Although the origins of belly dance have not been recorded properly, its history dates back thousands of years. Belly dance has roots in several Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures and is known by several names – including danse orientale, rakkase, and raqs sharki. Belly dance has been practiced for many reasons over the millenia, including childbirth preparation, bonding, and celebration.
Belly dance consists of many movements that distinguish it from other dance forms. The dance is best known for the isolated abdominal movements. However, belly dance also involves isolation of many other parts of the body – chest, arms, shoulders, hands, head, and hips. Another feature of the dance is layering – rhythmic, simultaneous movement of several parts of the body. Belly dance movements can be quite complex, and a dancer must be skilled in order to execute the movements gracefully.
Belly dance was introduced in the United States in 1893 during the Chicago World’s Fair. Unfortunately, after that time, many exploited the dance in order to make a quick profit. Many of today’s misconceptions about the dance stem from this time period – where Hollywood glitz, harem fantasies, and sleazy behavior overshadowed the true history of this timeless dance.
American belly dancers work hard today to preserve the dance and present it with integrity. In the U.S., there are women and men who perform traditional dances specific to one of the dance’s countries of origin. Other dancers adopt a combined style or even incorporate other forms of dance into their movements, creating new interpretations of one of the oldest forms of dance. While there are many variations, all serious dancers maintain a respect for the dance and for the cultures from which it came.
Q: Is belly dancing hard?
A: Belly dancing is harder than most people think. It uses muscles you’ve probably never consciously used before. With proper instruction and patience, the challenge is part of what makes the dance so much fun! Plus, we are always available for extra help if you need it.
Q: What body type is best for belly dancing?
A: Unlike many other forms of dance, belly dancing is truly open to people of all shapes and sizes. It’s important to remember that your body type will also determine the way the moves look on your body, so no one move will look the same on any two people.
Q: Do men belly dance?
A: Yes! There are many famous male belly dancers around the world. Men are always welcome to come give it a try at one of our classes.
Q: Do you have to have prior dance experience to belly dance?
A: The posture, arm positioning, and moves used in belly dancing differ from many other forms, so you don’t have to have any dance experience. However, if you have danced before, you may find it easier to learn, especially the choreographed dances.
Q: What areas of the body does belly dancing work?
A: Belly dancing does not just focus on the stomach muscles as many people believe. It’s a low impact total body workout that isolates various muscle groups all over the body.
Q: What should I wear to class?
A: Comfortable workout clothes and a hip scarf are recommended. We normally dance barefoot, but socks or appropriate shoes are fine. A bared belly is not required for class, but it does help both you and the instructor to see if you are doing the moves correctly.
Q: How long will it take before I’ll be able to perform?
A: That’s a question that has no one answer. It depends on the dancer’s natural ability as well as how much effort they put into learning the dance. Dori tries her best to provide performance opportunities to the students who wish to perform. However, the Egyptian Sun belly dancers who perform regularly have been studying the dance form for years.
Q: What is the right age to start taking belly dance lessons?
A: As with any other kind of skill, the sooner you start to gain experience, the better. But don’t be discouraged by your age! From 4 to 104, belly dancing is great exercise for all ages.
Q: There are many belly dance teachers in town. What makes Egyptian Sun stand out?
A: Individuality! Egyptian Sun prides itself on each dancer having their own personal style, rather than having everyone look exactly the same. Our troupe has a very free, laid-back, supportive atmosphere in which dancers are allowed to explore their own style. Our two hours of class each week are enough to provide our dancers with the skills to please a wide range of audiences, from critical Middle Eastern eyes to the crowds in Baltimore’s popular music venues.