Belly dance, an intense, express dance form

Belly dance
Brunette in a beautiful long red dress to perform belly dance on a white background.

Belly dance is also known as Raqs Sharqi. It is a significant dance form that originated in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The current form may be considered erotic or even vulgar as has been adapted in the various cultures across the globe. But, what was the original purpose of the birth of this dance? Let’s find out.

Belly dance history

At present, the dance form is full of sparkles and scantily clad women putting up a great show through erotic movements of their body. We even see men throwing money on women and dancing alongside as the show is in progress. It’s all glitters and no gold.

Belly dance originally took birth over 17,000 years ago and a number of cave carvings are proof of the same. The actual reason for the birth of this dance form was to enhance fertility. As the abdomen and torso moved, the muscles were strengthened increasing chances for women to get pregnant. It was also to enhance the overall strength and confidence in women – a sort of empowerment as they transformed from a little girl to a woman.

Women would gather together and perform the dance for their own selves and not for the purpose of entertainment. The purpose of fertility remained the most crucial reason for the performance. Also, they required the blessings of the deities to bless them with fertility and would therefore dance to evoke them. The gatherings were also a means of expressing gratitude to life and for making women the vessels from which life to continue to take birth and grow. Menstrual periods were also not a taboo therefore women would gather to thank the moon for regulating their menstrual cycles. This was a form of unashamed feminine ritual of sensuality.

As time progressed and paganism changed to monotheism, dancers were executed and documentations were destroyed. Men began to ridicule these dances, as they seemed to lose power by the lack of participation without the understanding that these were “women-only” rituals as they concerned periods, pregnancy etc. In the 18th century as French explorers witnessed this incredible dance form they named it “danse du ventre”, which literally translated to Belly dance. America saw the first Belly dance in the year 1893 at the Chicago world’s fair. The audience found it obscene and it went on to be considered a dance to attract and entertain men.

Belly dance myths

Is it an Islamic dance form?

Most people today believe that this dance form is an Islamic dance since it originated in Egypt. But, this is a myth because a number of non-religious or people of different religions practice perform and master this dance form as it is, making this dance a secular dance and not belonging to any particular religion or country. However, most people who perform this art form believe it originated in India and made its way to Egypt where it flourished and reached all across the world.

Gender, size, age, body-type define Belly dancers

This is the biggest of all myths and is vast spread to every dance form. Dance is essentially an expression of emotion and does not depend on any physical or gender attributes. The world is currently seeing a number of men doing well in dance in every genre. Dance forms cannot be stereotyped as television or movies would like us to believe. The tall, fair, thin, seductress is not the only one who can do the dance. It is an open form of expression and can be taken up by anyone male or female, old or young, tall or short, thin or curvy.

Belly dance is exotic, stripping

As stated above, the dance was originally a form of ritual for the women by the women as gratitude for their womanhood. It was nothing to be ashamed of or looked down upon. Men, since they couldn’t have a slice of that cake, ridiculed it, made fun of it and even added their own personal spin to blacken its name. Things just became worst as the dance reached the west and was perceived as vulgar or offensive and a form to mesmerize and tease men. This is however, far beyond the truth. Further, to sell tickets, the advertisers made it look like a titillating dance. The dance is fun, pure, for exercise and for a deep emotional connection with one’s body, mind and soul.


Belly dance is enjoyed world over. The ancient Arabic music and the dance moves on the rhythm are not just mesmerizing but are also a great way to exercise and lose those extra pounds especially around the abdomen and belly.