“Raks Sharki” (Egyptian term which means Oriental Dance)
This beautiful dance is done with the whole body, not just the “Belly”. The dance is usually done as a solo dance with undulating hips and a body that gyrates, shakes and rolls, all the while the feet can by syncopating and moving about. Jumping and stamping of the feet can also be a part of this dance. Many dancers use finger cymbals while dancing. A good belly dancer can be judged by how well she moves her shoulders, not her pelvis.
Belly dancing is in reality very old, beautiful and a respected art form.
Dancing girls have been around since before the first century, A.D. such as the dancing girls of GADES in Southwestern Spain, which was once a Roman colony, who had three distinct styles of dancing:
Cheironomia - play of the hands
Halma - play of the feet
Lactisma - jumps.
Persian Dancing Girls had been dancing before and after the arrival of Islam (founded 7th century). Dancing girls were regarded highly and even married into Imperial Families.
In Egypt, the “dancing woman” were called Awelim, (wise or learned). These woman performed in long, transparent gowns, beating drums or castanets in quick time.
Egyptian Ghawazees were generally hired to perform dances on occasions such as weddings. They would perform unveiled to the men in the court whilst the women enjoyed the performance from the windows of the harem.
The Hindu “dancing girls” were called Alméh because they were better educated than the other females and of high morals. The entertainment provided by them was well respected and called natch. The alméh of the higher class knew, perfectly, al the new songs and dances. No festival was complete without their attendance.
The alméh gained admittance to the favour of the public and were solicited to attend marriages and every kind of entertainment. In some hieroglyphics and paintings, the alméhare generally depicted waving small branches or beating tambourines while they danced, singing the refrain, “Make a good day, make a good day, Life only lasts for a moment, Make a good day.”
However, in the lower order, there was an inferior class who could not claim to be alméh, whose imitations of the former were but very humble and cheap; without the knowledge, the elegance or grace of the higher order. These impersonators were the first to give the dance an unmoral view. These fake dancers were usually of poor training and weak of mind.
The Mughal Empire gave rise to the dance style know as “Kathak”, a non belly dance (Men also dance in India; they are called Cathacks and are between 18 & 20 years old. Their performances consist of graceful poses and of scarf movements, and they are dressed in magnificent costumes).
The French referred to the Kathak as “la danse du ventre” (meaning belly dance in French).
In Turkish it’s called “Oryantal Tansi” (Oriental Dance).
In Greece “Cifte Telli” (Turkish Rhythm)
Early Americans called it “The Abdomen Dance” or “Stomach Dance”.