Monday, September 10, 2012

Belly Dancers


Belly dancing is gorgeous, exciting and a lot harder than it looks.  The two main styles of belly dance were started in Egypt and Turkey.  Although they may look similar, both the music, rhythms and dance moves are different.  The Egyptians call it raqs sharqi, the Turks named it oriental dansi, while the French call it danse du ventre, which means dance of the stomach.  It's believed that belly dance was originally demonstrated by older women to teach younger ones about sex and to strengthen stomachs and hips for childbirth. Whereas folklore dancers wore tunics or robes with hip-scarves decorated with coins, the more glamourous style of costumes became popular in the 1940s when Egypt was ruled by a King and Western-style films that showed more of women's bodies became popular.


Belly dancers are a traditional entertainment for weddings and engagements, but they've become the most popular in night clubs that cater to foreigners.  Belly dancers work in every major hotel, cruise ship, and many restaurants in Egypt.  The dancers are usually backed by a 6-piece band  composed of a singer, keyboard player, accordion player, and 3 drummers, and it can also include a kaula (flute-like instrument) and an oud (cross between a guitar and a banjo).

Belly dancer performing with her band.
Belly dancers are both loved and reviled.  Egyptians love their own fast-paced music and the fun of a belly dance performance, but the dancers themselves are considered little better than strippers or prostitutes -- creatures no self-respecting man would marry (which isn't really all that different from the West).  It's a shame because it's a very beautiful art form, especially as performed by "Dina," one of the most famous Egyptian dancers in the video below.



I know a lot about belly dancers because I was one.  I danced for years in New York, New Jersey, Alexandria and Cairo.  I loved it!  :-D

41 comments:

Kim Lajevardi said...

I agree that it's a beautiful art form. We go to Persian or Arab restaurants sometimes in the U.S. , and they often have dancers on weekend nights. When we first began going, I was of the opinion a lot of people are about them just being half-naked dancers, but after years of watching them, I long ago realized my mistake. The dancers work hard and they add a beauty and grace to the room.

Thanks for sharing more about Egypt :)

Elizabeth Prats said...

I have always wanted to learn!! There is even a club at my university--I've always meant to check it out but I was taking salsa at one time and then things got too busy even for that :/

Is it definitely worth trying? It looks beautiful!

Kate Larkindale said...

I love belly dancing. I had to learn it when I played an Arabian princess in a pantomime years ago. I didn't have much of a belly in those days... maybe I should take it up again now that I have plenty.

Cynthia said...

I've seen belly dancers at restaurants. It looks like a lot of fun and good exercise. I've even seen classes offered in my area for this.

L.G.Smith said...

I think they're beautiful. That's so cool that you're a belly dancer. Great workout too!

tfwalsh said...

That is so cool that you used to belly dance... I did a class once with a friend, and you're right, it's not easy. But it's a great work out;) Do you still practice or belly dance at home?

Stephen Hayes said...

We enjoyed watching some marvelous belly dancers on our recent trip to Turkey. Amazing what they can do. Mrs. Chatterbox scowled at me the whole time.

Kelly Hashway said...

I would love to know how to belly dance. That's so cool!

Natasha Hawkins said...

My daughters and I enjoy watching the show, So You Think You Can Dance. They had a belly dancer make it to the top 20 for the first time. She was amazing and it was fun to see a different style. One of my daughters has been dancing for 12 years (she's almost 15), and does Ballet (Pointe), Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, and even Hip-Hop. Dancing is a BIG part of my life too..and I love it!

Catherine Stine said...

YOU were a bellydancer?! That's so cool!

Precy Larkins said...

So cool! I've never tried belly dancing, and probably never will (with this big mommy tummy hanging out...nuh-uh, no way. I'd be too self-conscious. LOL).

Elise Fallson said...

That is so cool you were a belly dancer. I've tried it just for fun and it was so fricking hard! But if there were lessons I could take around here, I'd give it another shot in a heartbeat. (:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

There is a Moroccan restaurant in my area that employs belly dancers as entertainment. I don't know what's more enjoyable -- the dancing or the food! The women dancers are always good, but they also have a male belly dancer and he is phenomenal. A complete showman! Even the male guest who laugh at the idea at first admit afterwards that he was fantastic.

Jess said...

That's so cool that you were a belly dancer!! My sister has taken lessons before, and she really enjoyed them, though it was super challenging and she eventually put her scarves and such into the closet for good.

Pk Hrezo said...

Wow that's awesome you were a belly dancer. You must have a great set of abs! I've always admired the art. Here in Tampa at Busch Gardens they have a belly dancing tent and I always was fascinated with it as a kid. The dancers would always let you come up and pet their snakes and I thought that was the coolest.
It's too bad they don't get more respect. Would make a great story of a character who was a belly dancer! You should write one. :)

shelly said...

Belly dancing is beautiful. I've always wanted to learn. But I need a chunk of time.

Hugs and chocolate,

Shelly

http://www.shellysnovicewritings.blogspot.com/

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Lexa
Belly Dancing is an amazing art form. I'd be hard pressed to do that. What a beautiful woman.

The internet is such an amazing thing. We can all meet each other and make friends. I hope this proves to be a more positive tool than a negative one. Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comment on my Seven Deadly Sins post.
Nancy

Cherie Reich said...

That's so cool you were a belly dancer! They had one on So You Think You Can Dance (American version), and she was amazing.

Candilynn Fite said...

You always have such interesting posts. :) I've tagged you if you're interested. If not, I so understand!

Cathy Keaton said...

You were a belly dancer? That's pretty amazing. Sad that belly dancers get such a bad wrap in Egypt, though. I'm sure in other countries, they're considered cool by everyone.

michelle said...

My sister did some belly dancing lessons a few years back. I believe it's quite strenuous, but good exercise for the lower half of the torso. It definitely seems like a fun way to exercise...

Jimmy Fungus said...

I have always had weak abdominal muscles, maybe I should try some of this belly dancing. I would probably just throw out my back, if I did do it though.

Tara Tyler said...

that was asome! i learned some fun & interesting facts today! thanks!

Nickie said...

I've always wanted to learn to belly dance (mostly because I love the costumes! I love how sparkly and twirly they are... hehe).

Heather Murphy said...

This is an interesting history. My favorite modern day belly dancer is Shakira. I'm sure it is good exercise

Suze said...

We are Syrian and I have memories as a very small child of my mother being an accomplished belly dancer.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'd love to give it a go, but I have rubbish coordination - I would definitely be a comedy act!

Ravena Guron said...

I didn't know Shakira counted as a belly dancer! It's really cool :D I can't dance AT ALL!

Medeia Sharif said...

They dance so beautifully and gracefully. Great post.

Cecilia Robert said...

Oh wow, nice video. I've been trying belly dancing for a while now. hope to perfect it soon.. :D

DMS said...

One of my friends learned how to belly dance and she loves it. Not only is it beautiful- but it is a great workout. I am amazed that you know how to do it and think that is so cool. Great video!
~Jess

AmyMak said...

You've been a belly dancer. Okay. This just gets more interesting by the moment :) It is beautiful and I honestly don't know how anyone is that flexible or quick with their body.

Mina Lobo said...

Pictures or it didn't happen, Lexa.

Just kidding. (But seriously, pics would be cool.) Wow, y'all belly dancers have a special kinda control over your bodies, huh? I reckon you have to, so as to not throw out your back with a poorly executed hip snap or something, right? ;-)
Some Dark Romantic

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Me and some girlfriends took a class in Vancouver years and years ago, before the babies. I had hips but not the belly I have today. I'd love to take the class again. My DH says he better take insurance out on me first. I know, haha, funny guy!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I always thought belly dancing looked like fun, but figured my hips would never move like that. :)

cleemckenzie said...

I'll bet that is one super exercise! My problem would be to make everything go the way I wanted it to. I'll practice before I show you what I can do. :-)

mshatch said...

I am hugely impressed. It looks hard to learn!

rebeccabradleycrime.com said...

I did hear that Belly dancing was really good for you and people were taking it up as a form of fun exercise. It's great to hear about it from someone who has actually done it. I'd be terrible though, I have absolutely no rhythm!

Marsha Sigman said...

I'm not sure my hips work that way. Just started Zumba classes and I may be dying.ha

Tagged you on my blog!

M. Christine Weber said...

Belly dancing has GOT to be an incredible workout. And I'm super impressed you used to be one! What a fun thing to do!!! :)

Tamara said...

Holy crap, that is SO cool. Belly dancing is something I always wanted to get involved in, but never had the time/money. A really close friend of mine was taking belly dancing lessons for awhile and I went to a few with her. Plus, we went to see some bellydancers perform and it was SO much fun.

I am totally impressed that you did this. AND I lived in the Jersey/PA area for years, about an hour and a half out of NY. I miss it SO much. What area of Jersey are you from? I lived in Burlington. And then in Philly and the suburbs of Philly. :)

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