Facebook Facebook
Home Page Articles Biography Benefits History Classes Events Boutique News Performers

History of Belly Dance

Belly Dancing is a feminine expression created by woman for woman.

It has been a celebration of love and life for more than 6000 years. Traditionally it was performed only amongst woman, accompanied by varying rhythms, as a celebration of birth, fertility, marriage, femininity or a form of worship. Today, woman all over the world have discovered its free and natural movements and mesmerizing music.

Life is a dance, and bellydance is a celebration of life.

All Middle Eastern countries clam Raqs-al-Sharqi (Arabic name for Belly Dance – which means ‘dance of the East / Orient’) originated from them. Today this dance is known as belly dancing, middle eastern dancing or oriental dancing.

Belly dancing enjoyed its first significant renown when the famous dancer Little Egypt performed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. People found themselves fascinated by the exotic body rhythms and music, eventually including them in many silent films made just a few years later. Costumes and dancing styles were given a distinctive Hollywood flare and, in turn influenced dancers in the Middle East, thus evolving the art form to a new level. For example, belly dancing with flowing veils hadn't been documented before the 1900s but is now quite popular throughout the world.

Since the turn of the century, belly dancing has grown enormously in popularity across the world. Belly dance festivals, workshops, and seminars take place constantly, attracting large audiences of interested. Many dancers now study the art form intensively, traveling to the Middle East and elsewhere to experience it.

Dance styles:

Raqs Saidi (saidi dance)
Raqs Saidi (Saidi Dance) is dancing that is done in the region known as “Upper Egypt” or the southern part of the country. It is done by the people of the Said and is another solo, improvisational folk dance of the hips and pelvis. The music and instruments are all traditional with no western influence.

Raqs al Assaya (cane dance)
This dance has its origins in southern Egypt or what is also called Upper Egypt. In the Said, men carry long sticks which they may also use as a weapon, in a martial art call Tahtiyb. To openly practice this art in front of occupying forces, they hid the martial art within a game. The game eventually evolved into a dance. The women began dancing with canes to playfully copy the men and Raqs al Assaya was born.

Raqs Beledi (country dance)
Raqs Beledi (Country Dance) is the folk dance that Oriental dance and Belly dance descends from. It is a solo, improvisational dance of the hips and pelvis and is the visual manifestation of Arab music. It is a gender neutral, social dance that has no meaning beyond joy, happiness and pleasure in how the body moves. Generally done on the spot, it is very earthy and relaxed and unlike Oriental dance, it has not been influenced by Western dance forms..

Raqs al Nasha'ar (Khaleegy dance)
This is a woman's social dance traditionally done in the Persian gulf at women's parties. Sometimes western dancers will call it Khaleegy which is a reference to the music and dances from the gulf area. The woman will wear a very long, colourful embroidered robe called a thobe al nasha'ar over their party clothes. The thobe is so long that it must be held up by both hands to prevent trippig over. This dance also showcases the glory and beauty of women's long hair and the dance movements primarily consist of gently tossing the hair from side to side, along with movements of the thobe itself.

Melaya Leff
A melaya is a large, black shawl in which the women will wrap themselves for modesty as they leave their home. Melaya Leff is a dance created for the theatre stage which depicts the life of the women from Alexandria, Egypt. The dance shows how the women use the melaya to bring attention to themselves, which is in contradiction to the supposed purpose of the shawl.

Found in the deserts of Western Egypt by Libya, this is a girl's coming of age dance. A folkloric dance of the Bedouin people, it is performed during the wedding season. A young woman, who may be veiled or not, will dance in front of a group of men who are clapping and chanting in unison. The young woman will choose one of the men and they will then dance together.

Raqs al Shamadan (candelabra dance)
This is an Egyptian dance traditionally performed during the wedding reception. The dancer balances a large candelabrum on her head as she leads the wedding party into the reception hall. It is a very showy way to bring attention to the bride and groom. In the nightclubs, a professional dancer may perform Raqs al Shamadan during the folkloric part of her show.

The Greek Style:
There is no specific style due to the Egyptian and Turkish influence. Dancers use both styles to Ciftetelli music as well as other Arabic and Modern Greek music.

The Turkish Style:
In a performance, the musician plays for the dancer and in return the dancer performs for the audience. They generally draw on inspiration from the rhythmical aspects of the fold dance music and ideas from the Egyptian dancers. The lower body tends to bend into a back bend; arms are very angular, strong, raunchy, and rustic in style. Legs are often apart and bent. The Turkish style tends to be quite revealing

American Tribal Style (ATS):
Represents everything from folklore-inspired dances to the fusion of ancient dance techniques created in 1987 by Carolena Nericcio, founder of FatChanceBellyDance. ATS has a format consisting of a vocabulary of steps that are designed to be performed improvisational in a lead-follow manner. The costumes are heavily layered with oxidized silver jewelry, evoking traditions of any or all of its fusion of cultural influences.

Tribal Style:
Accredited to Jamila Salimpour who fostered a fusion of costumes and folkloric dance styles utilizing tradition folkloric dance elements, costumes. Tribal style covers many flavors of America Belly Dance both folkloric inspired and fusion and cross over of styles which explore modern, jazz, dance theatre, and hip hop with bellydance, as well as fusion with traditional classical ethnic dance forms.

Great Belly Dancers, just to mention a few, include (but not limited to):
Mahmoud Reda, Medhat Fahmy, Liza Laziza, Aida Nour, Diane, Randa Kamal, Naime Akif, Fifi Abou, Mona Said, Dina Nagua Fouad, Rania, Tamalyn Dallal, Hadia, Aziza, Jillina, Sherri Wheatley, Sharon Kihara, The Belly Dance Superstars

Another design by Miniwebs  
© All rights reserved, 2009,
Photo Gallery Contact us