According to Wendy Buonarentura, author of “Serpents of the Nile”, a book about Woman and Dance in the Arab World, Belly dance, originally known as Raks-al-sharki or Baladi, is as old or older than the 14th Century.
Findings (written material and documentation) date back to the 14th century. However it is believed that from the change of Paganism to Catholicism, Islamic and Christian religions’ documentation and recording of this ancient form of dance had been destroyed as well as dancers executed. Therefore there is speculation that this form of dance is much older.
In the Middle Eastern Arab and Mediterranean countries, each claim that Belly dance originated with them.
There is belief that it could have started with the Celtics.
Travelers from the European countries and America who travelled to the Arab countries discovered and documented Belly Dancers in their poems, journals and novels.
During the time of destruction of documentation and execution of dancers in the Arab countries, many dancers exiled to the Americas and European countries, hence the westernization of Raks-al-sharki into Belly Dance.
BELLY DANCE STYLES:
There are many different styles of Belly Dance. The four most popular and known styles are: Traditional Baladi Sharki and Bedouin dance, the Egiptian “cabaret”, Arabic-Lebanese, Golf country, Turkish and Greek “Ciftetelli”
The traditional styles are earthy, grounded and strong. Accent on the hip movements, using strong hands and arms. Footwork is simple and flat.
Costumes: Galabiyas with hip scarves to bring focus to the hips. The body is very covered.
With the traditional styles, props such as sticks, vales and zills (small finger symbols) are frequently used. This tends to lean towards the folkloric style.
The Arabic Style: Lebanese and Golf country are snake like rounded, smoother and undulating movements with legs close together. The musician plays to the audience through the dancer.
Costumes: Typical open belly, colourfully adorned Bra and Belt with full skirt.
The Turkish Style is very open and revealing. Legs are apart and bent, lower body bends back in a back bend, arms very angular and strong a raunchy, rustic style. In a performance, the musician plays for the dancer and in return the dancer performs for the audience.
(It was considered that at one time the Turkish women dancers would dance for an audience of men with the hope of finding a husband. The thrusting of the pelvic region and hips would show the woman’s strength, sexuality and ability to produce children. Once a man produced money to a dancer, he was in a sense staking his claim to husbandry. Nowadays the Belly dancer is a professional performer and no longer dances to “catch” a husband)
Costumes: Very revealing, skimpy skirt, open legs and busty boobs.
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.
Costumes: Very similar to Egyptian costumes.
HOW WOMEN BENEFIT FROM DOING BELLY DANCE
The beauty of this form of dance is that it is definitely a woman’s form of dance. Women for women created it. The movements compliment the female form and does wonders both internally and externally for the beautiful goddesses women are.
The Arab women teach this form of dance to their daughters from an early age to help prepare and strengthen the female reproductive organs during the developing cycles of puberty as well as conception, pregnancy, birth and labour and menopause. This ancient form of dance practised by many successful mothers has great benefits for the mothers to be.
Belly dance does wonders for self-confidence and self esteem.
You do not have to be a Twiggy, Jennifer Lopez or a Shakira to do this dance, nor do you need prior dance experience. There is no height, weight, or age restrictions or limitations. You just have to be a woman and yourself and be proud of that. As a bonus you do regain those beautiful curves and firmness without looking like a body builder.
There is nothing smutty or crude about Belly Dancing. There is no stripping or lap dancing – Belly dancers honour themselves too much for that.
Belly Dance is a Cultural Art form with outstanding rewards and results for each and every individual woman.
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