Who’s Dance is This Anyway?

Throughout the years I’ve seen different groups of people claim ‘ownership’ of bellydance.  Usually based on their ethnic or national origin, they claim bellydancing was invented by their ancestors and therefore bellydance is ‘their’ dance and belongs to no one else.  They consider their style of bellydance as the only authentic expression of the art and consider themselves as the ultimate arbitrators on how it should be performed.

Ironically, I’ve seen people from particular ethnic or national groups claim that bellydancing originated in their country, yet other people from the same country vehemently deny it.  The denials usually come from conservative religious factions that want no part of bellydance.  The ones that claim bellydance as theirs alone are often more secular and usually are making money from the dance (performing, selling belly dance supplies, arranging dance tours, etc.)

We may never know where bellydance first originated and it’s possible that it may have originated in more than one location. The impulse to move to music in a natural, harmonious, and beautiful manner is universal and not limited to any particular race or geographical area.  The Near and Middle East have preserved the belly dance movement vocabulary and philosophy throughout recent history, but we can’t discount influences from other earlier cultures.  (see ‘What is Bellydance’).

Who can claim ownership to ancient and fundamental modes of movement?  For all those who are drawn to the art that is bellydance, they are drawn to concepts that have transcended eons of time and national boundaries.  While giving credit to the wonderful cultures and individuals who have practiced and preserved bellydance, it’s doubtful that any one ‘owns’ this dance.  As we each participate in it, we become part of the dance itself and are the current links in its’ long and vibrant history (see ‘The Goddess is Dancing’).  Perhaps bellydance isn’t owned by any individual or group, but it is bellydance that ‘owns’ all of us who love it!

 

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