Goddesses & Amazons - Dance Articles
Goddesses & Amazons - Bellydance & Body Conditioning
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 and entertainment.   

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 western world.   

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 evolving. 

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 imitation.   

‘Salome’:  A 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 spy.   

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.     

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