In the past, belly dancing is thought to have been used solely as a means of entertaining. Although commonly known as belly dancing in the United States, the dance is traditionally called raqs sharqi. Translated, raqs sharqi means oriental dancing. There is also a second traditional dance style that is sometimes referred to as belly dancing which is called raqs baladi. However, of the two dance types, the latter is more common in the Middle East than it is in the United States. Both dances are performed by men and women. That being said, female performers are more prevalent.
The reason why it is referred to as belly dancing is because the dance focuses on controlling the core abdominal muscles to create undulating movements. Additionally, the scant costumes used also have something to do with the nickname as they usually bare the belly. Originally, the dance costumes were less revealing, and although sheer fabric was used, the dancer was usually covered from chest to ankles. Now, costumes consist of a bra and either a skirt or harem pants. Usually, the fabric is decorated with embroidery, beads or coins to enhance the dancer's movements.
There are ten common styles of belly dance being practiced today. These include tribal belly dance, classic American belly dance, gypsy belly dance, sfusion belly dance, piritual belly dance, fitness belly dance, Egyptian belly dance, Turkish belly dance, Lebanese belly dance, and East Indian belly dance. While each style differs from the next, each one is based on a set of four core movements, which are staccato hip moves, rolling hip moves, ribcage circles and arm, shoulder and head movements. In Western belly dance styles, these core movements are also used; however, they are usually combined with a dancer's unique set of movements to create a modern dance approach that pulls from each one of the traditional styles.
Although there is some speculation about the origins of belly dancing, it widely accepted that it originated from the Middle East. However, this is where the facts stop and speculation begins – there is no concrete explanation of why belly dancing originated. Some say that it was a practice in harems to keep the interest of the sultan. Others feel that it was a way to show and teach sexual prowess. Still, other historians and enthusiasts are certain that the dance was originally used to demonstrate giving birth. In addition to being a Middle Eastern and Oriental tradition, scholars have also found the dance depicted as early as 5,000 BC in Greek paintings.
Today, belly dancing is practiced by a diverse array of dancers who wish to not only gain better health through fitness, but also those who want to improve their self esteem. Although it is still a form of entertainment, it is also used as a tool to strengthen and tone core muscle groups in the body, like the lower back muscles. The modern application of belly dancing that is often practiced in the United States is accessible to a greater degree of people because the movements are far easier on the joints than traditional belly dancing. However, it doesn't focus on a single style of belly dance. Instead, the Americanized version of the dance usually combines several different styles into a single one which is referred to as the American Tribal Style.
Although belly dancing may look like it's very easy to perform, the core movements are actually relatively difficult to perfect. The technique relies on the dancer's ability to perfectly control each of the core muscle groups, which can take considerable time and practice to master. This reliance on core stability is the main reason why belly dancing is regarded as a wonderful, low impact way to improve muscle tone. When having a difficult time deciding on the right style of belly dance, it helps to focus on just learning the twelve core movements because doing so will make it easier to transition from one style to the next.
Belly Dancing Health Benefits and Tips
Belly Dancing and Middle Eastern Dance Styles
Belly Dancing History
Famous Belly Dancers
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