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The History and Evolution of Belly Dancing

From Thousands of Years Ago Until Today!
By Gertn · Apr 4, 2017 ·
  1. Gertn
    Belly dancing is most commonly identified in pop culture through its creative costumes, mid-drifts, and coin belts and scarves, as well as its iconic use of the belly in dance moves. Although the west may have developed a view of belly dancing as being a sensual dance for men, the origin of belly dancing is quite different.

    Belly Dance Background: Ancient Form of Preparing the Mother for Childbirth

    Belly dancing has origins as an ancient form of preparation for childbirth. Belly dancing was originally a dance for fertility. Sisters and other close female family members performed the belly dance around the pregnant woman to wish her and her baby well on their journey together. They also encouraged her to perform the belly dance herself. Belly dancing was believed and is still believed to have positive effects on the woman’s ability to remain strong during labor and childbirth.

    How We Identify What We Call “Belly Dance”

    The term “belly dance,” was actually a term that was developed later, but is now more widely used than some of its original names. In the beginning, belly dance was most commonly referred to as “Raqs Sharqi.” The term belly dancing has actually developed from a translation of the French term “danse du ventre.” Some historians state that belly dance has origins that date back to more than 6,000 years ago. There is debate about where belly dance originally developed. It is believed that belly dance originated from the Middle East and Africa, and in particular, in Egypt and Turkey. It is also believed that belly dance may have been influenced by traditional Indian dances and may also have some origins in India. Some movements seen in belly dancing are also seen in Indian dancing such as head movements.

    Belly Dance as a Form of Socialization

    Belly dance’s background can also be traced to having roots in social events, such as weddings. In both the Middle East and Egypt belly dancing has been a part of rituals at weddings. In Turkey, belly dancing has been used also a form of entertainment, as it is now used in the west in entertainment as well. Even though belly dancing sometimes is now given a “bad name,” for being a dance to entertain men, its origins were about celebrating the fertility of women. Belly dancing serves many different purposes including celebrating the fertility of women, socializing, entertaining, and is also performed at weddings, even today.

    Belly Dancing Today

    Even today, the style of belly dancing and what it is used for depends on where the dance is performed. For example, in Morocco, traditional belly dancing is seen as a spiritual dance that recognizes earth, wind, fire, and water. In North Africa, and particularly in Egypt, belly dancing is seen as a dramatic expressive form of dance, while in the west, belly dance has developed as a form of entertainment. Currently, however, there is a movement in the west to reclaim belly dancing for its original purpose: to bless the woman as she prepares to bring new life into the world. Now, belly dance is also seen as a form of fitness and self-expression. If you are interested in learning more about belly dancing or are interested in taking a belly dance class you can view available classes in the area at www.dancingmeow.com.

    Belly Dancing “Westernized”

    The Influence of Western Culture on Belly Dancing

    Belly dance was not always seen as a “sensual dance,” however shortly after belly dance styles were introduced to America, many new forms of belly dance developed that were immediately considered to be scandalous. As with cultural music, food, and other cultural ideas, some cultural concepts do not translate well across international borders without changing. The same is true for belly dancing. The original meaning behind belly dance was quickly forgotten, and the primary reason for belly dance in America became entertainment. The original idea behind belly dance was to support expecting mothers and was performed as a fertility dance to bless the mother and child in the mother’s womb.

    The History of Westernization of Belly Dance

    The ideas for belly dance in America dates back to the 1800’s and 1900’s when Vaudeville theater was popular among the people. Vaudeville dancing displayed similar elements to belly dance including costumes, music, and “sensual” moves and dance steps. Some state that inspiration for American belly dance stemmed from the Vaudeville theater movement.

    Belly dancing in America increased in popularity after the 1893 Chicago World Fair, when belly dance was performed in one act called “The Streets of Cairo.” Dancers performed belly dance routines the Middle East and North Africa. Reactions to the performances were both positive and negative as some members of the audience loved it and others were horrified. Some considered the dance highly inappropriate due to the expressive movements of women’s hips and torso. During this time period, corsets were commonly worn by women, and thus seeing a woman’s exposed belly was likely considered highly sensual. As the 1900’s progressed Hollywood enhanced and encouraged the idea of belly dancing as a sexual dance. This further contributed to the taboo that belly dancing still has in some areas today, and especially in the west.

    More recently, belly dance has been seen again in a more positive light and is not seen exclusively as a sensual dance. The feminist movement in the US in the 70s and 80s saw belly dancing for what it truly was, the idea that dancing can empower women. Belly dance still, however, is primarily seen as a woman’s dance in the west, and many still hold negative views about what belly dance is all about due to their lack of accurate resources about belly dancing!

    Western Belly Dance Styles Today

    Today belly dancing is seen in a better light, than when it first gained attention at the Chicago World Fair. Although belly dancing is still commonly misunderstood, it is beginning to become popular in the US among women. Women who enjoy belly dancing are interested in the original culture behind the dance and are interested in belly dance as fitness. Belly dance is not seen only as a dance for fun, for entertainment and for socialization. It is also being valued for its heritage and for its fitness benefits, much like Zumba, the now-popular Latino-style dance. Learn more about belly dancing, styles, moves, and its benefits by following our blog at www.dancingmeow.com. You can also register for belly dance classes by clicking on the “classes” tab on the website and finding a belly dance class that is suitable for you! You can come by yourself and make new friends, or you can bring a friend. Belly dancing is great fun and exercise for women from all over the globe!

    Become Healthy and Strong by Learning Belly Dancing

    How Belly Dancing Can Help Women Get in Shape!

    Belly Dance and Fitness are two forms of self-expression that most people would not put in the same sentence, let alone in the same group. Did you know that belly dancing is a beneficial workout for many major muscle groups? Belly dancing is becoming popular due to its positive health effects. It is also known for building muscles in the abdominal region, arms, the back, and thighs! In this article, you can learn about the benefits of belly dancing as a form of exercise and how to stay fit through belly dancing!

    Who Can Benefit from Belly Dancing?

    1. Women Preparing for Childbirth

    · Did you know that belly dancing is the perfect form of fitness for expecting mothers?

    · Belly dancing movements called raqs sharqi are ideal for preparing for childbirth. These exercises strengthen a woman’s abdominal muscles needed during the childbirth process.

    2. Women Experiencing Menopause

    · Women currently experiencing menopause can also benefit from belly dancing!

    · Belly dancing can serve as fitness for women and reduce hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

    · Belly dancing increased blood circulation which benefits women going through “the change,” and can also boost self-confidence and self-image.

    3. All Women!

    · Belly dancing is ideal for any woman who is interested in expressing themselves through dance, using dance as a form of fitness, toning their muscles, and fixing their posture!

    What Are the Primary Health Benefits of Belly Dance as Fitness?

    1. Abdominal Toning

    · As many people know and assume, moving the belly is critical to belly dancing. The movements of the stomach that are completed in belly dance are perfect for tightening up those abs!

    · What woman doesn’t want to tighten up her stomach muscles anyway? Plus, it’s much more fun to take a belly dancing class than doing push-ups!

    2. Helps with Your Posture!

    · Raqs sharqis movements, popular belly dance moves, tone ligaments and vertebrae that are critical to having good posture.

    · Belly dance moves also increase flexibility through hip drops, circles, and figure eight movements.

    · Belly dance moves involve a repetitive gentle movement of the hips which helps the body to produce synovial fluid, which is needed to lubricate the body’s joints.

    · When completed correctly belly dance moves can also prevent future back problems.

    3. Lose Weight through Belly Dancing

    · Many people also lose weight by belly dancing!

    · Belly dancing is great for burning calories and can burn up to 300 calories per hour.

    · A combination of belly dance classes with a healthy diet and other aerobic exercise can put you on the path to successful weight loss. You won't need to drink another protein or other meal substitute shake again!

    4. Mental Health Benefits

    · Many women also enjoy belly dancing due to the fact that it usually serves as a stress reliever.

    · The repetitious dance moves can be subtly calming, and release tension. By releasing tension in muscles and reducing any pains and aches, stress can also be reduced or eliminated.

    Why Not Take a Belly Dancing Class?

    Regardless of why you are interested in taking a belly dancing class, belly dance classes can serve as an aid to improving your overall health, tone your muscles, fix your posture, and reduce your stress levels! Belly dance has also been recommended by doctors for individuals in rehabilitation from an injury, due to its both mental and physical health benefits. Belly dance classes are highly recommended for both expecting mothers and women going through “the change,” as it provides unique benefits to each group. If you are interested in trying out a belly dance class and experiencing the health benefits for yourself, you can view all available dance classes on the website www.dancingmeow.com. Check out available classes and register today!

    Belly Dance Costumes and Designs

    Traditional and Modern Clothing, Styles and Models

    What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think of belly dancing? Probably crop tops, flowy sashes, bells, colorful scarves, and decorative clothing, especially around the waist. Although many of these garments are used in belly dancing, you can actually wear many different types of clothing to a belly dance class! You are encouraged to wear what makes you comfortable, but you can also wear stylish belly dance costumes if you like!

    Belly Dance Class Wear

    Some students attend belly dance classes in sweatpants and t-shirts, but others enjoy belly dance class wear, such as harem pants, dance skirts, hip scarves or belts, and sarongs. If you are interested in attending a belly dance class, it is also highly recommended to obtain a pair of regular ballet shoes. Although belly dancers can practice in bare feet and even socks, many belly dancers wear ballet shoes, as they protect your feet and can reduce potential injuries in the classroom. Wearing socks can cause slippage, and bare feet can also be a risk for injury. Jazz shoes or jazz sandals also are an excellent choice for belly dance footwear. Wearing tennis shoes or sneakers is not allowed in most belly dance classes, as they are not considered appropriate footwear for this unique type of dance class!

    Traditional and Modern Belly Dance Costumes

    If you are feeling a little more creative, or enjoy the idea of dressing in classic belly dance wear, you first can learn a little bit about belly dance costumes before choosing what to wear and or buy!

    Basic Costume Ideas:

    1. Hip Scarves- Any serious belly dancer will strongly consider wearing a hip scarf! Hip scarves are the signal to any viewer that they are watching belly dancing! Hip scarves are colorful scarves adorned with beads, beautiful designs, fringes, and of course, coins! Hip belts can be worn as an alternative to hip scarves, and are a little more rigid.

    2. Flowy Skirts- Belly dance performers typically wear long flowy skirts. Although in some places, pants are allowed, skirts are a more traditional garment for belly dancers. Skirt styles vary based on the origin. The three well-known styles are Turkish, Egyptian, and American Fantasy/Tribal. Various skirt styles include fish-tail shirts, chiffon skirts, and gypsy skirts.

    3. Tops/Bras- Belly dance costumes feature colorful tops and or stylish colorful bras with coins and or beads. Styles vary based on the culture and place of origin, just like skirts. Some tops include choli tops and bolero tops. Some tops/bras will include sleeves, and others do not feature sleeves.

    Traditional Belly Dance Costumes:

    1. Beledi Dress- The Beledi dress is a beautifully made one-piece floor-length dress. From very simple to quite elegant, Beledi dresses typically feature a folklore look and can be made from cotton. Beledi dresses are generally considered more simple than other Belly dance costumes. They can also be made of glittery materials.

    2. Bedleh Dress- The Bedleh is quite the opposite of the Beledi Dress and is a two-piece costume that features a midriff and a heavily beaded bra for a top. Older more traditional Bedleh costumes were very heavy, however, no lighter Bedleh costumes are available with more rhinestones than beads.

    Belly Dance Accessories and Much More!

    There are many types of belly dance costumes and accessories that you can wear. The few costume ideas that we have mentioned above are just enough ideas to get you started! Belly dance accessories can also include items such as armbands, sleeves, headpieces, headbands, earrings, heavy beaded necklaces, and many others. You can get many ideas online by talking with others who enjoy belly dancing or speaking with us on our website at www.dancingmeow.com. You also have the opportunity to sign up for belly dance classes through our comprehensive website which lists all of the available belly dances in the areas. Get to know your fellow dancers, and learn more about different kinds of stylish costumes! Getting dressed up can be half the fun!

    Not Just About the Belly!

    How to Move Your Whole Body in Belly Dancing!Bottom of Form

    Belly dancing is commonly stigmatized for its use of the exposed belly in dances, however, belly dancing is a dance that uses the whole body, not just the belly. Belly dancing features many different kinds of dance moves, involving arms, legs, hands, and of course also hips and stomach!

    Belly Dance Body Positioning

    If you want to become an excellent belly dancer you will need to learn some basic belly dance techniques, stances, and moves! Belly dancing requires a lot of effort, energy, and not to mention correct posture! Your back needs to be straight, aligned with your hips, and your chest should be pushed out. As you straighten your back and push out your chest, pull your shoulders back a little to emphasize your belly dance posture and keep your knees loose. You are now ready to learn the first belly dance steps!

    Some Examples of Belly Dance Steps!

    Belly dancing is commonly broken down into several types of moves including shimmies, slides, lifts and drops, twists, figure eights, circles, and undulations. Check out a few of these interesting belly dance techniques and moves, and then give them a try for yourself!

    1. Chest Camel- This step is named after the movements of the camel and is accomplished by pushing out your chest, then up, and back down. This pattern of movements completed the “chest camel.”

    2. Egyptian Figure Eight- The Egyptian Figure Eight move features the hips, where each hip is completing the opposite motions of the other hip. One hip moves downward, up, then returns to the center, while the other hip does the opposite: moving up, to the center, and then away from the center.

    3. Ghawazee Step (Push Step)- In this step, the back hip is sent backward as hands are placed perpendicular to the floor. This step mimics the motions of a horse.

    4. Maya Hips- In “Maya Hips,” on hip goes upwards, then down, and then back to the center, while the other hip does the opposite- moving down, to the center, then up. This movement is the mirror image of the Egyptian Figure Eight.

    5. Zar Head- The head of the dancer moves in circles while throwing the hair. This movement is completed o resemble the zar ritual.

    Belly Dance Styles:

    Due to the wide origins of belly dancing, there are also many styles of belly dancing. The three main styles of belly dancing come from Egypt, Turkey, and America, although there are also Indian belly style dances as well as many other dances that include folklore.

    1. Egyptian Baladi- Baladi, meaning “my country,” is a social dance, that when performed by women can truly express the heart. Baladi dances feature pelvic undulations, simple footwork, upward pointing chest, hand gestures, arms in a “W-position,” and pops of the abdomen.

    2. Turkish Oriental- Turkish dancing is known to date back to the 1400s. Turkish style belly dancing interestingly entertains female crowds and includes torso articulations, hip pops, and shimmy moves, among others. Turkish performs have previously been called chengis when referring to this type of dance.

    3. American Cabaret- American Cabaret goes by a variety of names including AmCab, Vintage Oriental, or American Nightclub. American Cabaret reigned as king of belly dance in American during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, however, American Cabaret is less specifically defined today. When performers enter the stage in American Cabaret they usually are covered by a veil, which is slowly removed.

    Many Styles, Moves, and Exciting Dances to Try!

    The few moves and dance styles mentioned here are just the beginning! You can learn a lot more by checking out the dance classes we offer through our website www.dancingmeow.com! If you are just interested in learning a bit more on your own, you can check out videos on YouTube and try practicing beginner dance steps with your friends and family. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!

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