The Global Bellydancer

In the 1800’s, classic bellydance as we know it today, was practiced mainly by the native populations of the Near & Middle East.  Later that century, Middle Eastern bellydance was introduced to America at fairs and expositions, the most famous being the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  The Middle Eastern dancing performed at the Chicago Fair created a sensation in the U.S. and inspired thousands of American women to bellydance (see my article, ‘The Phenomenon of the American Bellydancer‘).  Since then, bellydancing has continued to grow here and around the world in both popularity and stylistic expression.

The last 30 years have seen an interesting development in bellydance: an accelerated infusion of dancers from diverse cultures from all corners of the globe. Now you can see bellydancers from China to Brazil, Europe to Australia, and everywhere in between. To a large extent, this has to do with the growth of satellite TV, international distribution of videos and DVDs, and the Internet.  People can now view bellydancers from virtually any country at any time.  This has inspired many people to take up the dance.  It has created the phenomenon of the global bellydancer – dancers who utilize the traditional movement vocabulary and techniques of the classic Middle Eastern dance flavored with influences from their own culture.

For example, Russian dancers have fused the authentic movement vocabulary of belly dance with the precise technical perfection of Russian ballet.  American dancers have analyzed and organized the bellydance movement vocabulary into specific teaching methods as opposed to the informal Middle Eastern method of learning by watching friends and relatives dance.  Americans have also felt free to expand the creative expression of the dance, such as enhanced veil work, most likely because of their exposure to the multitude of cultures in the melting-pot society of the U.S.

Today bellydance has many styles, and even the most traditional Middle Eastern styles are evolving as all improvisational creative arts do.  Our world seems to be growing smaller as our planet develops a truly global community and that community is beautifully reflected through the myriad artistic expressions of the global bellydancer.

 

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