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Lecture on Belly Dancing

I. Belly dancing is sometimes called Middle Eastern dance or Arabic dance. The
name is something of a misnomer in that all parts of the body are involved, but the
most featured parts are the hips.
A. ategories of Belly dancing
!. "a#s shar#i literally means oriental dance is most often performed by female
dancers but sometimes male dancers and is the style $hich is most familiar to
%esterners. "a#s shar#i is a solo improvisational dance $hich is staged in a
performing setting.
&. "a#s baladi means dance of country or fol' dance and is danced socially by men
and $omen of all ages in some Middle Eastern countries usually at festive occasions
such as $eddings.
B. The origins of the roots of belly dancing are not $ell defined because it is a
dance of fol'loric origin and this tends to be the case $ith fol' dances because
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they are passed do$n from generation to generation and performed by all people in
the community.
!. )ne theory is that belly dancing $as originated by $omen for $omen to
demonstrate or to ease childbirth. Although there is no documented evidence to
support this, this is promoted in %estern dance schools because it buffers the
negative se*ual stereotyping of the practice and the performance of belly dancing.
There is supporting evidence that t$o specific belly dance movements have been
used in childbirth for generations but this is not enough to account for the history of
a comple* dance used primarily for public performance.
&. Belly dancing $as populari+ed during the "omantic movement of the !,
th
and
!-
th
centuries $hen )rientalist artists depicted romantici+ed images of harem life in
the )ttoman Empire. During this time, dancers from the Middle Eastern countries
performed at %orld .airs dra$ing cro$ds that rivaled those for science and
technology e*hibits.
/. 0everal dancers have engaged in )riental dancing, sometimes more
interpretative than authentic. There $as also the dancer Mata 1ari $ho $as
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convicted in !-!2 by the .rench for being a 3erman spy $ho is attributed $ith
being a pseudo(4avanese dancer.
B. ostume for belly dancing is mostly the bedlah $hich is Arabic for suit and the
origins of this can be traced to the 5ictorian painters of )rientalism and the
interpretive productions of harems in vaudeville, burles#ue and 1olly$ood during
the turn of the last century rather than anything that $ould be authentic Middle
Eastern dress.
!. The bedlah style includes a fitted top or bra usually adorned $ith fringe or beads
or coins, a fitted hip belt $ith a fringe of beads or coins and a s'irt or harem pants.
The belt can be a separate piece or se$n into a s'irt. The hip belt is $orn lo$ on
the hips and the bra matches the belt and does not resemble lingerie. The classic
harem pants are full and gathered at the an'le. 0ometimes pants and a sheer s'irt
are $orn together. 0'irts can be constructed of multiple layers of chiffon to create a
flo$ing effect or can be made of figure hugging lycra.
a. Badia Masabni, a airo cabaret o$ner is credited $ith bringing the costume to
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Egypt to please the %estern tourists.
!. 0ince the !-67s it has been illegal in Egypt for belly dancers to perform publicly
$ith their midriff uncovered or to display e*cessive s'in. It has become common
for performers to $ear a long, figure(hugging lycra one(piece go$n $ith cut(outs
filled $ith sheer flesh(colored fabric.
a. If a separate bran and s'irt are $orn, a belt is rarely used and a sheer body
stoc'ing must be $orn to cover the midsection.
b. Egyptian dancers traditionally dance in bare feet but more currently $ear shoes
and even high heels.
&. In Lebanon, there is no prohibition on sho$ing the stomach and the bedlah style
is more common and the s'irts tend to be more sheer and s'impier than in Egypt,
allo$ing more of the body to be sho$n. The veil is more $idely used and matches
the outfit along $ith high heels.
/. Tur'ish dancers also $ear bedleh style costumes. In the ,7s and -7s, the art
became debase in Tur'ey and a stripperes#ue costume developed $ith plunging
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bras and s'irts designed to sho$ off the both legs up the hip. There are still many
serious Tur'ish belly dancers $ho $ear more moderate costumes but all Tur'ish
belly dance costumes reflect the flirtly playful style of Tur'ish belly dance.
8. American dancers often purchase their costumes from Egypt or Tur'ey but
distinguish the classic American style by adding a headband $ith fringe and using
sheer harem pants instead of lycra and decorating the bra $ith coins and metal$or'.
6. Baladi and fol'loric dancers $ere a full(length beledi dress or a galabeyah
$ithout cutouts.
9. :rops used to enhance the choreography include finger cymbals, cane, veil,
s$ord, candelabra headdress, fire stic's, tambourine, fan and sna'es, usually
pythons or a boa constrictor.

. 0teps and Techni#ue of belly dancing.
!. Most of the movements in belly dancing involve isolating different parts of
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the body $hich appear to be similar to the isolations used in ballet and modern
dance, but the impetus of the movement is different. In most styles of belly dancing,
the focus is on the hip and pelvic area.
a. The shimmy is a shimmering vibration of the hips and is created by moving the
'nees past each other at a high speed. This is sometimes achieved by contracting
the gluteal muscles instead. 0ometimes the shimmy results from one leg $hich is
bearing $eight $ith the other leg to the side. 0houlder shimmies are also employed.
b. The arms s$ing and the hands are used to frame the moving part of the body.
c. 1ip thrusts are a basic move $hich help alternate the $eight on the legs and
create an impression of a s$inging pelvis.
d. ;ndulations are rotating movements of the chest for$ard, up, bac' and do$n to
create the impression of riding a camel.
&. Egyptian belly dance includes three main forms of the traditional dance
associated $ith belly dance.
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a. Baladi is a fol' style of dance from the Arabe Tribes $ho settled in ;pper Egypt.
b. 0har#i is based on the baladi style but $as further developed by dancers $ho
rose to fame during the golden years of the Egyptian film industry.
c. The influence of ballet can be seen in belly dances today as dancers stand on
rel<v= as they turn or travel in a circle.
d. Belly dancers in Egypt are not $ell regarded and Egyptians do not consider it to
be a respectable profession. Most dancers $ho perform in Egypt for tourists are
foreigners.
e. Dancers are not allo$ed to perform certain movements or do any floor $or'.
D. 3reco(Tur'ish Belly Dance of today might have been influenced by Arabs
before the )ttoman Empire as much as by the Egyptian and 0yrean>Lebanese forms.
Because of the restraints put on the Egyptians, Egyptian belly dancing is noted for
its restraint and elegance $hile Tur'ish belly dance is playful and uninhibited.
Many professional dancers and musicians in Tur'ey continue to be of "omani
heritage. 0omething uni#ue to the Tur'ish style is the use of the rhythm of a ->,
time signature.
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E. %estern Belly Dance. The term belly dancing is credited to 0ol Bloom, the
entertainment director of the !,-/ %orlds .air, calling belling dancing a gold
mine. There $ere authentic dancers from several Middle Eastern and ?orth
African countries but it $as the Egyptian Theatre of The 0treet in the airo e*hibit
$ho gained most of the notoriety. The dancers $ere uncorseted and gyrated their
hips $hich $as shoc'ing to 5ictorian sensibilities. There $ere no soloists, but a
dancer nic'named Little Egypt stole the sho$, ho$ever it is disputed as to $ho this
really $as.
!. The popularity of these dances created many imitators $ith many claiming to be
from the original group. 5ictorian society remained shoc'ed and dancers $ere
sometimes arrested and fined. Belly dancing in America $as nic'named the
1ootchy(@ootchy or the shimmy and sha'e. A film featuring belly dancing $as
considered to be immodest and $as eventually censored. Men floc'ed to burles#ue
theaters, carnivals and circus lots to see belly dancing.
&. "uth 0t.Denis used Middle Eastern(inspired dance in a silent film Intolerance
and her goal $as to lift dance to a respectable art from at a time $hen dancers $ere
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considered to be $omen of loose morals.
/. 1olly$ood produced the films The 0hei', leopatra and 0alom= to capitali+e
on %estern fantasies of the orient.
8. Immigrants from Arab 0tate $ho arrived in ?e$ Aor' in the !-/7s danced in
nightclubs and restaurants and some of todays most accomplished performers of
belly dancing are their descendants.
6. In the !-97s and 27s many dancers began teaching. Middle Eastern and Eastern
bands too' dancers on tour $ith them $hich helped to spar' an interest in the dance.
9. American abaret or American "estaurant belly dancing uses traditional Tur'ish
and Egyptian movements but has developed its o$n distinctive style.
2. Tribal .usion belly dance uses many different styles including flamenco, ballet,
burles#ue and hip hop.
,. 3othic Belly Dance is a style $hich uses elements from 3oth subculture.
-. In !-,2, American Tribal 0tyle Belly Dance BAT0C $as created and although a
completely modern style, its steps are based on a fusion of ancient dance techni#ues
from ?orth India, the Middle East, and Africa.
.. Australian Belly Dance $as due to the influ* of migrants and refugees escaping
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troubles in the Middle East in the late !-27s and early ,7s.
3. anadian Belly Dance is similar to the community in the ;nited 0tates.
1. Belly Dancing in the ;@ and Ireland has been evidenced since the early !-97s
$ith many styles being taught.
I. Male Belly Dancing
A. There is historical evidence of male belly dancing from the )ttoman Empire
$hich the 0ultan employed both male and female belly dancers $ith the males
performances being so se*ually provocative to have caused fights from the audience
causing these performances to be banned in !,69. Eventually the ban $as lifted but
$ith the suppression of harem culture $ith the t$o follo$ing 0ultans, the dance lost
the support of the royal patrons and gradually disappeared.
!. Male belly dancing today is resurgence but there is heated debate on $hether the
costumes and choreography should be different than for female belly dancing.
4. 1ealth and belly dancing
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!. Belly dancing is a non(impact, $eight(bearing e*ercise that is suitable for all ages
and is good for the prevention of osteoporosis in older people. It is also a good form
of e*ercise for younger people and helps them to feel good about their bodies.
@. Belly dancing in pop culture has recently been made popular by Latin American
superstar 0ha'ira. Although she is olumbian, her part(Lebanese bac'ground has
influenced her style.
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