Middle Eastern Dance – or Belly Dancing

When I work the machines at the women’s gym in my neighborhood, I have a bird’s eye view of the floor where aerobic classes are held. One of those classes I’ve had the pleasure of watching was belly dancing. Some of the participants wore coin-rimmed hip scarves so their movements were enhanced both visually and auditorily.

Photo from bellybody.org

Since this was the gym and not a contest or performance, the women were of all shapes, sizes and abilities. And you know what? They looked gorgeous.

Now, I’m not one who normally gawks at other women, but this was different. Here was a group of women looking to keep their hearts healthy, to tone their muscles, learn something new and have some fun doing it. Some of the women on machine level with me, left their machines to try the moves along with the class. The sensuality of the moves and the music was compelling.

Exotic. Natural. Feminine.

Forbidden.

Because of all that, there’s an air mystery surrounding the dance. In fact, even the age and origin of belly dancing is a mystery. Some professional belly dancers, when viewing Egyptian hieroglyphs from 5,000 years ago, are able to “see the dance’ moves as they go from one image to another.

Though that is a matter of interpretation and not proof, there is evidence that the dance has been around for at least several hundred years. This evidence comes from Europeans of the time who traveled to Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and other exotic locations, then described their experiences, including dance moves which we now recognize as belly dancing.

Originally a more traditional dance than it is today, belly dancing was taught by mothers to their daughters, generation after generation, and was used during birthing rituals In other words, it seems it was not originally meant to seduce men but to prepare women for the rigors of childbirth.

Consider it ancient Lamaze – only better.

Belly Dancing helps work muscles a woman uses to help nature along during the delivery of her child. It’s like getting ready for a marathon. You wouldn’t take on a 5K without some prep work would you? Neither would a woman from ancient times take on childbirth without prepping from child to adulthood in the form of Belly Dancing.

Belly Dancing embraces femininity, pays tribute to the feminine form, uniqueness and abilities.

Traditional belly dancers did not bare their midriffs. Instead, they wore long flowing, layered gowns with a hip scarf that accentuated the sensual movements there. It wasn’t until Belly Dancing was introduced to the West, that a more ‘burlesque’ style of belly dance was introduced. It is that form of belly dance – and all the sexual, arousing tension it brings – that has become the norm today.

And it’s the sensuality, the full body infusion with the dance that has made belly dancing one of the West’s newer fitness crazes. And not a bad one at that. The women who practice this feel beautiful. I happen to be of the belief that a woman who feels beautiful IS beautiful. I want that for every woman. Every girl. To embrace her body regardless of shape or size.

As long as she’s fit – read that, “healthy” – she should be proud of what and who she is. I think belly dancing gives a person confidence as well as a great workout.

If this has interested you as much as it has interested me, you might want to have a look at these Belly Dancing “lessons” I located on YouTube. I am convinced practicing along with these videos each day will provide not only fun but results in a heart health, muscle tone and flexibility. Try it out. I’m going to. I may even buy one of those stunning clinky hip scarves. πŸ™‚

Belly dancing 1 of 4

Belly dancing 2 of 4

Belly Dancing 3 of 4

Belly Dancing 4 of 4

22 Responses to Middle Eastern Dance – or Belly Dancing

  • How informative! I never knew this about belly dancing, especially the traditional costuming worn. And I never would have imagined it was created to help prepare for childbirth. I am sure it is good exercise.

    Where I live, we have a huge renaissance festival every year (one of the biggest in the US). They have a section where the belly dances perform at intervals. It is really interesting to watch them.

    • I am amazed every time I see women dance this way. I can barely control my stomach long enough to zip my skinny jeans. Imagine the concentration it takes to do this?!

  • I love the picture of the gal in the orange skirt waving those big scarves. So beautiful and free.

  • Wow, Deb, another fascinating blog! The muscle control these women have is amazing, and they make it look so effortless. I would be afraid if I got my bellyfat jiggling that fast, perpetual motion might take over;-) Actually, I have several belly dancing workout DVDs. They are a nice diversion from Zumba!

    Pamela

  • Very cool, Debbie! I’ve tried many types of dance – belly dancing is on my list. Now to just find a class nearby – I am much better actually going to a class than doing the exercises at home, I find. All those years at a ballet barre come into play, I’m sure…

    Enjoy your time in Florida!

    • I’m not sure I’d be able to practice this in a live class. I’m so not a dancer I think I – and everyone else – would be safer if I did this in the privacy of my home. I’m not even sure my mirror could handle it. lol

  • I use to take classes ages ago and I have a few videos. I really miss it, maybe I’ll start up again.

    • I was surprised to see classes at my gym. I love watching them. And the music is fabulous. Sensual and exotic. Love it. But I’ll practice with my videos. πŸ™‚

  • I used to belly dance many many many years ago when my doctor suggested it would help my back pain.

    You’ve inspired me to take it up again!

  • Dabora, this is really, really cool. I started watching the teaching video and realized that I’d like to try this, so I”m waiting for later today to do it as my exercise routine. It’s so beautiful to watch and I never thought of it as a workout but it’s obvious that it is. This may well be my new thing. Thank you SO much.
    Patti

    • My pleasure, Patty!! I’m trying to convince my daughter to do this with me at home with DVD’s. So far, she’s not interested. We’ll see what happens.

  • Hmm, this looks like fun. I may have to give it a try. Cheers.

  • Sorry it took long to post Debbie. I’m trying to catch up. πŸ™‚

    I never knew that about belly dancing and I took lessons! I did it because I thought it might make me more graceful. It just made me a more graceful klutz. lol But it was fun. I still have my costume. It’s kind of funny, I’ve lent out the costume and have had the husbands come to me and thank me for doing that. Hmmmm.

    • I know what you mean about catching up, Donna. I’m still trying to do that myself.

      Belly dancing made you a “more graceful klutz” lol. I love that, and believe that would also be me after lessons. πŸ™‚ How funny that the husbands come to thank you! OMG. So you see? That’s precisely what the “Western” spin, if you will, on the dance has done – taken the dance from exotic to erotic. Nothing wrong with that, of course, I just find it interesting… and now I am even more convinced I should buy a hip scarf. Oh heck. I should just buy the whole dang costume and really have fun with it!

  • I’ve always wanted to try a belly dancing class! I have taken Zumba and love the sensuality of certain dancing. Of course, I wouldn’t perform for anyone, but it’s good exercise. Great post, Debora!

  • I don’t think I’d perform for anyone either – probably not even the mirror. LOL.

  • Hi Debora,

    Thank you for a great post, We actually sell these hip scarves which were called “belly dance hip scarves” and are now transforming to “jinglies” because some people that enjoy Zumba incorporate them in their workout, not just for movement but also the traditional visual appeal with lots of vibrant colors. Some are even asking for animal prints.

    Thank you again for the beautiful pictures and Videos,
    Vijay

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