Belly Dance


Dance Styles



Arabian Fantasy


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Dance is a sort of universal language. Children dance as soon as they can walk, all countries and cultures have dance in some form. At some times and places, its been used as part of religion and ritual. But for most people, dance is just a way to express joy and to celebrate. And the style I chose to follow is middle eastern dance, known to most people as belly dance.

Belly dance: what its not, where it came from, how it got here

Despite how a lot of people see it, belly dance wasn't originally intended as a dance of seduction, to entice and entertain men. The dance has its roots in Middle Eastern folk dances, performed on social and celebratory occasions by men, women and children. It moved towards a women-only dance form with the Arabic/Islamic practice of segregating the genders. As women socialized only with each other, so the dance became a celebration of femininity. As such, it can be very sensual, with movements drawing attention to and emphasizing those aspects of the body that are considered particularly feminine. So I can see why men enjoy watching it, but that's not what its about... 

Belly dance in various forms has been practiced in the Middle East since the 1400s. But it wasn’t until the 1890s that it was really noticed in the west. As Turkish and Arabic artists came to the west seeking work, they bought their dance form with them. In 1893, an Arabic dancer referred to as Little Egypt appeared at an exhibition in Chicago and sparked a lot of interest in the dance form. Belly dancers appeared in films during the early days of Hollywood, and that’s where the image of the scantily clad girl dancing in a seductive fashion, draped with veils came about. Oh and the jewel in the navel – that’s never been a true Middle East dance thing.

During the seventies, the women’s movement started to grow in force and it took belly dance to its heart – particularly in the USA. Because the dance focuses on women’s strength and beauty, and because it has a history of being an art form by women for women, it appealed to the feminist viewpoint.

In the UK, there have been dancers and teachers around for a while now, but its never been a widely advertised and promoted dance form. If you want to learn it, you can find someone to teach you, but its not really something you stumble across. 

Why "belly" dance?

I've read a few theories about this one... and I have no idea which one is true. 

One theory says it's a corruption of the word Baladi, an Arabic term meaning something like "the country". The term has been used to describe the more traditional, tribal type dance styles, and maybe this is where the name comes from.

The one I prefer is that the Europeans who visited the East in the 19th century, saw the dance and referred to it as belly dance because you see more movement of the torso than in western dance (which seems far more static and limb based). Of course, belly dance is a lot more than torso and belly movement. In fact, it's more hip than belly.

Why do I belly dance?

I'd been interested in learning belly dance for many years. Not sure why... I did hear somewhere that it's very good for helping relieve back problems (which I've had in the past) - I guess because it strengthens the muscles in the back and makes you more supple. 

But until a few years ago, I hadn't seen any classes or videos teaching the dance. Then a class was advertised in the list of local evening classes, so I signed up and have been dancing ever since. I no longer attend the same class, but I do still take lessons with a couple of teachers on a regular basis, plus attend workshops when I can and practice regularly both alone and with some friends I met through the dance.

Dancing with Arabian Fantasy 1999 I have danced with a couple of troupes - Arabian Fantasy and Zuhuur al Hamra Kubri - at local fairs, fetes and a few parties, and at student recitals. But mainly I dance just for fun and for exercise. The main reason I dance is to release stress and to feel good. It matters little to me what I look like, I just enjoy dancing. To the left is an older picture of me dancing, just in case you're interested. There are more pictures in the Gallery and under Costuming.