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What is Belly Dance?

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By Becky Dimock / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Belly dance (or Oriental dance) is possibly the most ancient form of dancing.  It started in the Middle East, and, contrary to popular belief, was not performed as a way for women to entertain men.  Instead, belly dance is traditionally performed by men and women of all ages at celebrations such as weddings and festivals. 

Woman Belly Dancer

In contrast to many traditional forms of dance, belly dance follows the music instead of telling a story or serving a religious purpose. Traditionally, it is generally an improvised, solo dance.  However, in modern times, it is commonly performed by groups as a choreographed dance. 

As belly dance spread throughout the world and became a popular art form, the style changed drastically, which is why it can mean different things to different teachers and performers.  However, in general, belly dance includes these elements: The primary movement is from the torso instead of legs and arms, it is danced to traditional Middle Eastern music, and it uses isolations; where one part of the body moves to a part of the music while another part does something different or is still. 

Belly dance continues to be popular today, and has seen a resurgence since pop stars such a Brittany Spears, Shakira and today Dojo Cat use the style in their videos and performances.  

Belly dance is a fun way for a dancer to explore different cultures and learn a new way of connecting to music.  Learning the isolations and smooth movements associated with belly dance can help a dancer perform other styles of dance, such as jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and modern.

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!