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my own interpretation

my own interpretation

 

SO, WHEN AND WHERE DID BELLY DANCE ORIGINATE? This is a question that comes up quite frequently in our community. There are several different theories/origin myths.  I am going to compile the ideas I have found on credible websites and books and for the next 5 weeks I will post 1 theory a week and you guys can decide for yourselves what you think!

Theories:

1. Descended from religious/ceremonial dance  – goddess worship

2. Came from fertility rituals and associated with childbirth

3. Derived from Ancient Egyptian social dances

4. Brought to the ME by gypsies from India.

5. Was born out of a dance of seduction

 

BEFORE WE GET STARTED

1.Disclaimer: *I am NOT an expert.*

2. When I was doing research, I came across a very popular paper by Andrea Deagon, “In Search of the Origins of Dance,” and I want to share this excerpt with you guys because I think this is important to keep in the back of your head as you do your own research/read TBB:

“When we are moved by something that is beautiful, or terrible, or vitally important to our souls, it is human nature to try to understand it.  One of the ways we look for this meaning is to try to find or imagine its origins.  We sense that, if we can find its ultimate beginning, perhaps we will also find its deepest truth — a truth that will open up the wellspring of our own creative power.  Our search for origins has inspired some of our most brilliant insights.  It inspires us to trace our genealogies, explore the intricacies of cell biology or evolution, and seek the ultimate source of all matter in the depths of space-time.  It inspires our philosophy and religion, from the Navajo stories of Changing Woman to the seven days of Yahweh’s creation to the presocratic philosophers’ exploration of the elements of earth, air, water and fire.  The search for the origins of what we hold to be precious and magnificent is fundamental to our way of understanding the world.  So it is natural that those of us who treasure Middle Eastern dance and want to understand it more fully should seek out its origins.”

And this:

“…We tend to use the past as a justification for present views or practices — we want to see our own ideas and practices as correct and natural, so we are easily distracted from the wide, confusing perspective of real history and slip into historical myths.  Only when we have come to terms with these tendencies in our thinking will we be able to explore the history of this dance, and form an accurate, respectful relationship with the women and men of the past whose dance was the precursor of our own.”

~~~ IDEA #1: GODDESS WORSHIP ~~~

” The first dances were an essential part of worship through which human beings felt they were able to establish their relationship with divinity and a unification of the earth with a higher, spiritual world.” ~Tina Hobin (Belly Dance: The Dance of Mother Earth – buy it here! it’s so interesting! )

Some of the earliest identifiable depictions of dance can be seen in the Chauvet cave paintings in France. They have been traced as far back as 15,000 years – ~13,000 bce. Just for some context that is when people first began domesticating animals and the wooly rhinoceros became extinct.

wooly rhino  r.i.p 🙁

Further evidence of the significance of dance in early civilization can be found in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in India where there are images of men and women dancing with a drummer (some say from approx. the same time period as the Chauvet cave paintings, some say they’re older).

 Bhimbetka Shelter dancers

In later years, and by later I mean 1450 bce (3,465 years ago) images of a dancing goddess can be seen in this Mycenaean ring (and others like it) from the Tholos tomb of Vapheio.

Mycenaean ring from Tholos Tomb of Vapheio 1450 bce

So it’s pretty clear that dance was an important part of our ancestors social lives and ceremonies. Historians have speculated that the movements used in ritual/god/goddess worship dances came from the dancers observations of their surroundings: nature, animals, birds – they imitated their movements, mating rituals etc. The dances were performed for all occasions – birth and death,  planting and harvesting, war, rain sun, and moon worship.

Dances were done in circles representing the movement of the moon and sun, in spirals representing death and re- birth and in lines.

Dance became an integral part of shamanic practices, magical and religious cults. They were performed at funerals as seen in the image below from the tomb of Nebamun. Goddesses associated with funeral rites are Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Serket.

nebamun_dancers

Musicians and Dancers from the tomb of Nebamun 1400 BCE – 1350 BCE Thebes, Egypt

Dances were also done as hunting rituals – there were several hunting goddesses: Cybele, Artemis, Hathor, and Isis.

This is “Seated Woman of Çatalhöyük c. 6,000 BCE. She is an Anatolian mother goddess who it is possible Cybele derived from. She is giving birth on her throne.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybele

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybele

Worshiping the gods through dance was not just part of the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. In Ancient Egypt  there is evidence in graves of the cult of the mother goddess – Neith/Nit (which we will talk more about next week). Evidence of dance in general has been found in many paintings/heiroglyphs in Egypt and could be linked to goddess worship.

So is it possible that the belly dance we know today is based in goddess worship?

In my opinion – Absolutely! Why not?

[polldaddy poll=8631617]

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

Samara was born as Tahira in Baghdad, Iraq, 1963. She was born into a traditional Muslim family that wanted her to study engineering in Lebanon. They were not to pleased when she decided to do something more…creative. After moving to Lebanon, Tahira took the stage name, Samara, and became very inspired by Nadia Gamal, whom she asked for lessons. Nadia taught Samara three dances and advised that she develop a unique style.

Samara took that advice to heart and man did she come up with some unique stuff! She incorporated Polynesian, Greek and Indian and Spanish dance inspiration into her routines. She was also influenced by nature, for her NYE show in 1995, her concept was – the sea. “Her show opened with a huge clam shell on stage. As the music started, the lid was raised, and Samara slowly emerged, representing a pearl. Her costume was of the elaborate Lebanese variety, all in pearls,” (Samara: Sayyida Raks Sharqi, Best of Habibi). Even beyond incorporating different forms of dance, Samara had music written just for her (she also had her own band), and even used some American New Age fusion in her sets.

Samara’s distinct style gained her popularity and the name “Sayyida Raks Sharqi”(*) from the Lebanese press meaning, “Mistress of Oriental Dance.” After her first three years dancing in Lebanon (1981-1984), she began traveling and dancing around the world, ushering in her golden age from the mid 80’s-early 2000’s. She started out traveling to the cities of  Kano and Lagos in Nigeria and Abidjan in the Cote d’Ivoire. She later traveled to Europe and Arab countries as well.

Being so popular Samara had to regularly switch up her show, she would do this every 4-6 months, adding in new inspirations and music. She wanted to keep her fans on their toes and felt it was necessary for her to keep growing as an artist. She always wanted to out do herself, which in my opinion, is the best form of competition.

Learn more about Samara here.

Why I <3 HER:

You’ll see when you watch the videos! She is completely mesmerizing, I couldn’t stop watching video after video and I tried really hard to not make the longest youtube playlist of all time lol 😛 She’s very lively, incredibly creative and on top of that she has amazing technique. I’m also fascinated by her fusion of different styles, especially with all this talk I’ve been seeing recently about styles/categories of belly dance.

I hope you all enjoy the playlist!

xoxo

N

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h329-zpqReULnJZZd7m61raLOc]

*I don’t know why Raks has a K and Sharqi has a Q…anybody?

Last month I traveled to D.C. or my aunt’s 60th birthday. My aunt and cousin have both taken/ are taking classes at the famous D.C. belly dance studio, Sahara Dance. My cousin spoke so highly of Sahara’s well known owner Rachel, that I decided to send her a message to see if she would like to meet up for an interview. Lucky for us, she said yes! yay!

We decided to grab coffee at Whole Foods and sit and chat/interview. Let me just tell you – this woman is amazing! Not only is she the founder and director of Sahara Dance, she is also the director of both of Sahara’s dance ensembles, Raqs Sahara and Raqs Caravan East, she created an intensive teacher training program, and…oh yea – she’s an incredible dancer!

The path that led Rachel to creating Sahara dance included learning from some of the best. She studied with both Autumn Leah Ward and Yousry Sharif as well as Sahra Saeeda (whom she also did a dance enthnology tour with in Egypt), Yasmina Ramzy, Haida, Faten Salama, Aida Nour, Jillina and others. All of this training allowed Rachel to cultivate her own vision for belly dance. She focuses on community, mindfulness, celebration of all body types, and developing belly dance as an art form.

I really can’t say enough good things about Rachel. When I was editing her interview I couldn’t stop smiling watching it – she’s just such a warm person, so wise and articulate, warm and sweet, humble, inspirational and incredibly cool. I hope you guys enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

For more background info on Rachel visit the Sahara Dance site.

*disclaimer – the filming quality is a little low budget, content quality is high ;)*

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrPlZ-K5dgI]

TBB: What type of belly dance/ME music speaks to you the most?

RKB: I love Egyptian dance, I love Egyptian music, I like a lot of different types of music that fall into the belly dance genre or can easily be adaptable to belly dance movement, but  Egyptian is my first love.

TBB: What is your favorite song right now?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIn7FIexx8I]

Listen to White Flag by Gorillaz feat. Syrian National Orchestra :

[spotify id=”spotify:user:1272124796:playlist:5E0SMWQXJWsrhXiXo5tXa5″ width=”300″ height=”80″ /]

TBB: Who were some of your belly dance mentors?

RKB: Autumn Leah Ward  is my first teacher and probably my largest influence and then from there Yousry Sharif is certainly a big part of my dance training, Yasmina Ramzy, Sahra Saeeda, Hadia, and then going to Egypt and studying… there are a lot of influences, but those I think would be primary.read more

Hey guys! So I finally got to post this week! yay!

Last week when I was updating the blogs color story I was using a book called “Living In Morocco” for inspiration. The images in the book are unreal – just completely stunning. If you don’t have it in your collection, I highly recommend you getting it here. At least with me, bellydancespiration extends beyond the dance itself and trickles into home decor, fashion etc. So I hope you enjoy and get some ideas! My personal favorites are the blue gilt sofa against the blue wall, the babooshes and the luxurious salon – but I don’t know… I love them all! Let me know what you think! ( I also snuck in an image from Vogue… couldn’t help it…)

Oh  – and to add to the mood…so you can imagine yourself sitting poolside, drink in hand, in a luxurious home in Morocco – listen to the playlist below.  The album in the playlist is all Moroccan belly dance and was introduced to me by Anahid Sofian – it’s sooo good!

xoxo

N

In honor of The Belly Blog’s new look, get inspired by all gold everything!!!! #goldisagirlsbestfriend

xo

TBB

ATTENTION TRI-STATE BELLY DANCERS: It’s time for another of Anahid Sofian‘s amazing ateliers, Atelier Orientale – New Voices!

The legendary Anahid Sofian has put together a roster of amazing dancers to perform at her studio (29 west 15th street, 6th floor) on November 9th from 5 – 7 pm.

This show will shine a light on performers/choreographers that are really pushing the boundaries of Middle Eastern Dance. The performances will range from traditional to contemporary to experimental. Each piece will be an original work, full of depth and spirit.  It’s going to be very inspirational and who doesn’t need some #BELLYDANCESPIRATION???? 😀

Check out the featured performers!

Brenna Crowley/ Zilla Dance Ensemble

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j0pyh-44Yc&list=UUHLImw4IjzpSw6csJdF3Axg&index=10]

Brenna is always full of energy and personality – she’s so much fun to watch!

Calixta Starr

here is a piece that Calixta was a part of 🙂


Kaitlin Hines/ Raqs Uncommon

 

The Kandake Dance Theatre for Social Change


Nisreen

 https://vimeo.com/87922014

I’ve gotten to see Nisreen dance a couple times and she’s great!

Tatianna Natalyja

btw Tatianna also reads Tarot cards – so cool!
Uza Mitra

Uza is just the coolest- check out TBB’s interview with her here!

Oh, and remember, Doors open at 4:30 pm and there will be a wine and cheese reception following the show – YUM! 

Updated Atelier Flyer-2

 

Yesterday my friend Raissa and I performed a duet at a Halloween belly dance event called Spooktacular hosted by legendary dancer Layla Mary. It was so much fun!  Raissa and I decided to be elves – Lord of the Rings style. We wore elf ears and capes and danced with candles to Ocean Depth from the album Music from Intro to Bellydance with Dolphina.

After yesterday I started thinking about what it takes to make a really good duet. When we first began choreographing our dance Raissa sent me a video of a hip hop duet : Alex and Twitch. This video has all of the elements needed to pull off a duet (watch below!). The duo move together and in opposition. At some points they are doing different things, but those different things work perfectly together and create a dance thats completely in sync and on beat. Then they come back together and move simultaneously. All these different dynamics make for a very entertaining dance that holds the audiences interest.

Dancing in a duet can be nerve racking, well at least for me. I hate the idea of messing up and it effecting the other person. That’s why it’s so important to dance with someone you really trust. Especially when dancing with fire lol. Seriously though, trust is key!

Communication is also a must. When choreographing, it’s important to really hear each others ideas and test them out. When I was in design school, one of my teachers said the most important element of design is play. Never be afraid to play around, experiment, etc. I think about that all the time with dance.

Of course there are so many elements that make a great duet, and I’ve put together a video playlist of some very inspirational duos. There are, hip hop, modern, ballet  and belly dance duets.

Check them out!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h3299FwymbBT9aoKrip-ugSpyn]

Let me know what you think!

xoxo

TBB

A couple of weeks ago, on September 11th actually, I got the chance to head over to Queens and interview the fabulous Ranya Renee. Ranya invited me into the apartment she shares with her two adorable cats appropriately named Samia and Mona. We sat down in her living room decorated with a wall of very cool masks, mirrors, and beautiful/funky pieces of furniture like a sea shell encrusted table. We started chatting and before I knew it over an hour passed! So I’m sorry for the delay in posting this interview, I had to figure out my iMovie situation – I’m not the most technologically savvy. Before we get started, here is some background on Ranya: Ranya moved to NYC in 1992 to work as a theater director. She ended up spending more and more time belly dancing and eventually it became her number one focus. Ranya specializes in Egyptian style and is known for teaching theatrical performance skills and for her “Breathwork for Performance” method. Ranya has taught and danced all around the world and come out with several instructional dvds. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to pick Ranya’s brain and learn more about her. Without further ado…here is my interview with Ranya Renee…

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

RR:

Check out some of the dancers/choreographers Ranya studied with! Serena Studios Gamila El Masri Ghassan Fadlallah – this link just has a tiny bit of info, and you can watch one of his choreographies here. Ramzi El Edlibi and read more about him here.  Bobby a.k.a. Ibrahim Farrah Yousry Sharif Shareen El Safy Sahra Saeeda Shoshana

TBB:  What was your experience gigging?

RR:

TBB: When did you decide that Egyptian style was the way you wanted to go?

RR:

Check out some of the greatest NYC dancers that Ranya was able to study with: Dalia Carella Aszmara Elena Lentini Serena 

Ranya discusses learning Arabic and how it affected her dancing.

  [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnxWfOm4WmM] Simon Shaheen

I love the look of body chains under a costume. Especially if they’re very delicate. It can be a really cool touch. I found these images on pinterest (follow me!) and thought you guys could take some inspiration from them! Three of the images are the work of jewelry designer Bliss Lau who I’ve been a fan of for years. Definitely check out her site. Get inspired and let me know what you think!

xoxo

TBB

Anahid Sofian….where should I start????? Anahid has been a HUGE INSPIRATION in my life. Not only is she an incredible dancer, but she is the symbol of perseverance and strength.

You guys might have seen the What’s Coming Up posts promoting Anahid’s 35th anniversary show, well, Crain’s NY Business wrote an article about it and about Anahid’s studio. They also shot an absolutely beautiful 4 min. documentary of Anahid. You can really get a sense of her passion and love for oriental dance. She never gives up and she makes things happen for herself. Take a look below and read the article here!