Dancing around a fire
Middle Eastern Arabic Belly Dancing
Many people in western cultures view belly dancing as something sexual. This is generally because of the way that Hollywood and the entertainment industry has portrayed it. Belly dancing is not a sexual or erotic dance at all. It is something far more than that.
Arabic Belly Dancing In History
The fascinating truth is that no one really knows when belly dancing started. What is known or at least speculated on is that belly dancing was meant to be a ritualistic dance. It is a celebration and worship of a higher power. The traditional belly dancing cultures perform this riualistic dance at birthdays and weddings or whenever people gather to celebrate something wonderful.
It can be reasonably assumed that belly dancing had no sexual connotation because it was typically performed by women for women. Men who wanted to watch belly dancing would usually have to watch other men perform the dance. It is no longer this way in Arabic culture, but it is traditionally a woman's dance. The techniques and movements were taught from mother to daughter.
The costumes of the past were radically different than what is seen today. The ancient traditional belly dancing costume did not show any skin at all. It had layers upon layers of fabric to hide the form beneath. What was the most important part of the dance were the movements themselves. Over time the costumes have become more and more revealing.
So, now we know that the costumes were very modest and covered the whole body. Today we see a very different costume, but are they as risqu as many believe them to be? Well today's costumes come from a variety of places. For instance, in Egypt the belly dancing costume is still very modest. It is not considered appropriate for women to reveal their stomach during the dance and the costume reflects this. Many dancers in Egypt choose to wear a skin colored body suit to allow them to wear the bra and skirt costume most people are familiar with.
American versions of the belly dancing costume are a combination of many different elements. Bras are still the tops of choice for American belly dancers, but they are often coupled with a vest. The skirt bottom can sometimes be a layered skirt or many American belly dancers will choose harem pants instead. As you can see, most of the costume covers the body, even in American culture.
Turkey has the most revealing costumes. They will still wear the typical bra and skirt costume, but the skirts will sometimes contain cutouts or they are specifically designed to show off the leg. These may well be the costumes that are referred to as revealing or erotic. If you take a closer look, though, you will find that they are really not all that revealing. A bikini will reveal much more than a typical belly dancing costume.
A bikini in a Middle Eastern country is very revealing and considered to be shameful to wear in public. In the western world a bikini is standard and not something to be ashamed of at all. That tends to make one wonder why Arabic belly dancing costumes have gotten the bad rap. It could stem from belly dancing's roots in the empowerment of women. Women for the first time embraced their femininity and developed these movements to celebrate their womanhood. Or it could just be that many people are not knowledgeable on the history of belly dancing. With some education on the history, belly dancing may be viewed for what it is and not what it is not.
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