BEIRUT: From colorful veils to shiny coins that ring, belly dancing transcended across continents challenging not only time, but also cultures.
Such transcendence has also taken on several definitions throughout history.
Some of these definitions aligned with stereotypes around belly dancing being an act of seduction. Others challenged them and focused on the importance of belly dancing as an art.
This history of belly dancing dates back to nearly six-hundred decades. Turkey and Egypt were its very first countries of origin.
This type of dance was under some Indian influence as well. It started out as a tribal ritual that performed women’s fertility and it was used as a way to get women’s bodies ready for pregnancy and labor.
Other uses of belly dancing were undergone in the Middle East as a tool for socializing at female-only gatherings. According to a research held by Valeria, PhD, belly dancing was initially for both, men and women.
However, this research showed that European travelers preferred women dancers over men and thus, associated this dance genre to women. The research revealed that the need to satisfy the desires of such travelers was what warranted belly dancers an infamous reputation for seduction.
Nonetheless, several feminist movements have redefined belly dancing to resemble women empowerment.
Its evolution rendered belly dancing an art to be taught in classrooms of modern academies.
Nowadays, the importance of belly dance lies within its fundamental role in self-expression, body image, and the arts.
“Choice of songs matters in determining self-expression. Sometimes you can cry through your dance with your body language,” Zubayda Al Asmar, a professional belly dancer that only trains in gymnasiums, told Annahar.
Such self-expression was examined by a study conducted by Southwest Folklife Alliance, University of Arizona affiliate. It found that self-expression in belly dancing lies within the enchanting but, surprising dance movements as well as the good inevitable music.
Deanna Hallum highlighted in a study by Pepperdine University that belly dancing is sensual, which makes it in and by itself a form of expression. According to her, self-expression is implemented in the way personal feelings and sensuality transcend into dance movements which connect to the music played.
“It shapes your body and gives you more self-confidence as it brings out feelings of power from within,” Al Asmar added when discussing the role belly dance plays in regard to body image.
To challenge stereotypes around belly dancing, Al Asmar suggested that performing in theaters acts as a great opportunity for dancers to be viewed as artists and nothing beyond that.
“People come from all around the world having purchased the ticket and knowing its value,” Al Asmar stated.
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations. Naya editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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