History Of Bellydance
Bellydance is thousands of
years old with its origins in the Middle East and North Africa. There are many different theories as to where
and how Bellydance originated. Some of
these theories are based upon fantasy and speculation and others upon observation
of cultural and anthropological traditions.
As the true origin has never been officially documented it has been left
to historians, dance ethnologists and enthusiasts to delve deep into the
possible origins of this beautiful ancient and evolving dance form.
The most realistic and widely
accepted explanation is that the dance developed as a part of fertility and
birthing rituals. Passed down from
generation to generation, the dance was taught to girls within cultural tribes
from a young age, and developed as a way of strengthening the muscles used in conception
and childbirth through the use of ritualized movements.
The moves are very natural to the way a woman’s
body is designed. And the focus on
isolating the abdomen and midriff musculature, increases blood flow to the
vital internal and reproductive organs. Thus massaging them and providing them
with a healthy blood flow.
Thus the dance was originally
created by women for women, and traditionally, was performed as an educational
and celebratory ritual. It is believed
that during the Ottoman Empire women dancers performed for their female peers
in harems as a form of entertainment.
Over the years it is believed
that the dance began to evolve as nomadic tribes and gypsies found themselves
crossing cultural borders and therefore sharing different folkloric dance
dialects. This increased the vocabulary
of the dance and it began to be recognized as a valuable form of social cohesion
Various folkloric troupes
began to perform for trade and with the increasing influx of international
trade and travel, westerners were soon exposed to the dance. This mystifying and mesmerizing dance form
soon captivated them and became open to fantasy and speculation with tales and
pictures of exotic dancers being written and painted to be taken back to the
The world trade fairs during
the 19 century then introduced the dance as a performing art which
exposed this previously culturally exclusive dance art to the rest of the
world. As a result, the art of
bellydance then travelled the world and became infused with western influences
that affected everything about the dance, from its posturing and music to its
costuming. This evolution is still
occurring today with many different dance styles and artistic interpretations
Historically it has been
widely practiced throughout the countries of the Middle East and Africa and now,
also in every continent in the world.
Famous Historical Stage
Performers or Fictional Characters:
‘Little Egypt’: An
imported (possibly Algerian) dancer at the Chicago world fair (1893) who
exposed bellydance to the United States and inspired a frenzy of interest and
fictional character created by Oscar Wilde for his play ‘Salome’ in Paris 1896.
She was a biblical era dancer who seductively performed the ‘dance of the seven
veils’ and inspired the cultural phenomenon ‘Salomania’.
‘Mata Hari’: A
performer who danced in Europe during World War II who was later exposed as a
Books of Interest
‘Serpent of the Nile’ Wendy
Buonaventura- a comprehensive historical guide from ancient to modern day.
‘Looking for little Egypt’
Donna Carlton- biography of Little Egypt.
‘Sisters of Salome’ Toni
Bentley- explores Salomania.
‘The Red Dancer’ Richard
Skinner- biography of Mata Hari.