A Brief History of Belly Dancing

30th March 2016


Originating from the Middle East, Belly dance is a Western-coined name for solo, improvised dances based on torso articulation. Belly dance is known in many names including Oriental dance, Arabic dance, Middle Eastern dance and Egyptian dance. During the Victorian era “dance du ventre” a French term meaning belly dance was applied as a kind of dancing, dancers are originally referred to Ouled Nail dancers of Algeria. Ouled Nail are a confederation of Arab tribes living in Ouled Nail Mountains of Algeria, their dance uses more abdominal movements that the dances described today as belly dance. Although it’s dance that involves the movement of every part of body, the centre of featured movements is usually the hips.

Primarily, belly dance is a torso-driven dance with an emphasis on movements of the hips. Compared to many Western dance form, the focus of the dance is on relaxed, natural isolations of the torso muscles, rather than on movements of the limbs through space. Being compared to jazz ballet some movements appear superficially similar but often driven differently and have a different feeling or emphasis which in the case of belly dancing is usually more subtle and contained. Muscle control and correct posture is as important as it is in other types of dance, it requires a dancer to move hips freely without the hazard of injuring the lower back. Belly dance basic posture varies slightly between styles, for some are positions with knees may be more or less bent, weight maybe held slightly further back or forward as is resting arms also have variety of position. But a kinesiology correct posture must be observed and always be used. For those who takes belly dancing into the next level, dancers studies Pilates or the Alexander technique in order to achieve a healthy and efficient posture.

There is no universally codified naming scheme for belly dance movements, this is due to the folk/social dance origins of the dance form in the Middle East and the very diverse range of teaching traditions in the West. For marketing reason, some dancers or dance schools have come up with attention-catching name schemes, but none of those names are universally recognized. Fortunately many dancers today still prefer to use simple, physically descriptive names for groups of related movements.

Belly dance have its characteristic movements and are grouped by few categories. Fluid movements is a flowing movement in which the body is in continuous motion while the Percussive moments focus on movements of the hips which punctuate the music or accent a beat (also known as Staccato movement).

The third category of belly dance movement is Shimmies, shivers and vibration. It’s a small, fast, continuous movement of the ribcage or hips that creates an impression of texture and depth movement.

Undeniably belly dancing is a form of art, a dance able to express emotions and show off culture and passion. Many takes belly dancing as state of in depth release of one’s creativeness.

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