What Is Belly Dance?
Belly Dance is identified by swaying hips, undulating torso, and
articulated isolations employed in a range of dynamic and emotional
movements in the dance include curving patterns, undulations, thrusts,
lifts, locks, and drops, and shaking or quaking body movements.
The focus is on isolated movements of individual parts of the
body with little notice given to the footsteps.
Arms and hands move fluidly, like serpents or ribbons in the air.
Unusual strength and control is demonstrated in the belly area.
typically consist of a bra and hip-belt set worn over a floor length
skirt. The skirt may be circular or straight. Instead of the
skirt and bra, a dancer may wear a gown called a baladi dress topped
with a hip-belt or a hip-scarf. Dancers may also use a length of
fabric (such as silk or chiffon) during one part of the dance sequence,
and she may also play finger cymbals. Costuming changes from place
to place and from time to time, but the one constant is that the designs
intend to emphasize and amplify the grace, power and independent control
of the feminine form.
Dance that Celebrates Life, Birth & Creativity
Dance that Celebrates Women
Dance that Celebrates Beauty
Dance that Celebrates the Body
dancing is also known as, or is associated with these terms:
umbrella term includes belly dance, among other forms.
Some people consider it a more prestigious title than belly
dancing. While this term
acknowledges the culture that historically has had the strongest
association with belly dance, it fails to recognize the many other
cultures which form and influence the world of belly dancing today.
Middle Eastern term means "dance from the country."
The basic rhythm of the dance is often referred to by its Arabic
term, balady (or maksoom). Some say that the name “belly
dance” was coined when Westerners heard the word “balady” and
mistook it for “belly” as they witnessed the dance's emphasis on
belly and torso movements.
Egyptian term means Dance of the Easterner — one preferred by some
American belly dancers.
is the French phrase for belly dance meaning dance of the solar plexus
or vent (ventre referring to the belly area), where all the nerve
endings come together in the diaphragm. When the dance was
presented at the Chicago World's fair in 1893, the world was deep into a
period of art history known as the Orientalist era. Traveling
European painters and writers brought home fascinating descriptions and
illustrations of the Orient, mesmerizing the west with human curiosity.
Danse Du Ventre—or dance of the belly—was the name given to this
dance, witnessed in a predominately Muslim world.
term often was used in Greek night clubs.
The name arose from the traditional Turkish term Oryantal, which
referred to the area now known as the Middle East, but once commonly
called the orient. To the
western ear this sounds a bit confusing because the orient is thought of
as being Asia. Recall that
in past ages these geographical boundaries and associations were drawn
very differently from where they are now.
For instance, more Roman ruins can be found in North Africa than
in present day Rome.
Belly Dance Defined
dance is a Western name coined for a style of dance developed in the
Middle East and other Arabic-influenced areas.
In Arabic language it is known as Raqs Shaqi or in Turkish as
Oryantal dansı, translated as "Dance of the East".
For Europeans, this translation sounded perfectly fit, hence it
was also known as "Oriental dance", "Exotic oriental
dance", "Oriental belly dance" and the likes.
The term "Raqs Sharqi" is claimed to be originated in
Egypt. The name suggested
an exotic dance originated elsewhere - and so a higher status than the
is thought that the dance has been known through the oral tradition in
Egypt since the pre-Islamic times. There have been many theories
about the origin of belly dancing, but most evidence links it to the
Middle East and Africa. Some
say it was originated by the Phoenicians; others claim that it was
introduced into Egypt by the Ottoman Turks.
Egyptian tomb paintings dating from as far back as the fourteenth
century BC depict partially clad dancers whose callisthenic positions
appear to be very similar to those used in belly dancing.
feminist revisionists like to say it became famous in Ottoman times when
the dance was a frequent pastime for the women of the harem for each
other. In fact both men and
women danced - but in separate spaces.
A "good" woman would not be seen dancing by any but her
husband. This extended to
separating the male musicians from female dancers.
Belly Dance History
The dance form we call
"belly dancing" is derived from traditional women's dances of
the Middle East and North Africa. Women have always belly danced,
at parties, at family gatherings, and during rites of passage. A
woman's social dancing eventually evolved into belly dancing as
entertainment ("Dans Oryantal" in Turkish and "Rags
Sharqi" in Arabic). Although the history of belly dancing is
clouded prior to the late 1800s, many experts believe its roots go back
to the temple rites of India. Probably the greatest misconception
about belly dance is that it is intended to entertain men. Because
segregation of the sexes was common in the part of the world that
produced belly dancing, men were often not allowed to be present.
belly dance developed from social dancing helps explain its long lasting
popularity. Belly dancing
offers women a community of friends that share and celebrate joy in
music, and creates self-confidence through artistic self-expression, in
embraces all body types.
dance is natural to a woman's bone and muscle structure.
The movements center on the torso rather than the legs and feet.
The belly dancer isolates parts of her body, to move each
independently in a completely feminine interpretation of the music.
The music seems to emanate from her body, as sometimes she
emphasizes the rhythm, sometimes the melody of the song.
Belly dance is often performed barefoot, now thought by many to
intimate and ancient physical connection between the dancer,
the music, and Mother Earth, although historically, most dancers were
barefoot because they could not afford shoes.
dance was introduced to America when a dancer known as Little Egypt (see
below picture) performed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
Americans were fascinated, and scandalized, by the freedom and rhythms
of the dance and the music, and thus began a fascination with the
"exotic Orient." Early Hollywood fell in love with the
dancing girls and created glamorous flowing costumes based as much on
Leon Bakst's fantasies as on garments of the Middle East. Dancers
in the Middle East, who were developing belly dance in its native lands,
adopted these colorful interpretations. Veils are a popular part
of the belly dance performance, as are finger cymbals - known as "zills"
in Turkish and "sagat" in Arabic.
are a popular part of the belly dance performance, as are finger
cymbals - known as "zills" in Turkish and "sagat"
in Arabic. Many belly dancers are also skilled at belly dancing
while balancing swords, brass trays, or even with flaming candles.
dancing continues to grow in popularity.
Belly dance concerts, festivals, and workshops are now held
throughout the world, attracting large audiences of women and men
alike. Many belly dancers
now travel to the Middle East and North Africa to study the art form
where it originated. Pyramid
Dance Company does and will continue to seek out and encourage new
generations of belly dancers to continue to study and perform this
wonderful ancient tradition.
Sharki (or Rags Shaqi) is performed by women - and men - usually solo,
for entertainment of spectators in public or private settings. Despite
its alias, "belly dance", Raqs Shaqi dancing involves motion
of the whole body, from head to feet.
Basically, it is an improvisational dance (although based on a
certain vocabulary), rhythmic and fluid at the same time.
dance has a strong focus on an internalization and reflection of the
music and the emotion therein. The
music is as important as a vocabulary of movements from which to draw,
and therefore the most revered of dancers will generally be those who
are either the most charismatic or the most emotionally projective
(even if their movement vocabulary is limited).
The dancer becomes the vehicle of communication to make sound
and emotion visible to her audience.
see it as a woman's dance, celebrating sensuality and power of being a
woman. Sohair Zaki, Fifi
Abdou, Lucy, Dina, who are all popular dancers in Egypt, are above the
age of 40. Many feel that
you have limited life experiences to use as a catalyst for dance until
you reach "a certain age".
Egypt, three different forms of the dance: Baladi, Sha'abi, &
most important non-Egyptian forms of belly dance are the Lebanese
belly dance and the Turkish belly dance. Some mistakenly believe
that this is known as Chifteteli due to the fact that this style of
music has been incorporated into oriental dancing by Greeks and
gypsies, illustrated by the fact that the Greek belly dance is called
Tsifteteli. However, ciftetelli is a form of upbeat folk music
and makes up the lively part of the dance. Ciftetelli is
actually a form of folk wedding music.
belly dance is closer to its Gypsy heritage than its Egyptian and
Lebanese sisters. Because
modern Turkey does not have the same restrictions on dancers as Egypt,
Turkish dancers are often more outwardly expressive than their
Egyptian sisters. Turkish
dance also remains closer to its gypsy roots as many professional
dancers and musicians in Turkey continue to be of gypsy heritage.
Turkish dancers are known for their energetic and athletic
style, and particularly their adept use of finger cymbals, also known
as zills. Connoisseurs of
Turkish dance often say that a dancer who can't play zills is not an
accomplished dancer. Another
distinguishing element of the Turkish style is the use of the
Karsilama rhythm in a 9/8 time signature, counted as 12-34-56-789.
immigrants from Turkey, Armenia, and the Arab states began to
immigrate to New York in the 1930s and 1940s, dancers started to
perform a unique mixture of these cultures in the nightclubs and
restaurants. Often called
"Classic Cabaret" or "American Cabaret" belly
dance, these dancers are the grandmothers and great grandmothers of
some of today's most accomplished performers.
term "belly dancing" is generally credited to Sol Blook,
entertainment director of the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian
Exposition in Chicago. It was here in the Egyptian Theater,
where the USA first got a look at raks dancers, when Bloom presented
"The Algerian Dancers of Morocco." The dancer who
stole the show, and who continued to popularize this form of dancing
was "Fatima", also known as Little Egypt. Her real
name was Farida Mazar Spyropoulos. The dance performed by Little
Egypt had also been called "Hootchy-Kootchy" or "Hoochee-Coochee",
or the shimmy and shake, the origin of the name is unknown, and "danse
du ventre", which is French for "belly dance".
Today, the word "hootchy-kootchy" means simply an erotic
dance today still retains much of the Hollywood stigma and many
dancers and instructors are working hard to overcome this image.
belly dance started out as a dance by women for women, as teaching aid
to learn about bodies and prepare for child birth, the images of women
dancing for a sultan are undeserved.
While Raqs Sharqi is still popular in the west, dancers here
have also embraced other forms such as tribal or tribal fusion which
borrows from gypsy and Spanish traditions as well as Egyptian and
Belly Dance In The U.S.A.
few of the contemporary outstanding dancers are: Suhaila Salimpour,
Ansuya, Alexandra King, Delilah, Cassandra, Dalia Carella, Suzanna Del
Vecchio, Morocco, Aisha Ali, Rachel Brice, Latifa and Helena Vlahos.
belly dance is a recent movement in the U.S.A. A modern fusion
of ancient dance techniques from North India, the Middle East, and
Africa, tribal is characterized largely by improvisational group
choreography and a building of rhythm. Dancers often use finger
cymbals, in solo within the group, call-and-answer performance with
another dancer, or as a whole group.
for tribal derives from many "authentic" sources and is
often composed of large tiered skirts or 10 meter/yard skirts, a short
choli often with a plunging neckline, a visible bra decorated with
ancient Middle Eastern coins and textiles, turbaned head, hip scarf
with yarn tassels or fringe, and a heavy layering of oxidized silver
jewelry commonly originates from Central Asia, from any number of
nomadic tribes or empires (e.g. Kuchi, Turkoman, Rajasthan) and is
often large and set with semi-precious stones or, when mass-produced,
with glass. Dancers
frequently "tattoo" their faces with henna or kajal.
Make-up is usually eye focused with heavy kajal.
Health & Belly Dance
is a good cardio-vascular work out and helps increase flexibility.
It is suitable for all ages and body types and can be as
physical as the dancer chooses to make it.
Combined with a healthy diet that involves sensible eating,
raks sharki can without a doubt be part of a sound weight loss
health benefits, for many belly dancers, include an improved sense of
well being, elevated body image and self esteem as well as a generally
positive outlook that comes with regular enjoyable exercise. In
this day and age of almost continuous stress, the subtle rhythms of
raks sharki and the traditional movements are calming. The
repetitive movements of the dance and the concentration needed to do
them can help a mind filled with daily stress to "let go"
for a while and relax. One effect of stress is that our bodies
tense up, causing contractions or spasms in muscle groups, such as
those in the neck, shoulders, or back. When a muscle is
contracted, lactic acid builds up causing the "soreness" or
pain that occurs. Blood flow to the affected muscles decreases
belly dance is enjoyed worldwide and is taught in almost every
country. While a small
percentage of enthusiasts use belly dance as an income supplement, the
majority of enthusiasts pursue it for mere enjoyment as exercise,
recreation and socialization. Many
perform regularly as amateurs or professionals.