In just a few years, Trudy Irene Scee, a former instructor at Husson University and Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada, has begun to reshape our shared understanding of Maine history through her books. Within five years, starting in 2010, she published “City on the Penobscot: A Comprehensive History of Bangor, Maine,” “The Mount Hope Cemetery of Bangor” and “Rouges, Rascals and Other Villainous Mainers.” Although she revels in the shady side of the street, Scee’s writings always deliver the rest of the story. She is capable of such works as the solid biography, “Moving the Earth: The Life and Work of Herbert E. Sargent,” published in 2015. Scee seems to be in perpetual motion.

Now she takes on a portion of Down East history that has been long overlooked. As late as 1973, the Maine Catalogue confidently proclaimed that “dance and Maine don’t appear especially attracted to each other.” The statement flew in the face of fact. Dance was central to Wabanaki culture and to the immigrant groups that subsequently pirouetted into the landscape. There have followed such noted Maine dancers as Molly Spotted Elk, Grace DeCarleton Ross and Anthony “Chan” Spotten. And the state has been home to important dance companies and dance festivals and, of course, studios that have taught ballet, tap and modern dance to generations of people.

Scee has an abiding interest and knowledge in Maine dance as a whole, but in “Dancing in Paradise, Burning in Hell,” published last year by Down East Books, her focus is on “working class female dancers,” which she places in an industry stretching back some time. To my knowledge, aside from independent historian Candace Kane, who wrote about the Martin Dance School in Bangor in the 1860s, few Maine historians have paid any interest to dancing women and their role in society. If mentioned at all, scholars have placed female dancers of the 19th and 20th century in the company of criminals, prostitutes and dubious goings-on, perhaps for a prurient giggle in a dry text.

In some sense, the book’s title is a shill, a come-on in the carnival midway. Scee parts the historical curtain, but there are no visuals, no smutty images. The interest is in individual women, passing through Maine, who chose to make an independent living in an occupation other than factory girl, school teacher, nurse or secretary. Often scantily clad and always “tarted up,” this was an “industry” looked down on by proper citizens (whomever they may have been).

In 1910, a Bangor news reporter wrote that is was agonizing to watch “a leading citizen of East Weedybumps separating himself from his hard earned and honestly earned and modest savings to gaze upon the mysterious beauty of the Orient, who probably lives in one squalid room near the Gas House Patch in South Boston.”

To this Scee adds, “The woman might have been both beautiful and poor, and both Eastern in ethnicity and a resident of Boston.”

Though there is a clear lack of statistics – they simply were not kept – the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming and Scee builds on the best documentary proof, including the Martin Dance School manuscripts, moral reform reports and newspaper notices.

We are given clear descriptions of hurdy-gurdy girls, saloon dancers, Nautch dancers, hootchie-cootchie, strippers, and today’s belly dancers, and how women in each category made a living. Indeed, “as time passed,” Scee notes, “belly dancing became increasingly respected and specialized but retained some of its mystique from the earlier years. And, even in the mid-2010s, not everyone respected the dancers.”

In this wonderful book we learn about the yearning to dance, the desire to watch dancers, the great Keith Circuit and other dance venues including roadhouses, circuses and fairs. Sexual history, labor history, women’s history, entertainment and social history are rolled into one. Intrigued? Put down your money and step into these vivid pages.

William David Barry is a local historian who has authored/co-authored seven books, including “Maine: The Wilder Side of New England” and “Deering: A Social and Architectural History.” He lives in Portland with his wife, Debra, and their cat, Nadine.