Belly dancing originated from various sources which are why there are lots of theories about its origin. It is known world-wide and practiced by a lot of people.
As far as world history is concerned, Belly Dancing is among the oldest societal dances. It is believed that it originated from the Eastern Mediterranean. This is due to the fact that there are similarities in Egyptian artwork poses and modern dance.
Belly dancing have two forms that are called raqs baladi and raqs sharqi. Raqs baladi is a social dance in Lebanon and Palestine. It is performed by everyone during festivities such as weddings that are intended for celebrations and mere fun. The theatrical version of Belly dancing is the “raqs shargi”. Raqs sharqi is the most popular type of dance in the United States today. Both forms of Belly dancing can be performed with female and male dancers.
Belly dancing is a native dance that is why it is generally learned in the early stage of childhood. The children learn the dance informally by imitating and observing their elders through community and social celebrations, along with informal gatherings like most social dances. Nowadays, belly-dancing classes are offered throughout the world. Skilled dancers of this art share their knowledge that was even passed down from the indigenous people.
The real and exact origin of Belly dancing is widely debated by dance enthusiasts. Dancers who attempt to understand the origin of this dance did some research. This is because these dancers overlooked the fact that most Middle Eastern dances take place only in social backgrounds rather than going with the current glamorous and more visible background of professional dancers in nightclubs these days. There are lots of theories about the origin of belly dancing due to the misunderstandings of the people who want to learn its art. It is also regarded as a fusion of different dance styles. This is why belly dancing has many origins. Thus, most of the dance styles are derived from folk dances.
Here is a list of theories about the origin of belly dancing, according to most dancers:
1. Belly dancing originated in Greece and it spread because of Alexander the Great.
2. Belly dancing originated from a religious dance that a Temple Priestess made.
3. Belly dancing originated from the Upper Ancient Egypt through indigenous dancing.
4. Belly dancing descended from Uzbekistan and traveled to India because of the slave trade.
5. Belly dancing was spread during the Romani people’s migrations (termed as “gypsies”) and other related groups.
6. Belly dancing originated in Northwest India, particularly in Banjara of Rajasthan.
7. Belly dancing is part of a traditional birthing practice in its region or regions of origin.
From all the theories stated above, the first one is considered as the most “believed” theory. This is although the most popular theory is that it originated from a religious dance. The theory about the “birthing practice” has several movements that are incorporated in the modern “raqs sharqi”. This is because some of the movements demonstrated a type of exercise in order to ease childbirth. Thus, there are two points stated above that suggests that the so-called “Roma dance” is the origin of belly dancing. Regardless of where this dance began, it has a vast history and this eventually traveled fast around the world. It has a wide history in Africa and the Middle East as well.
The most popular costume style include a bra or a fitted top that usually have coins or beans, along with a skirt and a fitted belt placed in the hips that have fringes of coins or beads. The skirts may be layered, paneled, circular or straight -styled. A veil is sometimes used in performing a complete dance. The veil must be four or three and a half yards in length. It is used as a part of the dance in order to frame and see the movements of the belly dancer. Egyptian belly dancers wear dresses that are fully beaded and designed according to tradition and dance. In the western world, dancers are free to choose the design of the costume according to fantasy and taste.
The basic step of this form of dance is doing a circular motion on an isolated part of the body. An example of this is a step where in the dancer performs in a circular motion that is parallel to the ground and a body part. This is, in which, the shoulders or hips become isolated.
Belly dancing both have physical and mental benefits. Dancing alone gives a good workout to any person’s cardio-vascular muscles. This can increase the strength and flexibility focused on the “core muscles” or the torso. This form of dance also builds up leg strength. Most belly dance steps emphasize the so-called “muscular isolations” due to the fact that it teaches the ability to move different muscle groups or muscles in the body independently. The veil work can build the shoulders, arms and the general upper body system. Playing the “zils” builds independence and strength on the fingers. This form of dance is good for all body types and all age groups.
Belly dancing is now a part of the modern pop culture as well. Some pop icons of this age fused belly dancing into the modern hip-hop dancing. The Latin star Shakira has recently popularized belly dancing for she uses Latino dance along with belly dancing and modern dance. The late R&B singer Aaliyah used this form of dance as her “signature move”. Ssliyah named her dance the “belly roll” and it was featured in music videos. Some singers or performers that featured a kind of belly dancing in one of their music videos include Ciara, Rihanna, Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Nelly Furtado. Out of all the singers that performed belly dancing on music videos, only Shakira had a professional “Belly Dance training”.