In the western world Middle-Eastern Dance comes under the banner of “Belly Dance” but this expression was only coined in 1899 when it was translated from the French danse du ventre or “dance of the belly”. In reality there are many different names, all of which are correct. Just as ‘Ballroom’ is also known as ‘Dancesport’ and has many different sub-catagories so does Belly Dance.
Another name for Belly Dance is Oriental Dance or Oryantal dansi meaning “dance of the east”. However, it is fast being known for the Arabic version Raqs Sharqi or Raks Sharqi or “eastern dance”. With the folkloric style being referred to as Raqs Beladi or Raks Baladi. With in these styles are many different types of dance depending on the instruments and tempo of the music.
Why all the names? The answer to that is as varied as the different names! Essentially dance from the Middle East covers such a wide area with many different influences and styles that it has evolved and is still evolving to this day. This is generally accepted to be due to the Gypsies or Romani people who travelled throughout the region over the centuries. The Roma had their own style of dancing, and as they travelled they picked up various influences and techniques from the people they came across. They in turn taught those they came into contact with the dance styles they had learnt. You could say they were dance ambassadors!
Hollywood introduced only one form of belly dance in the 1920’s, which became the known version for the western public. However, there are many different types of dance in various countries and regions. So there are many versions for you to explore in your journey to learn the wonderful art of Belly Dance!