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The Best Belly Dancing History

Jun 7, 2008
The Complex History of Belly Dancing

While no one is certain where or when belly dancing originated, it is known that belly dancing history covers many centuries and various places. As far as historians can discern, throughout the years belly dancing was used as for such diverse things as goddess worship, childbirth preparation, celebration, and personal enjoyment.

Belly Dancing History in the Middle East

Belly dancing is known as Raks Sharqi in Arabic, which means "Oriental dance". In the past, this type of dance was done by women for other women only. In fact, at one time there were also men's clubs where young men would perform a type of belly dance for other men. Historically, belly dance is done in layers of colorful clothing with no skin showing. The body movements were meant to cause the fabric to bounce and sway.

Belly dancing history is also full of controversy. The name belly dancing was coined during the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Due to lack of interest in the Egyptian dance show, the promoter re-named the style as "belly dancing". It became a sensation. In the 1930's in Egypt, as the layers of clothing gave way to bare bellies, politicians stepped in. By the 1950's belly dancing was outlawed. Public outrage led to the ban being repealed with the stipulation that dancers would again cover their stomachs.

American Belly Dancing History

When belly dancing came to the United States, it could only be seen on burlesque or vaudeville stages. This led to people assuming it was risqu or inappropriate. Hollywood added to the disdain for belly dancing by their use of the dancers in film (as damsels in distress or women of ill-repute). Even today, many dancers and instructors fight against this type of stereotyping.

Belly dancing history in America actually started prior to the Chicago World Fair. Its debut was actually in 1876 at the Pennsylvania Centennial. However, it wasn't until the fair in 1893 that it gained popularity. It proceeded to be a popular and profitable act at vaudeville shows.

More current belly dancing history involves its resurgence in the United States. In the 1950's, a number of ethnic clubs in large cities had belly dancers as entertainment. By the late 1960's many of those dancers were offering lessons. While this caused an explosion in the number of dancers, it also had inherent problems. In trying to differentiate their classes from those of other instructors, dancers altered the form in varying ways. As such, belly dancing is finding it difficult to gain footing in the larger dancing world due to the lack of specific accepted choreography and terminology.

Recently, there has been fusion of styles to create what is known as American Tribal Style Belly Dance (ATS). As can clearly be seen, belly dancing history is not stagnant. The dancers and the dance continue to grow and change, and will likely continue to do so as long as people remain interested in the art form.
About the Author
Charlie Reese is a high level level belly dance instructor. Charlie enjoys sight seeing and giving a good psychic reading to other psychics .
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