Dances connected with everyday life, religious rites, and holidays have existed since ancient times among the peoples inhabiting Central Asia, as indicated by drawings on rock walls depicting dancing figures. Professional dancers from Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent were widely known in many states of the East between the fourth and eighth centuries BC. Historical chronicles refer to the popularity and high level of development of dance between the 9th, 12th, 14th and 16th c..
Contemporary Uzbek dance has many genres, forms, and schools, including the classical Uzbek dances. In contrast to the classical dances of other peoples of the East, which mainly tell stories by means of gestures, facial mimicry, and pantomime, Uzbek classical dance is devoid of concrete imagery. The dance movements themselves express emotions. Classical Uzbek dances deal with generalized themes and emotions, for example, happiness and grief, joy and sorrow, life, death and delight and the beauty of nature and grandeur of the elements. Uzbek folk dances, which deal with themes of labor and war, also use the movements of the classical Uzbek school.
Uzbek classical dance eventually formed three schools, those of Fergana, Khorezm and Bukhara. Each of these had its own dance expression, as well as a developed system of training. The Fergana school, because of historical conditions, was however the most highly developed.
In 20th century
Despite the high level of professional dance, by the beginning of the 20th century Uzbek folk dance had nearly ceased to exist, since it was prohibited by Islamic edicts. Dance continued to develop only among professionals, who danced in solo performances, while the common people did not dare dance, even on national holidays.
In 1918, Uzbek national dance began its transformation into a practically new folk art. In 1923, Kari Jakubov formed a troupe including well known musicians and the young dancer Tamara Khanum. The first Traveling ethnographic troupe, organized in 1926, included well known musicians, singers, and dancer choreographers. In 1928, the troops made up the core of the first experimental musical drama. The new genre of stage dance, later gained wide recognition. The theatre also operated a studio. The Uzbek Song and Dance Ensemble, established in Tashkent in 1936, assimilated the best traditions of folk and classical Uzbek choreography, known as Shodlik. The Bakhor Ensemble was founded in 1957, and the Liazgi Khorezm Song and Dance Ensemble was established in 1958.