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Misconceptions About Belly Dance

Updated on November 11, 2012
Hayet belly dancer
Hayet belly dancer | Source

Common Misconceptions About Belly Dancing

Many people have only been exposed to belly dancing in movies and on television. This gives a very false image of what this art form is really composed of. If you are one of those people who does not understand belly dancing, you are not in the minority.

Belly Dancing is Like Stripping and Pole Dancing

Belly dancing began as a family activity. It was not done by harem girls for their Sultan. It was done by women and children in their homes to pass the time. It was, and is, a family activity. So, if you want to learn to take your clothes off for money, belly dancing is not for you.

Belly Dancer in action at Houston International Festival.
Belly Dancer in action at Houston International Festival. | Source

All Belly Dancers Should Be Skinny and Young

Belly dancing is about learning to love who you are. It does not matter what size or shape your body is. What matters is that you work at doing the movements to the best of your ability. While learning to do this, most people come to realize that they are beautiful people, no matter what size or shape they are. Age does not matter either. If you love belly dancing and you are physically able to do the moves, you should dance. It is about who you are inside, not how others perceive you.

Belly Dancing is Just For Exercise.

Belly dancing is wonderful exercise. But, that is not the main point of this activity. It is about learning to love yourself and forming a sense of community and sisterhood with the other dancers.It's a piece of history, a passion, an art form. So, yes, if you want to get some exercise and love to dance, you should try belly dancing classes. But, you will find you will get so much more than exercise out of it. If you are just looking for dancing to music for exercise, try Zumba. It is loads of fun and probably much better simple exercise than belly dance.

Lithograph (stone engraving) Egypt - Egyptian
Lithograph (stone engraving) Egypt - Egyptian | Source

All belly dancers wear costumes that look like what the woman wore in the “I Dream of Jeannie” television series.

This is simply not true at all. While some dancers do choose to wear costumes that do not cover the stomach area, many make different choices. The traditional belly dancing attire looks nothing like the Hollywood image that most are accustomed to seeing. And, many modern dancers show only head, hands, and feet.

If you can't roll your belly, you can't belly dance.

While rolling the belly by contracting different sets of abdominal muscles is one part of belly dancing, it is such a small part that it is not all that important if you can do it when you start. You will learn movements that will lead you to the point where you can do this move. It is like any other activity. You do not start out doing the most difficult moves. You begin by learning the basic moves and then move up to the more difficult ones.

Belly dancing is a wonderful activity for anyone to try. Once you try it, you may fall in love with it, as so many do. Hopefully, after reading this, you will have a better idea of what belly dancing is really all about.


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  • Marisa Wright profile image

    Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

    @Barakha, I don't doubt you know many Arabic women who learned from their mothers and grandmothers, and there is documented evidence of SOME belly dance exercises being used in childbirth in the early 20th century.

    However that doesn't mean the dance was danced in the home of their grandmother's grandmother, or any generations before that. There is only the verbal evidence of the women currently living, and they don't have a time machine.

  • profile image

    Barakha al Sedalia 6 years ago

    I'm sorry but I have to disagree with Marisa. While there is no "historical" documentation of how this beautiful art form originated, I know many Arabic women who learned from their mothers and grandmothers who learned from their mothers and grandmothers and so on and so on and so on, going back to time immemorable. While there are many stories or myths of where Raks Sharqi originated as an art form, it was always there in the homes and lives of the Arabic people.

  • Marisa Wright profile image

    Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

    Hi Myfanwy, and thanks for doing a belly dancing Hub!

    I was one of those women who loved to dance, but avoided bellydance because I thought I had to be slim and beautiful. I was amazed when I went to a class just to keep a (young and beautiful) friend company, and found all shapes and sizes, in a very accepting and non-judgmental environment.

    I have to take issue with one thing, though - no one knows how belly dance started. American bellydance teachers have invented the myth that it started in the home, amongst the women, for fun and to aid childbirth - but there's absolutely no historical evidence for that. The earliest records of belly dancing are that it was done for entertainment. But I don't think it matters how it started, what matters is how it's used now!