Photo by emiliplakplak via Flickr (cc)
Art. A hootchy kootchy dance. Birthing rites. Arab folklore. Striptease. Holistic Therapy.
So what is Bellydance anyway?
All of the above mentioned descriptions are true or have been true at some point, but people’s interpretation and perception cover a wide range of views. Even today, Bellydance is constantly being redefined.
Often Bellydance is referred to as the oldest dance in the world. That can be a great attribute or perhaps not so much, especially if it is associated with prostituiton, what is known as the oldest profession in the world (actually, most well-known dance forms can be linked to prostitution at some point in history).
I often like to say that Bellydance has experienced severe persecution for that last 2000 years or so, yet, it still survives. In fact, it seems that global Bellydance popularity is growing faster than any other dance form today. Despite more and more people enrolling in Bellydance class, a stigma still lingers. The reasons for the stigma may be linked to several reasons. Perhaps it was the exploitation of a Syrian dancer named Little Egypt at the Chicago World’s Fair
in 1893, or the movie industry, or the use of Bellydance costume and imagery for striptease acts. Or, are these factors really linked to millennia of a political and religious ideology which diminishes all things feminine and condemns human sexuality?
Despite the stigma, Bellydance seems to express something that is resonating with women in every corner of the globe today. When I began my Bellydance career in 1981, most did not know what I was talking about or thought I was crazy dancing in the Middle East. Now, there are Maori Bellydancers in New Zealand; there are performing ensembles as large as 50 dancers in Germany; costumes are mass produced in China; even a commercials feature Bellydancers (males too
The six possible descriptions for Bellydance I have listed in the title probably need a full article for each (which we'll look at over the next few weeks). Until then, I would like to put the following idea forward: Bellydance comes from a time and place where the sexual act and all surrounding meaning and mystery was considered holy and sacred, perhaps the most important part of the human experience to be celebrated.
Making a connection to this celebration could explan why every Bellydance student says they experience such joy when Bellydancing.
Since 1981, the Middle East dance career of Yasmina Ramzy includes performing, teaching and lecturing in over 60 cities around the world, command performances for royalty and heads of state throughout the Middle East and creating choreography for many dance ensembles including Arabeque Dance Company (Canada) and the Bellydance Superstars (U.S.A.).