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

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