Monday, March 05, 2007

A Blog history of bellydance…….Part 3

Part 3- Linking Africa and Bellydance

So already we can see that bellydance has grown out of local folk dances with influences from Turkey, other Arab nations and even Spanish or Latin rhythms spicing it all up. But that’s not all – many cultures have been added into the mixing pot which has produced the dance as we know it….
Stop the press- Egypt is in Africa! We tend to forget this fact since it is an'Arab country' and think of it as beiing in the Middle East... but it is actually African!

The tribal dances of Africa have long been used as a medium for celebrating the life stages (births, circumcision, weddings even death) Dance is also a means of establishing moral and social rules and norms. Not to mention expressing oneself and having fun!

The music and dance of Egypt can still be linked to its African ancestry- the heavy hip movements, the strong emphasis on picking out the bass in the music, there is even potential for using it to attract a mate!!! Often in Arabic countries , especially outside of the large cities, a couple will first meet at a friends wedding, the occasion where people dance more than any other!

Egypt- like Africa, also sometimes links the dancer to their occupation- for example the rocking/swaying motion of Nubian dance- a dance for people who lived their life on and from the rocking/swaying Nile.
Zar dance which originates in East African is a spiritual 'exorcism' dance, still practiced throughout Egypt even though it is banned in Egypt today due to its anti-Islamic connections. Many of the rhythms and songs unchanged from its Kenyan roots.

In many ways the dress for 'African' dance and bellydance can be similar. Forgive me here for the generic use of 'African dance' there are many countries within Africa and many different styles of music and dance and it is not really correct to lump them all together in this way- but not possible in this short blog to write about them all separately- although if people have specific examples then please feel free to add a comment!!! In many African dances the performer will tie something around their hips to make them look more impressive- and bustle for instance, or a goat's hide… all designed to make the movements more noticeable…. Compare this with the scarf tied round a bellydancers hips!

Today in Egypt, Bellydance performances are still a central part of wedding and engagement parties, henna nights and social gatherings, in fact any time groups of women especially get together. So Just as African 'folk' or tribal dances may celebrate life stages- so does bellydance! Often as a sign of status, rather than just having the guests up to dance, the family will hire a professional solo performer for their wedding (just as they did in the times of court or royal performances- these can be traced back at least to the times of the pharaohs) anyway, then and today, this solo performer would be skilled in her (or his!) art form, to entertain the guests.

The Ritual of dancing for specific events can been seen worldwide!

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