The belly dance is considered to be the most sensual female solo dance and it is especially popular in Egypt. It is identified by swaying hips and torso as well as a smooth arms movement. The belly dance is always performed along to Arabic music.
The most recognised element of the belly dance is its shaky hips movement, known as a “shimmy”. In Arabic countries, the belly dance is often labelled as oriental dance or Raqs sharqi, meaning “dance of the East”. The belly dance, raqs sharqi or raqs balady originates from Egypt. In this country the dance has a long standing tradition.
In ancient Egypt, women performed ritual dances to worship Isis - the goddess of fertility and motherhood. At that time during the dance, women used to covertheir hips with a light fabric which fluttered.
Belly dance combinations are passed on from generation to generation by women. Every Egyptian woman can perform raqs sharqi, but she usually dances at home in front of other women or for her husband in the bedroom.
Only professional belly dancers perform it in public places.
There are two distinct groups among dancers: exclusive dancers who perform raqs sharqi on very high artistic level- they usually add splendour to culture festivals or perform in five star hotels in Cairo and Alexandria. Another group of dancers perform at Egyptian wedding ceremonies, in hotels at the Red Sea, and night clubs.
Famous exclusive belly dancers: Samia Gamal, Nagua Faud, Soheir Zaki, Dina, Lucy, Raqia Hassan. Most of Egyptian belly dance stars began their career performing in night clubs. Only later did they gain their popularity with thanks to feature movies.
Not everyone realises that, contrary to the worldwide popularity of the belly dance, it is socially unacceptable in Egypt and those dancers performing it have a bad reputation. The reason for this is that Islam condemns both the belly dance and belly dancers who perform it in public places. Alluring woman’s moves in the dance are believed to be restricted to a husband’s eyes only. In addition to this rule, half naked belly dancers are in contradiction with the Muslim rule for entire body cover.
Several Egyptian movies show sceneswhere the husband finds out about his wife performing belly dance in public places. The man then covershis wife’s body with a piece of cloth, takingher away from the stage and beating her either in the street or at home. Such husbands are permanently torn down and their honour is never restored.
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