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What is Belly Dance?

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

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

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, or simply, World Dance. Without a doubt, belly dance is a timeless dance.

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."

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 a common confusion of belly dance with "exotic" dance, pole dancing, or even stripping.

Belly dancing is the art of "becoming" the music.

Belly dance is an art with the precision of technique on par with ballet, a musical heritage at least rivaling that of classical Western music, and a tradition of improvisation in which many world scholars believe the roots of both jazz music and modern dance run deep.

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 with a particular aesthetic.

Copyright Jennifer Carpenter-Peak and Robert Peak, 2020.

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