Gilded Serpent presents...
Erica in her new Turkish costume!
through Belly dance
you are reading this publication, then you too have fallen in
love with belly dancing. Some say that 'belly dance' is
an inaccurate name for this art form and prefer Oriental Dance
or, even more precisely, Raks Sharki. The title Oriental Dance is derived from the
geographical origin of the dance. Raks
Sharki is the Arabic name for the
set of movements we study. Though respect must certainly
be given to the foremothers of this dance and the importance
of learning the history and development of the movements must
not be overlooked, I find the adaptation to new regions and
to modern times to be equally important.
changes and accommodations belly dance has made to the modern
woman is a testament to the importance of the dance to all of
us and to the power it has to unite women from every country
in the world in a sisterhood that celebrates our bodies and
began as a form of movement for women by women. The Girls
Only Club was started to encourage and help women through difficult
and challenging physical phases of life (such as child birth),
through celebrations that include physical explorations (a belly
dancer was often employed at weddings as both entertainment and
to help the new couple learn about, and feel at ease with, each
other in the bedroom), and through taxing times (releasing excess
stress through ritual dances such as Zar).
misinformed stereotype of harems of women dancing to seduce a
single Sultan implies that the dancer is doing something for another
person, not herself. This objectifying dynamic distances
and isolates the individual. The reality is much more positive
towards women and does not have the effect of estrangement.
Learning the dance in a nurturing environment and in a way that
helps our bodies and makes us feel good is the reality of this
expression of creativity and celebration.
men discovered what women were up to behind closed doors and
the word was out, it did not take long before the mysterious
and pleasing dance was on display for everyone. In the
late 19th century belly dancing first came to North
with all things from the Orient at the time, the dance was desirable
to the audience it found on this un-initiated continent.
The dance caught on here, as it had in every other country, and
before it knew what hit it, belly dance was being changed to fit
with North American sensibilities (a phenomenon that anything
introduced to North America is subject to!).
the years some of the changes that have been incorporated into
the dance include arm positions, costuming and accessories.
From the days of a women entertaining her family by dancing
in the close quarters of her own house to the highly staged
theatrics of today, the dancer has earned a great deal of room
once arm movements were limited to the frame of the dancer and
she used delicate, confined movements, today we are often on
stage or in large open areas where
we are the center of attention for many on-lookers and need
to project our energy and our individuality more forcefully
than in the past.
A long time ago, in a distant land (Sonora, CA), Editor's 1st homemade
costume with belly jewel intact!
belly dancer has the freedom to have her arms spread out, using
as much space around her as her arm length allows, moving from
one spot to another. These changes have become essential
when performing for audiences, as
well as just being a welcome addition to the repertoire of moves
As for costumes,
modernity and the demise of modesty have given rise to interesting
twists on costuming. From Dina's mini skirts in the mid
1990's to the Marilyn
Monroe inspired outfits at IAMED's galas and competitions, there are no holds barred! Costumes
are as individual as the dancers who wear them and the designers
who create them. There is still a large number of do it
yourself costumers out there. Certain dances are associated
with traditional dresses or harem pants and these pairings can
still be seen today. As for the ubiquitous jewel in the
belly button associated with belly dancers, this accoutrement
was entirely the fabrication of Hollywood.
films introduced to a large audience the exotic,
scantily clad harems of women dancing seductively for
a Sultan. The stereotype continued through to James Bond
films, and the jewel as an accent to the belly was unknown to
the Middle East.
name 'belly dance' is somewhat misleading, as the emphasis of
the dance and the movements is actually on the hips, not the
belly. Some costumes do leave the belly exposed, though
most of the traditional and folkloric dresses are full length
and cover the majority, if not all, of the body. Some
historians suggest that the misnomer came from mis-hearing
the name Baladi, one of the rhythms
we hear in Middle Eastern music.) Veils, too, are a North
American introduction, though we now see them used in countries
all over the world. A woman on another continent saw someone
here using a long narrow piece of fabric, loved the way it looked,
and added it to her routine. The connection this makes
between dancers, between artists, between women, is one of the
most important parts of belly dance.
dance is fun to learn, is easy on and good for the body (for
any body), and is a way to connect us all to each other.
technology, it is possible to see a woman you admire doing the
same thing as you, to see a woman you have never met or heard
of doing the same movements as you, a woman in a country you will
never visit dancing the dance you do in your living room every
night. Teachers who are fortunate and courageous enough
to travel to new lands are bring back with them knowledge and
moves to share with the rest of us, make it possible to create
a globally unifying experience every time we don our hip scarves,
put on our Middle Eastern music, and practice those shimmies.
So next time you are working on a hip drop or undulation, remember
that there are hundreds of women out there in apartments, houses,
huts and shacks all working on the same isolation and loving every
minute of it, just like you are.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Taking Good Care of our Stars by
of all, as we now need them consistently; we have to free them
from financial worries by giving them job security including such
things as health insurance.
Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
5 of 9 by Edwina Nearing
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers
From Rags to Rhinestones
am most proud of having taken up dance later in life and having
become an acclaimed professional-level performer.
Lace and My Muses, Part 4 of 5:Tarnished
Not until very recent times, could I admit, even to myself,
that I had lost a large part of my creative thrust along with
many of my treasured friendships because I had perceived wrongly
that I needed to become more like the Egyptian and Lebanese dancers
of the day.