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Encyclopedia > Belly Dance
Raqs Sharqi dancer Chryssanthi Sahar Scharf, Heidelberg.
Raqs Sharqi dancer Chryssanthi Sahar Scharf, Heidelberg.

Belly dance is a Western term for a traditional Middle Eastern dance form. Some American devotees refer to it simply as "Middle Eastern Dance." Image File history File links Belly_Dance_with_Chryssanthi_Sahar File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Belly_Dance_with_Chryssanthi_Sahar File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Belly dancers Belly dance is a Western name coined for a style of female dance developed in the Middle East and other Arabic-influenced areas. ... A map showing countries commonly considered to be part of the Middle East The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. ... For other uses, see Dance (disambiguation). ...

In the Arabic language it is known as raqs sharqi (رقص شرقي; literally "oriental dance") or sometimes raqs baladi (رقص بلدي; literally "national" or "folk" dance). The term "raqs sharqi" may have originated in Egypt. In Greece and the Balkans, belly dance is called tsiftetelli (τσιφτετέλι). Arabic can mean: From or related to Arabia From or related to the Arabs The Arabic language; see also Arabic grammar The Arabic alphabet, used for expressing the languages of Arabic, Persian, Malay ( Jawi), Kurdish, Panjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Urdu, among others. ... Folk can refer to a number of different things: It can be short for folk music, or, for folksong, or, for folklore; it may be a word for a specific people, tribe, or nation, especially one of the Germanic peoples; it might even be a calque on the related German...

The term belly-dance is a creation of Orientalism, and is first attested in English in 1899, translating French danse du ventre.[1] For the book by Edward Said, see Orientalism (book). ...



Native to North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, belly dancing is based on one of the oldest social dances in world history. Much of the support for this theory stems from the similarities between poses in ancient Egyptian artwork and the modern dance.[citation needed]

There are two forms of belly dancing. The first is called raqs baladi, a social dance performed by people of all ages and by both sexes, during festive occasions- such as weddings- and other social gatherings for fun and celebration. The second form- the more theatrical version- is called raqs sharqi, and it is this type that is most popular in America today. Like raks baladi, raks sharqi is performed by both male and female dancers.

Where belly dancing is a native dance, boys and girls learn it from an early age. As with many social dances, children learn it informally, by observing and imitating their elders during family and community celebrations, as well as during informal gatherings with friends.[citation needed] Today, these ancient dances are taught in classes offered throughout the world, and skilled dancers are able to share their knowledge that has been passed down from the indigenous peoples who created them.


The exact origin of this dance form is actively debated among dance enthusiasts, especially given the limited academic research on the topic. Much of the research in this area has been done by dancers attempting to understand their dance's origins. However, the often overlooked fact that most dancing in the Middle East occurs in the social context rather than the more visible and glamorous context of the professional nightclub dancers,[citation needed] has led to an overall misunderstanding of the dance's true nature and has given rise to many conflicting theories about its origins. Because this dance is a fusion of many dance styles, it undoubtedly has many different origins – many of them in ethnic folk dances.

Many dancers subscribe to one or another of a number of theories regarding the origins of the form. Some of these theories are that the dance form:

  • descended from indigenous dances of ancient Upper Egypt
  • descended from Greece, spreading with Alexander the Great
  • descended from a religious dance Temple Priestesses once practiced
  • had been a part of traditional birthing practices in the region(s) of origin
  • had spread from the migrations of the Romani people (also called "gypsies") and related groups, descended from the Banjara of Rajasthan[citation needed] in northwestern India.
  • originated in Uzbekistan, traveling to India through the slave trade.

Of the theories, the first explanation is rarely invoked, even with such high-status proponents as the Egyptian Dancer Doctor Mo Geddawi promoting it. The most well-known theory is that it descended from a religious dance. This idea is usually the one referred to in mainstream articles on the topic, and has enjoyed a large amount of publicity. 1960s American singer/dancer Jamila Salimpour was one proponent. It was also popularized in works such as Earth Dancing and Grandmother's Secrets. The pyramids are among the most recognizable symbols of the civilization of ancient Egypt. ... Map of Upper and Lower Egypt Ancient Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as Upper and Lower Egypt. ... For the film of the same name, see Alexander the Great (1956 film). ... Languages Romani, languages of native region Religions Christianity, Islam Related ethnic groups South Asians (Desi) The Romani people (as a noun, singular Rom, plural Roma; sometimes Rrom, Rroma) or Romanies are an ethnic group living in many communities all over the world. ... Banjaras are tribes in the Telangana region of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, known locally as Lambada. Category: ... , Rājasthān (DevanāgarÄ«: राजस्थान, IPA: )   is the largest state of the Republic of India in terms of area. ...

The "birthing practices" theory covers a sub-set of dance movements in modern raqs sharqi. Strongly publicized by the research of the dancer/layperson anthropologist Morocco (also known as Carolina Varga Dinicu), it involves the rework of movements traditionally utilized to demonstrate or ease childbirth. Although lacking an "origin point", this theory does have the advantage of numerous oral historical references, and is backed by a commentary in the work The Dancer of Shamahka.

Two points suggest Roma dance as its origin. The Roma, and other related groups, are seen as either having brought the form over as they traveled, or picked it up along the way and spread it around. Thanks to the conflation of Roma forms of dance into the raqs sharqi sphere in the West, these theories enjoy a vogue in the West that is not necessarily reflected in their original countries – although some of that may be due to strongly-held prejudices against the Roma.[citation needed] Languages Romany, languages of native region Religion Romanipen, combined with assimilations from local religions Related ethnic groups South Asians (Desi) This article is about the Indo-Aryan ethnic group. ...

Wherever it began, the dance has a long history in African and the Middle East. Despite the restrictions in Islam regarding portraying humans in paintings, there are several depictions of dancers throughout the pre-Islamic and Islamic world. Books such as The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250 show images of dancers on palace walls, as do Persian miniature paintings from the 12th and 13th centuries. For people named Islam, see Islam (name). ... Persia redirects here. ...

Outside of the Middle East, raqs sharqi dancing was popularized during the Romantic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries as Orientalist artists depicted their interpretations of harem life in the Ottoman Empire. Around this time, dancers from different Middle Eastern countries began to exhibit such dances at various World's Fairs; they often drew crowds that rivaled the technological exhibits. Some dancers were captured on early film; the short film Fatima's Dance, was widely distributed in the nickelodeon movie theaters. It drew criticism for its "immodest" dancing, and was eventually censored due to public pressure. Romantics redirects here. ... Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures, by Westerners. ... Motto دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1683, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299–1326) Bursa (1326–1365) Edirne (1365–1453) Ä°stanbul (1453–1922) Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 (first) Osman I  - 1918–22 (last) Mehmed VI Grand Viziers  - 1320... Nickelodeon is an early 20th century form of small, neighborhood movie theaters in which admission was obtained for a nickel. ...

Some Western women began to learn from and imitate the dances of the Middle East, which at this time was subject to colonization by European countries. Mata Hari exemplifies the issues surrounding these activities; despite posing as a Javanese dancer, her mystique is linked not to Indonesian dance but to the Middle Eastern dance forms. The French author Colette and many other music hall performers engaged in "oriental" dances, sometimes passing off their own interpretations as authentic folkloric styles. The great dancer Ruth St. Denis also engaged in Middle Eastern-inspired dancing, but her approach was to put "oriental" dancing on the stage in the context of ballet, her goal being to lift all dance to a respectable art form. (In the early 1900s, it was a common social assumption in America and Europe that dancers were women of loose morals.) Mata Hari, exotic dancer and convicted spy, made her name synonymous with femme fatale during World War I. For the Indonesian supermarket/department store chain, see Matahari. ... View of the Puncak area in West Java Java (Indonesian: Jawa) is the most populous of Indonesias islands, and the site of its capital city, Jakarta. ... Colette Colette [1] [2] was the pen name of the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (January 28, 1873 – August 3, 1954). ... Ruth St. ...

Historically, most of the dances associated with belly dance were performed with the sexes separated; men with men and women with women. Few depictions of mixed dancing exist. This practice ensured that a "good" woman would not be seen dancing by anyone but her husband, her close family, or her female friends. Sometimes a professional dancer would go to a women's gathering with several musicians and get the women up and dancing. Today, sex segregation is not as strictly practiced in many urban areas, and sometimes both men and women would get up and dance socially among close friends in a mixed function. However, while social dancing during acceptable circumstances such as family functions is accepted and even encouraged, there are many people in Middle Eastern and North African societies who regard the performances of professional dancers in revealing costumes, for mixed audiences as morally objectionable. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that such performances should be banned.[citation needed]


Because the most popular venue for the dance remains night clubs, (as well as the proliferation of video and DVD recordings of popular Egyptian dance celebrities), it is this version, rather than the folk or social versions of the dance that is most popular. The costume now associated with this dance is called bedlah in Arabic (meaning "suit") and was adopted by dancers in Egypt in the 1930s, from where it spread to other countries in the region. It owes its creation to the harem fantasy productions of vaudeville, burlesque and Hollywood during the turn of the last century, rather than to actual authentic Middle Eastern dress. An enterprising dancer, singer and night club owner in Cairo named Badia Masabni is credited with adopting this costume because this was the image that Western tourists came to expect, rather than the native costumes, caftans/kaftans, which covered and concealed the contours of the body, with only a scarf or belt tied around the hips to highlight the movements. However, the caftan is still used by performers to cover their costumes when not on stage. This article is about the musical variety theatre. ... For other uses, see Burlesque (disambiguation). ... ... For other uses, see Cairo (disambiguation). ...

The mainstays of costuming for these styles include a fitted top or bra (usually with fringe of beads or coins), a fitted hip belt (again with a fringe of beads or coins), and skirt/s (straight, layered, circular, or paneled). In the western world a "veil" may also be used for an entire dance, a three-and-a-half to four-yard piece of fabric, or in part of the dance to move about and frame movements for the dancer.

In the 1940s King Farouk of Egypt employed Russian ballet instructor Ivanova to teach his daughters, and it was she who first taught the great dancer Samia Gamal to use the veil to improve her arm carriage. Most Egyptian dancers use the veil as an opening prop which they discard within the first few minutes of their routines. ... Born as: Zaynab Ibrahim Mahfuz Dates: 1924 - 01 Dec 1994 Filmography: Appointment with the Unknown (Film, 1959) Un verre et une cigarette (Film, 1955) Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Film, 1954) Valley of the Kings (Film, 1954) Mat Oulch Lehad (Film, 1952) Categories: Egyptian people ...

In Egypt, dancers will also wear full beaded dresses, to do the folkloric and baladi routines. These types of outfits are also used by American and European dancers when performing folk dances. These dresses in Egypt, however, are designed according to the dance and the tradition. Western dancers have more freedom and may choose freely according to taste and fantasy. Costuming often varies with the particular style of dance.


Most of the basic steps and techniques used in belly dance are circular motions isolated in one part of the body; for example, a circle parallel to the floor isolated in the hips or shoulders. Accents using "pop and lock" where a dancer either shimmies or makes a striking motion in her shoulders or hips are common, as are feats of flexibility, rolling one's belly muscles, balancing various props like baskets, swords or canes, and dancing with chiffon or silk veils. Popping is a funk dance and street dance style based on the technique of quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk in the dancers body, referred to as a pop or a hit. ... Locking (originally Campbellocking) is a style of funk dance and street dance, which is today also associated with hip hop. ... A shimmy is a dance in which the body is held still, except for the shoulders, which are alternated back and forth. ...

Raqs Sharqi

Raqs Sharqi belly dancing consists of movements that are executed throughout the body. The focus of the dance is the pelvic and hip area. It is, fundamentally, a solo improvisational dance with its own unique dance vocabulary that is fluidly integrated with the music’s rhythm.

Raqs Sharqi dancers internalize and express the emotions evoked by the lyrics and the music. Appropriately, the music is integral to the dance. The most admired Raqs Sharqi dancers are those who can best project their emotions through dance, even if their dance is made up of simple movements. The dancer’s goal is to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm of the music. Raqs Sharqi translates from Arabic as "dance of the Orient" or "Oriental Dance". This is the oldest dance in the world. Belly dance is a misnomer as the all parts of the body are involved in the dance, and the most important body part is the hips. The dancer’s goal is to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm of the music.

Many see Raqs Sharqi as a woman's dance, celebrating the sensuality and power of being a mature woman. A common school of thought believes that young dancers have limited life experience to use as a catalyst for dance.[citation needed] Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, Lucy, Nagwa Fouad, and Dina are all popular Egyptian dancers above the age of forty. This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ...

Despite the fame of female dancers, men often perform Raqs Sharqi as well, however, not in public in Arab countries.

Egyptian-style raqs sharqi is based on Baladi an later the work of belly dance legends Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima Akef, and other dancers who rose to fame during the golden years of the Egyptian film industry. Later dancers who based their styles partially on the dances of these artists are Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, and Nagwa Fouad. All rose to fame between 1960 and 1980, are still popular today, and have nearly risen to the same level of stardom and influence on the style. Born as: Zaynab Ibrahim Mahfuz Dates: 1924 - 01 Dec 1994 Filmography: Appointment with the Unknown (Film, 1959) Un verre et une cigarette (Film, 1955) Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Film, 1954) Valley of the Kings (Film, 1954) Mat Oulch Lehad (Film, 1952) Categories: Egyptian people ... Tahiya Karioka also Tahiya Mohamed (born as: Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani), (1920–September 20, 1999) was an Egyptian belly dancer and film actress. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... Nagua Fouad (Arabic: نجوى فؤاد) (born 1943) is a noted belly dancer. ...

Though the basic movements of Raqs Sharqi have remained the same, the dance form continues to evolve. Nelly Mazloum and Mahmoud Reda are noted for incorporating elements of ballet into Raqs Sharqi and their influence can be seen in modern Egyptian dancers who stand on relevé as they turn or travel through their dance space in a circle or figure eight.

In Egypt, three main forms of the traditional dance are associated with belly dance: Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and Sharqi.

Egyptian belly dance was among the first styles to be witnessed by Westerners. During Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (the campaign which yielded the Rosetta stone, leading to the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics), Napoleon's troops encountered the Ghawazee tribe. The Ghawazee made their living as professional entertainers and musicians. The women often engaged in prostitution on the side, and often had a street dedicated to their trade in the towns where they resided, though some were quasi-nomadic. At first the French were repelled by their heavy jewelry and hair, and found their dancing "barbaric", but were soon lured by the hypnotic nature of their movements[citation needed]. This article is about the ancient Rosetta Stone . ... A section of the Papyrus of Ani showing cursive hieroglyphs. ... The Ghawazee (Ghawazi) are an ethnic group that have been exoticized in Western travel narratives of Egypt since the 18th century as a particularly sensual group and are probably the origin fo the contemporary notion of belly dance. ... Communities of nomadic people move from place to place, rather than settling down in one location. ...

The most important non-Egyptian forms of belly dance are the Syrian/ Lebanese,Persian and the Turkish. For other uses of this term see: Persia (disambiguation) The Persian Empire is the name used to refer to a number of historic dynasties that have ruled the country of Persia (Iran). ...

Turkish forms

Some mistakenly believe that Turkish oriental dancing is known as Çiftetelli because this style of music has been incorporated into oriental dancing by Greeks and Roma, illustrated by the fact that the Greek belly dance is called Tsifteteli. However, Turkish Çiftetelli is more correctly a form of wedding folk music, the part that makes up the lively part of the dance at the wedding and is not connected with oriental dancing. Tsifteteli (τσιφτετέλι, Tsifte-teli) is a Greek traditional dance, which is basically the same as Chifteteli, a Turkish traditional dance. ... Ciftetelli (τσιφτετέλι, Ciftetelli ) is a Turkish/ Greek dance. ...

Turkish belly dance today may have been influenced by Roma people as much as by the Egyptian and Syrian/Lebanese forms, having developed from the Ottoman rakkas to the oriental dance known worldwide today. As Turkish law does not impose restrictions on Turkish dancers' movements and costuming as in Egypt, where dancers are prevented from performing floor work and certain pelvic movements, Turkish dancers are often more outwardly expressive than their Egyptian sisters. Many professional dancers and musicians in Turkey continue to be of Romani heritage as well. (However, it should be noted that people of Turkish Romani heritage also have a distinct dance style which is uniquely different from the Turkish Oriental style.) Turkish dancers are known for their energetic, athletic (even gymnastic) style, and particularly, until the past few years, their adept use of finger cymbals, also known as zils. Connoisseurs of Turkish dance often say that a dancer who cannot play the zils is not an accomplished dancer. Another distinguishing element of the Turkish style is the use of the Karsilama rhythm in a 9/8 time signature, counted as 12-34-56-789. Turkish belly dance costumes can be very revealing, with the belt sometimes worn high up on the waist and split skirts which expose the entire leg, although dancers today are costuming themselves more like Egyptian dancers and wearing more modest "mermaid"-style skirts. The Turkish style is emphasized further by the dancer wearing high heels and often platform shoes. Famous Turkish belly dancers include Tulay Karaca, Nesrin Topkapi and Birgul Berai. Motto دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1683, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299–1326) Bursa (1326–1365) Edirne (1365–1453) Ä°stanbul (1453–1922) Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 (first) Osman I  - 1918–22 (last) Mehmed VI Grand Viziers  - 1320... A pair of zils from the Khan el Khalili market in Cairo Zils or finger cymbals are tiny cymbals used in belly dancing and similar performances. ... Karsilama (Turkish karşılama) is a Turkish dance. ...

When immigrants from Turkey, Iran, and the Arab states began to immigrate to New York in the 1930s and 1940s, dancers started to perform a mixture of these styles in the nightclubs and restaurants. Often called "Classic Cabaret" or "American Cabaret" belly dance, these dancers are the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of some of today's most accomplished performers, such as Anahid Sofian and Artemis Mourat.[citation needed]

Belly dancing in the Western world

Fantasy-inspired non-historical Belly dancing costume, with coin bra, face veil, and beaded hip belt over skirt.
Fantasy-inspired non-historical Belly dancing costume, with coin bra, face veil, and beaded hip belt over skirt.

The term "belly dancing" (believed by some to be a mis-transliteration of the term for the dance style Beledi or Baladi) is generally credited to Sol Bloom, entertainment director of the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Although there were dancers of this type present at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, it was not until the 1893 fair that it gained national attention. There were authentic dancers from several Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Syria, Turkey and Algeria, but it was the dancers in the Egyptian Theater of The Street in Cairo exhibit who gained the most notoriety. The rapid hip movements and the fact that the dancers were uncorseted, was considered shocking to the Victorian sensibilities of the day. In fact, there were attempts by many, most notably Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, to have the Egyptian theater closed. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 443 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1000 × 1354 pixel, file size: 1. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 443 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1000 × 1354 pixel, file size: 1. ... Beledi is a rhythmic style common in Middle Eastern music. ... Sol Bloom political button. ... Worlds Fair is any of various large expositions held since the mid-19th century. ... One-third scale replica of The Republic, which once stood in the great basin at the exposition, Chicago, 2004 The World Columbian Exposition (also called The Chicago Worlds Fair), a Worlds fair, was held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbuss discovery... For other uses, see Chicago (disambiguation). ... Portrait of Anthony Comstock Anthony Comstock (March 7, 1844 - September 21, 1915) was a former United States Postal Inspector and politician dedicated to ideas of Victorian morality. ... The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (SSV) was founded in 1873 by Anthony Comstock and his supporters in the Young Mens Christian Association. ...

Although it is popularly believed that a dancer named "Fatima", also known as Little Egypt, stole the show, and continued to popularize this form of dancing, there is in fact no evidence to support this claim.[2] Neither photographs, nor reviews of the Egyptian Theater mention any such person. The truth is that photographs as well as accounts of the entertainments, show that there was not one solo dancer, but an entire troupe who performed in the Egyptian Theater. The popularity of these dancers spawned dozens of imitators after the Fair, many of whom claimed to have been dancers at the Chicago Fair. The most well known being Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, who it was said stayed in the States after the Fair and married a Greek man named Spyropoulos. Oddly enough she was neither Egyptian nor Algerian, but Syrian. Although she was Middle Eastern, there is no evidence that she was one of the dancers in the Egyptian theater. Little Egypt was the stage name for two popular exotic dancers, Ashea Wabe who danced at the Seeley banquet and Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, who appeared at the Street in Cairo exhibition on the Midway at the World Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. ...

The dance performed by the many dancers calling themselves "Little Egypt" was nicknamed the "Hootchy-Kootchy" or "Hoochee-Coochee", or the shimmy and shake. Due to cultural misunderstanding about the nature of the dance and misrepresentations by the many imitators in Burlesque halls and carnival sideshows, the western world considered it risqué, leading to the stereotype of an erotic suggestive dance. Another name for the dance is "danse du ventre", which in French literally means "dance of the stomach."

Because this dance style created such a craze, Thomas Edison made several films of dancers in the 1890s. Included in these are the Turkish dance, Ella Lola, 1898 and Crissie Sheridan in 1897 both available for on-line viewing through the Library of Congress. Another in this collection is Princess Rajah dance from 1904 which features a dancer playing Zils (finger cymbals), doing "floor work", and balancing a chair in her teeth. Edison redirects here. ... This article is about motion pictures. ... Construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building, from July 8, 1888 to May 15, 1894. ... ZIL is a three-letter abbreviation with multiple meanings, as described below: Zork Implementation Language (ZIL) is the language which Infocom used to produce their works of interactive fiction. ...

In addition, the sensational stories about the pseudo-Javanese dancer Mata Hari, who was convicted in 1917 by the French for being a German spy during World War I, and the fact that belly dancing could be seen only at vaudeville and in burlesque shows gave belly dancing a questionable reputation in polite society. Hollywood did not help the reputation by only having three roles for a belly dancer (those of slave to be saved, a background dancer while the main characters talk, or a deceitful woman who uses her wiles to trick the main character), which created stereotypes of belly dancers that many dancers and instructors today are working hard to overcome. It is due to these stereotypes that many practitioners refer to the art as "Middle Eastern Dance". Mata Hari, exotic dancer and convicted spy, made her name synonymous with femme fatale during World War I. For the Indonesian supermarket/department store chain, see Matahari. ... “The Great War ” redirects here. ... This article is about the musical variety theatre. ... For other uses, see Burlesque (disambiguation). ...

While the beautiful classical Raqs Sharqi is still popular in the West, many dancers have created fusion forms such as American Tribal Style inspired by the folkloric dance styles of India, the Middle East and North Africa and even flamenco. Dancers in the United States, while respecting the origins of belly dance, are also exploring and creating within the dance form to address their own needs. Many women today in the U.S. and Europe approach belly dance as a tool for empowerment and strengthening of the body, mind, and spirit. Issues of body-image, self-esteem, healing from sexual violation, sisterhood, and self-authentication are regularly addressed in belly dance classes everywhere. Tribal-style belly dancers Tribal Style Belly Dance or American Tribal Style Belly Dance (commonly knows as ATS) is a recent movement in the USA that has addressed the feminist philosophy of empowerment of women through Belly Dance. ...

United States

Tribal-style belly dancers.
Tribal-style belly dancers.

With its emergence at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, the last four decades of the 20th century moved belly dance in the U.S. more into the mainstream. The current interest in the dance can be traced back to the 1950s and '60s. It was in the ethnic nightclubs in major cities like New York, that most Americans first became acquainted with the dance. These clubs were owned, operated and patronized by members of the ethnic communities of Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. At the time, most of the dancers were Greek or Turkish, but in time their ranks would grow to include Americans as well. One example of this is the dancer "Morocco" of New York, who started her career in the night clubs of Greek Town on 8th Avenue. These American dancers learned the dance by watching and imitating their Greek and Turkish sisters, as well as the patrons. A Belly Dancer. ... A Belly Dancer. ...

In the late 1960s and early '70s many of these dancers began offering dance classes. With increasing exploration of the East in the late 1960s, many people became interested in everything Eastern, including dance. Many touring Middle Eastern or Eastern bands took dancers with them as they toured to provide a visual representation of their music, which helped to spark interest in the dance. This had the effect of creating many beautiful dancers who have generated greater interest in belly dancing. The increased interest in belly dancing created diverse names for the same simple movements and the need to have a "style" as each teacher tried to distinguish differences in their way of teaching from other teachers. This has hampered belly dance from acceptance with the more established dance forms because there is no nationally recognized choreography terminology that can be used to create repeatable dances.

A recent movement in the U.S. called American Tribal Style Belly Dance, or ATS, represents everything from folklore-inspired dances to the fusion of ancient dance techniques from North India, the Middle East, and Africa. Created in the early 1990s by Carolena Nericcio, founder of FatChanceBellydance in San Francisco, ATS has a format consisting of a vocabulary of steps that are designed to be performed improvisationally in a lead-follow manner. Pure ATS is performed in a group, typically with a chorus of dancers using zills, or finger cymbals, as accompaniment. The music can be folkloric or modern, and the costume is heavily layered, evoking traditions of any or all of its fusion of cultural influences. Tribal-style belly dancers Tribal Style Belly Dance or American Tribal Style Belly Dance (commonly knows as ATS) is a recent movement in the USA that has addressed the feminist philosophy of empowerment of women through Belly Dance. ...

Multicultural trends that have shaped Western and U.S. belly dance are still at work. Ever evolving, this versatile dance keeps absorbing a blend of influences; modern fashion, film and television imagery, the world of rock and hip hop, underground subcultures, and many other contemporary influences. The umbrella term used to describe these hybrid forms of belly dance is "belly dance fusion", including "tribal fusion". One of the newest belly dance fusion trends is gothic belly dance that incorporates many belly dance styles and motifs and seeks to express the darkness of the unknown that has inspired the music, philosophies, and lifestyles of the Goth subculture. [1] To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... This article is about the subculture. ...

Every year in the U.S. more fusion and personal styles added into Belly Dance. From ballet, Urban Tribal, Techno Tribal, Afrocuban Tribal, World Fusion, Popping Fusions, Hip Hop Fusions, Jazz, contemporary, Indian, Asian gymnastics, fire dancing, stilt walking, hoop twirling and the reintroduction of burlesque type movements,[citation needed] With dancers seeking out education in more than one dance form in order to incorporate something new into their Belly Dance choreographies; it has become one of the most diverse dance forms within the U.S. to date.[citation needed]


Canada has a thriving belly dance community much like the United States with many different styles ranging from Raqs Sharqi to Gypsy style. Many schools offer belly dance classes and Canada has produced some of the finest belly dancers in the world including Master teacher Yasmina Ramzy, Hadia, and the internationally renowned Badia Star.

Ramzy is the driving force behind the International Bellydance Conference of Canada which is Canada's largest Bellydance conference, with workshops, panel discussions and speeches.

United Kingdom

With its growing popularity in the western world, belly dance classes are thriving throughout the UK, though the belly dance culture has been evidenced since the early 1960s, with many styles being taught including traditional, modern, tribal, Persian, Oriental, Turkish, Greek, Egyptian, American Tribal.

Many festivals and workshops are held over the various regions, with two of the most popular being the Annual Glastonbury Majma. [2] and Raqs Britannia [3]

September 2007 sees the first Annual International Bellydance Congress being held in the UK. [4]


The first wave of interest for belly dancing in Australia was during the late 70s to 80s with the influx of migrants and refugees escaping troubles in the Middle East, particularly the war in Lebanon. This was also the period that marked the increase in Middle Eastern musicians escaping the tensions in the region.

There were notable performers during this period. These included Amera Eid who started the first belly dance boutique in Australia, Amera’s Palace, and Terezka Drnzik who established the first full time belly dance school in Sydney, The Akademi of Danse Orientale. Both of these experienced dancers and teachers have pedigrees linked back to Rozeta Ahalyea whose career spanned four decades. Amera Eid is one of the current matriarch figures in the Australian bellydancing community. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Rozeta Ahalyea was one of the earliest professional bellydancers in Australia with a career based almost exclusively on performing that spanned four decades. ...

The biggest belly dancing event is the annual Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival which started out in 1990 as a Bellydance-a-thon to raise money for charity.

Tribal style belly dance in Australia is gaining popularity as well. The most notable figure in this scene is Devi Mamak, the first Australian to have been accepted as a certified Fat Chance Bellydance teacher under the guidance of Carolena Nerricio. New Fat Chance moves developed in Australia by Devi Mamak and her troupe, Ghawazi Caravan, will be added to the official list of repertoire in the 8th video. The new moves are Arabic with a turn, triangle and the crazy camel.

Male belly dancing

Male belly dancer in Istanbul Turkey.
Male belly dancer in Istanbul Turkey.

There is much debate over where and when men became part of the belly dance world. Many believe that men have no place in this art form,[citation needed] which is frequently and erroneously believed to be historically female. However, dancers such as Morocco (Carolina Varga-Dinicu), Tariq Sultan, Jasmin Jahal, and Laurel Victoria Gray have produced ample evidence to the contrary.[3] Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1024x1544, 233 KB) Summary Belly dancer in Istanbul Turkey, November 2004. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1024x1544, 233 KB) Summary Belly dancer in Istanbul Turkey, November 2004. ...

Pictorial evidence in the form of Turkish miniatures made during the Ottoman Empire show public performances being done by young men and boys called köçeks. These dancers were widely popular; in fact, the Sultan employed a troupe of these male dancers in addition to a troupe of female dancers, (Metin And: A pictorial history of Turkish Dance). It has long been assumed that these dancers were female impersonators, because they performed in wide flamboyant skirts. A comparison with the female dancers however, shows that this was merely a costume worn for the dramatic effect caused by the swirling fabric. The female dancers did not wear specialized costumes at this time, but the ordinary dress of all women, which consisted of a pair of "harem pants", a long shirt, tight fitting vest covered by a flowing robe tied at the waist by a belt or shawl. Nevertheless, some of these male dancers did at times impersonate women. This was because they were not simply dancers but musicians and actors as well. As was the case in Shakespearean times, all dramatic roles were played by males since women were not allowed to entertain in public. Motto دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1683, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299–1326) Bursa (1326–1365) Edirne (1365–1453) Ä°stanbul (1453–1922) Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 (first) Osman I  - 1918–22 (last) Mehmed VI Grand Viziers  - 1320...

These dancers were so popular that fights often broke out over which troupe was considered the best.[citation needed]These upheavals were so frequent that they resulted in such performances being banned for a period of time during the 1830s.[citation needed] Eventually the ban was lifted, but the decline of the Ottoman Empire, together with a push for modernization and the adoption of western tastes led to the eventual decline of such performances in Istanbul as well as other countries of the Empire such as Egypt.[citation needed] Eventually, due to tourist demand, their place was taken by female entertainers.[citation needed] Köçek dancers can still be found in the rural communities of Turkey, most notably in the region of Kastamonu. They have even begun appearing on television variety shows and on DVDs throughout Turkey.[citation needed] Kastamonu (Greek: Κασταμόνου) is the capital district of the Kastamonu Province, Turkey. ...

The current professional version of raqs sharqi, developed in Egypt in the 1930s, was deliberately designed to display an idealized notion of feminine grace beauty and glamor. Even so men continued to play a behind the scenes role in its development. Many of the most renowned choreographers and coaches are in fact men, such as Ibrahim Akef (cousin of the dance star Naima Akef) and Mahmoud Reda (founder of the renowned Reda Ensemble, the first theater dance troupe of Egypt).

The current trend of male performers of this dance form started in the '60s and 70s in the United States by such performers and teachers as Ibrahim Farrah (an American of Lebanese descent from Pennsylvania), Roman "Bert" Balladine and John Compton to name a few. Today male belly dancers are becoming more visible, not only in the United States, but around the world.[citation needed] These modern performers have even began to resurface in the Middle East in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt. Most male dancers face artistic as well as social challenges. Such issues as whether there are or should be differences in costuming, attitude, and the dynamics of choreography between male and female belly dancing is a subject of debate among both male and female dancers.

Given the recent boom in interest regarding belly dance, a new generation of male dancers has embraced the form. Although still small in number compared to their female counterparts, their numbers have grown dramatically in the past 20 years.[citation needed].

Well-known male dancers in the U.S. and Latin America from the 1970s onward include Bert Balladine, John Compton, Sergio, Horacio Cifuentes, Kasim of Boston,famous Zill player on George Abdo's albums, Amir of Boston, Adam Basma, Ibrahim Farrah, Yousry Sharif, Aziz, Kamaal, Amir Thalib, Mark Balahadia, Francisco Carranza (Mr. Bellydance U.S. 1989) Canadian dancer Valizan, Jim Boz, and Tarik Sultan. Some of these dancers are American-born, others were immigrants from the Middle East and Europe. Basma was born in Lebanon. Sharif (who comes from Egypt and relocated to the U.S. in the early 1990s) was a member of the Reda Ensemble, the first national dance troupe in Egypt. Directed by Mahmoud Reda, a former gymnast who represented Egypt in the Olympics, the Reda Ensemble has existed continuously for over four decades. Other male belly dancers across the globe have made an impact on this dance form, most notably Horacio Cifuentes, who now resides in Germany and who has infused his ballet background with various types of Middle Eastern dance to create an impact on both male and female belly-dance styles. Tarik Sultan of New York has made a great contribution in the documentation of the history of the male role in the dance. His article "Oriental Dance, it isn't just for women any more", is one of the most historically and culturally accurate article on the subject. Also, Dr. Anthony Shay, the author of Choreophobia, in his article "The Male Dancer", tackles the myths that the dance is a strictly female form and that men who did perform it were only imitating women. He offers historical and cultural sources to show that men have always been present in Middle Eastern dance, not only on the social level, but in the professional arena as well. Many dancers are now fast gaining recognition around the world as a dancers of exceptional skill such as; Egyptian male dancer Tito Seif, who performs in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh; Syrian male Dancer Jamil and Shiva, renowned performers in Sydney, Australia; Israeli born Asi Haskal, who holds many concerts in Israel. Anthony Shay is a dancer and choreographer specializing in dances from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. ...

Regardless of occasional opposition both within the dance community by those who see the dance as an expression of female power, or those who view professional performances of this dance as "a woman's job", the number of male dancers around the world is growing and enjoying more acceptance.[citation needed]

Health and belly dancing

The benefits of belly dance are both mental and physical. Dancing provides a good cardio-vascular workout and helps increase both flexibility and strength, focusing on the torso or "core muscles", although it also builds leg strength. Many belly dance styles emphasize muscular "isolations", teaching the ability to move various muscles or muscle groups independently. Veil work can also build arm, shoulder, and general upper-body strength, and playing the zils can build strength and independence of the fingers. Belly dance is suitable for all ages and body types, and can be as physical as the participant chooses.

Belly dancing tones the arms, strengthens and tightens the abs and obliques, and improves flexibility. As a form of exercise, it can burn as many calories as jogging, swimming or riding a bike. Belly dance is less strenuous on the body than weight lifting and more entertaining than sitting on a bike at the gym. Most importantly, belly dance was specifically developed for the female body and is an art that has been perfected for thousands of years. [4]

Prohibition of belly dancing

Belly dancing has been banned or restricted in some jurisdictions. In Egypt, there was a ban on foreign belly dancers for a year, until it was overturned in September 2004. [5]

Belly dancing in pop culture

Music videos that include dancers who are called "belly dancers" often upset professional dancers who do not consider these "jiggle-shows"[citation needed] proper dance, considering their often poor technique and overtly sexual moves. Many bellydancers find it offensive that people take such a beautiful art form and twist it to fit the style of modern pop culture. Professional belly dancers often prefer to call these pieces "belly dance inspired".[citation needed]

Belly dancing has recently been made widely popular by Latin superstar Shakira, whose dancing combines belly dance, Latino, and modern dance styles. This article is about the musician. ... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ...

R&B singer Aaliyah used the belly dance as her signature move, which she called the belly roll, and it was featured in many of her music videos. Other singers who have performed belly dance in their music videos include Hilary Duff, Beyoncé, Ciara, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. Only Shakira has had professional belly dance training. For other uses, see Aliyah (disambiguation). ... Hilary Erhard Duff (born September 28, 1987) is an American actress, singer, songwriter, producer, fashion designer, and spokesperson. ... Beyoncé in 2004 with her five Grammys. ... Ciara (born Ciara Princess Harris on October 25, 1985 in Austin, Texas)(IPA pronunciation: [1])is a Grammy Award-winning American singer, songwriter, dancer, record producer, and occasional actress. ... Not to be confused with Rhianna or Rayhana. ... Nelly Kim Furtado (born December 2, 1978) is a Canadian pop singer-songwriter, record producer, actress and instrumentalist, who also holds a Portuguese citizenship. ... Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981) is a Grammy Award-winning[1] American pop singer, dancer, actress, author and songwriter. ... This article is about the singer. ...

See also

The köçek phenomenon is considered to be one of the most significant symbols of Ottoman Empire culture. ... Ciftetelli (τσιφτετέλι, Ciftetelli ) is a Turkish/ Greek dance. ... These should be the most basic topics in the field--topics about which wed like to have articles soon. ... This is the main list of dances. ... Born as: Zaynab Ibrahim Mahfuz Dates: 1924 - 01 Dec 1994 Filmography: Appointment with the Unknown (Film, 1959) Un verre et une cigarette (Film, 1955) Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (Film, 1954) Valley of the Kings (Film, 1954) Mat Oulch Lehad (Film, 1952) Categories: Egyptian people ... Tahiya Karioka also Tahiya Mohamed (born as: Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani), (1920–September 20, 1999) was an Egyptian belly dancer and film actress. ... This article is about the musician. ...


  • Donna Carlton (1995). Looking for Little Egypt. Bloomington, Indiana: International Dance Discovery Books. ISBN 0-9623998-1-7.
  • Belly dancing
  • Serena and Alan Wilson (1973). The Serena Technique of Belly Dancing. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
  • Julie Russo Mishkin and Marta Schill (1973). The Compleat Belly Dancer. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company Books. ISBN 0-385-03556-X


  1. ^ Danse du Ventre is a colonial term given to women's dances of North Africa and the Middle East. Carlton, Donna. Looking For Little Egypt. Bloomington Indiana: IDD Books (1994): ix.
  2. ^ Donna Carlton (1995). Looking for Little Egypt. Bloomington, Indiana: International Dance Discovery Books. ISBN 0-9623998-1-7.
  3. ^ Laurel Victoria Gray, "Dancing Boys," Arabesque magazine, Vol. 12 (May-June 1986). Gray discusses historical examples of male dancers, including those from the early centuries after the establishment of Islam, as well as the famous bacchas of Central Asia.
  4. ^ http://www.bellydancingdiva.com
  5. ^ Washington Times: [Egypt allows foreigners to belly dance] September 5, 2004.

Dance of a bacchá (dancing boy) Samarkand, (ca 1905 - 1915), photo S. M. Prokudin-Gorskii. ... The Washington Times is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.. It was founded in 1982 as a conservative alternative to the Washington Post by members of the controversial Unification Church. ... is the 248th day of the year (249th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Raqs Sharqi
  • Rakkasah Dance Festivals
  • The Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association

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Although the history of belly dancing is murky prior to the late 1800s, many experts believe its roots go back to the temple rites of India.
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