About Belly Dancing




What is Belly Dancing?
Belly dancing is a colourful cultural fun feminine style of dance that is ussually danced barefoot and incorporates the whole body and has footwork, Torso and chest articulations and isolations, Hip shoulder and chest shimmies with both fluid and percusive movements. The dance focuses on both rhythm and melody. There are many styles of belly dance from many countries and although all styles share similar staple moves no two belly dance styles are completely the same. 


How Did It Get It's Name?
It has been documented that the name Belly Dance comes from the French word Danse ventre and may have had some reference to the Arab Tribe Ouled Nail from Algeria who danced with their hips and had their midriff exposed. Belly dance gained internation attention at the Chicago world fair in 1876.The fair had all kinds of acts one being a foreign women who went by the name little Egypt. Of course she had an exposed Belly and you can only imagine the response from the public seeing a half naked foreign women undulating her belly. Especially in that era.


What Is The Correct Name For Belly Dance?
I prefer to call Belly Dance oriental Dance as it is known in the middle East however alot of people mistake oriental Dance classes with Chinese Dance and where I teach there is a large Chinese community. Whenever someone mentions Belly Dance people automatically know or seem to know what it is so I stick to that to save confusion.
Belly dancing is called Raqs Sharki in Egypt and Oryantal Dansi in Turkey. There are other names for the Dance but the ones mentioned are the main names.


Where Did It originate?
Belly dancing was originally a social folk dance which was danced by Women Men and Children at Celebrations and special occasions like a community fete, A wedding, Birth of a baby or a birthday party just like we would dance at our special occasions in England. The dance originated in Arabic speaking countries of the Middle East and countries that surround the Medetarean sea.  There is some evidence that could suggest belly dancing was the first form of dance documented and it may have associations with Fertility rites and ancient Goddess Dance.
There is also evidence to suggest Belly Dancing came from India and the Roma traveling Peoples ( gypsies) brought it to many countries. Turkish Belly Dance imperticular has been heavily influenced by the Roma Peoples music and dance


What do Belly dancers wear?
A belly dancer can wear a special costume of a bra belt and long skirt, A long dress fitted dress that covers the belly,  A trouser costume however there are lots of styles of costume to choose from.
Origionally there wasn't any special clothing costumes or attire everyone just danced in the clothing they wore at the time just like here in England we wear casual clothing for an outdoor event or a special occasion or day or evening clothing for a wedding or birthday party. 

What About Instruments & Props?
Belly dancers are known to play finger cymbals. Finger cymbals are known as zills in Turkish Dance or Sagats in Egypt. In the old days it was said that if a dancer couldn't play the zills she wasn't a real dancer. 
A long peice of see through material called a veil is a popular prop as is the traditional dance cane. Hankercheif veils are kniwn as a trafition prop to. There is a prop called the Shamadan which is a candelabra head peice that is balanced on the head. This property is traditionally worn at Arabic Weddings.  Other non traditional props include the sword, A tray with candles, a hand candle, Chinese silk fans, poi and a snake although all or great forms of entertainment. 

Costume History
Belly dance has been influenced by European colonisation and Hollywood cinema. In early Egyptian cinema top dancers often had Dance performance roles in films. Some where inspired by Hollywood actresses like Marylin Monroe and many sported her hair and makeup look. The belly dance costume as we know it today was born out of Hollywood. Taking cues from Chorusline performance costume.

Things that have and still Influence The Dance - 
As times have changed so to has the dance which has been influenced throughout time by the Muslim way of life and western colonisation.

Belly Dance and Religion -
Men and women where segregated for some time due to religious beliefs and rules. Whilst Men occupied a side of the home Women and Children lived on the opposite side in what was known as the harem. These days in most countries Women and Men are not segregated anymore however in other stricter countries this custom lives on. Some Muslim women prefer not to Dance in public especially in front of men and becoming a belly dancer is not a respected profession to get into.

Is Belly Dance A Sexual Dance Like Stripping?
Lots of people mistake the harem girls in the orientalist paintings as belly dancer. The harem was said to be a place for sexual concubines to congregate waiting to be chosen by the Sultan of the house. The Orientalist paintings depict images of naked or near naked Women of the Ottoman period. The image of Orientalist harem are made up from painted imagined fantasy by Western artist. The true Harem was a place for Women and children, Men where Forbided to enter it. The word Harem is word that means forbidden. It has been said that women danced for each other as a form of social entertainment within the harem. Belly dance has been and is still sometimes associated with sexual dance and of course some people use the idea of a belly dancing concubine to exploit belly dancing for sex in order to earn money just like other dance and arts has been been manipulated in the name of sex for money. The Orientale sexual fantasy couldn't be further from the truth. Even today some dancers exploit the Dance by by overtly sexual. Is a beautiful women in a revealing costume who is a good dancer not enough to accumulate work?


Are There Male Belly Dancers?
There are many talented male belly dancers in the world. Lets not forget this dance is one of culture that was danced by and suitable for all. There are many traditional dance styles that are performed by female belly dancers that actually origionated as a males Dance like the saidi cane dance traditionally know as Raqs Al Assaya. When men Dance it is a very masculine earthy version and the men wear robes not Skirts and bras. However in tourist areas of some counties some male dancers dress up as women and act out the role for entertainment. A little like a drag act.

Is Belly Dancing Good For You?
Belly dancing has many health and fitness benefits and it's got to be said us Belly dancers look younger than we are. 
Belly dancing is a low impact form of exercise meaning it's easy on the bones and joints. That doesn't mean it's not a good form of exersise. A belly dance move called the hip shimmy is a good form of cardiovascular exercise, it's good for the heart and gets your blood pumping helping cut calories and gives you glowing skin and better circulation. Belly dancers have great abdominal muscles and a strong core. Alot of the moves a great for flexibility and joint lubrication. It is also great for the mind boosting coordination and helping you accept and love you feminine body. Boosting self esteem andcall tound mental health. Many patients of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and fibromyalgia say Belly dancing has helped with their conditions. 


Mysteries Legends & Superstitions......Fact or Fiction.....

Why Do Belly Dancers Wear Coins and Coin Belts?
 Belly Dance costumes and hip belts have coins on is because a tradition that came from Street dancers who performed Belly Dance on the streets in the 1800s. Because they had no where to keep their money they would attach the coins they earned Street Dancing to the belts. The more coins a dancer had the more she was favoured. The coins where her dourie.


Belly Dancers are Good Luck To Have Perform At Your Wedding Day
  "Traditionally a belly dancer was symbolic of femininity and having one dance at a wedding is believed to bestow happiness and good luck onto the newly wed bride and groom, Some say touching a Belly dancers Belly will bring more luck. If a dancer performs the traditional el Shamadan ( a candelabra head peice with light candles usually performed at a wedding) it is said that the flames act as a purification. However the candle head peice origionated at a time when Street lights didn't exist therefore a dancer would be hired to light the way through the streets for the newly wed couple and their guests"


Belly Dance A Gypsy Dance
There is evidence to suggest Belly dancing was spread by the Roma people who originated in India. Traveling and settling spead the word of the Dance.  





Belly Dance Today!!!

Today Belly dancing is popular with birthday parties Weddings and lots of other special occasions and events. Let's not forget that this Dance was and is a Dance for all the family let's keep it that way! 



Written by Tara M. (Belly Dancing With Tara) 
Copyrighted material. Please ask permission (by email) to use and credit the author name and website address.
www.tarabellydance.co.uk