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information on bellydance

Oriental dance in a nutshell

Oriental dance is a mysterious and festive dance art that was influenced by many different movements throughout the centuries. Because of the long history and various interpretations it is difficult to trace the exact origin.

Bellydance originated mainly in countries of the Middle East and North Africa. It is assumed that Egypt is the home of Oriental dance. Nevertheless you can also find other influences from e.g. India and Andalusia.

Originally, 'Oriental dance ' was a collective noun for various folkloric dance styles that were mainly practised at home in the families. The typical clothing was a long, wide dress with a hip belt.

This folkloric dance developed to be a professional stage art in Egypt. This new ‘Cabaret’ style with the typical glamorous two-piece costume was more expressive and elegant.
Next to the Egyptian style, other styles developed, such as the Lebanese style, the Turkish style and later the more spectacular American style.

Every style has its specific accents and typical clothing, but the most important feature is always the ‘isolation-technique’ the art of moving different parts of the body independently thanks to an impressive muscle control.

All styles accentuate especially the strong hip movements and the gracious, elegant snake-like movements. The fascinating power of Oriental dance is in the combination of rhythmic energy and poetical sensitivity.

Because oriental dance doesn’t have strict rules, each dancer can express her own artistic talent. The dance comes from the soul and the heart of the individual dancer who interprets the emotions in the music with her body. That is why the dance receives new impulses every day and every dancer can develop her own style. Thanks to new, experimental influences the dance is constantly becoming richer, more varied and even more ‘modern’. 


What about the names ‘Oriental dance’ and ‘bellydance’?

‘Oriental dance’ is a literal translation of the Arab name ‘Raqs Sharqi’ and of the Turkish name ‘Oryantal dansi’.
Westerners who first got acquainted with this dance, only saw the movements of the ‘belly’. Therefore they gave this dance the name ‘danse du ventre’ or ‘bellydance’. So bellydance is in fact a Western name for an Eastern dance art.


Prejudices against bellydance

There are a lot of misconceptions about bellydance, especially that bellydance would be an ‘erotic’ dance, meant for seducing men. Bellydance is of course a sensual dance, but ‘sensual’ is not the same as ‘erotic’.

Prejudices against bellydance mainly result from ignorance. For example, there is the fantasy that bellydance would have originated as a dance of seduction for the sultan in the harem. In reality oriental dance originated as a sacred fertility dance and was only practised by and for women. Later, oriental dance was associated with festivities and the dance was there for the amusement of the women. The dance was taught from mother to daughter and traditionally it was not even meant to be watched by men.
Unfortunately, this prejudice is often fed by the media, and even by some dancers, especially some of them who dance for tourists in the countries of origin. That is a pity!

However, there is a very positive tendency nowadays. Thanks to stars such as Shakira and the Bellydance Superstars, people gradually put their prejudices aside and recognize bellydance as a real art form. A good bellydancer practices a refined and elevated dance art. Professional bellydancing requires a lot of practice, perseverance and devotion. It implies not only a physical effort, but also a spiritual involvement: a bellydancer doesn’t only dance with the body, but also with the mind, and especially with the heart.


Oriental dance: a bridge between cultures

Oriental dance makes boundaries fade away. Bellydancing with others creates an open and trustful atmosphere. It is an introduction into a festive part of the Oriental culture. Music is an important aspect of this culture. For Western ears, the tones of for example the darbukkah, the mazhar, the qanun and the nay are often still a discovery. After some amusing bellydance classes however, you quickly fall in love with this wonderful music.


Bellydancing is absolute fun!

The unique thing about bellydancing is that it attracts women from all ages, all body types, all cultures and all parts of the population. In Oriental dance, Western beauty ideals don’t matter. Fun and enjoyment.... that’s what it’s all about!!!