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Streetswing's Dance History Archives
Belly Dance History Logo for Belly Dancing
            (note: Video Clips are in no particular order) ... This beautiful dance is done with the whole body, not just the 'Belly.' The dance is usually done as a solo dance, with undulating hips and a body that gyrates shakes and rolls, all the while the feet can be syncopating and moving about. Jumping and stamping of the feet can be a part of the dance as well. Many belly dancers can and do use the finger cymbals (not Castanets) while dancing. A good belly dancer can be judged by how well she moves her shoulders, not her pelvis.

    The only correct term by the purists for real Belly dancing is;" Raks Sharki" (Middle East) or al-Sharqi in Egyptian, which means Oriental Dance. In other parts of the world it is known as Raks Farruh in Lebanon and Oryantal Tansi and Raks I Shahane in Turkey.

Other not so respected dance forms can be connected with the belly dance, such as Burlesque and Striptease. As many movies, night club promoters and dancers used the dance in their performances, and many people have only seen a belly dance thru these venues / mediums. Real belly dancers (raks sharki) do not care for the dance to be connected with Strippers and Burlesque, as the dance in reality is a very old, Beautiful and respected art form, but alas it sometimes is. More to come ...

    "Dancing Girls" have been around since before the first century, A.D. such as the dancing girls of Gades (Dancing Girls of Cádiz*) in S/W Spain, which was once a Roman colony which had three distinct styles of dancing:
    1) Cheironomia, or play of hands;
    2) Halma, or play of feet; and
    3) Lactisma, or jumps.
Dancing Persian Girls had been dancing before and after the arrival of Islam (founded 7th century.) Dancing girls were in such high regard that in 527 A.D. shows a dancing girl named Theodora (d.548) who married the Emperor Justinian (483-565) and became the Byzantine "Empress Theodora."

    Belly dancing has changed dramatically throughout its long and torrid history. What sometimes is considered miled by todays standards was not even a thought in the ladies of a 100 or more years ago. Namely due to the way people can learn, study, practice, examine, research, define, etc. thru technology has made the newer Belly dancers far better than the women (and men) of the past. However, the women dancers of the past helped shape and form todays Belly dancers and were superior in their day as they had to study dance thru skill and sweat alone, no records, camera's, you-tube or dvd's for many of them. Remember, how you treat the past is how you will be viewed in the future, honor and preserve your past, in any dance form.

    Awélim: In Egypt (NE Africa and SW Asia) the "dancing women" were called Awélim (wise or learned.) These dancing women who danced at a later period, like those of the East, were not looked upon as paragons of virtue. They performed in long, transparent gowns, beating drums or castanets in quick time.

The Egyptian (Raks) Gháwázees or Gháazeeyehs were generally hired to perform dances on certain occasions, such as a wedding. They would go through their evolutions with unveiled face, and the men sitting down in the court and watching them, while the women enjoy the performance from the windows of the harem. A more modern Egyptian dance, called the "Bee," is performed by a single dancer, who, in look or action, expresses the pain she feels on being stung.

    Almèh: In old Hindu religious writings, The Hindu "dancing girls" were called Almèh, because they were better educated than the other females and of higher morals of the country, in which they formed a celebrated society. The entertainment which they supplied was well respected and called nautch, or the feats of dancing-girls. The almèh of the higher class knew, perfectly, all the new songs and dances; they committed to memory the most beautiful elegiac hymns that bewailed the death of a hero, or the misfortunes incident to love. No festival was complete without their attendance; nor was there an entertainment in which the almèh was not an ornament, or the chief excitement of pleasurable sensations. The most distinguished class of the almèh were introduced into the saloons of the great, not alone for their merits as dancers. They repeated with exceeding grace, and sung the unsophisticated harmonies or airs of their country.

    The Almèh gained admittance to the favor of the public, and were solicited to attend marriages and every kind of entertainment, including funerals and other occasions of solemnity. In some hieroglyphics and paintings, the Almèhare generally depicted waving small branches or beating tambourines while they danced, singing the refrain, "Make a good day, make a good day, Life only lasts for a moment, Make a good day." Which is the same idea, it will be noticed, as that of the feasters in the Bible, who said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."

    However, in the lower order, there was an inferior class who could not claim to be Almèh, whose imitations of the former were but very humble and cheap; without the knowledge, the elegance or the grace of the higher order (Almèh) they had no choice but to frequent (dance in) the public places and the general walks of life; and to a refined mind (people who knew the difference,) created disgust when they wished to allure. These impersonators were the first to give the dance an unmoral view. These fake dancers were usually of poor training and weak of mind (similar to strippers who use Belly dancing.)

    The Mughal Empire gave rise to the dance style known as "Kathak" a non belly dance (Men also dance in India; they are called Cathacks, and are between eighteen and twenty years old. Just like the bayadères, their performances consist of graceful poses and scarf movements, and they are dressed in magnificent costumes,) also the French referred to the Kathak as "la danse du ventre" (basically meaning belly dance in French) and in Turkish it's called Oryantal Tansi (again, Oriental Dance.) Early Americans called it "The Abdomen Dance" or "Stomach Dance." Finally most people (American) call it the "Belly Dance" which supposedly was misnamed when Little Egypt danced for the infamous Sol Bloom at the Egyptian Theater, it was he who coined the term "Belly Dance." Little Egypt is said to have danced to the song "Streets of Cairo" as one of her songs.

    Karol Henderson-Harding states
"The spectators pay the dancer directly in the form of coins or cash thrown on the floor or placed on the dancer's body. There is no other dance form in which this occurs. In classical Greece, a woman from a poor family tied a sash around her hips and went to dance for her dowry in the marketplace. Spectators threw small gold coins at her, money which she then sewed into her bodice and hip-belt as decoration, since she had no where else quite as safe to keep them. Today, dancers still wear costumes decorated with "dowry" coins. In Egypt at the time of the fourth dynasty (approx. 2680-2560 BC), dancers were presented with gold necklaces in payment. By the 19th century, when the custom of tipping was known as "nukoot," a dancer would go into a backbend to receive the money, which would be moistened and placed on the dancer's upturned face.

    It is still the custom for a belly dancer to receive money while she dances, and there is no other kind of professional dancer who respectfully receives money directly from her audience. Yes, strippers receive money but are not respected in their field of dance even if the stripper uses respected forms of dance such as Jazz, Belly Dancing, Raks Sharqi, Ballet or whatever during her act. Erotic and/ or Arousing dance is not a bad thing but it does have a limit and when that limit is reached it is no longer art but smut. (Note: Nudity is not a bad thing and can be artistic but, walking is normal, yes?, but done without clothes while strutting down central avenue is crossing a line... and dance has its lines as well... ya knows it when ya sees it.) So the next time ya see a Belly dancer who is truly doing her art well (Raks Sharki), throw her a twenty dollar bill and give the single dollar bill to the strippers.

    The Phoenicians founded Cádiz (c.1100 B.C.) on the site the port of Gadir, which became a market for tin and silver of Tarshish. It was taken by the Carthaginians (c.500 B.C.+) and passed late in the 3d cent. B.C. to the Romans, who called it Gades (Cádiz). It flourished until the fall of Rome, but suffered from the barbarian invasions and declined further under the Moors.

| More PHOTOS |

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Debatable B.C. Dancing Girls Oriental Dance

Related Posters

Sheet Music Covers

Various Music Titles

Ali Baba n/a Belly Dancers Waltz
Brass Bottle Cad Of Baghdad
Cleopatra Calcutta Rag
Gypsy - Romany Rye Daughter Of The Nile
Gypsy Wildcat Egyptian Ella (1931)
Salome Fertile Desert
Salome's Veil
Streets of Cairo (1895)


The Unveiling
J. Coomans Turkish
Journey of a Gipsy Dancer 3 [CD]
Raks Sharki - Classic Egyptian Music [CD]
Belly Dance Instrumentals [CD]
The Music of the Arabs [CD]
The Best of Om Kolthoum [CD]
Best of Mohammed Abdul Waha [CD]

Night Clubs



n/a n/a 1893 - Columbian Exposition, Chicago (clip)
1893 - Coney Island
Algeria, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Thebes, Persia, India
Middle East
Gades or Cádiz
Ottoman (Osmanli) Empire




5/1895 - Princess Ali (Egyptian Danse du Ventre) n/a 1928 - Veils
1896 - Fatima's Danse du Ventre (Killiam Tape #10)
1927 - The Garden Of Allah
1954 - Ali Baba (samia)
1954 - Valley of the Kings (samia)

Misc. Videos & DVD's...

Joynans - Art Of Belly Dance [DVD]
2001 - The Art of Exotic Dancing [DVD]
Behind the Veil [DVD]
The Goddess Workout [DVD]
Belly dancing - Sensuous Workout [DVD]
Egyptian Belly Dancing [DVD] (Thacker)
Secrets Of Ali Baba Studio [DVD] (Costumes)

Associated Oriental Type Dances ...

Bayadères Gipsy (Gypsy) (See Spanish) Oryantal Tansi (Turkey) Rakkase
Belly Dance Hindu Natya Raks-al-baladi (Balady) Romalis
Cifte Telli or Tsifte-Teli Hula Dances Raks-al-misri Rope Dance
Dance Of The Seven Veils Indian Dance Raks al-sharqui Salome, dance of
Exotic Dance Javanese Dance Raks Farruh (Lebanon) Tañana
Fire Dance Kathak Raks I Shahane (Turkey) Veil Dance
Ghawazee Oriental Dance Raks Sharki (Middle East)

Associated Dances ...

Ballet Dance du Ventre Hootchy-Coochie dance Scarf Dance
Bayadères Dance of Andalucia Kilt Dance Serpentine Dance
Belly Dance Dance of the Devil Lariat Dance Seven Veils
Bubble Dance Dance of Emotions Mirror Dance Skirt Dance
Burlesque Dance Of Salome Ostrich Dance Society Skirt Dance
Butterfly Dance Fan dance Peek-A-Boo Dance Striptease
Butterfly Skirt Dance Flag Dance Risque Sword Dance
Can Can Hat Dance Rope Dance Veil Dance

Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Almèh Little Princess (Kutchuk Hanem) Rabah (Garden Movie)
Bayadères, the La Meri Rita Atlanta
Cádiz Madia Saheret
Fatima Morocco (Carolina Varga Dinicu) Samia Gamal (Egypt)
Jamila Salimpour (1960s) Nejla Ates Serena (1970s)
Little Egypt (Farida Spyropoulos) Princess Rajah (Edison Film in credit only) 1904 Taheya Cariocca (Tahia Karioka - 1915-1999)

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





Dancing , The Pleasure, Power & Art Of Movement Jonas, Gerald 1992 Harry Abrahms
Beyond The Veil Mernissi, Fatima n/a n/a




n/a n/a $ Belly Dance Book (Rediscovering the ... )
$ Belly Dance Costume Making
$ Costuming from the Hip
$ Grandmothers Secrets (The Ancient Rituals)
$ Harem: The World Behind the Veil
$ Learn to Belly Dance
$ From Turban to Toe Ring

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

baladi Exotic Hootchy Sol Bloom
Bayadères (Temple Dancer) Fatima Nile River Striptease
Belly Finger Cymbals* Nude Tavaifs (non Temple dancer)
Beef Trust (Billy Watson) Gipsy Magas Perfume Cones Terpsichore
Courtesan Gypsy Prince, King Veil (s)
Cootchy gyphtoi (Greece-Gipsy) Sandals, Belly Rings
Crotales or Krotala (cymbals) Harem Sélam (Language)