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The Definitions

The term “belly dance” derives from the French phrase “danse du ventre,” which means “dance of the stomach.”

Sol Bloom is credited with coining the word “belly dance” in English for the dancers during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Raks sharqi and “oriental dance” are two terms used to describe belly dancing.

This is Arabic for “Easter Dance.” Because the word Dance du Ventre, from which belly dance derives, was once associated with racism, there is presently a discussion about whether the name belly dance should be used.

Some argue that it should be avoided and substituted with oriental dance to disassociate this dance style from the myths that surround it. Others say that the word belly dance is here to stay since it is the most well-known way of referring to this dancing style, and it has long since lost its racial implications.

Although the racial connotations of the phrase belly dance are troubling, I frequently find that when I say oriental dance, people assume I’m talking about dance from the Far East, such as China, Korea, or Japan.

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The Dance’s Beginnings


According to some, the dance style is known today as belly dance is incredibly old, with traces dating back to 6,000 years ago in some pagan communities that worshipped a feminine goddess and celebrated women’s conception as a magical event.


There is, however, no evidence that early pagan rites are linked to belly dancing.


Although this form of dancing is said to be beneficial for preparing a woman’s body for childbirth, there is no evidence of a relationship to ancient fertility practices.


Despite this, in the last 40 years, there has been a trend to equate belly dancing with spirituality and feminine strength.


This might be because the feminist movement in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s rediscovered belly dancing as a type of dance that empowers women.


We now term belly dance appears to be a distinct form of dance that originated in Turkey and Egypt.


Some speculate that there may have been an Indian influence based on the particular motions of belly dancing. Certain moves, such as head slides, may be found in Indian and belly dancing.


Public entertainment and social dancing


Since mediaeval times, this dance genre has been a social dance in the Middle East. When ladies come together to socialise, they used to dance it.


For example, my first belly dance teacher, whose family is from Iraq and Jordan, informed me that ladies still dance to it when they meet and that their sons choose possible spouses based on how the girls dance.