Hi there, I’m Kristal Baird and I’m really thrilled to be guest blogging here with you today. I want to share one of my interests with you all. I hope you enjoy it!
Belly Dancing Origins
So ancient, the exact origins of the “belly dance” are unknown. Undisputed is that it is significantly more than 2,000 years old. Some evidence suggests the belly dance dates back to Neolithic times in cultures as far apart as Europe, Africa, India, the Middle-East and beyond.
Dance would have been important and sacred in these cultures. Ancient paintings and sculptures feature all the spirals, waves, circles and patterns found in belly dance, suggesting a connection.
Experts suggest belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of dance, having roots in ancient Goddess-centred cultures throughout the world. It was performed amongst women as fertility rite, entertainment, preparation for childbirth, ritual, exercise, communal bonding and celebration of the value and importance of womanhood.
Ancient pagan communities acknowledged the magic and fascination of the
ability of woman to create life. Evidence suggests the ritual of the belly dance is a symbolic re-creation of child-birth. The snappy hip movements, muscular contractions and sinewy undulations, represent strongly the connection to the response of a woman’s body during child-labor and delivery.
Belly dancing is natural to a woman’s body with movement that originates in the core muscles of the body rather than in the legs and feet. The dance focuses on isolations of individual muscle groups enabling independent movement that accentuates the female form. Performed barefoot, it is considered to emphasize the physical connection between woman and her Earth Mother.
Despite variations and styles of dance, music and costume, the basic belly dance movements appear to have remained virtually unchanged up to the present day.
Despite the wide range of authentic original styles a standardized image has emerged. That of a female dancer attired in a revealing costume, shimmying and shaking in hip-thrusting allure and exciting mystery. This image invokes centuries of propaganda and misunderstanding of the dance and the women that perform it.
The modern name, “belly dance”, is not the source of this confusion of the art. Perhaps the greatest misconception about belly dancing is that it is intended to inflame the desires of men.
Much of this can be traced back to the patriarchal destroyers of many ancient Goddess-based cultures around the world. These demonized these earlier belief systems, vilifying the Goddess and those who danced in her honor as little more than whores. The female body and the belly dance became an evil temptation to lure men away from the new religious ‘purity’. Over centuries, the idea of women performing such dances became associated with shame and lewd sexuality, ironically making it all the more desirable and ‘forbidden’.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, entrepreneurs realized that sex sells and in many venues of the Western world, ‘exotic’ dancing girls placed the focus on sexual titillation over art.
Belly dancing spread throughout the world as tribal peoples migrated. Many believe ‘gypsy’ travelers were imperative in much of this. Many world dances appear to diversify from the ancient model from the neck movements of Indian dancers to the foot stamping of the Spanish flamenco.
In Egypt, performances did not only involve women. Dances became public at weddings, before coffee houses and in the market place. The repertoire of these ghawazee was a blend of music and dancing with veils, swords and candles. Tolerated by the authorities as it earned substantial revenue in taxes, however, religious complaints outlawed the dance in Cairo in 1834. Later, this ban was lifted but not in public, moving the dance into the music-hall where the Egyptian style raqs sharqi dance was born.
The Danse du Ventre (belly dance) of Turkish origin was introduced to Paris by Turkish women. They brought it to the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and then to the California Midwinter Exposition in San Francisco.
This ancient dance form continuously grows in popularity across the US and worldwide. Many people take classes, attend festivals and buy and sell costumes and accoutrements of this exciting art, even journeying to the middle-east and beyond to experience its purer origins.
Belly dancing costumes are colourful and flowing, accented with scarves and veils. Brass finger cymbals called zills, exotic jewelry and pretty hip belts decorated with crystals and coins (in former times, these comprised portable family wealth). More exotic versions include swords, snakes, flaming candles or fire-eating.
Veils add to the mystery, elegance and allure of performance. They flow gracefully enhancing the movements of the dancer. The veil should be a natural extension of the body, rippling with movements of dancer and airflow. It can be used at the start with slow tempo music and then discarded respectfully as the tempo increases. Perhaps therein lies the origins of the burlesque or strip-tease dance?
Dressing the part will enhance the experience and costumes can be purchased online, ranging from the relatively inexpensive to a budget-busting amount of money. However, most women can impriovise in the beginning from their existing wardrobe: Decorate a bra, bikini or short tank-top that exposes the belly. Then drape a fringe-covered (or bead-covered) scarf around a floaty, long skirt (this can be slit to mid-thigh) or a pair of close-fitting track pants.
The aim is to see body movements easily (belly rolls take some mastering!) and for the hip scarf or belt to enhance the precise movement of the hips. Many creative people design modern “fusion” costumes such as the goth belly dancing outfit!
Bells, piercings and tattoos make the body look even more beautiful as it moves. Try adding a rhinestone or dangled pearl to your navel with eye-lash glue, if you want a more temporary effect. Big, dark-lashed, smoky, kohl-rimmed eyes add an exotic feel.
Music plays an integral role in a belly dance performance. Middle Eastern music has uncomplicated rhythmic patterns which the belly dancer can interpret and improvise to. Changes in the mood and pace from slow, dramatic and intense to lively and invigorating allows the dancer to express different qualities. Eastern instruments combine to create a perfect beat for the dance all creating the sense that music and dancer are in harmony. Ideally choose a medium pace for the entrance, slowing to a sensuous section, picking up the wild freedom of the beat with rhythmic drums to a fast paced, dramatic finale.
As a learner, whatever music creates the right mood for you is ideal. A steady, predictable beat without rhythm shifts helps you to nail those tricky moves.
One argument against the use of the term “belly dancing” is that the dance involves the whole body, not just the abdomen. However, the distinguishing moves of the dance are hip and abdominal ones.
The technique consists of isolations which separate lower body moves from upper ones, creating continuous movement in the middle. The belly movements include rolling, angular, vibrations and circular ones. This is enhanced by various shimmying actions.
There are many instructional videos online. Practice in front of a mirror at home, or better still, join in a fun class.
Belly dancing celebrates a woman’s femininity. No matter what shape or size, it helps a women gain confidence in her body.
The dance movements have many health benefits and are excellent for the lower back and spine. A low-impact workout, the gentle nature of the hip movements helps general fitness by strengthening and toning that difficult to target abdominal area. It improves flexibility in the hips and back as well as increasing core strength, developing grace and balance. Besides providing a fun, low-impact workout, belly dancing strengthens and tones the entire body.
Some people believe that belly dancing is particularly beneficial to pregnant women. One survey suggests that belly dancing can lead to shorter delivery times for the births of first children. It tones the muscles used in pregnancy and childbirth as dancers must use and strengthen the same muscles. Some of the movements and deep-breathing techniques used in belly dancing are also taught in natural childbirth classes.
Practice to an on-line beginners’ video in front of the mirror alone.
Join a class in your area.
Have a Belly Dancing Evening. Master some of the techniques together with girl-friends for a fun evening in, recreating those ancient times.
Costume up sexily and show your lover what you can do…
Belly dancing is a great way to have fun and relax at the same time, reconnecting with the wisdom of the ancestors who saw women’s bodies, not as a source of shame but as a source of life: sacred and divine.
And, of course, if you want another type of hot, sexy fun… you should try my hot, hot, HOT erotic romance: PA Exposé
Aspiring journalist, Cally Hammond, believes she is undercover to expose dominating company executive, Jake Stone. However, she has been duped by her real boss, into undergoing training to become sexually submissive.
Jake is an enthusiastic master who exposes Cally to bondage, correction, and submission to his will. The shocking experience re-awakens a dormant side of Cally’s personality which Jake can’t help reacting to.
But both have a mission to fulfil. Will they succeed, and what secrets will be exposed in the process?
Kristal Baird x