Gilded Serpent presents...

The Ballet-ification of Belly Dance

Horacio Cifuentes and Carolyn Carjaval, 1989

by Sausan
posted November 1, 2011

It’s popping up in Belly dance studios across the globe as a relevant class for Belly dancers.  The latest instructional Belly dance DVDs refer to it heavily, and its movement vocabulary is used in the teaching of Belly dance technique.  It is hailed as the best training for strength, grace, and endurance, but is it appropriate and applicable to what is considered the oldest dance in the world?

Billed as a “modified technique”, purportedly tailored to help Belly dancers increase balance, fluidity, strength and grace, Ballet movement and vocabulary is fast becoming the norm in the teaching curriculum of Belly dance.  I’m concerned. 

When did Ballet become a requisite for Belly dance, and why is it stated that it should be an essential part of a Belly dancer’s daily regimen?

If we compare the two dances in all respects, one is as different from the other as night is to day.  Each one contradicts the other in movement, technique, cultural origins, music interpretation, applicable body type, and performance venue.  Neither looks at all like the other in any aspect, and both come from completely separate backgrounds and time lines.

So, why does one supposedly have to take a class in ballet to be a great Belly dancer?

First, let’s consider the historical and geographical differences of these two dances:

  1. Ballet is said to have emerged in the court culture of the late fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance as a dance interpretation of fencing, while in contrast, Belly dance has been around since the birth of civilization, or at least since the time of the pharaohs — before the Christian era, anyway, and is said to have been centered around issues of human fertility. 
  2. Fencing, from which Ballet was patterned, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.  This connotes fights, battles, war and even death.  Belly dance is a cultural expression of the of the Middle East and is danced initially without performance or stage properties in a celebration of life.
  3. Ballet was further developed in the French court from the time of Louis XIV in the 17th century.  Belly dance was further made popular in the streets of Cairo and later appeared as performances by women in Egyptian casinos and nightclubs; most notably in those of Chafica Al Cobtiya and Badia El Masabni, during mid 19th through the early 20th centuries. 

SausanOK, I’ll admit it…  I’m not an authority on Ballet, and I’ve never studied it; and there is a clear reason why I never did.  I saw it as rigid, strict, and constrained; a dance that twisted one’s body into unnatural positions, demanded hours of daily disciplinary and arduous stretching, and that commanded a strict diet.  The turnout of feet from the day-to-day leg exercises comprised of the five basic positions and the resulting deformity of them after years of dancing en pointe seemed too torturous and made no sense to me.  My interests leaned more toward the indigenous celebratory cultural forms of ethnic dance, which is why I chose Belly dance as my ultimate form of dance study.

Belly dance is not Ballet.  Belly dance is fluid, pliable, seamless — always moving, and “gushy”.  Moreover, it is an ethnic and cultural form of expression born out of the day-to-day life celebrations of Middle Eastern people. 

It embraces the young and the old, the slender to zaftig, and everything in between.  It does not discriminate, except perhaps, in hire-for-pay public performances.  Except for hire-for-pay public performances, Ballet is quite the opposite.  So, why are we Belly dance instructors applying Ballet terms and labels on Belly dance and introducing a Western concept into this ancient dance form?

I’m going to take this idea a step further.  Call me “politically incorrect” if you wish, but according to history, Ballet was made popular by a male in a royal European court.  On the other hand, Belly dance (considered primarily to be a female dance and made popular as such in Cairo during the Golden Age of Egypt) did not come out of a royal court but rather from village and city homes and streets of its laypeople — another notable difference worthy of consideration.  Why can’t we just leave the dance alone?  The only thing associated with it in the way of royal courts is with the late King Farouq who enjoyed watching these lovely dancers while frequenting the nightclubs during his reign.  Aida Nour 1991 by Lynette

Why must we infuse this already rich and beautiful dance form with yet another Western influence like Ballet?  Haven’t we done enough to it already?  We have American Tribal Style, Gothic Industrial Style, Tribal Fusion Style, American Modern Style, American Restaurant style, Classic American style, Gypsy style, Goddess or Spiritual style, Fitness style, Hawaiian Fusion style, Poi Ball style, Fire-Eating style, and the, seemingly, more “culturally oriented” Lebanese, Turkish, and Bollywood styles. 

Additionally now, Ballet style?  What new fad style will be next?  Hiphop style?  Breakdance style?  Mashed-Potato style?  Funky Chicken style?  Lindy Hop style?  Futuristic Martian style?

Perhaps (and this is an extreme speculative long-shot) in some remote, small way, it might have been that Belly dance was the inspiration and actual impetus for Ballet (food for thought!). Perhaps it was a deliberate step (no pun intended) to evolve in the opposite direction of Belly dance movement and expression, for indeed, Belly dance is widely believed to be the first dance.  If you think about it as it relates to historical context, male is to female as Ballet is to Belly dance.  Or, perhaps, it’s just that we in the West feel the need to take what we’ve discovered from another culture and make it our own, infusing it with our contemporary cultural experience and reinventing it numerous times to suit our needs for subsequent marketability when it really doesn’t belong to our western culture in the first place!

Najia in 1990

We might (with all due respect) put the initial charge for the Ballet-ification of Belly dance on world-renown Egyptian master dance teacher, Mahmoud Reda, who opened his dance school in the mid-twentieth century and taught his version of “ethnic dance” to the populous along with his knowledge and experience of Ballet technique.  After all, his dance idols were Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire of whom it is said he wanted to emulate rather than Chafica Al Coptiya or Badia Al Masabni.  However, before the teaching influences of Mahmoud Reda, great dancers like Chafica Al Coptiya, and Badia Al Masabni, as well as Taheyia Karioka, Badawiya Moustafa, and so many others danced their hearts out to the acclaim of their eclectic fan base and without any real formal Ballet training.  Perhaps it’s because of the lack of this Ballet training that allowed their expression to ring true in their dance, unencumbered by Ballet technique, that carved a place for them in the historical dance annals of Egypt.  Introduce Ballet technique via a world-renown and highly revered Egyptian-born dance master like Mahmoud Reda (again, with all due respect given) and all previous accepted points of view suddenly change.

Ballet has no place in Belly dance, either in vocabulary or dance technique

Ballet may be touted as a bona fide exercise to increase balance, fluidity, strength and grace, but Belly dance does exactly that and more in its own unique way!  Not only does Belly dance strengthen muscles, teach grace and fluidity, and produce stamina and endurance, it also opens the door to another world — to the history, culture, and expression of the country from which the dance evolved centuries before ballet was ever invented.  It teaches us other forms of music with percussion rhythms far more complex than our own.  It introduces us to another way of thinking and of moving.  It opens our minds and allows us to experience another culture with expressions altogether different from our own.  Why would we want to contaminate that with Ballet?

Belly dance does not need to be “improved” or “legitimized” with an infusion of Ballet, it is already a perfect dance by itself. 

Instead, it needs to be studied without the comparison or infusion of other dance types such as Ballet, without Western or European cultural influences, and without the Western or European discrimination or experience.  It has its own exclusive vocabulary, its own exclusive technique, and it’s own particular movements. 

Belly dance is unique.  Pair it with Ballet, and you have another form of Belly dance fusion imposed by the West in its unending quest to making something “better”, lacking the understanding of the underlying nature of it, and the unwillingness to study it completely and apart from any other form of dance, and the apparent inability to experience it as its own unique expressive dance entity.  In the U.S.A., as well as the European and Western countries, there’s just too much of that — a style called “Belly Dance Fusion”.  Why not study the dance form itself and only by itself, along with all that it has to offer in the way of its elements like the music, culture, and artists? 

Keeping the dance true to its form….  Now, that’s something worth considering!

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   |       |    20 Comments

  1. No Gravatar
    Ranya

    Nov 2, 2011 - 04:11:52

    Interesting article Sausan with some very valid points, however let us not forget that what we know today as bellydance and even what Samia Gamal and Naima Akef were dancing was heavily inspired by western dance forms, including ballet, jazz and gymnastics BEFORE Mahmoud Reda and does not really represent the way girls dance in villages in Egypt.
    The use of veil for the megeance was an idea of Russian ballet master Madam Ivanovna who was a personal coach of Samia Gamal’s while Egypt was still a monarchy.
    Having lived and worked in Egypt I can say that most of my Egyptian dancer friends and colleagues agree that a bit of ballet is not bad and most of us had a ballet barre at home. We might not use those steps while we dance, but it helps us build strenght and flexibility.
    There should of course be a limit to where bellydance stops and ballet starts, but I think that a ballet class made appropriate for non-ballet dancers can be usefull if used the right way.
    Usually, in these classes, there is no stress on turn-out, on high extensions etc., but rather on improving flexibility and strenght.

  2. No Gravatar
    Stine Olsen

    Nov 2, 2011 - 06:11:25

    I applaud this article – classical ballet hates and rejects the natural female form with its curves and abundance, whereas belly dance celebrates and respects it!  As for improving core strength and flexibility, yoga/pilates will do this as well or better

  3. No Gravatar
    Jaylee

    Nov 2, 2011 - 08:11:44

    I can agree with you that Ballet is not necessarily required to learn Belly dance, nor does it have to be a supplement to a belly dancer’s workout routine.  I feel that this article is less about ballet-ification, and more about disliking fusions or changes to the tradition.  What I disagree with is the purist/traditionalist mentality.  Traditionalists, in general, seem to disapprove with any western influence on a traditional Middle Eastern form, lumping all “fusionists” into a group where the tradition is not honored, researched, or studied.  I believe that is a common misconception of traditionalists vs fusionists; that fusionists don’t care about where the dance came from and don’t do any research.  Well, its completely wrong, unfair, and prejudiced.  Judge the dancer, not the genre.  I know PLENTY of fusion dancers who have studied extensively, with PhD’s in anthropology with focus in the dance form for pete’s sake.  They know tradition, but CHOOSE to dance fusion styles because it fits their personality and movement needs better.  They also understand that in order for a dance form to progress into something else great, is to make it your own.  And you know what is great about that?  It leaves a niche for traditionalist dancers, where we can watch and appreciate the art form better.  Tradition is absolutely necessary, and we NEED purists in the community.  But we also need for purists to be a bit more open-minded to the metamorphosis of this beautiful dance, to not take it so personal when someone wants to take the traditional form they love and make it their own.  Ballet with Bellydance?  Yup, its different.  I have no problem with it if done well and with passion and integrity.  I will have a problem with it if it gets shoved down my throat as the only way to become a great belly dancer.  But I would feel that way towards anything that was forced upon me.  Look, people–this is dance.  Dance is dance is dance is dance.  Can’t we all just accept each other and enjoy it, focus on our own learning and approach and not worry so much about what everyone else is doing?  Let’s get back to the reason why we dance and why we love it so much….because it feels so damn good.  Judgment has no place here.  My opinion:  accept and move on.

  4. No Gravatar
    Shelley Muzzy (Yasmela)

    Nov 2, 2011 - 09:11:40

    Inserting ballet into Middle Eastern dance did start a long time ago.  it is unfortunate, another example of cultural imperialism.  the Russian ballet in Egypt during the 40’s and 50’s had a big influence on indigineous dance.  The same happened in Tunisia with the advent of western balletic influence.  There will always be change and fluidity, but oriental dance and ballet are very different…and it’s nice to preserve those differences.  No doubt study of ballet can offer us some valuable tools, but what we don’t need is the snobby exclusivity of teachers or schools telling newbies that they must have WESTERN ballet training in order to be truly good dancers.  That is just a bunch of bunk.  The recent rise of technicality in the dance can probably be atributed in some degree to the mania the west has for strict codes, emphasis on the mechanical aspects of dance rather than the emotional content required in truly great Middle Eastern dancers.

  5. No Gravatar
    cecile

    Nov 2, 2011 - 12:11:08

    Hi! I found this article to be interesting, although I have to disagree on some points. My dance history began with egyptian cabaret style bellydance, which I continue to study, teach and perform. However, about 5 years ago, I began taking adult oriented ballet classes, and fell in love with the art form, both for itself, and the enhanced poise, strength and elegance it brought to  my bellydancing.  I have to agree that the two dance forms are polar opposites,  but i feel that the study of both has increased my expressive vocabulary. I use simple ballet exercises in my classes to develop core strength and balance in my students. I see it as a  sort of movement and dance-based  alternative to a set of yoga poses. As far as the statement that “Fencing, from which Ballet was patterned, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.  This connotes fights, battles, war and even death.  Belly dance is a cultural expression of the of the Middle East and is danced initially without performance or stage properties in a celebration of life.” is concerned, I would like to point out that, while ballet is , in part, derived from fencing movements, it is just as much derived from the traditional folk dances of Europe, which are celebrations of community and life, just as are the folk dances of the Middle East. 

  6. No Gravatar
    Shushanna

    Nov 4, 2011 - 11:11:26

    I use ballet skills all the time while belly dancing, including turnout while performing cross-touch-steps, any kind of turns or spins, and graceful arms moving throughout the positions (all movements that were unheard-of to Middle Eastern dancers pre-1920’s).  To say ballet and belly dance are completely incompatible is a little silly.  Especially since ballet has heavilly influenced what we know of as belly dance since the 1940’s.

    And ballet has been influence by Middle Eastern dance.  Ever hear of a position called Arabesque? 

    The mechanics of the human body are the same no matter what continent you come from, and learning how to use it and train it properly will help you in every form of dance.

  7. No Gravatar
    Barbara Grant

    Nov 5, 2011 - 03:11:12

    Regarding ballet, Sausan writes, “I saw it as rigid, strict, and constrained, a dance that twisted one’s body into unnatural positions…”.  Isadora Duncan might agree. Ballet, “with its strict rules of posture and formation, was ‘ugly and against nature’,” she is quoted as saying (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isadora_Duncan). For her part, Duncan’s dislike of ballet did not come from consideration of western v. eastern (or Middle Eastern) dance forms; rather, from a conviction that humans don’t naturally move that way–nor have they, traditionally, in the West, if one studies the statues from classical Greek civilization upon which Duncan based much of her dance. I find it very difficult to accept the argument, above, that ballet developed, in part, out of the folk dances and community traditions of western societies. Where is the evidence? Regardless, my first thought upon seeing an Egyptian heavily incorporate balletic movements into her performance is, “please, don’t!”

  8. No Gravatar
    Catherine

    Nov 19, 2011 - 04:11:17

    The authors assertion that belly dance is the oldest dance in the world is simply not true…stating that belly dance has been around “since the birth of civilization, or at least since the time of the pharoahs” – that is the  odlest myth in the  belly dance book!!! a validation strategy for orthodoxy in art if i ever saw one….

  9. No Gravatar
    Luise Perenne BFA

    Nov 29, 2011 - 06:11:36

    The claim that ballet “originated  in the Court of the “Sun King:”Louis in France” is only half true. There are steps in the vocabulary of ballet choreography such as Pas du Basque, Saute du Basque, chaussee, etc. which is character and execution clearly come from  folk dances in various European countries: Spain, Germany, Russia and Italy. The codified vocabulary and theatrical ballet traditions were established in the regal setting of court dance, but they were not the original spark of the dance form that is now known as Ballet. Dance is the expression of the human spirit, no matter what technique, style or rhythm it may take. It’s unfortunate that so many people insist upon being such snobs. Dance is Joy, no matter which form one chooses.

  10. No Gravatar
    Beata & Horacio Cifuentes

    Dec 6, 2011 - 10:12:16

    Many good points have been made in the above comments. I would like to add a comment and also ask one question: what is a photo of Horacio clearly taken during a ballet performance doing in this article? Other than that he looks great in tights I dont see what it proves…Or is it a pointed finger because this article appeared right after we posted our 4-day dance training in San Francisco in February 2012 which includes- yes! ballet for oriental dancers!

    We certainly dont intend to balletify you, dear dancers, we merely feel that ballet offers great tools to deal with problems like pidgeon toes, sunken chests, hanging elbows, difficulty to remember steps etc. A ballet class can help you with that and give you understanding of lines, posture and structure as well as your position in space on stage without taking away from the Egyptian feeling. Ballet for oriental dancers does not include high extensions and jumps. What amazes me is that the author admits freely to not ever having taken a ballet class and from the looks of it also not having seen a lot of ballet performances. How can you critize what you dont know much about?? It seems that this statement was made partly from lack of knowledge but partly also caused by fearfulness in a dance world that is constantly evolving.

    Demonizing ballet will not change the fact that the dance has developed from village to club to stage and dancers worldwide want to use what ballet contributes to basic dance technique and vocabulary. Many famous teachers and dancers have taken ballet classes: Nagua Fuad, Samia Gamal, Aida Nour and Dina in their days in a folkloric troupe, Bert Balladine even was a ballet dancer- and it has not hurt their careers. In other dance forms like flamenco, jazz, ballroom professional troupes include ballet in their training. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding days and some football teams have taken ballet classes. That does not mean they will do Swan Lake any time soon! So, hopefully we can overcome some misconceptions and hereby cordially invite our ballet-weary author to be our guest and take one of our classes in February! Beata

  11. No Gravatar
    Leyla Amir

    Dec 6, 2011 - 12:12:04

    In defense of the author, I find it necessary to comment on the comments.  I have long been a lover of all dance forms including ballet even if it is only on a limited basis.  I also believe that some gentle training of ballet goes well in our dance for the learning of carriage of the body and moving thru space with a purpose .  The ballet esthetics of carriage  is used in  almost every dance form there is.  And from my knowledge of ballet history it was once looked on as vulgar, but bringing it into the court of Royalty up graded it’s status to nobile.  A process that one could say is being attempted with “Belly Dance” with it’s long reputation of being no more than stripping.  Snobbishness  about a love for a certain dance style does not just live in the “Belly Dance” world.
    From the authors perspective I do understand though how too much ballet in a “belly dance”  performance alters the “feel” of the dance. In my opinion it removes the cultural aspect of what the dance has evolved into as the excepted form of the dance in the time of the popularization of the dance, in the world, but mainly emerging in the movies from Egypt on a world scale.
    All the popular dancers of the time, in Egypt, would use a more theatrical version of the dance to gain more world acceptance of the dance including Mahmoud Reda.  Those very same dancers in a different Egyptian venue would stay with the more , lets say, traditional form of the dance.  Cabaret and club dancing has a very different look than the theatrical presentation found on a theater stage or in a movie.
    As a dancer who started in 1971 in the USA and then on the stages in Egypt 1981-1990,  I do see the changes in the styling of the dance with more ballet injected and I believe this has occurred also as an effect of the Festivals all over the world, including Egypt , that makes the teaching of this style more readily available to the masses, who a  have switched their dance love or early training to the Middle Eastern Style, no doubt hoping for more outlet for a chance to perform.   Venues of clubs has drastically dried up and the amount of dancers to accommodate what is left, leaves many dancers with no place to go except in a theatrical setting, propelled by the industry itself.
    I do not demonize ballet , as I am sure nor does the author…but from our aspect of where we have been with the dance in Egypt, I can see that in mass and on a theatrical setting the dance does not “crack the onion” .  For me when too much ballet is emphasized in the dance and not enough of the emotional culture it came from, which by the way can be a very difficult thing to teach IMO.
    The ballet styling is a beautiful dance form to watch and I am sure many love and appreciate the styling but from my perspective, and with Egypt as my second home, I prefer the emotional involvement and joy that the more traditional styling brings in performing and in watching.
    It is what hooked me in the first place.

  12. No Gravatar
    Una

    Dec 12, 2011 - 09:12:14

    Ballet is one of the bases of my award winning style, which is labled, Classic.  I have studies many dance forms and thank ballet for my posture and wonderfully strong legs. So take ballet classes for the strength and use only what ever else you want from it. Any dance is wonderful to study. What is Belly dance’s proper form? Many time I leave a show and ask myself, what was that?!  I am not sure if my note relates, It bothered me to read a “put down”? on a dance form that is respected world wide. See you in Horacios ballet class!!! My  belly dancing body needs it. Any how I’m too short to be a ballerina:)   

  13. No Gravatar
    cera

    Dec 14, 2011 - 12:12:25

    so many of the facts in this are just incorrect.
    the super thin form for ballet wasn’t adopted until much more recently in ballet’s history.
    ballet was introduced to bellydance in egypt long before it was introduced in studio classes in the US.
    bellydance is ‘ethnic’ and ballet is not? isn’t ‘italian’ a cultural group, with a language and geo-location? doesn’t that make italians just as much of an ‘ethnic’ group as egyptians or lybians or turks? all dance is ‘ethnic’ dance.
    and, bottom line, traditionally, peoples lifestyles were much more active, and dance was part of that lifestyle. now, peoples lifestyles are primarily sedentary, and most bodies must be conditioned for dance to avoid injury. some teachers use yoga, some pilates, some a mishmash of things they’ve gotten in other teachers classes, and some ballet or jazz warm ups. does it really matter what conditioning technique is used, as much as whether a teacher is fully skilled and trained at that method, and understands how their conditioning method segues into and supports the dance movements they will teach?  i dont care what’s in the warm up, as long as the teacher can correct me, teach me proper form, and thoroughly guide me from warm up/conditioning to dance, i’m a happy (safe, welltrained) student.

  14. No Gravatar
    Elisa

    Jan 23, 2012 - 05:01:19

    I think the idea behind studying ballet is becoming stronger as an overall dancer, as a ballet foundation is an excellent foundation for a dancer. I think the more styles and physical activities one practices, the better informed you are as a dancer and the stronger your body becomes. The emphasis, however, should not be on making belly dance more like ballet, but rather to make belly dancers better prepared to perform the movements they want. I wish I had had a ballet foundation before entering belly dance: it would have made many things easier, like balance and turning, which ballet focuses on very much. My path to belly dance was quite different: I come from martial arts, so I had strength and flexibility, but I had to work very hard on softening my hands and movements, which were more attuned to punching and kicking than to hand flourishes.
    Regarding the purist approach, I will say that there is another dance that has also influenced belly dancers very much, that shares a few features with it and that does not get mentioned here at all: flamenco. I see distinctly “flamenco arms” on many dancers, and know a few belly dancers who have also studied flamenco and feel very attracted to that dance form. But because the hand stylizations are not so different from those of belly dance, I guess people do not notice or somehow “approve” it.
    While I am aware that dance forms evolve, mostly due to foreign influences, I do agree with Sausan that sometimes this is taken to a bit of an extreme. I guess when it happens artificially or as the result of avoiding difficulty (like some so-called tribal dancers do) then it becomes detrimental to the art. I think a lot of belly dancers opt for the tribal route because Arabic music is very complex and requires paying attention to many different layers, whereas music that is nowadays used by alternative American forms (Rachel Brice comes to mind) is much simpler and one-dimensional.

  15. No Gravatar
    Catherine

    Jan 30, 2012 - 05:01:56

    Elisa, I agree with you until the last paragraph of your post which bashes Tribal Style and Tribal Fusion. Tribal Fusion has only been around for maybe a decade so of course there are few very skilled TF dancers in comparison to the amount of skilled Orientale/Cabaret/Raqs dancers….if you looked at the proportion of bad Raqs dancers who dont give a crap about technique or musicality then you could use the same reasoning to cut down that style.
    As for the simplicity of music used in TF, again I could say the same about alot of Arabic compositions…well honestly the belly dacne repertoire is a fraction of the greater Arabic musical repertoire and mostly seems to use simple rhythms like maqsum, beledi, ciftetelli….. just because Zeina uses a maqsum rythym doesn’t mean its hard to dance to it!!!! check out some tracks Rachel Brice dances to on http://8tracks.com/arbibi, orbetter yet jsut youTube her and tell me its easy to dance to her electronica picks!

  16. No Gravatar
    Yuliya Lunessia

    Feb 8, 2012 - 03:02:25

    “Belly dance is not Ballet.  Belly dance is fluid, pliable, seamless — always moving..” …I find this statement interesting (and the one about ballet being “rigid”) because that is almost exactly the same thing in words that a ballet teacher would encourage his/her students to bring out in their own ballet dancing…fluidity. Your opinion is understandable Susan, as you said yourself that you’ve never had a ballet class yourself. So, as someone who has started out as a ballet dancer and went into bellydance, I’d like to answer your initial question question, respectfuly.
    Ballet in a class, with all the training that is done to perfect the art, much like bellydance or any other art form, may seem rigid while the instensive training is being done. But there is something magical that happens in a ballet performance: my teachers have always taught me to let go of everything that I’ve have learned and just dance effortlesly with heart. This intensive training along with “letting go” is the final goal of many ballet dancers because that is when the most beautiful fluidity (that we so love in bellydance as well) happens naturaly in a balletic performance. Yes, Bellydance and Ballet are like night and day but at some point night and day meet and kiss at dawn and dusk, which creates a most beautiful sunrise or sunset. That fusion is what many “bellydancing ballerinas” strive to acomplish in their dancing, and not to disrespect the ancient art of Bellydance and it’s origins.
    Dancing/art afterall is always everchanging because of the way we interpret our inspirations from the original artform. After all, when the Gypsy people traveled from country to country passing on their beautiful dancing movements to locals, those countries interpreted what they were inspired by in their own special ways mixed in with their culture and created the different styles of bellydance. (at least that is one of the orign stories of bellydance).
    I nyself don’t belive that ballet is a must to “improve” bellydance, but rather it helps with certain movements in bellydance that are naturaly graceful like in ballet, for example…the arms. Many bellydancers have a beautiful technique in their hips, isolations, but when it comes to completing the picture of their dancing (the lines that their limbs create), they tend to “ruin” the picture with bad arm posture that show tension rather than fluidity. (bad arms/hands/feet can draw attention to those parts of the body instead of the beautiful technique the bellydancer is showing with her torso). Practcing certain ballet excersises can help with arm posture, turns (learning how to “spot” so as not to get dizzy), and even something as simple as pointing one’s foot in a more graceful way can help frame the beautiful isolations and undulations of a bellydancer’s movement if his/her body lines are also graceful and not pointing awkwardly.
    It is also in ballet where we are taught to move “non stop” and everflowing…that is one of the main rules of musicality that a dancer learns in ballet class. So like in bellydance, in ballet when one movement stops the next begins like a beautiful connective energy, and for that I can not call ballet “rigid”. So you see Susan, ballet is only ment to help a bellydancer improve  his/her dancing “frame” (the lines that her limbs create) to create more fluidity in their bellydancing. The two dance forms really do work beautifully together, in my opinion. Just look up SABAH and her dancing! 🙂 She does the most beautiful interpretations of true to the art bellydance with her balletic movements. These two styles are not enemies, but rather like sisters (I like to think). They are not as different as you think, because they both share the goal of grace, joy, and effortlessness.
    I hope you look into some beautiful ballet dancing as well as ballet bellydancing, maybe on youtube? 🙂 Samia Gamal is my favorite dancer for all these reasons. She is afterall a legend of true to the art bellydancing, and she was the first to realize that ballet and bellydance can go hand in hand together.

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    Nour

    Jun 18, 2012 - 02:06:59

    “Ballet has no place in Belly dance, either in vocabulary or dance technique.”
    Well it’s obvious by the author’s photo that she feels that way (pidgin foot, slumped posture, weak arms.)  None of the greats moved like this. 
    How about you stop trying to tell everyone else what belly dance “is” and “isn’t” since you are not of that culture no matter how “educated” you are on the topic.

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    Daria

    Jul 9, 2012 - 11:07:54

    I have taken ballet, ATS, and now Egyptian dance classes and can say without any hesitation that Egyptian dance, as taught by Sausan, since she has been my only Egyptian dance teacher so far, is the most natural of all three of these and the one that my body responds to and remembers the best.
    After trying her style of shoulder shimmy, from only two lessons, I have adopted it into my own improvisational style with ease, as opposed to the many days (of pain) I spent learning the ATS version.
    In addition to ease of learning/remembering/adopting the movements, I have found that Egyptian dance offers me a level of expressiveness and individuality I could never have hoped to achieve had I continued with ATS.  In short, no matter how hard I tried, the style wasn’t for me.
    I find ATS fascinating and mesmerizing to watch, as I do with most forms of belly dance, and I adore Tribal Fusion, which to me suggests a fascinating “Coney Island” flavor, and is very reminiscent of the early part of the 20th century.  It sometimes even has an otherworldly flavor, as in my favorite performance by Sherri Wheatley, who looks like she should be performing at Quark’s bar on Deep Space 9, a privilege I would love to have had.  (Dr. Bashir, anyone?)
    But I very much love feeling like I’m getting an old-school, natural take on the dance that’s as free of American additions as possible, and knowing that I can use that on its own, incorporate it into my own form of Tribal Fusion, or take it as a starting point for some other type of belly dance that doesn’t exist yet makes me particularly happy.  I like to think I’m starting from good ingredients, and adding the rest as I desire.
    Egyptian dance is ubiquitous, but Tribal Fusion and ATS are also legitimate forms of the dance.  For me personally, where the dance is taking place is extremely important to whether or not it seems appropriate.  ATS always looks great on a large stage where the audience can be more removed from it, like ballet.  Egyptian dance works best for me in an intimate setting, such as a restaurant, and feels funny if you try to present it like a Western dance on a stage that’s far away where the audience can’t interact with the dancer or be close to her.
    ATS and even Tribal Fusion, for me, have a more formal and stand-offish air, and tend to be taught more like ballet, with those influences present in the dance as well.  Overall presentation are emphasized over the dancer’s internal/emotional experience, which doesn’t work as well for me, being a Pisces.
    Different venues, different dance styles.  Why not?

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    Santina

    Mar 6, 2015 - 03:03:15

    As stated before, dancers trained at the Ivanovo dance school in the Golden Era. Making it already infused up to a point with ballet.

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    Layla Taj

    Oct 29, 2016 - 03:10:38

    If you want an elegant and graceful style than incorporate your ballet knowledge into belly dance .If it’s more gypsy style than don’t . In Egypt when I worked under contract in five star hotels , they labeled me ” the classiest belly dancer ” I believe it had to do with that elegant style combined with doses of sexual appeal and the right look . But “too much ballet can ruin a dancer “. This is what my master Egyptian teachers taught me and I agree . I wouldn’t be afraid of learning any form of dance . This is how a dancer can develope her signature . Too much thinking here , we should be more worried about ” feeling ” in our dance too .Now that’s an article I could write . Just have a good time and be yourself .

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