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Classic American Belly Dance

Goddess or Spiritual Belly Dance

Janet Vega, daughter Jadaliz, granddaughter Daraliz, and sister Dharma

This style is the original American belly dance (sometimes called cabaret or nightclub style) that evolved from the Middle Eastern movie industry and nightclub dance scene, primarily in Cairo, Beruit, and Istanbul. While it is based on the same core movement vocabulary, American belly dance differs from traditional Eastern dance (Oriental dance) in that the American style has more freedom in the interpretation of movements and a more extensive use of veil work, floor work, props, and finger cymbal playing (called zills). It is often performed as a solo, multi-part routine [entrance, veil dance, fast section/drum solo, slow section, finale].

The Moves: Of the different styles of authentic belly dance, American belly dancing can use the most extensive interpretations of the core movements and core concepts. Solo bellydancing is individually creative, allowing a bellydancer to fully express her response to music within the boundaries of the core movement vocabulary. There may even be a limited use of steps from other dance disciplines, such as ballet, jazz, modern dance, etc., but these are kept to a minimum and are usually used in a subtle fashion.

Music: Traditional and modern Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies accompany most classic American bellydancing. There's often a blend of traditional and modern Middle Eastern musical elements along with some Western instruments and interpretations. Instrumentation and orchestration can be complex and ornate, especially with large orchestras, or when lavish over-dubbing in recorded music is used.

Costume: Classic American bellydance costuming generally has a glamorous or luxurious style (think Hollywood or couture design). Classic American bellydancers usually wear a two-piece outfit, with a decorated bra top, vest, or blouse on top with a skirt and/or 'harem' pants secured at the hips (with the midriff usually, but not always, uncovered). Fabrics most often used are silks, satins, chiffons, lamés, and fabrics that glitter with sequins, beads, or metallic threads.

A hip belt is customarily worn and it usually matches the design of the bra or top. The hip belt is typically made of metal coins and/or jewelry or else is a fabric belt with beads, fringe, or jewels attached. Additional jewelry is usually worn, such as necklaces, armbands, bracelets, earrings, ankle jewelry, and headpieces. The jewelry in classic American belly dance costuming is usually more glittery and delicate than in most other styles of Western bellydance.

Classic American belly dance costumes can range from simple and streamlined to all-out glamour and glitter. This style of bellydance and belly dance costuming is meant to be appropriate for audiences of all ages.

Modern American Belly Dance

Classic American bellydance continues to evolve with the development of new trends in music and costume elements, thus becoming modern American bellydance. In general, modern American bellydance is very similar to the classic style, but there is an even greater exploration of creative interpretations of core moves and concepts. The modern American bellydancer often performs only one or two sections of the traditional, multi-part routine, rather than the traditional sequence. This style of bellydance builds on classic American bellydance by adapting it to newer, more modern types of music. For example Tribal belly dance originated in San Francisco the 1960's as a result of the ethic and folkloric music.

The American style of bellydance, both classic and modern, is the most popular and well-known style of Western bellydance in the world today.

To see video examples of classic and modern American belly dancing, click on the group dance from "Magical Motion" and the group dance from "Fast Moves".

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