What is belly dancing?
Belly 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 dansi, translated as "Dance of the East". For Europeans, this translation sounded perfect, hence it was also known as "Oriental dance", "Exotic oriental dance" and "Oriental belly dance". The term "Raqs Sharqi" is claimed to be originated in Egypt. The name suggested an exotic dance which originated elsewhere and attained a higher status than the local dances.
The Belly Dance is recognised by swaying hips, undulating torso, and articulated isolations employed in a range of dynamic and emotional expressions. Characteristic 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 attention 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.
Costumes 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.
It 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. [source: sadiia.com]
Belly dancing 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 an 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.
That 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 an art form that embraces all body types.
Belly dance is natural to a woman's bone and muscle structure. The movements centre 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 signify the 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.
The 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 style of music which been incorporated 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. [source: sadiia.com]
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