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How to belly dance

Definition:

Belly dance can simply be defined as “a solo dance performed by a woman with hip and abdominal movements.”

General information:

Many believe that belly dancing is an oldest form of dances taking origin from India to the Middle-East countries. It is a type of dance usually performed, when a woman is being prepared for her marriage. It is usually danced barefooted.

Belly dance can be called as a Western term being used for a traditional Arab dance form. In Arabic language, it is known as “raqs sharqi,” (oriental dance), or “raqs baladi,” meaning dance of country. In Greece, it is called as “tsiftetelli.” Raqs baladi is performed by both men and women of any age group for fun and celebration. Raqs sharqi, popular in America is also performed by both men and women.

Belly dance costumes:

The costumes used in belly dancing are quite colorful. In early days, the use of jewelry especially the belt of coins was thought to be a symbol of wealth. Other accessories used include the swords, snakes, and huge flaming candles. In Arabic, the costume used for this dance is called as “bedlah,” meaning suit, which was adopted by Egyptian dancers in 1930s, later spreading to the rest of the countries.

The bedlah costume consists of a fitted top, (with a fringe of beads/coins), a fitted hip belt, (also with a fringe of beads/coins), and a skirt (straight or circular). In the western world, “veil” is used which is a 3.5-4 yard fabric, prominating the arm movements throughout the dance.

In Egypt, the dancers normally use full beaded dresses, designed according to the type of dancing. This type of costume is especially meant for folk dancing and is popular among the European and American countries.

Generally, the costume in belly dancing varies with the dance style. The cabaret costume in belly dance usually consists of a hip belt, bra, skirt, with one or more veils. Other jewelry accessories like neck bands, arm coverings, face veils and shoes are considered as optional for the dancers.

Popularity:

It is believed that the belly dancing in America got popularity in about 1893, when for the first time, famous dancer little Egypt performed his dance in Chicago World’s Fair. Since 19th century, the belly dancing got much popularity across the U.S and thus whole world. Many belly dance shows are organized all across the world.

Belly dance history:
The exact origin of belly dance history is debatable.The history of Belly dancing is very old. The accurate information about belly dancing is not available, but there is a mixture of speculations about its history. Belly dancing is a mixture of various cultures including Lebanon, Egypt, Arabic Gulf, Turkey and North Africa. Morroco is thought to have several oral references for its origin, but lacking the fact of true origin of the dance. Some suggest Roma to be its origin, who are thought to spred the dance while traveling, picking up the dance and spreading it around.

Wherever is the origin, this dance has a long and old history in the Middle-East countries. The Middle-East countries have two popular belly dance styles as the “city dance,” (including stage, cabaret), and the “country dance,” (the regional folk dances), while the western countries use an umbrella form of belly dance, famous for the hip movements. The rhythm used in belly dancing, also varies from one area to the other.

Belly dance Technique:

Most of the basic steps and movements in belly dance are circular in motion, usually confined to one part of the body. Like, the movements made by hips would be a “hip circle,” and the use of rib-cage will be called as a” chest circle.”

Raqs Sharqi:

In raqs sharqi, the main focus lies on the hip and pelvic area. Raqs sharqi or “oriental dance, is one of the oldest dance forms in the world. The most important body part used in this style is the “hips.” Although this dance is thought to be a female’s dance, but men also do perform this dance.

Egyptian style Raqs Sharki:

In Egyptian style, although the basic steps remain the same, there is incorporation of ballet into raqs sharqi. In Egypt, there are three main forms of the dance being popular, Baladi, Sha’abi, Sharqi.

Turkish style:

Turkish belly dance often called as”tsiftetelli,” is more a form of wedding folk music, not actually connected to oriental dancing. Turkish dancers are famous to be more energetic, using finger cymbals known as “zils.”

Western belly dance:

Belly dance in Western world gained popularity in 1893, when “Little Egypt,” performed her dance at the World’s Fair. The classical Raqs sharqi is still popular in the western world; many dancers have created other forms known as “American Tribal dance.”

Belly dance in United States:

The popularity of belly dance in the United States dates back to 1950-1960, when the Americans became familiarized with belly dancing. Initially, the dance was performed by the Turkish and Greek dancers, but later on Americans also started learning it. Their interest in belly dancing gave rise to many styles, one of which is the “American –Tribal belly dance.”

Male belly dancing:

The role of men in belly dancing is debatable. The trend of male performers in this dance started in 60s-70s, by performers in the United-States.

Belly dance styles:

There are two main categories of belly dancing being practiced today;

·    Western belly dance.
·    Eastern belly dance.

Western belly dance styles:

Following are the few Western belly dance styles practiced:

1.    Classic American belly dance:

This is the original American belly style also called as “cabaret” or” night club” dance. It differs from the Eastern belly style in that; it has more freedom of movements, with more use of veils, props and zills. It has evolved new steps and concepts, thus giving rise to a Modern American belly style with more advanced moves.

2.    Tribal belly dance:

Tribal belly dance, which started in about 1960s, is a dance style performed by a group of dancers. In this style, the veil work is not used to an extent as in American style; however there is more use of finger cymbals and swords.

3.    Gypsy belly dance:

This style of belly dance is the interpretation of the folk dance of the “Gypsy,” originating from Spain, Turkey and Egypt. The dance is famous for its energy and passion, based on folk steps.

4.    Spiritual belly dance:

This dance style is believed to have a connection with the goddess of ancient times. In this style of belly dance, props are commonly used.

5.    Fusion belly dance:

Fusion belly dance consists of both the belly dance movements and the steps derived from outside.
6.    Fitness belly dance:

This style of belly dance is thought to be popular since 1970s. It is not an artistic dance, but usually done for exercise purposes. It has a wide variety of moves including, aerobic techniques, sit-ups etc.

Eastern belly dance styles:

1. Egyptian belly dance (raqs sharqi):

Egyptian or “oriental dance,” uses belly dance moves which are more artistic and describe emotional interpretation of the music into dance style. These dancers rarely use veil or floor work.

2. Turkish belly dance (Oriyantal Dansi):

Turkish style of belly dancing is thought to be bolder with use of finger cymbals. Floor work is also quite common in this style, with use of props as well.

3. Lebanese belly dance:

It is one of the ancient forms of belly dance, which is thought to be a mixture of both the Turkish and Egyptian belly dance. It is generally considered to be more energetic, but softer at the same time. In this style, use of props and finger cymbals is common.

4. East-Indian belly dance:

It is believed, that the Romani people started originating the belly dance moves in India long ago. Bollywood belly dancing is a fusion of core belly dance moves, with classical Indian dance. As it contains majority of the non-belly moves, so it is not an authentic belly dance.

Core moves in belly dancing:

Belly dance steps and moves:

It is said that there are 12 basic belly dance steps and moves. By practicing these 12 basic steps, one can become master of belly dancing.

a.    Basic Hip moves:

There are 3 basic hip movements usually performed by the belly dancers. For performing these three hip movements, a good posture is required by the dancers. Stand on your feet with slightly apart from each other, and distribute your weight between two feet. Slightly bend your knees. Shoulders are in a relaxed position, with the rib cage slightly moved up. Hold your arms in a comfortable position.

1.    Hip Twist:

In standing position, isolate and twist the right hip forward, and the left hip will swift back.
2.    Up and Down hips:

Standing in the same posture, right hip bone is moved upward and then down and vice versa. The leg muscles help to pull the knees up and down, so the knees should be kept relaxed.

3.    Hip Thrust:

Standing in the basic position, thrust the right hip to the side and slightly up. The feet are kept flat.

b. Rolling Hip moves:

There are three basic hip rolling moves.

1.    Belly dance hip figure 8’s:

There are 2 basic figure 8 hip moves.

Back to forward version:

A large figure 8 is painted on the floor and the dancer stands in the middle of it, with one circle of 8 on one side of the dancer and the other circle of 8 on the other side. First isolate your hips, and twist the right hip back, slide it to the side and thus twist it forward. Now, the left hip is moved in the same manner, as upon completion of one side of hip, the other hip is automatically positioned for the same movement.

Forward to back version:

For a forward to back, the direction of figure 8 is reversed. Isolating the hips and twisting the right hip forward, sliding it to a side and then twisting it back.

Down-Up version:

Push your right hip down, slide it to a side, lift up and then pull it back to its starting position.

Up-Down version:

Reverse the direction of the hip move as in down-up version to make it up-down one.

Belly dance hip circles:

In this type of belly dance, hips are used to draw from small-medium sized circles. Isolate the hips, sliding them to the right side; push them back and to left side; pushing them forward and to the right side to complete a circle.

Vertical belly dance hip circles:

A vertical belly dance is also called as “bicycle hips.” Isolating the hips, lift the right hip up, roll forward, push down, push back and then up to the starting point, tracing a circle which is vertical to the floor.

All the circular hip movements in belly dance can either be done in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

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