Where Did Belly Dancing Come From?

You must have heard of the belly dance, and might have seen people dancing it. But do you know where it came from? This article contains the answer to this question.

The term (belly dance)

 ‘Belly dance’ originates from a French statement that says: “Danse du ventre’. When translated to English, it means Stomach dance.

According to research, the English term of this dancing style was first used by Sol Bloom in the year 1983 when people were dancing in the World Fair in Chicago. Many people also call this dance ‘oriental dance’, while some still refer to it as ‘raks sharqi.

Now, let us talk about the origin of this dance.

The origin of this dance

Some people claim that the belly dance can be traced to about 6,000 years ago. It is also claimed that pagan societies that worshiped a female deity, usually use this dance to celebrate the fertility of women as a magical act.

However, some pieces of evidence have shown that there is a connection between belly dance and the early pagan practices. This dance seems to be good to prepare a woman’s body to deliver a child. But, there is no proof that shows its connection with the ancient rituals of fertility.

What we refer to as belly dance today, is a certain dance style that originates from Egypt and Turkey. The movements of this dance have made some people say that India also has a hand in it. Truly, some of its movements originate from India. The head slide is a typical example.

Research also suggests that migrants from India might have taken their dancing traditions along with them, thereby influencing other development of local dances. 

When it comes to dancing vocabulary, I also think that this dance (belly dance) has some African dance movements. For example, when you look at the body and circles undulations and the chest and hip shimmy, you will notice that they are present in the African and South American dance steps that are derived from Africa.

Now, every single dance tradition/ritual has changed the whole movement in some ways. Let us take the shimmies done in the belly dance as an example.  Presently, the African Shimmies feels differently from the belly dance shimmies.

All we have to say is that they still need to do a proper historical and choreological study of movement and dance so that we can be certain as to when and how these influences came about. But, it is actually not easy for a transient or momentary invention like dance.

A dance for public entertainment

Undeniably, what we refer to as belly dance today has always been used for public entertainment. The traveler tribes in Turkey and also in Egypt used to do some street performances. The people that we refer to as travelers are those that are originally from India and have migrated to some northern parts towards Europe and Turkey through modern Iran and Afghanistan, and also to some southern parts towards Egypt and northern Africa.

The travelers earned their living by performing and entertaining people, and also by dancing. Probably, they might have brought their dance traditions along with them, but they would also need to adapt to the movement vocabulary and the traditions of where they traveled to.