Welcome to TribalBellyDance.net

Narah ~ Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Performer and Instructor

HomeWorkshopsContact NarahAbout NarahNarah's BlogBellydanceMarket PlaceClassesGallery

Belly Dance History

A Brief Outline

  • Origins- Many theories and possibilities.  It is likely that some part of all of the following contributed to what we know of belly dance:
  • Ancient Indian Temple Dances

  • Religious rites from matriarchal cultures (Fertility cults, birth rituals)

  • In any case, the original intention behind the dance was sacred vs. secular         

  • Countries- India, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and more.

  • During the Middle Ages and Renaissance-   Professional dancers were revered and held suspect at the same time.  (This continues in the Near/Middle East and North Africa today).  Because women performing in public goes against Islamic law and during this time period Islam was the primary religion in these areas, professional dancers were a separate cast.  However, dancers were very important during celebrations such as weddings and when receiving royalty.  Persian dancers could become quite rich because they were paid so well and Mogul dancers were allowed to wear the same type of turban as princesses during “balls”.  This dance is also danced with family members as a means of celebration- professional vs. non-professional are different stories.
  • The Orientalist Age-  Westerners began to explore the Middle East and North Africa and Napoleon’s army invaded Egypt.  Writings about the region were skewed by a Westerner’s eye, but give us some idea about what the dance looked like since the host culture rarely, if ever wrote about the dance and it was passed on through oral history.   Many paintings of this period are of dancers, and many of the painters never went to the host countries.
  • Ghawazee- a Tribe/family in Egypt known for dancers, who were the primary bread winners of the family.  Eventually dancer became synonymous with Ghawazee.  We hear of them after the Medieval period, but their roots are likely Sinti (Romani tribe) and existed as a tribe before the Orientalist age.
  • Awalim- Highly educated women who lived in Egypt during the same time the Ghawazee were famous.  Held the title of singer, dancer, poetess, and musician. 
  • Spread of the Dance/Blending of Styles- Romani traveled out of India starting in 500 AD.  Traveled through The Middle East to Eastern Europe and on a separate path through North Africa into Spain.  Used music and dance as a way to earn money.  Also invading armies of many Empires (Ottoman, Mongol, Mogul) brought people of many cultures together.  Women of many different countries lived together in the harem (women’s quarters) and likely entertained each other with music and dance.  Dancers were listed as visitors to the harem.  Over time, these styles would influence each other.
  • Late 1800’s- The Dance is called Belly Dance for the first time when it came to the Chicago’s world Fair.  Little Egypt performed ‘the dance that shocked Chicago’.  Many stage shows developed from her influence and many even took the name Little Egypt.
  • 1920’s- Hollywood took their fantasies of the Middle East and put “harem girls” in glittery two piece costumes.  The host cultures adopted this costume as the mainstay for most professional dancers.  Even if a dancer does not wear bedlah (the bra and skirt combo), she is usually in a very glitzy costume.   
  •  Two Styles- Cabaret is often what people think of when you say “belly dancer”- the glitzy costume with lots of beads and sequins, usually a solo dancer, usually more pop electronic versions of traditional music.  Tribal style takes its roots from ancient origins, just as cabaret, uses the same basis for movements, but wears more Earthy costumes, music and stylings on the movements.  Tribal is also known for usually occurring in a group/troupe and having a strong sense of community.
  • Jamila Salimpour, who formed Bal Anat, is the Grandmother of Tribal Belly Dance (Her daughter, Suhaila, re-created Bal Anat and is admired across Belly Dance styles for her technique and vision).  Formed in 1969, they performed re-creations of Tribal Dances (of North Africa) and wore an ethnic looking costume of no particular origin.
  • Masha Archer was a member of Bal Anat and used that style combined with modern dance and even earthier costumes. 
  • Carolena Niriccio was Masha Archer’s student, formed Fat Chance Bellydance and developed Improvisational Choreography (a group based format that uses a system of leading, following, cues and signals to dance improvisationally)
  • Many groups have taken the original FCBD stylings, costuming, and even Improv Choreography and developed their own version of Tribal Style.  The original FCBD format is referred to as American Tribal Style Belly Dance.  Many groups have changed some of the costuming, music and have used choreography while retaining the Tribal Style.  Some call this Tribal Fusion.  It’s all the same family, just as all belly dancers- Cabaret or Tribal- are in the same family.

  Fight Spam! Click Here!