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What is Belly Dance?

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

Out of context, belly dance is often confused with “exotic” dance.

Belly Dance is Timeless

It's centuries older than Ballet. Though it's not Modern Dance, it's still contemporary. It's often called Raqs Sharqi, Oryantal, Danse du Ventre, Middle Eastern Dance, or simply, World Dance. Without a doubt, belly dance is a timeless dance.

Belly Dance is a Classical Art

Any art form that survives for millennia does so because it's been beautifully conceived, sublimely crafted, and is full of deep expression that has transmitted itself through the centuries. It's what we call a "classical art."

Western Culture Took Belly Dance out of Context

The art of belly dance has been around for thousands of years, but it's only since the Orientalist period of the late 19th Century that its story has been taken out of context and manipulated to appeal to a Western culture fantasy—hence the common confusion of belly dance with "exotic" dance, pole dancing, or even stripping.

Belly dancer Jensuya balancing a sword on her head.
Like dancing with a veil, belly dancing with a sword can be mesmerizing.

Belly dancing is "becoming" the music

Belly dance is an art with the technical precision on par with ballet, a musical heritage rivaling that of classical Western music, and a tradition of improvisation that many scholars believe to be the roots of both jazz and modern dance.

Though there are many interpretations and styles of belly dance—two common styles being tribal and cabaret—at its essence, belly dance is the physical expression of music. Belly dancing is the art of dancing with moves that represent both the sound and the feel of the music in a particular aesthetic.

For more on what I think belly dance is, watch this video.

To learn how to teach yourself to belly dance, watch this video.

To see all our ONLINE COURSE, click on the image or go to

© Jennifer Carpenter-Peak and Robert Peak, 2020.

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Rhythm Practice for Belly Dance - Beledi

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