The World of Belly Dance

Imagine you are walking through the streets of a fair or festival when all at once, the sounds of Arabic music and pounding drums begin to fill your ears. You hear rhythmic jingling, as if someone began clinking coins together, off in the distance. As you move in closer to the music, your view shifts to a group of women dancing around in what is sure to be a sort of cultural dance. They are dressed in beautifully ornate traditional clothing, made with rich materials, bright colors and shining embellishments; an outfit that is sure to turn heads.

They sway their hips back and forth with erotic gestures and isolate the torso with unique movements. They quiver, shake, thrust and create curving patterns with their bodies with little notice to the footwork in a form of dance known to many as Raqs Shaqri.

Yup, thats right, belly dancing to most of the Western World. Its become my new small obssession. Belly Dance, by definition, is a sensuous and provocative dance of Middle Eastern origin, performed by women, with undulating movements of the hips and abdomen. To get a better understanding of what a belly dancer looks like in action, check out the video below. Bay Area Professional, Suhaila Salimpour’s performance shows just how easily she can move her body to the beat of the music.

Dont be fooled though, I’m told belly dance is not an easy one. On one hand, learning the basic moves, such as hip drops may be easy. And it’s easy to learn them well enough to use them when going out partying with one’s friends. But on the other hand, if someone wants to become a “real” performer, that’s not easy at all. Middle Eastern music is unfamiliar to the Western ear, with rhythms that are different from what we’re used to and lyrics in languages we don’t speak. It takes years of practice and dedication to reach a professional level.  It’s like any other performing art, if you want to be good enough for show, that’s going to take some work. I want to dive into the world of Belly Dance, learn a little history about this traditional technique and find out just how hard it is to reach it to the top in a world few understand.


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