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Belly Dance History

Learn all you can about the history of Middle Eastern Dance...


December 2011

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Belly Dance History



Belly Dance known as Raks al-sharqi means "Dance of the Middle East," and Raks al-baladi means "Dance of the People."  Belly dance is one of the oldest dances in creation.  The name belly dance was changed from Raks al-sharqi to belly dance once it entered into the United States and became a part of the western world.  Belly dance goes back as far as the 1800s and further.  Women as well as men have been puzzled for decades about the art of this dance. There’s a myth that belly dance is a dance for men.  No, not true at all!  Back in history, belly dance was performed and men were not allowed to come watch a belly dancer.  Raks al- Sharqi (Belly dance) was a dance performed for fertility to help in child birth, it was a dance performed before families of royalty (kings & queens) that would hire a belly dancer to perform for birthday celebrations, family entertainment, and weddings just to name a few.  Belly dance is a dance of art, and appreciation, and it’s a dance that should be performed correctly with gracefulness and respect for the art.  It should not be performed in public amongst a crowd as if you were dancing before your husband in the bedroom behind closed doors.  This is not a way to portray the beautiful and classy art of belly dance.  Most female belly dancers who respect the art of belly dance would not perform for bachelor parties or parties where only men are present.  When performed correctly it’s a dance of classiness, eloquent, and gracefulness, it’s also mesmerizing, spell-bounding, eye catching, and hypnotizing!


There are several types of belly dance: 

Egyptian – (Egypt) Is the foundation of belly dance and in the Middle East and known as Raqs Al Sharqi.   This dance is also known as Danse Orientale or Danse Du Ventre in French and it is known for dance of the stomach.  Egyptian (oriental) dance is known for its gracefulness, hip movements on the ‘down’ meaning “hip drops, “shoulder shimmies, snake arms, facial expressions when feeling the music, isolations & undulations.  It also has Folkoric moves and several props are used such as the zills (known as Sagats in Arabic), cane, veil, Chamadon, candles, sword, etc.


Turkish – (Turkey) Is similar to Egyptian dance, but it’s a bit faster and the moves are a lot larger, this dance is also full of lots of folkoric movements.  Props as finger cymbals called Zills are used in most Turkish style dances. 


Lebanese (Lebanon) Is similar to Egyptian style, it has lots of lower hip movements, the lower hip movements are done on the ‘up’ meaning keeping the hips lifted instead of dropping the hips.  This dance also has lots of shimmies, it’s mostly performed with wearing heals and props are often used.


 Persian – (Persia Iran) Known for lots of shoulder movements, head movements, and eye contact are used a lot in this dance.  Snake arms are also used.  There are not many hip movements to this dance. The dance props include wine vases, silk scarves, and the rose flower.  This dance is also known for its gracefulness. 


Morocan - Belly dance movements are similar to Egyptian style.  Morocco belly dance collects all music, steps & styles of each dance and chooses a variety of most steps presenting them in creative choreographies to their origins.  Morocan belly dance was used for fertility rituals in certain tribes of Morocan and in Saudi Arabia.  Some dance movements were used to prepare brides for marriage or the cane dance.  It’s good luck to hire a belly dancer for a wedding in Morocco. 


Tribal & American Style – Tribal dance is known for it’s earthy style and improvisational moves.  It’s a variety of sharp & crisp movements and lots of body isolations.  It’s also known for it’s real snaky like arms, and turns, and backbends. It’s performed as solo or as a group (group improv).  Group improvisation for example, is when the leader of the group queue’s the group with a particular move and allows the group to follow her lead of the movement that she just queued, or at times individual interpretations are done.  The tribal style costumes are worn with lots of jewelry, feathers, coins, tassels, belts, cut off tops ending at the lower bra area, and makeup is applied heavily. 




Want to read more about belly dance?  Click the link below for a source of great information!

Belly Dance From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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