Belly dance

True historical data on bellydance is fragmentary.

Despite the lack of accurate historical information, a few points can be agreed upon. Bellydancing as it is known today is very old. It retains its connection to fertility and eroticism by being an indispensable feature at weddings in many Middle Eastern countries, performing the multifold purpose of getting the bride and groom (who may have just met) in the mood, making a blessing of fertility on the couple, and providing entertainment for the guests. Today bellydance is enjoyed variously for its artistry, ethnicity, beauty, healthy eroticism and fun!

The movement vocabulary of bellydance is a conglomeration of styles from many regions-Lebanon, North Africa, Egypt, the Arabian Gulf, Turkey–as a result of cultural exchange historically through trade and shifting national boundaries. While Middle Easterners make the distinction between “city dance” (stage, cabaret) and “country dance” (regional folk dances), Westerners use the umbrella term of “bellydance” to refer to a broad range of styles united in the use of certain isolation movements, the most prominent and pervasive of which are the isolations of the hips. In addition, isolations of the chest, shoulders, head, hands as well as serpentine and undulating movements of the torso are often found. Another common trademark is a varying degree of flirtation and coquetry. The rhythms and instrumentation used from area to area often have some commonalties despite great regional variations but in all there is an emphasis on percussion.

Belly dance is known in the Middle East a sraks sharqi, literally, :dance of the East” or “oriental dance”. The current western term may be derived from the French danse du ventre, so named because of the exposure of the midriff. Raks sharqi, the contemporary stage form derived from Egyptian baladi and influenced by early Hollywood glamour and western balletic training, is distinct from raks sha’bi or folk dance, which may nevertheless be featured in glitzed up yet authentic versions as part of an oriental stage show.

Today bellydance is enjoyed worldwide and is taught in almost every country.It is ironic that while traditionally Middle Eastern women have been discouraged from or censured for pursuing a career as a bellydancer, many Western woman embrace it as a means of rediscovering themselves and nurturing a stronger personal identity and sense of empowerment.

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