Belly dancing is a very popular dance form. This dance style originated in the middle-east and has spread all over the world. Belly dancing focuses on the movements you can make from your torso. It involves using your torso to make complex and flexible movements.
As mentioned above, it may have originated in the middle-east but now it has become famous all over the world. Belly dancing is recognized as a very attractive and seductive dance form. There are lots of people who are eager to learn belly dancing. And acquire this as a skill.
The outfits worn in belly dancing are also very attractive albeit can be a bit too revealing for some people. This fact has led people to sometimes perceive belly dancing in a somewhat negative light. This, however, does not mean that belly dancing is not a revered and applauded dance form like hip-hop dance.
Belly dancing is both a social dance form as well as a performance one. That is, this is a dance style adopted by many during a social gathering or function. It is a good way for socializing, especially for women from the middle-east.
Belly dancing though is mostly recognized worldwide as a performance oriented dance form. It is mostly learned for performance or competition purposes. Of course, all of this is apart from learning it just for fun.
There is a lot more to know, learn and experience this mystical and illusionist dance style. Before we talk further about the origins or history of belly dancing, let us first focus our energies on something else. Let us first properly understand what all is belly dancing about?
Belly dancing: What is belly dance?
Belly dancing as informed above is a dance style that is primarily focused on the movements of your torso. It involves utilizing your upper body (arms, shoulders, fingers etc.) and your abdomen. As well as your hips to perform complicated yet attractive moves.
As mentioned above, belly dancing is used both as a performance dance as well as a social dance form. It is performed both for entertainment purposes as well as for socializing purposes. Another fact is, belly dancing is a popular dance form all over the world. It is widespread from European and American countries to African and Asian countries.
In fact, each country has modified belly dancing according to their style and sensibilities. They have introduced new and diverse movements in belly dancing. This way they have added to the vocabulary and moves of belly dancing. Therefore, this dance form has expanded and grown much beyond its original form.
Belly dancing is primarily a dance style performed by women. However, there are many men who practice it as well. Nonetheless, the ratio of women belly dancers to men belly dancers is a lot more.
Another factor about belly dancing that is quite prevalent is the somewhat controversial status of belly dance. And the main topic of discussion in this is the clothing (or rather costumes) worn by the belly dancers.
The costumes in belly dance are considered to be too revealing for some. And therefore, avoided by many. As belly dance is all about moving your torso, the navel is supposed to be exposed while doing this dance. However, not everyone is comfortable with showing their mid-section on stage or in a social gathering.
And hence, many a time these costumes are modified. In order to suit the likes and comfort zone of the people involved. So in different countries, you will find different belly dancing costumes.
There are a lot more great things about this dance. And a few controversies surrounding belly dancing. But before we get on with that. Let us first learn a little bit about belly dancing history.
Belly dancing history and evolution
Belly dancing is referred to by various different names and terms. It is referred to as ‘danse du ventre’ in French. In Arabic, belly dance is known as ‘Raqs Sharqi’ or ‘Raqs Beledi’.
As discussed before, belly dancing is credited with originating in middle-eastern countries. However, there are several theories attached to it. One such theory is that belly dancing has been present since the beginning of mankind as a birthing practice. It was a way to help women cope with childbirth.
Another theory suggests that it evolved from early Egyptian dances and religious performances. Or it originated from the migration of gypsies from India. Some suggest that belly dancing originated from the dance performances in Asian countries and Spain.
There are several theories attached to the origins of belly dance. But the most famous and widely accepted theory is the next one. This theory suggests belly dancing originated in the middle-east in the 18th and 19th century. This is the most renowned and popular theory of belly dance history.
In the United States of America, it became famous in 1893 at the Chicago world fair. Here belly dance was performed for the very first time. It stirred quite a bit of flutter. As the costumes and the moves were too notorious for the conservative Victorian people.
In this fair, a dancer called ‘Little Egypt’ stole the show by giving the most notorious belly dance performance according to the Victorian audiences. Subsequently, it gathered attention. And more popularity (albeit not the most positive) from then onwards.
Belly dancing uses the torso to perform. And carry out various complex and expressive movements. Due to this, the costumes used in Belly dancing are customized. In order to carry out these flexible and fluid moves with ease.
The costumes most often used to perform belly dance are called ‘Bedlah’. In Arabic, this means a suit. A ‘bedlah’ usually includes a fitted bra or top and a hip belt (also fitted). As well as a long skirt or harem pants. The entire outfit is decorated with embellishments, jewelry, beads, sequins etc.
Due to the display of ample skin (here, the abdomen) that is shown in this dance form, it has often been frowned upon. And considered a little ‘immoral’ by the Western audiences (and conservative cultures). That is why in many cultures, the costume is modified. In order to suit the sensibilities of the local audiences.
To read more about the controversies surrounding belly dancing. As well as to know more about the benefits of belly dance let us head over to the next section.
Belly Dancing: It’s controversies and benefits
There are many controversies surrounding belly dance. And there are an equal number of benefits as well. Under this section, we are going to explore both of them. Let us first start with controversies. And then move on to various benefits of belly dance.
- Belly dance is often regarded as a controversial dance style. This is mainly because of the use of certain seductive moves in this dance form. These moves are considered a little too provocative for certain conservative cultures. There are many movements like percussive movements involving the hips. And shimmies and vibrations that have been labeled a ‘bit too out there’ or ‘immodest’ for some conservative cultures. Also because, most of the times, you find this dance performed extensively in Burlesque, carnivals and all. It is considered a dance for the gypsies. And is not given the due respect it deserves by many. Also, there is a controversy surrounding the outfits/costumes worn by belly dancers. As mentioned earlier, the most popular costume for belly dancers is ‘Bedlah’. This showcases the abdomen of the dancers. This display of the abdomen is often frowned upon by many (conservative cultures). And is often tagged as ‘immodest’or ‘too open minded’. However, there are many who treat belly dancing with respect. And give it the due it deserves. After all, we should look at it the way it is. This is a majestic, flexible and expressive dance style.
- After discussing the controversial aspect of belly dancing. Let us look at its many benefits. Belly dancing is an extremely good exercise for the torso and abdomen. It helps to keep your spine and back strong and healthy. It builds strength in your abdominal region, thighs, and arms. Also, since, belly dancing is a low impact activity, anyone can attempt it. People of all ages can learn belly dance as it is not too strenuous for your body. And it keeps your muscles strong and builds stamina. It is also very good for your joints as it does not require you to put a strain on them. Moreover, the hip movements help to strengthen the leg muscles. And all the torso moves help to strengthen the abdominal muscles. Plus, belly dancing helps to make us more flexible. And improves our stamina manifold. All in all, belly dance is extremely beneficial.
Belly dancing and its fame worldwide
Belly dance as we have already witnessed is quite famous throughout the world. As we have mentioned above, it was introduced to the United States by the famous belly dancer ‘Little Egypt ’. She performed at the Chicago world fair.
However, Belly dance became more famous. And came into focus when the celebrated Latin American singer Shakira made belly dance popular through her performances. The belly dance Shakira has showcased in her various music videos has helped to increase the popularity of the dance style. She has been a belly dance student since childhood. This is due to her Lebanese and Colombian heritage.
That is why we saw an influx of belly dancing moves and steps incorporated in all her performances- video or stage etc. So, in the early 2000s Belly dancing became a part of the popular culture. All because of the killer belly dance moves showcased by Shakira. Whether on the dance floor and music videos or on stage, for the FIFA world cup etc.
Then, of course, it gained more popularity once Hollywood started incorporating belly dance numbers in their various movies. As well as on television shows, and music videos. There are several belly dancing numbers in many ‘James Bond’ movies. There is even a reference to the popular dance style in the second part of the movie series ‘Sex and the City’.
Then, many reality television shows have also featured belly dance numbers. But belly dancing was most prominently used in several music videos of pop stars. Whether it is Shakira and Beyonce’s iconic ‘Beautiful Liar’ music video or Britney Spears ‘I’m a slave for you’. Several popular singers have incorporated belly dance moves (or entire numbers) in their music videos.
Other notable and popular names that have used belly dance movements (or adopted belly dancing style) include Christina Aguilera, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, and Jennifer Lopez amongst others.
Then there have been several documentaries also made on belly dance including ‘American Bellydancer’ and ‘Bellydancers of Cairo’. Also, belly dancing is the popular (and chosen) dance style for various burlesque shows.
Belly dancing in Bollywood
Belly dancing in India has been prevalent for quite some time. The Indian belly dance scene has been quite popular. It first became famous with the majestic and impressive performance doled out by the mesmerizing Helen in many movies. When she performed belly dance on the supremely popular number ‘Mehbooba O Mehbooba’ in the classic ‘Sholay’. It became an instant hit and rage all over the country.
This magnificent performance made belly dancing famous among Indians and Bollywood. And this led to several other such numbers performed by various popular female actors in Bollywood. For example, Zeenat Aman in the movie ‘The Great Gambler’.
Since then many famous Bollywood female actors have attempted belly dance moves. Either as stand-alone item numbers or just some moves along with other dance styles. So we can see several popular stars having their own belly dance numbers. For example, Mallika Sherawat in ‘Maiya Maiya’ in the famous movie ‘Guru’.
Famous Belly dance numbers
And Rani Mukherjee in the song ‘Aga Bai’ from the movie ‘Aiyyaa’ also showcased some killer belly dance moves. Perhaps the female actor with the most belly dancing numbers in her kitty is Katrina Kaif. She has, in fact, done two belly dance numbers in her movie career so far.
One is the trend setting ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ from the movie ‘Tees Maar Khan’. And the other is in the song ‘Mashallah’ from the movie ‘Ek Tha Tiger’. And in both these songs, she showcases some jaw-dropping belly dance moves. Both these numbers became hugely popular. They have gathered massive success. And were the highlights of both these movies.
There have been many such belly dance numbers in various Bollywood movies. The most recent belly dancing number was in the movie ‘Airlift’. Most of these numbers are very hot and seductive to look at. That is the main motive of the makers. And according to this thought, the costumes that are worn add to this hot, seductive and sexy look.
Belly dance in movies
In all the examples mentioned above, the belly dance numbers were performed in a cabaret-like setting or a social dance (or burlesque) like setting. Here the women are performing in the midst of men gawking at them.
As seen above, belly dance numbers are incorporated to give the dance number a sexy, seductive feel and look. This is to make sure it attracts more audience for the movie. These numbers are usually the talking points of the film. And while most are performed classy and hot. Some have been performed a bit too provocatively for the conservative Indian audiences.
Nevertheless, belly dance has been a major influence for many Bollywood dance numbers. And it has gathered a huge fan following with the audience. And the popularity of these belly dancing numbers has motivated several people. As well as inspired them to learn this dance style in India.
Belly Dance and its professional aspects in India and share on Sharehiss
The professional aspects of belly dance in India are not that many. But not very dismal also. Professional belly dancers usually perform in various events and stage shows. They also compete professionally.
Then mostly professional belly dancers either become choreographers for various events. And in Bollywood or they become teachers. Some also open their own dance schools or teaching centers. But mostly, belly dance requires them to travel. You travel all over the country and abroad for shows or take workshops.
Although, the stigma attached to belly dancing in India still exists to a certain extent. It is slowly and surely reducing. As more and more people are inching towards learning this expressive dance style.
And we here at Artistzo want to showcase the brilliance of belly dance style. And the impressive moves performed by many professional belly dancers. By providing them a platform on Artis. So, all of you belly dance enthusiasts share your belly dancing videos on Sharehiss.
And we will share your awesome videos here at Artistzo-The Artists Hub. And make belly dance even more popular worldwide.