“Bellydance”: Origins, etc

At times, our group has been asked to attend a meeting or event and put on a bit of an “educational” program about “belly dance.” I thoroughly enjoy these types of gigs. They truly let my inner geeky nerd come out to shine! However, I have noticed the general “non-raks” public is not satisfied with my ambiguous answers on the origins of the dance.

I explain that I am no where near an expert in the field. Not by a long shot! I generally defer to those who have extensive research in the area and have been in the community much linger than myself. Sahra Kent and Shira are just two examples of wonderful ladies using their talents for the betterment of the oriental dance community. I dearly treasure their efforts! You can check out much more about them by looking into Sahra’s Journey Through Egypt programs and Shira’s website, shira.net.

But these people want answers and I am there. So I tell them what I know. It goes something like this:

What a lot of people consider to be belly dance in the western world, is not even close to what it even is. In fact, it may be easier to start with what it is not. It is NOT stripping! It is not pole dancing. It is not “just shaking your ass.” It doesn’t even use that much of the belly, per se, and probably should be called something else. Dance Orientale…there’s a much better term.

Dance orientale is a an amalgamation of various folk dances and movements from the area of the world many scholars refer to as “the cradle of civilization” and into what was ancient Phoenicia and Egypt. Since the times before memory, dance has been a part of life. As people move across the globe, their music and dances go with them…just as their daily habits, religious beliefs, etc. Each particular area or group of people have added their own touches and flavor throughout the eons.


(This is the part where I tell the story of Ishtar going through the gates of Hell to retrieve her lover, consequently losing a veil at each gate, hence giving some shred of connection to ancient fertility rites. However, I was informed by a gentleman that that particular tid-bit was unnecessary and “unsettling.” So, for now, I have left it out from the usual spiel.)

Our group usually follows it up with examples of variations and costuming differences from different areas. We do our best to explain the folk dancing end of things.

So, while no one really knows the exact beginning of this dance, let us appreciate the ever-evolving dance with all it’s roots!

Judges 11:34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh to his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.

Psalms 30:11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

Psalms 149:3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises to him with the tambourine and harp.

Psalms 150:4 Praise him with the tambourine and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Jeremiah 31:13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.

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