Dance Around the World: Raqs Sharqi aka Belly Dance

Greetings All,

So I’ve realized that I haven’t mentioned Christopher Scott in a blog post for quite some time. Boom. Done. Moving on 🙂

Although I have seen belly dance performed countless times, I must admit that until writing this post, I didn’t know much about it’s history or origins. I knew that it originated somewhere in the Middle East, some of the key moves are the shimmy and hip undulations, AND that Shakira’s hips do not lie…

Shakira Hips Don't Lie

Belly dance is a very rich and vibrant cultural dance. Although its exact origins are very much debated, it is generally agreed that the Westernized version of the dance has its roots in Egypt. It was originally a dance performed primarily for formal events such as fertility rites or pre-marriage ceremonies. Similar to the post I wrote on African dance last year, belly dance is an umbrella term. Each regional variety has different elements and stylistic features. For example, there are several types of Egyptian belly dance, a Turkish variation, a style that is performed by the Roma, a Persian belly dance, and we really shouldn’t leave out the Indian variety. There is even American tribal style belly dancing, which contrary to how it sounds, strives to be authentic as possible.

Additionally, belly dance can still be divided into two categories; the performance art (raqs sharqi) and the more traditional folkloric dance (raqs baladi). Today’s version of belly dancing was popularized in the 18th and 19th centuries during the Romantic era when artists began depicting belly dancers as part of the glamorous “harem life” in the Ottoman Empire. It then became popular in the United States due to a “scandalous” performance during the 1893 Chicago World Fair where the dancers didn’t wear corsets… 

This post highlights two different belly dance styles. The first is a modern Egyptian raqs sharqi. The Egyptian oriental dance tends to be a more relaxed and controlled/contained style. The appearance of a veil usually indicates that the dance is of the Egyptian variety. The second video highlights the popular Turkish belly dancer Didem. This style tends to be more flamboyant, playful and energetic. It can also incorporate floorwork which the Egyptian style does not. Didem’s isolations are pretty incredible and I have no idea how she can sustain some of those hip movements for such a prolonged time. I could actually stare at her midsection all day… 

Enjoy!

Sources: Oriental dancing: the belly danceAtlanta Belly Dance Info

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