While the origin of the dance is widely debated, this is one of the oldest forms of dance and derives from the Middle East, Meditteranean and North Africa.
We don’t know exactly how they danced in ancient times, but archeological evidence suggests the origins of Middle Eastern dance was likely ritual based.
One school of thought states that during ancient times men and women did not dance together. Women would socialize in one room and the men in the other. Women would gather during times of celebration and dance for one another and express their joy.
For centuries conquests and expeditions were held. The Europeans headed many of their own and came into contact with the Middle East, Egypt and countries of the Mediterranean through their journeys. When Napoleon took note, beginning in 1798 large scale invasions occurred and the Europeans became quite intrigued with the people and culture.
In the 19th century the “orient” as it came to be called, became a popular place for artists, writers, poets and etc.. Unfortunately when they visited they invented fantasies, and untrue stories of “naked dancing women’ in order to attract buyers of their works. The effects of this are still felt today with the common misconception of bellydancing being used to seduce.
Bellydancing became THE topic of interest with all of the commotion it was causing and as time went on, films with belly dancers came to be, as Hollywood took inspiration from “the Orient” and created their own glamorized versions of belly dance.
Due to the popularity of the film and its’ star dancers, famous belly dance celebrities came about and a plethora of venues promoting belly dance shows became the fashionable form of entertainment. By the 1930’s and 1940’s all the immigrants who came to New York earlier could enjoy a wide number of establishments catering to their cultural backgrounds as oriental dance had arrived to the states years prior and mixed, and created a style all its’ own in the United States.
Now bellydance is a passion and past time enjoyed by hundreds of thousands across the globe and has evolved to mix in other genre’s and continues to be a source of joy at celebrations and events for many.
Source: “Bellydance Unveiled: A brief History” By Aleenah
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