“Queen of the Middle Eastern Dancers”
Adriana Miller was born in Boston, Massachusetts in the midst of the Great Depression. A graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music, she is an expert on the history of ethnic dance. Prior to launching her career in Middle Eastern dance, she was a jazz and interpretative dancer who performed throughout the United States and Europe. Her talents also included work as a runway and photographer’s model. She began her Middle Eastern dance career in the late 50s.
Washington D.C. was a center for Middle Eastern dance during during the 60’s and 70s. There were three very large clubs that featured this art form: Port Said, Syrianna and the Astor. Because of the cheap but excellent Greek food, the Astor drew the largest crowds,and they swelled even more due to the popularity of the film “Never on Sunday.” Adriana was a well-loved and well-known dancer at the Astor. Said The Washington Post: “If Salome had come to dance in Washington in the 1960s to perform the dance of the seven veils, she'd have taken second billing to Adriana…and Salome would have had to fight through the crowds for a view.”
In 1972, Adriana opened her own school in Washington, D.C., called Adriana's Mecca of Middle Eastern Dance, where she taught dance, make-up, skin care, as well as costume construction, and music theory classes. The first licensed and bonded school of its kind, the Mecca took in 400 students a week at its peak. It was during these years that she befriended, mentored and taught upcoming young dancer, Ibrahim Farrah. He came to the Port Said as a customer. Because of his enthusiasm, Adriana would bring him on stage to dance. Farrah worked as a waiter at Syriana while she served as his mentor. Eventually he moved to away to become an established star of his own in New York City.
In 1982, Adriana closed her school and went into semi-retirement, needing time to deal with a series of personal tragedies and health problems. Having battled back from breast cancer, the murder of her husband a few years later, she ultimately found the ensuing financial and emotional challenges too much to handle. Additional health problems, including osteoarthritis and a hip replacement, required her to take time off from her dance.
In 1993 she was inducted into the American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Hall of Fame. In addition, Adriana's papers are included in the dance archives of The Gelman Library at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. She is the first Middle Eastern dancer to be inducted into these archives
In 1997, the documentary Adriana: Shadows on Yellow Silk premiered at the Library of Congress. The film chronicles Adriana's rise to fame and the role she played in the renaissance of Middle Eastern dance in Washington, D.C.
Adriana, who describes her age as "young senior," remembers quite well the qualities that distinguished her dancing: "It was my style on the stage: I had lots of class, lots of spunk, lots of personality," she says matter-of-factly. [I was] very sensual on the stage, very comic on the stage. As a jazz dancer I worked all over the world with the big stars, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., all of them." Adriana doesn't like the b-word: "I don't come from belly dancing, I come from show business," she insists.