General Native to North Africa, Asia and the Middle East, belly dancing (Egyptian Arabic) is based on one of the oldest social dances in world history. Support for this theory stems from similarities between poses from the modern dance form and those depicted in ancient Egyptian art. There are two forms of belly dancing. The first is called raqs baladi, a social dance performed for fun and celebration by men and women of all ages, usually during festive occasions such as weddings and other social gatherings. The second form, the more theatrical version and the one most popular in America today, is called raqs sharqi. Like raqs baladi, raqs sharqi is performed by both male and female dancers.
Origins; The origins of this dance form are actively debated among dance enthusiasts, especially given the limited academic research on the topic. Much of the research in this area has been done by the dancers themselves. However, the often overlooked fact that most dancing in the Middle East occurs in a social context rather than the more visible and glamorous context of professional nightclub performance, has led to a misunderstanding of the dance's true nature and has given rise to many conflicting theories about its origins. Because this dance is a fusion of many different styles it undoubtedly has a variety of origins, many of which stem from ethnic folk dancing.
raqs sharqi is based on Baladi an later the work of belly dance legends Samia Gamal, Thaiya, Karioka, Naime Akef, and other dancers who rose to fame during the golden years of the Egyptian film industry. Later dancers who based their styles partially on the dances of these artists are Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdoul, and Nagva Foud.
All rose to fame between 1960 and 1980, are still popular today, and have nearly risen to the same level of stardom and influence on the style. Though the basic movements of Raqs Sharqi have remained the same, the dance form continues to evolve. Nelly Mazloum and Mahmoud Reda are noted for incorporating elements of ballet into Raqs Sharqi and their influence can be seen in modern Egyptian dancers who stand on relevé as they turn or travel through their dance space in a circle or figure eight.In Egypt, three main forms of the traditional dance are associated with belly dance: Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and Sharqi.
Egyptian belly dance was among the first styles to be witnessed by Westerners. During Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (the campaign which yielded theRosetta Stone, leading to the translation of Egyptianhieroglyphic), Napoleon's troops encountered theGhawazee tribe. The Ghawazee made their living as professional entertainers and musicians. The women often engaged in prostitution on the side, and often had a street dedicated to their trade in the towns where they resided, though some were quasi-nomadic. At first the French were repelled by their heavy jewelry and hair, and found their dancing "barbaric", but were soon lured by the hypnotic nature of their movements
The most important non-Egyptian forms of belly dance are theSyrian/Lebanese, persian and Tukish.
Some mistakenly believe thatTurkish oriental dancing is known as Ciftetelli because this style of music has been incorporated into oriental dancing by Greeks and Roma, illustrated by the fact that the Greek belly dance is called Tsifteteli. However, Turkish Çiftetelli is more correctly a form of wedding folk music, the part that makes up the lively part of the dance at the wedding and is not connected with oriental dancing.
Turkish belly dance today may have been influenced by Roma people as much as by the Egyptian and Syrian/Lebanese forms, having developed from the Ottoman rakkas to the oriental dance known worldwide today. As Turkish law does not impose restrictions on Turkish dancers' movements and costuming as in Egypt, where dancers are prevented from performing floor work and certain pelvic movements, Turkish dancers are often more outwardly expressive than their Egyptian counterparts. Many professional dancers and musicians in Turkey continue to be of Romani heritage as well. (However, people of Turkish Romani heritage also have a distinct dance style which is uniquely different from the Turkish Oriental style.) Turkish dancers are known for their energetic, athletic (even gymnastic) style, and particularly, until the past few years, their adept use of finger cymbals, also known as Zils. Connoisseurs of Turkish dance often say that a dancer who cannot play the zils is not an accomplished dancer. Another distinguishing element of the Turkish style is the use of the Karsilama rhythm in a 9/8 time signature, counted as 12-34-56-789.
Çiftetelli (Turkish: Çiftetelli: "double stringed; to move like a snake"Greek; tsiftetelli; is a dance Turkish origin that is found in most of the
territories and surroundings of the formerOttaman Empire. probably of The Çiftetelli appears in many variations in the folk music of Western and Central Turkey. The different compositions based on this popular rhythm each have their own name. In Turkey, çiftetelli has been relegated to wedding music, where Roma and Greeks have adopted the upbeat folk rhythms into oriental dancing. Often "tsifteteli" in Greece is inappropriately used synonymously with oriental dance.
Tribal-style belly dancers. With its emergence at the 1893 World's Fair, the last four decades of the 20th century moved belly dance in the U.S. more into the mainstream. The current interest in the dance can be traced back to the 1950s and '60s. It was in the ethnic nightclubs in major cities like New York, that most Americans first became acquainted with the dance. These clubs were owned, operated and patronized by members of the ethnic communities of Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. At the time, most of the dancers were Greek or Turkish, but in time their ranks would grow to include Americans as well. One example of this is the dancer "Morocco" of New York, who started her career in the night clubs of Greek Town on 8th Avenue. These American dancers learned the dance by watching and imitating their Greek and Turkish sisters, as well as the patrons.
In the late 1960s and early '70s many of these dancers began offering dance classes. With increasing exploration of the East in the late 1960s, many people became interested in everything Eastern, including dance. Many touring Middle Eastern or Eastern bands took dancers with them as they toured to provide a visual representation of their music, which helped to spark interest in the dance. This had the effect of creating many beautiful dancers who have generated greater interest in belly dancing. The increased interest in belly dancing created diverse names for the same simple movements and the need to have a "style" as each teacher tried to distinguish differences in their way of teaching from other teachers. This has hampered belly dance from acceptance with the more established dance forms because there is no nationally recognized choreography terminology that can be used to create repeatable dances.
Canadian Belly Dance
Canada has a belly dance community similar to United States. One Canadian dancer is Yasmina Ramzy, director and founder of Toronto based Arabesque Dance Company (http://www.arabesquedance.ca), founder and producer of the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (IBCC) series, now in its 3rd year. Other Canadian dancers who teach internationally include Hadia, Roula Said, Denise Enan, Lava, Nath Keo, and Sabeya.