teaches World Dance as Adjunct Faculty at George George Washington University and has also taught at George Mason University. In 1990, she was an education outreach instructor for New York's City Center Theater, introducing thousands of middle school students to the famous Sukhishvili Georgian Dance Ensemble. For several years she gave instruction in Persian dance at the Iranian Community School in Vienna, Virginia. Since 1999, she has taught at Joy of Motion Dance Center of Washington, DC, and has given adult instruction at Joe's Movement Emporium and through Holy Cross Senior Source.
Gray has lectured at the First and Second International Conferences on Middle Eastern dance as well as the 2006 Inaugural Conference on Near and Middle Eastern Dance at Connecticut College. In 2012, she gave special workshops on Persian and Central Asian dance in at the Known World Dance Symposium held in Columbus, Ohio. She has also taught at the Mendocino Middle East Music and Dance Camp; the Oasis Dance Camp; the Visionary Dance Production's Annual Hawaiian Retreat; and the Central Asian Dance Camp.
Greatly influenced by her dance studies on five continents, Dr. Gray has created a system for Middle Eastern and Persian dance. She combines both Eastern and Western teaching methodology in her classes, encouraging students to refine their technique while building confidence and exploring self-expression. She believes that since dance predates spoken language as a form of human communication, we all can access it as a universal source of joy and ecstasy.