Traditionally known as the “Oriental Dance,” belly dancing has been celebrated for centuries by royalty, writers, poets, artists and musicians.
Many experts say belly dancing is the oldest form of dance, having roots in all ancient cultures from the Orient to India to the Middle East. Throughout history, this ritualized expression has usually been performed for other women–generally during rites and social festivities.
Belly dancing is natural to a woman’s bone and muscle structure with movements emanating from the torso rather than in the legs and feet. The dance often focuses on isolating different parts of the body, moving them independently in sensuous patterns, weaving together the entire feminine form. Belly dancing is generally performed barefoot, thought by many to emphasize the intimate physical connection between the dancer, her expression, and Mother Earth.
East to West
In America, belly dancing enjoyed its first significant renown when the famous dancer, Little Egypt, performed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Americans found themselves fascinated by the exotic body rhythms and music, eventually including them in many silent films made just a few years later. Costumes and dancing styles were given a distinctive Hollywood flare and, in turn influenced dancers in the Middle East, thus evolving the art form to a new level.
Since the turn of the century, belly dancing has grown enormously in popularity across the United States and the world. Belly dance festivals, workshops, and seminars take place constantly, attracting large audiences of interested, involved men and women. Many dancers now study the art form intensively, traveling to the Middle East and elsewhere to experience it where it originated.
For the Beginner
Belly dance is suitable for women of all ages, body types and professions. Interested students should consider their expectations and set personal goals. There are numerous styles and approaches to belly dance that are governed by your personal taste, ambition, talent, physical ability, and dedication to practice.
To begin: Register for a local belly dancing class and /or buy a few home instructional videos. Videos and DVD’s fit nicely into the convenience of your lifestyle-they enable you to work at your own pace, at your own schedule. Beginning with belly dancing videos and DVD’s provide you with a framework of the basic steps at which to build confidence and self esteem. Once acquainted with the dance moves, it’s time to sign up for some classes and have some fun!
Belly Dancing for Health and Fitness
Belly dancing is a great way to exercise. The more you dance, the more exercise you get. This oriental dance form can offer the same health benefits as other types of aerobic exercise-strengthen your cardiovascular system, ward off osteoporosis, and improve your stamina, leading to a life of fitness, and best of all, it’s a fun way to shed off a few pounds.
Some dance classes give you a more vigorous workout than others. If weight loss is a priority for you, choose a belly dancing teacher that keeps you moving continuously throughout the class time. The class will be especially valuable if it involves traveling steps, because moving the large leg muscles burns more calories than moving other, smaller muscles. When practicing at home, you’ll get maximum weight loss benefits by using drum solos, medium-speed, or fast music and incorporating a large number of moves that engage your legs and hips.
Why Belly Dance:
• Exercise and fitness
• A fun hobby that nurtures self expression, celebration and fantasy
• Community and sisterhood
• Cultural involvement
• Physical and psychological strength