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Belly Dancing: Goddess Dancing

Mention belly dancing to most people and their mind will turn to a dozen cliches. Inevitably these will be associated with overt sexuality, skimpy costumes, Middle Eastern restaurants, or even strippers.

The truth is that belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of dance on earth, one that has a long tradition of celebrating female fertility, power, and sensuality. It's roots lie in ritual worship of Earth goddesses, and in feminine expression of the divine. The movements of the pelvis and belly are symbolic of the mystery of sex, childbirth and death.

According to Belly Dancing, a book by Rosina Fawzia Al-Rawi, belly dancing's origins lie in primitive hunter gatherer societies, when matriarchal religion was practiced through the movement of the body. People danced to gain blessings, to celebrate, and to mourn.

In ancient Babylonia, the goddess Ishtar was worshipped through dance. A myth from this time tells of Ishtar's journey to the underworld, to take back her husband. She wore seven veils, and at each gate removed a veil and danced seductively, thereby gaining entrance. While she was in the underworld, the earth remained unchanged, and no birds or animals stirred. After dropping the seventh veil and revealing her secret, she returned with her husband, covering herself as she went.

Today, the Dance of the Seven Veils is mainly associated with stripping for a male audience, however the true dance is far more meaningful and symbolic.

As the linear and male-dominated societies of Greece and Rome came to dominance, belly dancing and feminine, nature-based religion were shunted aside, relegated to a secondary or hidden role. The professional female dancer emerged, performing an altered version of the female pelvic dance for the amusement of men, rather than in homage to the Goddess, or as an expression of the self. Often professional dancers were also prostitutes, and thus the image of the belly dancer became associated with lust and profanity.

As Christianity took hold, so did a strongly anti-sex and anti-dancing aesthetic. In order to commune with God, one had to spurn the body. Women were opressed, and the dance was performed in secret, or among the peasant folk. The travelling gypsies kept the tradition alive, adapting it as they moved around Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

In Muslim countries, women continued to dance, but only among themselves, away from the men. There it evolved into a method of self expression, and an altered way of worshipping the divine, albeit the new One God. In Egypt and Turkey, the dance has a cabaret performance aspect that is often frowned upon, but is still immensely popular

Today, belly dancing is taking hold in Westernised countries as women rediscover an ancient way of expressing their femininity and sexuality. The new challenge is to overcome the old stereotypes that surround the dance, and to elevate it to an artform.

Recommended Video

The Goddess Workout Vol 1: Introduction to Bellydance
Join Dolphina to get a total body workout and feel like a Goddess! Dolphina, a descendant of Bulgarian Gypsies, has taught Hollywood beauties Minnie Driver, Heather Locklear, and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos to bellydance - now she can teach you in the privacy of your own home.

For The Girls is Run by a Bellydancer!

That's right, this great women's erotica site and magazine is run by a woman who regularly dances for fun and fitness. You can read more of this article - along with heaps of other great writing and information at For The Girls.

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