Laurel Gray

Photo of Laurel Gray

Laurel Gray

Adjunct Professor of Global Dance History, Theatre & Dance Program


Dance scholar, choreographer, performer, and costume designer, Laurel Victoria Gray specializes in women’s dances from Silk Road cultures and the Islamic World. She combines her degrees in history with decades of field research and teaching on five continents. Her articles have appeared in publications including the Oxford University Press International Encyclopedia of Dance, the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, and the Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Culture.  Called “the pioneer of Uzbek dance in America,” Gray has studied dance in Central Asia and the Caucasus, including two years at the invitation of Uzbekistan's State Academic Bolshoi Theater. In 1995, she founded the award-winning Silk Road Dance Company.  They have performed in Qatar, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Toronto, London, and, in 2015, at the White House. Gray was awarded the 2003 Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project Award and, in 2009, gave Fulbright International Dance Scholar lecture.


2022    Lazgi International Dance Festival Conference Participant & Jury Member
2021    Xalqlar Do’stligi “Friendship of the Peoples” Medal awarded by Government of Uzbekistan
2018    Raqs Sehri Dance Festival Award for Propagating Uzbek Performing Arts Abroad
2015     White House Nowruz/Navruz Performance by Silk Road Dance Company
2014     White House Nowruz/Navruz Performance by Silk Road Dance Company
2016    London Open Central Asian Arts Festival Award Lecture & Performance
2015    Washington Area Theatre Honors Nominee, Excellence in Costuming
2013    Dance Metro DC Choreography Commission Award
2012    Fremont Arts Council Choreography Grant, Annual Solstice Parade
2011     Toronto Iranian Tirgan Festival Arash Award
2009    Fulbright Association International Dance Scholar Lecturer
2007    Uzbekistan Ministry of Culture Award State Institute of Arts and Culture
2007    U.S.National Defense University Certificate of Appreciation
2006    Dance Metro DC AwardsExcellence in Costume Design
2005    Embassy of Uzbekistan Distinguished Service Award, for strengthening US – Uzbek Cultural Ties
2005    Dance Metro DC Dance Awards Finalist, Best Overall Dance Production and Excellence in Costume Design
2004    Dance Metro DC Dance AwardsFinalist, Excellence in Costume Design
2003    Kennedy Center Local Dance Commission Project Award, for concert work Egypta: Myth, Magic and Mystery         
2003    International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance, Best Choreographer Award; Best Dance Company Award         
2003    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Certificate of Appreciation, World Refugee Day         
2003    US Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, District of Columbia: Certificate of Appreciation, National Women's History Month Program
2002    International Society of Scholars, Washington, DC: Certificate of Honor in the Field of the Performing Arts of Central Asia         
1999    International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Best Ethnic Dancer Award

Current Outside Employment

Professor Gray is the Artistic Director of Silk Road Dance Company, which she founded in 1995. She is the founder of Uzbek Dance and Culture Society which presents the annual Central Asian Dance Camp.

Major Concert Works

2018   Wedding in Bukhara
2016   SHAHNAMEH: Adventures from the Persian Book of Kings
2015   Swede on the Silk Road
2013   Bollywood Fever
2009   Raqiset Shaabia: Folkloric Dances of the Arab World
2008   Legends of the Silk Road
2006   The Golden Road to Samarkand
2005   Haft Paykar: Seven Beauties
2003   EGYPTA: Myth, Magic, and Mystery
2001   Remembering the Legends: 3,000 of Women on the Silk Road


Legacy of the Silk Road; Women’s Dances of Uzbekistan (2022), Bloomsbury Academic Press
“Silk Road: Commerce, Conquest, and College” Milestones in Dance History (2022), Routledge

Current Research Areas

  • Central Asian and Middle Eastern Dance
  • Silk Road Cultural History, Uzbek Dance History
  • Costuming
  • Russian Orientalism
  • Women’s History
  • Russian and Central Asian History
  • Islamic Culture
  • Korean Culture
  • T'ang Dynasty Culture

Professional Organization Affiliations 

Central Eurasian Studies Society
Fulbright Association
Dance Studies Association


PhD honoris causa Uzbekistan Institute of Art & Culture: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Doctoral Candidate University of Washington: Seattle, WA | Russian/Soviet History
M.A. University of Waterloo: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada | Russian History
B.A.  Occidental College: Los Angeles, CA | History