Belly Dancing many theories of its origin


There have been many theories about the origin of belly dancing. Belly dancing comes from the Arab term Bella D which means native dance and native rhythm. Belly dancing is traced way back to 3500 BC from the Ferro’s. Nevertheless, belly dancing can also be found in Northern Africa, Greece, Egypt, Allegros, Morocco, Northern Turkey, Northern India and the Mediterranean. Belly dancing is also a form of communication that tells a women’s point of view and expresses emotions. The first time this type of dancing was brought into the U.S. was in 1893 at Chicago’s world fair. Then in the early 1900’s little Egypt made belly dancing popular and extended all the way to Broadway and Hollywood.

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Belly dancing is in three forms one  of them being American Nightclub, two-American Tribal, and three-Modern Egyptian Nightclub. More so, Oriental Dance has influenced the evolution of Modern Dance in the hands of leaders Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan. The Orientalists were Europeans who visited the Middle East during the 1800’s. After their visits to Europe they returned to their homelands that intrigued them either to write or create paintings. In most cases, people used their great artistic license in their works to titillate their countrymen back home with stories about exotic, sexy, barely-clothed women. Sometimes without even seeing these belly dancers, people would use their imagination and create these fabulous paintings of an image they created on their own. However, others were just admirable of their culture and painted from their inner most spiritual feelings.

There are three major types of belly dancing that is practiced and performed in the United States. One of them being American Nightclub, two-American Tribal, and three-Modern Egyptian Nightclub. More so, Oriental Dance has influenced the evolution of Modern Dance in the hands of leaders Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan. The Orientalists were Europeans who visited the Middle East during the 1800’s. After their visits to Europe they returned to their homelands that intrigued them either to write or create paintings. In most cases, people used their great artistic license in their works to titillate their countrymen back home with stories about exotic, sexy, barely-clothed women. Sometimes without even seeing these belly dancers, people would use their imagination and create these fabulous paintings of an image they created on their own. However, others were just admirable of their culture and painted from their inner most spiritual feelings.


There isn’t just one specific type of belly dancing that is performed around the world. There are many different types of belly dancing. Such dances include Floor work, Gypsy, Flamenco and Middle Eastern Dance, Hagallah, Snake, Trance and Veil are just some of the more familiar and traditional dances performed.


The one type of belly dancing that I am familiar with is Veil. Veils were used by the women in the orient for discretion in the public. However, the true meaning behind the veils is that it symbolizes flowing femininity and creates a certain exotic mystery. True veil dancing in Oriental Dance occurred only with in the last century, which was influenced by dancers of the west that were fascinated with the orient. Now days, the best veil dancing is not only found in the Middle East but all around the world. Veils are only used to soft, flowing music in a classical oriental dance routine that is not folkloric. For example, if there was a huge dance performance you will find veil dancing being performed in the middle or towards the finale’ of a show.


“Dance with the veil as a NATURAL extension of your arms. The audience should feel that you and the veil are one, rather than you manipulating a prop (a clearly separate thing from you, the dancer). Anything you dance with (cymbals, stick, whatever) should be connected to and integrated with your movements”. (Wilson, PG 34).


Costumes are one of the most important factors of belly dancing. The right color of your costume is perhaps the most important aspect of your performance. Hello! It’s the very first thing the audience views you in. Most belly dancers try to avoid a black costume. It tends to fade into any dark backdrops and the audience will be more distracted by your assemble rather than your body movement. Now the colors you should wear are bright bold colors like red, orange, yellow, bright blue, bright green, etc. White is another outstanding color for belly dancers. A white costume will make you the Queen of all performers. Supposedly the color red symbolizes fire, which you will find many dancers saying. So you maybe asking yourself, Is there somewhere I can go out and see these dancers perform live? Well, you will be bale to find them at certain restaurants and parties. Some bachelor parties will have belly dancers rather than stripers because they’re more natural and sexy clean dancers. You may even find them at weddings. Overall, you may just run into sooner than you think because of their profound sexy dance movements.


Middle Eastern music has definite rhythmic pattern; the rhythms are uncomplicated and the belly dance is improvised as well as the musicians do. Their moods and speed dramatically change from lively tempos to slow dramatic and intense ones. There are different rhythms, beats and moods that Middle Eastern music portrays. The dancer expresses her personality through her movements, and change of mood that is changed from happy to tense and then back again to happy.


The music is divided into two sections. One being the tchefetelli and then the taxim. The tchefetelli may also be referred to as the belida which is an Arabic word referring to the lively part of the dance. The musicians play happy, lively music with a combination of instruments varying in tempo. For example, slow to medium to fast. Drums and the clarinet instruments is the key to the music behind belly dancing.


In conclusion I found the research on belly dancing to be rather difficult. I thought I was going to be able to walk in The School of Performing Arts library and get all the information I needed and more. Boy was I ever wrong. Not only can you not take check out books but just the same with videos. I really wanted to take belly-dancing classes for myself so I can perform it in club since I love to dance but I wanted to perform it in class as well. My friends Aunt who is a very known belly dancer in Manhattan does not teach beginners so I was out of luck with her. The classes I did find in the city were all when I was unable to attend because of school and work.


I indeed found this assignment as a learning experience in a cultural matter. Belly dancing is more common than I thought. More and more people are intrigued by the dancing and are practicing it in today’s society. Even stars like Brittney Spears, Aaliyah, Shakira and many more are showing their sexy belly movements to the world that inspires young adults to learn. Belly dancing is a very easy flowing sexy dance that really does keep you in shape.



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