Middle Eastern Sound Collage

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These are the sounds of the instruments used during live bellydance performances. Some of the Instruments include a Dumbek (drum), the Tar (large frame drum), finger cymbals, Kanoun (sort of like a harp), Kawala (flute made with reeds) and a Ney (flute).

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Belly Dance Style Infograph

There are tons of different styles and forms of bellydance, but some of the styles that I’ve been mentioning in earlier posts tend to be more popular with many. The infograph below shows the most popular bellydance styles of the East and West and also shows the most popular forms of each style on the outer rim of the graph.

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We were asked to design 4 logos to represent ourselves. some of mine are repeated, because i wasnt sure which colors/designs i liked best. so i figure i wait to hear some feedback from others before i chose the final logo.

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Interview from a Local Bellydancer

Ginger Gowan is a local bellydancer for Suhaila Salimpour’s Dance Company. She has been dancing at Suhaila’s studio since 2004 and gives us a little look at how she feels about bellydancing in her interview below.

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Below Ginger shows how to perform some basic bellydance moves. sometimes seeing it is easier to understand than trying to read it.

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Bay Area Locals

Fat Chance Bellydance director, Carolena Nericcio is the creator of the modern bellydance style called American Tribal Style (ATS). After dancing with the Classic Dance Troupe of San Francisco for several years, in 1987 carolena began teaching people bellydance so that she could have dance partners. Being young and tattooed, she attracted people living alternative lifestyles with tattoos and almost primitive-like styles. Basically, people that were tattooed and wearing dreads…those that some say are part of sort of “subculture”. Carolena and her students became well know by performing for tattoo shows and conventions all around the Bay. Although at first, their style seemed to be shunned by many for departing so far away from tradition, but today, the style is very well accepted and many find it fascinating to watch these dancers perform with such a “tribal” edge.

Rachel Brice is another  local Tribal Fusion Belly Dancer based out of San Francisco.  She is the artist director and choreographer for The indigo Belly Dance Company and she also frequently performs with the Bellydance Superstars. Her Teachers include Fat Chance Bellydance Creator, Carolina Nericcio, Gary Kraftsow and Jamila and Suhaila Salimpour. She has performed and toured internationally since 1990 and been on a ton of tv and radio appearances worldwide.  She has put out fitness videos focusing on Yoga and Bellydance and has given workshops all over America and Europe. Kind of an interesting random thing about Rachel is, she teaches Yoga and Belly Dance for Pixar Animation Studios.

Jamila Salimpour influenced hundreds of dancers and musicians over the past 50 years. Know for demystying middle eastern movement, and finger cymbals created foundation for new dance language.  Throughtout the     jamila continued to study middle eastern dance and by the early 1950’s was appearing in ethnic nightclubs down in LA. She would also dance at the famous club she owned in San Francisco, called The Baghdad Cabaret; the first woman to own a Middle Eastern club in California. By 1949, Jamila had begun designing her own breakdown and teminolgy of Bellydance movements, including the Turkish Drop, Maya to the Floor,  and Basic Egyptian  to add structure and definition to the dance. She married a Persian drummer in the 1950’s who later swore that he would brake both her legs if she ever danced in public again. She also soon discovered that cymbal playing in the house was not allowed either. Although they would later divorce, In 1966 they had a beautiful daughter named Suhaila Salimpour, who would later become a top dance star.  When she discovered the outdoor renessance fairs, she decided to form her own version of middle eastern entertainment involving live music, swords, snakes and tattoos. it was very different from the usual cabaret night scene and Jamila named her dance company Bal Anat; Dance of the Mother Goddess. She also referred to it a tribal or ethnic style, as it was known by many at the time. The look and format was perfect for fairs, museums, and places where families gathered. The video below gives a perfect understanding of Jamila and how she became who she is today. She gave way to so many women and gave women freedom to be who they wanted to be, all through the style of dance.

Suhaila Salimpour is a highly acclaimed performer, teacher, and choreographer of belly dance. Growing up in the Bay Area, she loved the feeling she had when she would dance close to her mother, Jamila Salimpour, as they shared a dance. She was classically trained at an early age in Jazz, Tap and Ballet. Her first breakthrough was when she took what she knew from her Classical background and integrated it with her traditional background of Bellydance that her mother taught her. The result was a true artistic breakthrough, a revolutionary foundational technique that has brought the art of Belly Dance to a new level. Today, Suhaila teachers out of her studio in Berkeley, California with a unique style that has prepared her to become one of the worlds finest and most sought after performers. Her performances expressed the emotional soul and rhythm of ancient dance with the discipline and structured movement of the modern era. As Suhaila’s reputation grew she began to perform her unique art form all over the United States and Europe and her reception in the Middle East was astonishing; she was frequently compared in the media to some of the greatest dancers in the entire Arab world and has been featured in shows with the most renowned singers in the Middle East. She has also choreographed American rock videos, using a combination of her jazz and Middle Eastern training and her unique artistic vision which can be seen in her second-generation company, The Suhaila Salimpour Dance Company. In 2000, she revived her mother’s famous tribal dance company Bal Anat which was the first tribal dance company in the World. Suhaila tours America, Canada and Europe, giving workshops and concerts under her company and has finalized the first certification program available for Middle Eastern Dance. She creates instructional and performance videos for all dance levels, as well as fully-orchestrated Middle Eastern dance musicals and CD recordings of the latest percussion artists.  Today, her aim is to watch the art of bellydance grow; to ever more raise the level of her dance form.

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World-Famous Bellydancers

There are a ton of well-known belly dancers out there; some that you would recognize and many that you probably wouldn’t, if you weren’t part of the scene. A Famous dancer everyone might know is Shakira. Shakira incorporates a ton of different dance styles, including a salsa, but mostly she uses different styles and techniques from Belly Dancing and has created her own style of dancing. Shakira is a major figure all around the world and I honestly always thought she danced more of a salsa-style, but now that I’ve learned a little more about her, I realize that she is just her own style of belly dancing, which is awesome :]
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USOc5S2-3zA[/youtube] Other Famous Belly Dancers include a Turkish superstar named Princess Banu. Princess Banu was famous (for some, infamous) during the 70’s and 80’s in Turkey. Benu started her international career in 1976 at the Gallipoli in London and performed all over the world, becoming the best Turkish interpreter dancer. The Gallipoli was an elegant Turkish restaurant that became a famous venue for belly dancers after Banu began dancing there.
There is also a troupe of women who travel all around the world called Bellydance Superstars [BDSS]. BDSS had already performed concerts in 20 countries by 2009 including some of the biggest shows in bellydance history, anywhere. When theyre not touring, they teach bellydance workshops in places all over the world. They’ve made a number of DVDs and documentarys on the Art of Belly Dance and continue to to dance and build relationships with those within the belly dance community.
“We hope the BDSS will always be here to add to that pleasure and be a source of inspiration to dancers everywhere as we know our dancers constantly find inspiration from other dedicated dancers not only in bellydance but in all the dance arts.” – BDSS

These are just a few world-wide bellydancers, but theyre are plenty more, including Urban Gypsy, Jillina and Margaret Cho.

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Universal Beauty

As you read this, check out the picts of belly dancers from all over the world.

Belly dance is so beautiful to watch; yet it is a form of dance that has been persecuted and repressed by many for thousands of years. Even in the Middle East and parts of North Africa, Islamic regimes deny that bellydancing is part of Arabic Culture at all. But for years, women have pushed to show the beautiful, feminine side of this ancient art. Belly dancing requires balance, grace and strength, yet it is accessible for every woman regardless of age, weight or ethnicity. Each individual dances with their own unique style and no two bellydancers are the same. It is not just a dance to seduce men, as so many feminists have said it is. It is one of the oldest dances created for women, by women. I found women asking about what exactly belly dance is and why women would dance this art form. Kimberly Garrison, a bellydance enthusiast said it best:

“It’s a women’s art. You dance more for yourself than anyone else. The audience can watch and be inspired. It’s a sense of appreciation for women’s bodies. It’s a very different standard. It’s a celebration of curves and how to move in a women’s body. Belly dancing is decidedly a woman’s dance, so bringing it to the public sphere gives women a chance to be women in a place of power.”

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Western-Style Belly Dance

There are a ton of different Western Belly dance styles including Gypsy, Goddess/spiritual, fusion and even fitness Belly Dance. But the two main styles practices here are Classic/Modern American Belly Dance and Tribal.

Classic American Belly Dance

This style is sometimes called cabaret or nightclub style. It was inspired from the Middle Eastern movie industry and nightclub dance scene, primarily in Cairo and Istanbul. American belly dance differs from traditional Eastern dance because the American style has so much more freedom in the interpretation of movements and a more extensive use of veil work, floor work, props, and finger cymbal playing. American Bellydance is usually performed as a solo, routine that would include a vail dance, fast section/slow section drum solo and a finale. As long as a dancer stays within the boundaries of the bellydance core movement vocabulary, the dancer pretty much has free range to express their creative individuality. Costuming generally has a glamorous or luxurious style (think Hollywood glam design). They usually wear a two-piece decorative bra and skirt or “harem” ( Think MC Hammer) pants.The stomach is usually showing, though not always. Hip belts that match the designs of the bra or top are usually paired with the costumes along glittery accessories and jewelry… Classic American belly dance costumes can range from simple to all-out glits and glam.

Tribal Belly Dance

Tribal belly dance started in the Bay Area around the late 1960’s when a bellydancer by the name of Jamila Salimpour introduced this more ethnic and folkloric dance at festivals. It became well known at local renaissance fairs and street festivals for its unique costuming elements borrowed from ethnic cultures from the Eastern World. The style quickly spread throughout the US and to other parts around the world and is usually performed by a troupe (group of entertainers). The style usually involves a group who mimic each other, therefore the movements tend to be slower and deeper. They tend to do floor work or more movement closer to the ground for a earthly interpretation. Swords are used often and finger cymbals are also sometimes used. Veil work in Tribal belly dance is not used in the same manner as in Classic American style. Their costumes tend to be more covered up with a layered look of heavy fabrics and earth-tone colors. Ethnic jewelry, tassels, turbans, and tattoos are usually used, and quite extensively. Exotic make-up may be heavy with facial tattoos and ethnic hairstyles created with braids and hair extensions. There are three different forms of tribal bellydance that include American Tribal, Tribal Fusion and Gothic.

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Eastern-Style Belly Dance

So, Belly Dance comes in all sorts of styles from a ton of different places. People refer to it by different names in different regions and also, some of the styles are characterized by different techniques or moves, even different costume-styles. Each dancer has their own unique twist on whatever style they choose. Although somewhat similar, there are three common Eastern Belly Dance styles including:

Egyptian/Raqs Sharqi (raks sharki) Bellydance

In the first half of the 20th century, nightclubs in Egypt used belly dance as a form of entertainment. There are three main forms associated with Egyptian belly dance, called Baladi, Sharqi and Sha’abi. Middle Eastern stars performed in Arabic and Turkish nightclubs and helped introduce Oriental dance to the rest of the world. Egyptian bellydancers shoot for artistic and emotional interpretations of their music and friendly interaction with their audience. They rarely use finger cymbals, extensive veil dancing, or floor work (which is illegal in Egypt). Props are a rarity as well, with the exception of the occasional cane or candelabra (candlestick holder headpiece) dance. It has been illegal for bellydancers in Egypt to perform with their abdomens showing since the 1950’s, so, there costumes are usually a long, one-piece gown or a two-piece outfit (a decorated bra top and skirt) with a sheer body stocking to cover the midsection. The costumes are usually elaborate and elegant, with rich fabrics, lavished beadwork, jewels, and beaded fringe. The look is very glamorous and feminine. Check out the video below for a look at a baladi style dance and a sword dance[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcRigLZsDvA&feature=related[/youtube]

Turkish/oryantal dansi Bellydance

Turkish belly dancing has been strongly influenced by the Romani (Gypsy) people as well as influences from ancient Goddess worshipping cultures. Also known as Oryantal Dansi,  it uses the belly dance techniques of classic bellydance in a generally more energetic, flamboyant, and bold manner than other versions of Eastern bellydance. They use finger cymbals as well as a lot of floor work. The expression of sexuality has been openly shown at times, especially in the Turkish bellydance nightclub performances of the 70s and 80s. The 70s and 80s made the costumes notorious for their provocative and sexy look. They consisted of the typical decorative bra and skirt, except that the skirts were usually made with less material than other styles, revealing more of the dancers’ body. They wore beaded belts and lots of matching accessories. Fabrics used are usually sheer, often having cutouts on the belts or bras. Turkish costumes voice sexy, playful and flirtatious, although they have toned down over the years to concentrate more on the traditional aspects of the dance. Check out a Turkish Style dance below[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhGMx3upq14&playnext=1&list=PL8937A9C386AFC143[/youtube]

Lebanese Bellydance

Like other styles of Eastern bellydance, Lebanese belly dance is very ancient, most likely going back at least as far as to the Phoenicians. It is considered a blend of Egyptian and Turkish belly dance. It is however a little more energetic than the typical Raqs Sharqi, yet softer than the Oryantal Dansi. Lebaness style tends to have subtle influences from other genres of dance such as ballet and the use of finger cymbals and props are common. Lebanese costume style is similar to that of Eqyptian Bellydance expect Lebanese bellydancers are allowed to uncover their stomachs in public performances.

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Belly Dancing is among the oldest forms of dance and has been around for centuries. It’s origins can be traced to the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Africa. European countries usually refer to the dance as the oriental dance, Middle Easterners and Egyptians prefer Raqs Sharqi, while most of us here in America know it as Belly Dancing. Even in the Arabic language, the term belly dancing means Raqs Sharqi. The Turkish term Oryantal dansi can be roughly translated to mean “exotic oriental dance”.

The term ‘Belly Dance’ can be somewhat misleading as movement involves isolating different parts of the body, including stomach, shoulders, chest and the most featured part being the hips.This form of entertainment is danced and enjoyed by millions all around the world.

It’s history can be traced back to 6000 years ago. In early years, the dance was used for traditional or religious ceremonies, often performed for matriarchal deities or fertility rituals.  The dances spread from Mesopotamia to North Africa, Rome, Spain and India via traveling Gypsies. It became a form of entertaining dance when gypsies would dance the streets or perform in theatres to support themselves in their travels.

Belly Dancing is especially popular in Turkey and Egypt. In Turkey, chengis, which are a group of female-only dancers and musicians, entertained the communities of Istanbul and other parts of Turkey since the mid 1400’s.  Their dance style included complex hip work, shimmies and varied facial expressions, as well as veil dancing and finger cymbal playing.

In Egypt, the dance involved both men and women, which is more popular today than it had been in the past. Referred to as the ghawazee , their style involved a mixture of music and dancing, including improvised performances with veil, sticks, swords and candles. Religious complaints outlawed ghawanzee dancing in the city of Cairo in 1834. By1856, the ban was lifted and dancing was allowed in Cairo again, although the sanction against dancing in public remained. The dance moved inside to a music-hall type environment and Egyptian cabaret-style dancing was born.

Belly dance arrived in America when Serian belly dancer named Little Egypt took to the stage at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Known as “Little Egypt” for a few short years, Farida Mazar Spyropoulos was a influenced many women to imitate and exaggerate her traditional style dance.

The fantasized and often distorted version of belly dancing quickly took to the mainstream, becoming a popular subject in books, art and Hollywood movies. In recent years, more women have discovered the true elements of this incredibly feminine art form.

Some historical artwork i stumbled across shows that those with higher power or wealthiness enjoyed the entertainment and company of belly dancers. Check out a few i found below.

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