Bellydancing is a tradition that is in danger of becoming extinct as. Less people practice the dance or go to see the shows. In Arabic, the dance is called Raks Sharqi, meaning "Oriental Dance". Bellydancing was later translated from the French “Danse du Ventre”, or stomach dance, which was used to describe tribal dances.
Today many Middle Eastern countries forbid women to perform the dance. During the 1950's, bellydancing was declared illegal in Egypt. The law was overruled, however, this was on the basis that belly dancers would no longer show their stomachs & that law still remains in effect.
When used as a social dance, belly dance is performed at celebrations and social gatherings by ordinary people (male and female, young and old), in their ordinary clothes. In more conservative or traditional societies, these events may be gender segregated, with separate parties where men and women dance separately.
In the modern times, professional performers (including dancers, singers, and actors) are not considered to be respectable in the Middle East. There is a strong social stigma attached to female performers in particular, since they display their bodies in public, which is considered "haram" (forbidden by God) in Islam.
The modern Egyptian belly dance style and costumes are said to have originated in Cairo's nightclubs and then been used in Egyptian cinema. Egyptian belly dance is noted for its controlled, precise movements.
The costume most commonly associated with belly dance is the 'bedlah', which typically includes a fitted top or bra, a fitted hip belt, and a full-length skirt or harem pants. The bra and belt may be richly decorated with beads, sequins, crystals, coins, beaded fringe and embroidery. The belt may be a separate piece, or sewn into a skirt.
Belly dance is traditionally a solo dance & is usually improvised by the dancer feeling the music rather than choreographing the moves. The dancer primarily dances with their torso (hips, chest, shoulders) rather than the limbs (legs and arms) & they use isolation, so one part of the body can follow one part of the music while another does something different.