Bellydancing With Veils, Authentically

Bellydancing with veils (usually 3 yards or more of silky fabric) has been a popular facet of bellydance for quite some time.  However, some people believe that it’s not an ‘authentic’ or traditional part of bellydance, but instead is an American invention added to the dance in the 1900’s.

Since there are many styles of bellydance and many of them are considered authentic (including American style), the question of whether veil dancing is authentic bellydance depends on the style of bellydance that you’re referring to.  All authentic styles of bellydance evolved out of the traditional, or classic bellydance movement vocabulary.  So how long have bellydancers been performing that classic movement vocabulary and using veils along with it?

Over the millennia there have been various depictions and descriptions of women dancing with veils.  One of the most beautiful, artistic, and ancient rendering of a bellydancer comes to us in the form of an exquisite bronze sculpture from Alexandria, Egypt circa 300-200 B.C.  It can be viewed at the following link:  The dancer appears to be executing a type of hip lift/drop movement, one of the most basic and traditional of all classic bellydance moves.  She is skillfully framing her hip and her body with a piece of fabric that any bellydancer would recognize as a veil.  The framing of bellydance moves with a veil is a basic component of modern bellydancing.  This dancer from over 2,000 years ago was doing what bellydancers do today.

Still, it is true that veil work (veil dancing) is not used in some classic styles of bellydance, for example, Egyptian Raks Sharki.  In this classic style of Egyptian bellydance (as practiced in the 20th and 21st centuries), veils are not used, or are used minimally (usually worn at the beginning of the dance and quickly discarded).

Of all styles of bellydance, the American Cabaret (or ‘Nightclub’) style uses the veil the most extensively.  Modern bellydancers of this style often devote an entire section of the dance to veil work and use elaborate techniques of flowing the veil to the music or using it to frame the body’s movements.  Have these modern bellydancers rediscovered veil dancing similar to that as performed by the Alexandrian dancer of 300 B.C.?  We’ll never know for sure, but it seems irrefutable that creative and expressive bellydancers have been dancing with veils for many centuries.

So, if you want to use veil work in your bellydancing, rest assured that it’s an authentic (and historic) expression of the dance.  When you bellydance with veils you become part of that beautiful and timeless tradition.


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