After its appearance at the Chicago Exposition at the turn of the century,
Americans discovered it and the French name "danse du ventre" was translated
into the "belly dance".
In Turkey belly dance is called "gobek dans".
It developed through the influence of many different cultures
and continues its long process of development today. One of
its origin could have been the Greeks which participated in
esoteric religious rites which included dancing throughout their
history. Some dancers think Egypt is considered to be the source
of belly dance. For Saudi women, the dance itself was considered
to be sacred, and not intended to be seen by men at all.
Across borders and cultures, "belly dance" is
recognized as a dance style of its own. There are several points
that make oriental dance different from other dance forms and
reveal its diverse heritage. It has traditional associations
with both religious and erotic elements. This ambiguity has
caused belly dance to be disdained, scorned, and loved by many.
Its apparent origins are the fertility cults of the ancient
Oriental dance is uniquely designed for the female body,
with an emphasis on abdominal muscles, hip moves, and chest moves.
It is firm and earthy, traditionally with bare feet connected to the
ground. It is a dance characterized by smooth, flowing, complex, and
sensual movements of the torso, alternated with shaking and shimmy
||The dancers often use some type of rhythm instrument
to aid the musicians, or as the sole accompaniment to their dance.
The use of various other props in the dance such as snakes, swords,
veils, and candles. These items have magical, protective functions
for primitive peoples that can still be found in the folk dances
of these countries. Snakes clearly relate to the ancient mystery
cults. The snake is a complex symbol which represented both male
and female principles, and also immortality in the form of the
snake eating its tail.
In Turkey today, the belly dance is very popular.
You can watch it on TV and it is still the custom for the bride and
groom to hire a belly dancer for their wedding or for a family to
hire her for the circumcision parties.
In Turkey, the spectators pay the dancer directly in the form of cash
placed on the dancer's body. Mostly information was obtained from
"The World's Oldest Dance" : The Origins of Oriental Dance By Karol
Henderson Harding a.k.a. Cala of Savatthi.