History of
Belly Dance
The Art of Belly Dancing

Origins

The origins of belly dancing, though
unclear, can be traced to the Middle
East, the Mediterranean, and Africa.
In fact, in the Arabic language, the
term belly dancing is Raqs Sharqi and
in Turkish, it is Oryantal dansi. The
Turkish term Oryantal dansi can be
roughly translated to mean "exotic
oriental dance" and the Arabic term
Raqs Sharqi is claimed to be of
Egyptian origins. Because these terms
suggested an exotic dance that
originated elsewhere, the art of belly
dance was held in higher esteem than
local dances.    
Historical evidence shows Egyptian
tomb paintings dating from as far
back as the fourteenth century BC that
depict partially clad dancers whose
callisthenic positions appear to be very
similar to those used in belly dancing.
Belly Dancing also has been depicted
in Persian miniature paintings from
the 12th and 13th centuries. The
popularized connotation between belly
dancing and exotic harems is due
largely to the Romanticism movement
in the 18th and 19th century as artists
depicted their interpretation of harem
life of the Ottoman Empire. But for
Saudi women, the dance itself was
considered to be sacred, and not
intended to be seen by men at all.

Characteristics

Oriental dance is uniquely designed
for the female body, with an emphasis
on abdominal muscles, hip moves, and
chest moves. It is firm and earthy,
traditionally with bare feet connected
to the ground. It is a dance
characterized by smooth, flowing,
complex, and sensual movements of
the torso, alternated with shaking and
shimmy type moves.
There are various forms of belly
dancing, including Turkish, Egyptian
Oriental, and American Tribal.