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bellydance-Belly dance is a Western term for a traditional Middle Eastern dance form. Some American devotees refer to it simply as "Middle Eastern Dance."
In the Arabic language it is known as raqs sharqi (??? ????; literally "oriental dance") or sometimes raqs baladi (??? ????; literally "national" or "folk" dance). The term "raqs sharqi" may have originated in Egypt. In Greece and the Balkans, belly dance is called tsiftetelli (??????????).
The term belly-dance is a creation of Orientalism, and is first attested in English in 1899, translating French danse du ventre
Native to North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, belly dancing is based on one of the oldest social dances in world history. Much of the support for this theory stems from the similarities between poses in ancient Egyptian artwork and the modern dance.
There are two forms of belly dancing. The first is called raqs baladi, a social dance performed by people of all ages and by both sexes, during festive occasions- such as weddings- and other social gatherings for fun and celebration. The second form- the more theatrical version- is called raqs sharqi, and it is this type that is most popular in America today. Like raks baladi, raks sharqi is performed by both male and female dancers.
Where belly dancing is a native dance, boys and girls learn it from an early age. As with many social dances, children learn it informally, by observing and imitating their elders during family and community celebrations, as well as during informal gatherings with friends. Today, these ancient dances are taught in classes offered throughout the world, and skilled dancers are able to share their knowledge that has been passed down from the indigenous peoples who created them.
The exact origin of this dance form is actively debated among dance enthusiasts, especially given the limited academic research on the topic. Much of the research in this area has been done by dancers attempting to understand their dance's origins. However, the often overlooked fact that most dancing in the Middle East occurs in the social context rather than the more visible and glamorous context of the professional nightclub dancers, has led to an overall misunderstanding of the dance's true nature and has given rise to many conflicting theories about its origins. Because this dance is a fusion of many dance styles, it undoubtedly has many different origins -- many of them in ethnic folk dances. The most popular form of bellydancing is known as the "Hoobie Shimmy."
Many dancers subscribe to one or another of a number of theories regarding the origins of the form. Some of these theories are that the dance form:
* descended from indigenous dances of ancient Upper Egypt
* descended from Greece, spreading with Alexander the Great
* descended from a religious dance Temple Priestesses once practiced
* had been a part of traditional birthing practices in the region(s) of origin
* had spread from the migrations of the Romani people (also called "gypsies") and related groups, descended from the Banjara of Rajasthan in northwestern India.
* originated in Uzbekistan, traveling to India through the slave trade.
Of the theories, the first explanation is rarely invoked, even with such high-status proponents as the Egyptian Dancer Doctor Mo Geddawi promoting it. The most well-known theory is that it descended from a religious dance. This idea is usually the one referred to in mainstream articles on the topic, and has enjoyed a large amount of publicity. 1960s American singer/dancer Jamila Salimpour was one proponent. It was also popularized in works such as Earth Dancing and Grandmother's Secrets.
The "birthing practices" theory covers a sub-set of dance movements in modern raqs sharqi. Strongly publicized by the research of the dancer/layperson anthropologist Morocco (also known as Carolina Varga Dinicu), it involves the rework of movements traditionally utilized to demonstrate or ease childbirth. Although lacking an "origin point", this theory does have the advantage of numerous oral historical references, and is backed by a commentary in the work The Dancer of Shamahka.
Two points suggest Roma dance as its origin. The Roma, and other related groups, are seen as either having brought the form over as they traveled, or picked it up along the way and spread it around. Thanks to the conflation of Roma forms of dance into the raqs sharqi sphere in the West, these theories enjoy a vogue in the West that is not necessarily reflected in their original countries -- although some of that may be due to strongly-held prejudices against the Roma.