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Learning about Belly Dance

  Playing zills (finger cymbals) / Books about belly dance / Helpful articles

Informative
Web Sites

 

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Arizona Belly Dance News Information - Click here to read how to subscribe to the newsletter

Art of Mid-Eastern Dance by Shira
These sites are so informative! Lots of choices, articles and directories

Bhuz.com | Discover Belly Dance
International Belly dance directory, Music, Event listings, Articles and Forums

Expert Village has a series of online videos by Sahira that are very helpful to belly dancers starting out.

IAMED (The International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance)

The Joy of Belly Dancing by Yasmina (Mesa, AZ)
excellent dancer directories, calendar and listings of links/information

Middle Eastern Dance Guide (articles and links) - Also has ideas for your dance name if you want to choose one - Middle Eastern Names and their meanings

Angelique and Friends - local AZ dance info, belly dance grams and booking & national acts

Belly Dance by Anthea (site with great how-to's for making costumes, doing state make-up, etc...)

Middle Eastern Dance (detailed info on belly dance moves, music, costumes, etc...)

Wikipedia - Belly Dance - now a great resource for learning about anything, it's also a great collaborative learning tool for belly dancers.

Oriental Dancer Salome - Promo of international performer as well as belly dance directories, talent agency directory, jobs available, on-line lessons, articles, and interviews

Bellydance Zürich- Asmhan's Bellydancer Show- Dancer in Switzerland with good articles on the history of belly dance


Playing the Zills
(Finger Cymbals)

Guide to basic zill rhythms for belly dancers

Books about
Belly Dance

(Listed in order of which I enjoyed most)

 

 

 

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"Grandmother's Secrets : The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing" by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi
This book is a must for every dancer. It explores the very origins of the dance from ancient goddess celebration to how each belly dance move is an expression of actions and emotions taken from our lives as women and mothers. This book even contains a passage explaining the origin of the dance of the seven veils!
(From book jacket): "Al-Rawi conveys not only the history and technique of grieving and mourning dances, pregnancy and birth dances, but the spirit of these old-age rituals, and their possibilities for healing and empowering women today."

"Serpent of the Nile : Women and Dance in the Arab World"
This book is wonderful - it covers all the cultural/historical origins of belly dancing and has tons of fabulous photographs and paintings. (I'm a very visual person.) It takes you from practically the beginning of time to present day dancing and illustrates the ways and reasons it has changed. I want to own this book!

"A Trade Like Any Other: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt"
A very academic book about lives of women entertainers in Egypt through history. It was interesting, but difficult for me to read all the way through. It also depressed me in the sense that it deals with all the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with belly dancers... dancers that love it but were rejected by their families because of the field they chose, dancers who hated it but it was their only means of making a living... dancers who enjoy the art of it but quit because of the degrading way the dance was heading. I recommend you browse through it... but don't buy it. Most libraries will have it since it was a dissertation from a Texas university.


Helpful Articles

 

 

 

 

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  • How to do Belly Rolls - This was the most challenging move for me to learn.
    These sites helped me think about the muscle movements and isolation.
    Advice from Shira's web site


"Belly Dancing, the Rite that Honors the Goddess"
Essay by Emely Flak - from Llewellyn's 2003 Magical Almanac

On a warm, sultry evening somewhere in a busy metropolitan hub, someone plays some music with a Middle Eastern beat. Women dance to the music to celebrate their collective femininity and individual shape. Bare bellies shimmy, bare feet rustle across the polished wooden floor; the women take pride in their varied appearance. All of them are beautiful and resplendent in a rainbow of floating chiffon interspersed with noisy gold and silver accessories.

Such is a belly dancing class in an Australian adult learning center, the latest dance craze across many industrialized Western countries. In such cases, women of all sorts gather to dance and so rejoice together and reconnect to ancient goddess energies.

History of Belly Dancing
Although difficult to pinpoint its beginnings, belly dancing evolved from ancient spiritual movements that honored fertility. As the survival of our species relied on our success in reproducing, our ancestors devised rituals such as the belly dance to gain favors from the fertility goddess. The earthy, sensual movements are said to unite the body with the spirit of the Earth. This dance evolved into what the French named danse duventre, or "dance of the belly," which was first demonstrated in the United States at the Chicago World Fair in 1896 by a dancer identified only as Little Egypt. The Americans translated its French name into "belly dancing." We now associate the belly dance with Middle Eastern tradition.

This dance form has been labeled as obscene and primitive due to its subtle and not so subtle sexual overtones. Despite efforts over the ages to eradicate this body-centered, exotic dance form, the belly dance has survived to enjoy a revival with many contemporary Western women.

So what is it about the dance that has attracted a high level of interest? Multicultural influences in Western society have enabled us to experience a diversity of food, languages, and customs. In turn, this has made us more culturally sensitive and less judgmental. It is quite common for diners to be entertained by a belly dancer on a busy night in most Middle Eastern restaurants. Meanwhile, growing interest in the dance has also been linked to the increased independence of women. Belly dancing can be seen as an empowering activity for women.

Details of Belly Dancing
Belly dancing is designed specifically for the shape of the female body. The hips undulate in isolation from the rest of the body in a circular motion. The circle, a symbol of protection, represents the Great Mother Goddess in a tribal context. The hips move in the shape of the figure eight, making the movements hypnotic. Kinesiologists have recognized that figure-eight body movements that cross the center line of the body activate neurons connecting the left and right brain hemispheres. The dancer also isolates upper body movements, alternating with vibrating shimmy movements. Combined with the fluid actions carried out by the arms, belly dancing engages all parts of the body, including an internal massage of the reproductive and digestive organs. Belly dancing involves low-impact exercise, and it strengthens back muscles. Belly dancing is a healthy physical workout that suits women at all stages of their life. Furthermore, by dancing barefoot, the belly dancer connects with the Great Mother Goddess, with the Earth, and with nature.

This dance form has evolved over thousands of years and varies a great deal in the use of accessories. The props used, like swords, veils, candles, and even snakes, have magical and primitive roots. Some dancers use finger zills adding interest, color, and sound to the performance. Dancers apply their individuality and freedom of expression through their choice of accessories and their costume.

Even today, some traditions continue to recognize the fertility element of this dance. At an Egyptian wedding, the bride and groom often engage the services of a belly dancer. The couple places their hands on the dancer's stomach to ensure their own bounty. Interestingly, the fertility aspect of belly dancing has also emerged as a useful exercise for childbirth. Fernad Lamaze, in his childbirth classes, recommended pelvic rocking movements, similar to those in belly dancing, to shorten the duration of labor and to ease the pain of giving birth.

In a culture where slim, emaciated bodies are promoted as the paragon of feminine beauty, belly dancing is an art form that reveres the curvy female contour. Abundance in flesh is considered a bonus and belly dancers of all sizes and ages discover and enjoy confidence in displaying their shape. Women dancing together create an atmosphere of empowerment and trust. Now studied and practiced as an art form, many belly dancers in Middle Eastern restaurants, cabarets, and functions are women who have discovered a passion in keeping this ancient dance ritual alive. (pg. 286 - 288)


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