Belly dance is believed to have originated in Egypt. The mesmerizing art form of belly dance focuses on torso and hip movements that flow rhythmically to the music. However, the term belly dance is the literal translation of the French term ‘danse du ventre,’ meaning ‘dance of the stomach’ and is believed to have originated after it was first performed in Paris at the Exposition Universelle in the 1890s. The dance form has since evolved into different distinct forms depending upon the regions in which it is practiced. Belly dance was introduced to the world by European travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries, who extensively wrote about the dances they saw in the Middle East. In Egypt, the belly dance is believed to have taken two different forms- folk or social dance -depending upon the two distinct social constructs where they were performed. Belly dance first came to America in the 1890s, when the exotic dance was performed at the Chicago World Fair. Hollywood then popularised belly dance as art for self-expression through movies and shows. However, belly dancers are still not respected in more conservative areas due to the strong stigma attached to their clothing and dance moves. Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Morocco are some of the places where the dance form is still respected and celebrated.
Belly dancers, especially women, gain a particular sense of empowerment and self-confidence while practicing this art form. It is a chance for artistic self-expression and socialization. The success of any belly dance performer depends on core muscle engagement and the skill of isolation of shoulder and chest muscles. The classic steps of a belly dance routine are Shimmy, Undulation, and Hip Hits. Vibrating one’s hips by making use of the lower back muscles is called Shimmy. In belly dance routines, Shimmy is often done front to back or side to side. The fluid movements pulsating throughout the body ending in a circular twist of the hips, is called Undulation. Hip Hits are the sharp side-to-side movements of hips, an illusion created by alternating the weight distribution from one leg to the other.
The costumes of belly dancers have not changed much over the years. Belly dancers prefer clothing that doesn’t restrict their body movements in any way. Belly dancers usually choose clothes that expose their mid-section, allowing the hips and belly to show. The commonly used costume consists of a fitted bra top, long skirt, or flowing pants covered in embellishments like coins, jewels, sequins, etc. The costume also features a belt attached with jingling coins that rides low on the hips. Belly dancers may also use props such as swords, snakes, wings, veils, candles, etc. The clothing belly dancers commonly use light-weight and flowing to perfectly express the carefree feminine nature.