The History and Evolution of Belly Dancing

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From Thousands of Years Ago Until Today!

Belly dancing is most commonly identified in pop culture through its creative costumes, mid-drifts, and coin belts and scarves, as well as its iconic use of the belly in dance moves. Although the west may have developed a view of belly dancing as being a sensual dance for men, the origin of belly dancing is quite different.

Belly Dance Background: Ancient Form of Preparing the Mother for Childbirth

Belly dancing has origins as an ancient form of preparation for childbirth. Belly dancing was originally a dance for fertility. Sisters and other close female family members performed the belly dance around the pregnant woman to wish her and her baby well on their journey together. They also encouraged her to perform the belly dance herself. Belly dancing was believed and is still believed to have positive effects on the woman’s ability to remain strong during labor and childbirth.

How We Identify What We Call “Belly Dance”

The term “belly dance,” was actually a term that was developed later, but is now more widely used than some of its original names. In the beginning, belly dance was most commonly referred to as “Raqs Sharqi.” The term belly dancing has actually developed from a translation of the French term “danse du ventre.” Some historians state that belly dance has origins that date back to more than 6,000 years ago. There is a debate about where belly dance originally developed. It is believed that belly dance originated from the Middle East and Africa, and in particular, in Egypt and Turkey. It is also believed that belly dance may have been influenced by traditional Indian dances and may also have some origins in India. Some movements seen in belly dancing are also seen in Indian dancing such as head movements.

Belly Dance as a Form of Socialization

Belly dance’s background can also be traced to having roots in social events, such as weddings. In both the Middle East and Egypt belly dancing has been a part of rituals at weddings. In Turkey, belly dancing has been used also a form of entertainment, as it is now used in the west in entertainment as well. Even though belly dancing sometimes is now given a “bad name,” for being a dance to entertain men, its origins were about celebrating the fertility of women. Belly dancing serves many different purposes including celebrating the fertility of women, socializing, entertaining, and is also performed at weddings, even today.

Belly Dancing Today

Even today, the style of belly dancing and what it is used for depends on where the dance is performed. For example, in Morocco, traditional belly dancing is seen as a spiritual dance that recognizes earth, wind, fire, and water.  In North Africa, and particularly in Egypt, belly dancing is seen as a dramatic expressive form of dance, while in the west, belly dance has developed as a form of entertainment. Currently, however, there is a movement in the west to reclaim belly dancing for its original purpose: to bless the woman as she prepares to bring new life into the world. Now, belly dance is also seen as a form of fitness and self-expression. If you are interested in learning more about belly dancing or are interested in taking a belly dance class you can view available classes in the area at

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