Bellydance in Los Angeles

A Brief History

By Zarina Silverman

Wings_of_Isis_with_Suspira
Wings of Isis with Suspira

In the beginning, there was The Dance.

Pretty much everyone can get behind that. It's a good bet that our Paleolithic ancestors cut a groove under the stars. Dig that funky new beat! Ooga's calling it "rock" music!

OK, that's just silly. The truth is we haven't got the slightest idea what dance the first humans did. We don't even know what sorts of dances were done within great civilizations, like Ancient Egypt, that we know for a fact employed dancers at special events. Archaeologists, historians, artists, and dancers throughout the ages have tried to imagine what the dances of our ancient forebears may have looked like.

Enter the bellydancer.

A staple at weddings, births, and other life-affirming celebrations, the art form commonly known as bellydance goes by many other names, including Oriental Dance, Baladi, and Raqs Sharqi. The term most westerners use to describe the archetypal image of a mysterious Gypsy or harem dancer actually encompasses a multitude of folk dance traditions that have migrated and evolved over time. Today there is scarcely any country where some form of this dance is not performed, whether in public or private, by women and men of all ages, and children, as well.

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