FEATURE

FEATURE

Origins of Belly Dance

Despite much research, the exact origins of belly dancing are unknown. What is not disputed is that 'belly dance' is very ancient - at least 2,000 years old, but most likely much older than that

There is a growing body of evidence that the distinguishing moves of belly dance date back to Neolithic times and the Goddess-based cultures that existed then. The belly and the reverence for it as the "cup (or chalice) of life," is evident in cultures in Neolithic Europe, Africa, India, the Near and Middle East, and other areas of the globe. Dance was an important and often sacred part of these cultures, and since their most revered painted and sculptured art works featured symbols of spirals, waves, circles, and other patterns found in belly dance, there seems to be a logical connection to the belly dance that exists today.

In its thousands of years of existence, different variations of "bellydance" have evolved to express the various cultures that have practiced it. Matriarchal and partnership models of society gave way to our present world of patriarchy and dominator paradigms. The development of new religions, migrations of people, and wars, were some of the major factors that carried the dance to new areas of the world, making it disappear in others. Over the centuries, belly dance has been practiced for numerous reasons, including for entertainment, childbirth preparation, ritual, physical education, communal bonding, and celebration. We do not know what belly dance was called in its earliest times. Yet, as different variations and styles of the dance, music, and costuming developed, the basic belly dance movements appear to have remained virtually unchanged up to our present time.

Belly Dancing For Health

Today people around the world are embracing belly dancing for many different reasons: effective exercise, holistic health, a fun hobby, relaxation, etc. Many women find it an excellent way to reconnect with their femininity and the ideals of ancestors who respected their bodies and Mother Earth. Their bodies are no longer a source of shame, but recognized instead as a source of life and a connection to the divine. They embrace the term "belly dancing" for the affirmation that the abdomen is a sacred and honored part of their body. They don't care who coined the term "belly dancing" or why, what Hollywood's fantasies are, or what people in Victorian times thought of the word "belly." They are living in the here and now, and are proclaiming their respect for belly dance and for its source at the center of their being.

Those who prefer the more traditional and various ethnic expression of this dance will continue to use the best terminology to describe their chosen style, whether it is Egyptian style, Turkish, Lebanese, etc. But for the contemporary dancer "belly dancing" is a valid, accurate, and respectable name for what they do. In the end, to gain greater respect and understanding for this ageless and enduring dance form, it is not what we call it, but how we conduct ourselves that matters. Good belly dancing training videos in the classic movements and techniques, professionalism in public performances, and respect for ourselves and others will take belly dance to new heights in the new millennium. We will then have come full circle, back to that wonderful era when the feminine was also divine, and expressed so beautifully through the immortal art of BELLY DANCING!

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