“Belly dance” is a Western term used to describe a multitude of dances that originated in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa. It is a folk art that is still performed in many of these places today, and it has been brought to and adapted in the Western world as well. There are many styles that originated in different places at different times, and these were danced at a variety of events to serve many purposes. It’s therefore a tough phrase to define!
What style do you dance?
I dance primarily as an American Cabaret artist. The roots of this style first came to America with Arab immigrants as early as the 19th century. By the Great Depression, Middle Eastern dancers had become popular entertainment in night clubs and restaurants. Eventually, traditional Turkish and Egyptian movements blended with Western elements such as Jazz and Ballet to form an entirely unique style. This is the “belly dance” that is probably most familiar to you. It’s generally improvised or choreographed by a solo female artist in a bedlah costume.
However, my expertise includes training in styles that are both folkloric and modern. I regularly teach and perform authentic Egyptian and Persian forms, as well. Sometimes my pieces are a composition of different elements. It all depends!
But I heard that…
Belly dancing was used by hopeful women in harems to seduce the sultan? Created by ancient Egyptian temple priestesses to worship the Goddess? A dance of seduction? The Seven Veils? Shakira? No, these are myths and fantasies. Remember that the history that is familiar to us was often written by Western men!
And belly dance today?
The dance continues to evolve in new and exciting ways. It is now commonly recognized by our modern society as a great form of exercise with many physical and psychological benefits. There is also diverse belly dancing community that promotes participation and appreciation of the art around the world.