Stomach Dance Actions: The place Did They Come From?


As a dancer, many instances throughout class, my thoughts would begin to marvel concerning the origins of that new bellydance step that the trainer was instructing.  The place the flirtatious arm actions got here from, the origins of devices such because the veil and the saber, and why it’s so mysterious and bewitching for viewers?

I’ve Arab heritage and given how Arab tradition can typically be fairly closed and traditionalist I’ve all the time discovered it superb that stomach dancing may be loaded with a lot sensuality, Extra so than many different dances. Right this moment I wish to share with you, the whole lot I discovered about it in my very own analysis.

Take pleasure in this journey to historical instances!


The middle of the Arabian dance lies within the hip, which is adorned with actions of the top, shoulders, arms and, naturally, the stomach.

The spectacular nature of this dance lies within the synchrony of the hips with the music and the emotion that the dancer conveys, whereas the number of steps and the dramatic results are what make it putting.

In oriental dance, the actions are sinuous and rhythmic, the legs by no means rise above the extent of the hips.

To bounce, our ear should develop into accustomed to the rhythms of Arabic music, which has very totally different from Western tempos, because it encompass sequence of irregular minor patterns that we dancers should be taught to comply with and even anticipate.

The prehistoric origins of stomach dance are a bit murky, however documented proof takes us again to Egypt through the time interval between 1200 and 1300 B.C., when this manner was utilized by priestesses within the banks of Nile River

Fragment of Painting from Tomb of the Dancers
Fragment of Portray from Tomb of the Dancers. By Jon Bodsworth, Copyrighted free use, by way of Wikimedia Commons

These have been instances by which life handed as an incessant turning into, by which eternity was bathed by the waters of the Nile. Surrounded by a fertile land, by a number of magical gods, by a civilization by which glory was expressed with magnificent pyramids that sought to the touch the sky.

Egyptian ladies danced each to pay tribute to the gods, to accompany the funeral processions, to have fun and honor the pharaohs and to entertain at feasts and banquets.

One of many key themes within the oldest type of Arabian dance is considered one of human fertility being regarded as straight associated to the earth. Girls have been attributed magical powers.

For instance, in Central Anatolia and the Mediterranean (Turkey), hundreds of years in the past ladies had ritual dances in honor of those magical powers. Males have been excluded from these rites.

Additionally, there have been many fertility dances in Historical Rome and Greece have been dancers carried out actions based mostly on the rotation of stomach and hips, and plenty of of mentioned dances have been made in honor to goddesses from Syria and Turkey.

In Cyprus, birthplace of Aphrodite, ladies carried out ritual dances accompanied by songs and percussion by which they put themselves in a trance.

These similar rites of honouring gods, in search of fertility, passed off in Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Egypt, Arabia and India. Throughout the 4th century A.D., Christianity got here to dominate the Center East, establishing a patriarchal society based mostly on a male God and prohibiting all such feminine dances.

The Copts, who’re Christians from Egypt, preserved the continuity of this dance by clandestine performances, incorporating sure modifications to align it with their newly adopted non secular practices.

A while after, the slaves took the dance, the songs and the music out of the temples, though the performers haven’t been capable of take away the stigma hooked up to their occupation.

Later, originally of the Center Ages, Islam was established, which signified a brand new eradication of dance within the streets. Resurfacing within the 18th century throughout the context of slave communities, this dance underwent a revitalization.

Subsequently, the inflow of Turkish individuals, primarily consisting of people with enslaved backgrounds, contributed to the enhancement of its technical intricacy.

These slaves, retained within the historical medieval caliphates, represented their energy, so the wonder and expertise of the dancers (singing, poetry, recitation) have been valued.

These dancers have been known as awalim, extremely revered and influential among the many caliphs; they carried out within the homes of wealthy individuals accompanied by denay, oud, qanun and tabla, whereas they interacted with zagats and swords of some spectators. Their reveals have been even complemented with snake charmers and magicians typically.

There was additionally one other kind of dancers, the ghawazee or Egyptian gypsies, who danced within the open air for audiences of decrease social class, accompanied by nay, oud and tabla. The ghawazee are characterised by their preservation of the aesthetic essence of the dance, in addition to the religious facet of it.

These dancers usually shared stage with magicians, minstrels and fortune tellers (they themselves made espresso studying) and their stomach dance costumes have plenty of brilliant colours, ornaments, cons, pendants and bracelets. Their origin is Phoenician.

In its passage by totally different areas and epochs, the oriental dance was choosing up steps and parts. For instance, the cane utilized in oriental dance was taken from the tahtib dance, a form of martial artwork of Egyptian males. The cane dance is called raqs al asaya.

Tahtib. Adelbayoumi, CC BY-SA 4.0, by way of Wikimedia Commons

Egyptian Tahtib is claimed to be one of many oldest martial artwork on the earth. Its full identify is fann el Nazaha wal Tahtib, which suggests, “pursuit of righteousness by tahtib”. It consists of a fight between two or extra opponents utilizing a reed stick, tahtib, which measures between 1.30 and 6 meters lengthy.

The tahtib dance is carried out to the accompaniment of reside music, to the Arabic rhythm of saidi, and contains jumps and gestures of blows, with out contact with the physique.

From the Persian dance, the fragile cadenced actions of the fingers and a part of the coquetry with shoulders and arms have been taken. In classical Persian dance, the dancer entered a state of upper consciousness in communion with the supreme being, to whom she dedicates the upward actions of her arms.

Likewise the shoulder shimmies when turning and the actions with the fingers aside are used within the Iranian dance generally known as bandary.

With respect to the saber, though it’s believed that it was a component included comparatively just lately to the dance, there are visible references of dancers with scimitars from the late nineteenth century, as this portray by the French orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme entitled “Dance with saber in a restaurant”:

Jean-Léon GérômeSabre Dance in a Cafe. Oil on canvas painting
Sabre Dance in a Cafe by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1875. Supply: PubHist.

The dance by which a tray with candles is balanced on the top was taken from the Moroccan dance generally known as raqs al seniyya, by which a tea tray is used.

This illustration by Charles Saalburg from the Chicago newspaper “The Inter Ocean” of 1893 reveals totally different Halfway Plaisance scenes from the Columbian Exposition held that yr in Chicago. Within the middle seems a dancer balancing a tray with candles or a candelabra on her head, which may very well be raqs al shamadan but in addition raqs al seniyya.

Lastly, the veil, probably the most magical parts, has been current in oriental dance since historical instances, as evidenced by this bronze statue from the Hellenistic interval of a veiled dancer from the 2nd or third century BC:

Bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer
a veiled dancer, from Greece. third–2nd century BCE. Supply: MET Museum

I hope this text has served to carry some gentle concerning the many mysteries that stomach dancing has to supply. Till subsequent time!

Different articles about Bellydance and Arabian dance:

Belly dance and Arabian dance costumes

Stomach dance costumes

Arabian dance, similar to the various different dance types, isn’t solely concerning the actions. It has a variety of costumes and equipment like …


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