Belly Dance ABC’s

There are different ways that people can learn how to bellydance. In the Near and Mid East, traditional belly dance movements have been passed down generation after generation by people who simply observed other people dancing. Children learned bellydancing by watching and imitating their mothers, aunts, cousins, and friends dancing for fun at parties and family gatherings.

Until recently, there were no belly dance schools, public classes, or organized belly dance curriculums in the Middle East. For the most part, belly dance schools, public instruction, and organized teaching methods started in the United States in the 1950’s and ‘60’s and spread around the world. Now belly dance schools and belly dance classes are becoming more common in Arabic countries as East continues to meet West and cultures mingle.

Because American women didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with belly dance moves as part of their culture, many of them found it more difficult to learn the dance the traditional way – by observation and imitation. In addition, many American belly dance students performed the dance in public venues such as student recitals, community events, and nightclubs (something considered shameful and not culturally accepted in the Middle East). Especially for professional performing, a higher degree of skill is required than can be mastered by simply observing and imitating other bellydancers. For Americans, new methods of learning bellydance had to be developed.

Since Americans learn how to read and write by learning the ABC’s, this method has been successfully applied to learning how to bellydance. Many American belly dance teachers have analyzed classic and traditional bellydance and have organized the basic movements into a format similar to an alphabet. To learn how to read and write, you first learn the letters of the alphabet, then simple words, and sentences. From there you learn more complex words, paragraphs, and story structure. You can learn bellydancing in a similar fashion by starting with the most basic movements, the belly dance ‘alphabet’. By first learning the basic moves in their simplist form, you can then go on to learning more complex moves, movement combinations, sequences, and whole dances.

Of course, every individual is different in what learning methods work best for him or her. However, I remember a few years ago when the American school system tried to introduce a new method of learning how to read. It was called the ‘whole word’ method and it taught children to read by having them memorizing whole words rather than learning the alphabet first. The method was a disaster (at least for American students) and schools around the country quickly went back to teaching the basic ABC’s.

So if you’re a beginning belly dance student, you may be able to learn the dance by watching other accomplished bellydancers perform, or you may also be able to learn by being taught complex movements and movement combinations right from the start. But if these methods fail you, you may want to try learning the most basic movements first, the ABC’s of bellydance. From that simple foundation, you’ll be on solid footing for creating your own beautiful stories with bellydance.

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