History Of Bellydancing

Belly dancing: A short history of a dance performed by women and made for women.

When you think about belly dancing you probably imagine a beautiful woman in silk clothing dancing around seductively with small cymbals on her fingers. You might even picture this woman dancing in front of a large group of womanizing men in a bra with dangling coins. Some of you might imagine this woman to be nothing more than a prostitute looking for her next customer. This is the image that Hollywood commonly projects, but belly dancing is an extremely varied art form with a rich and complicated history. In reality it is a dance by women, for women.

The type of dancing the American people now call belly dancing, also known as the dance of the east and the oriental dance, can be traced back at least 2000 years and some historians believe the figure is closer to 6000 years. While its exact beginning is unknown, many groups claim to be the founders (including Egypt and Turkey). Historically, women would use the dance style for entertainment and pass it down from mother to daughter until it became a part of the areas culture. The dancers normally only danced for other women""at least publicly""and it was often used as a way for mothers of bachelor sons to get to know the perspective mates in the area. Possibly the tradition was handed down in the ancient fertility communities to help women prepare their abdominal muscles for labor. Overtime belly dancing was adapted to fit the preference of each different group it reached. For example, in Saudi Arabia the dance is considered sacred and was never meant to be viewed by men. Alternatively, in the Middle East belly dancing was often used at weddings to stimulate the bride and groom for their wedding night and to bless their marriage as a fertile one.

The dance style made its debut in the United States at the 1893 World's Fare in Chicago by an Egyptian dancer called "Little Egypt" and it was also at this time that a 21 year old event promoter named Sol Bloom named the style "belly dancing" by translating the French term "danse du ventre." Since its debut, Americans have molded the dance to fit our culture just like those who encountered the dance before us. For example, it was Americans that originally added the sword and veil dances to the style and later they were adopted by some Middle Eastern countries. The unique American style of belly dancing is commonly called American Tribal Style, but many other styles exist. One popular style is commonly referred to as the "traditional style." This style concentrates on isolated hip movements and has only small feet movement. Dancers will have their body covered and will look more like the common image of a traveling gypsy. Another style is the "Arabic style" that is closer to what we might see on television. Dancers doing the Arabic style of belly dancing will make smooth and round movements of their stomach with their legs close together. They will wear a costume that consists of a bra and skirt. Belly dancing is nearly always done without shoes.

Today belly dancing is used across the world for various purposes and is taught in nearly every country. In many places in the Middle East it is still tradition to hire a belly dancing for a wedding and many couples will have their picture taken with their hands on the dancer's stomach. In Turkey the dancing is shown on television. In the United States belly dancing studios have popped up in many locations and the dance has recently been used for weight-loss because of the many muscles it engages in a fun way.

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