What are the Truths and Stereotypes of Belly Dancing
By: Joyce Behrens/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Belly dancing is a well-known dance, originating in the Arab world. It’s known for self-expression for the female body. This art has existed for the last three centuries and has progressed into this day in age. However, people tend to make misconceptions about this dance. Some consider belly dancing as inappropriate and only found at gentlemen’s clubs. Others believe that it is one, specific sequence of movement. Despite these stereotypes, the truths do overtake these lies. For example, belly dancing is a popular performance for social gatherings. The facts and truths continue to take down the misconceptions of this form of art.
Belly dancing is considered a fitness feature that anyone can participate in. In today’s world, we see the use of dance displayed as fitness workouts. Belly dancing is one of them. The idea is for workouts to be enjoyable rather than boring. Some fitness styles include traditional Arab music, while some put a modern spin into it. These types of workouts do not focus on the heritage of belly dancing specifically, but the movement. It’s a great workout for the abdominals and hips. Also, a fun way for cardio. Active movement burns fat for a slim stomach but depends on how often a person practices. It’s not only moving the core section. Rather, the focus is moving the whole body.
Size is Irrelevant
Another misconception of belly dancing is the body image. People tend to think that they need to have specific measurements. This is entirely incorrect. Belly dancing sees no specific body type. It doesn’t matter if the person is a professional, exerciser, or just dancing in front of the bedroom mirror. Dancers can be slender or plus size. What’s important is expressing the female body. Belly dancing is a way to promote self-body positivity, as well as to appreciate one’s unique beauty.
There are different aspects of events for this dance. In the Arab world, belly dancing is created for home social gatherings. It’s not necessarily a one-show event on a big stage. Also one can find belly dancing at wedding celebrations. It’s a way to gather people together as well as to create interactions. Also, this is the same for birthday celebrations. In terms of cultural exploration, there are small live performances. Museums and festivals are some common venues to find these side performances. These venues use belly dancers if exhibiting the Arab culture, as a factor of cultural entertainment. It’s also crucial to add that this dance may also be performed with more clothing hiding most of the skin. It all depends on the occasion and the taste of the performer, more on this topic, see below.
A typical stereotype of belly dancing is the idea of exotic dancing. Hollywood created their own interpretations that are mistaken for belly dancing. The depictions of gentlemen’s clubs with women stripping, dancing on poles or circling men. This is the main origin of those misconceptions. However, this logic has no relation with actual belly dancing. Some cultures, for example, Egypt, prohibit displaying a woman’s stomach. Nowadays, some dancers wear traditional bedlah- outfits. The bedlah consists of a top that displays a woman’s mid-section with a long skirt for mobility. What’s beautiful about this attire is how it defines the concept of belly dancing which is the self-expression of femininity in dancing from the Arab world. It shows grace and elegance, without being distasteful.
Belly Rings are Traditional
Again, this goes back to Hollywood depictions. Belly rings bring out the idea of sensuality as well as cover up to the navel. Belly rings are not traditional accessories. In today’s society, we see some belly dancers displaying jewelry in their belly buttons. However, it is the dancer’s preference for attire when performing. Today, when it comes to jewelry, it’s more of a choice rather than a requirement. Traditional belly dancing accessories include headbands, veils and arm cuffs. These are the traditional accessories accustomed to this dance. Belly rings are seen on some dancers, but this is a recent fashion trend.
People tend to think that there is one sequence of movements. It’s all just one specific choreography that has been past down through time. Also, the focus is on the motion of the mid-section. These narratives are a hundred percent a myth. Belly dancing gives creativity in the movement from the dancer. The dance does not focus on the movement of the hips and stomach. What contributes to this dance is the motion of the entire body. This means how steps are created when the dancer’s feet are moving. In addition, the way the arms are moved in a performance. This comes from the sounds of the music, as well as emotions. Check out this video of how the movement is performed.
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