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Book Chapter


Dance (Pomona), Theatre (Pomona)

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belly dance, movement practices, costume, music


Danse du ventre (also called belly dance or danse orientale) most probably derived its name from one or both of two sources: (1) a corruption of the Arabic raqs al-baladi, meaning "dance from the countryside," and (2) a reference to the highly developed movement articulations of the torso and abdomen, which are the most characteristic movement practices of this widespread dance genre. Arabs outside Egypt often call it raqs al-sharq ("Oriental dance") or raqs al-misri ("Egyptian dance"), underscoring the widespread notion that this dance tradition originated in ancient Egypt. No historical documentation exists for the origins of this dance genre, which today is performed in many homes by both men and women and in cabarets and clubs by women throughout the Arab world (and in areas to which Arabs have migrated). Similar dance genres, such as the cifte telli, also exist in Turkey and Greece but not in Iran as is sometimes thought. Today belly dancing is performed outside the Middle East by professional dancers in nightclubs in Greece, western Europe, Canada and the United States as well as by many devoted amateurs. Numerous conventions for amateurs meet throughout the United States; they feature dance workshops by professional performers and by instructors.


Shay, Anthony. "Danse Du Ventre" in Selma Jeanne Cohen, Ed., International Encyclopedia of Dance, Vol. 2, pp. 344-346, 1998, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.

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© 1998 Oxford University Press