The burlesque practice of the ribbon, or cloth dance is of unknown origin. Some try to trace the practice to Laset the Living Wave, and an emulation of the forms she would weave through the air with water, by using scarves or ribbons.
Other proposed origins range from; A spring ceremony from pre-ascension lands, brought back to Osyrae by retreating conquers. A corruption of ancient southern Anderhale shamanistic wind practices. Then there is the implication it was always what it appears to be, and that the modern form of the art is a convergent evolution of many cultural influences around the shifting roll of women in post shamanistic ages.
The practice itself is indeed strange on a mechanical level. Baring aspects of elemental channeling, and magical spell craft. The cloth is typically worn on to stage, and stripped away in fluttering displays that end with the sheer fabric wound in spells that each have the same basic spiraling imperative, and that these are caught further in curls of air, and tugs on the spell filaments by the dancer.
From the perspective of an audience the result can seem quite chaotic, twisting, and spiraling with the music, though from high above a skilled dancer’s arrangements may resemble flowers, or pinwheels rolling through each other. The most capable dancers will at the end of their performance be restored to their clothed state, weaving the swirling fabric back together onto their bodies.
What is most contrary about the art form is that while it its roots can be found most often in historic subjugation, it moved up through pre-imperial courts, placing talented women at the sides of kings, and lords. Then fell out of favor through the imperial era. Modernly the practice is maintained primarily by ancient lines of practitioners, or ladies of high born houses, who have embraced the art as a form of rebellion. Even an escape from the shackles of polite society, where their great gifts let them live like queens among the fringes of wealthy underworld society.
The infamous Red Cloister of western Lycia contain the only known school where the art form is taught formally, and not handed down as tradition practitioner to practitioner. This particular derivation of the practice is amongst the most elaborate. The presence of multiple practitioners in close quarters has lead to new traditions of dance involving two, three, and even five dancers. Lycia is one of the few lands where men who perform the dance are not uncommon, and the royal court of the land will invite the cloisters best dancers to perform a ceremony marking the eve of the spring equinox. As of 638 E.R. the young King Consort of Lycia has danced in seven of the past ten spring ceremonies.
One of the most limiting factors in the spread of the practice is that it requires a not insubstantial amount of gift. In most post imperial societies, women with enough gift to perform also have other lucrative avenues of success, and so the practice has endured only out of love of the art form, or tradition.