The true history of belly dance
is a much debated topic among belly dance enthusiasts, leading to many conflicting theories. Because belly dance consists of a mixture of many different dance styles, it indeed has many different origins. Many experts believe that belly dance is one of the oldest forms of dance.
Belly Dance Origins
Most belly dancers tend to believe in at least one of many theories explaining how belly dancing originated. The most popular theory is that it evolved from a religious dance. Some people believe that it descended from early Egyptian dances, or from the migration of Gypsies from India. Another popular theory is that belly dance began as a traditional birthing practice to help ease the pains of childbirth.
Belly Dance in America
It is believed that belly dance first came to America in 1893 when a dancer known as "Little Egypt" performed at the Chicago World's Fair. Fascinated by the dance and the music, Americans became very interested in the exotic dances and rhythms of the orient. Feeling the approaching craze, Hollywood created glamorous, colorful costumes, popularizing an exotic dance of self-expression.
Belly Dance Terminology
Even more debated than the origin of belly dance is exactly what the dance form should be called. The term "belly dance" is believed to have come from a French term (danse du ventre) meaning "dance of the stomach." There is really no correct word or name for this art form, simply because so many styles and forms of the dance exist in several cultures. However, most Americans referring to this ancient art form simply call it "belly dance."
Evolution of Belly Dance
Today, belly dance is enjoyed throughout the world and is taught in almost every country. Belly dancing offers an instant community of friends for women of all ages who find joy in music and movement. Belly dance creates self-confidence, as women learning the art often gain a sense of empowerment and self-discovery through artistic self-expression. Although many enthusiasts perform for modest income, the majority of belly dancers find the dance form to be a great source of exercise and a means of socialization.