Bellydance Facts....or Fiction?
I remember when I first began attending bellydance
classes and holding images of women dancing with multiple veils and
bejeweled navels in large colorful tents. Their audience? The
"Sheik" of course... What I learned in class was that bellydance was predicated on natural childbirth. I
learned that the women back then didn't have easy access to doctors so they
were taught bellydance movements which were
modeled after the natural uterine contractions associated with labor pains
and designed to make for an easier birthing process...Wow!
That was many years ago and since then I've heard a multitude of other
stories as to the origins and reasons behind the dance. The truth? It's
hard to say with exact accuracy as no one who was really there is still
alive to say. There are a few common bellydance
myths out there that are a bit easier to explain and I thought I'd list
some of them so as to clear up some of the mystery:
* Jewel in the Navel: Wearing a jewel in the navel was a Hollywood
invention to cope with censorship issues in movies during a time in which
showing the bare navel was considered too risqueâ€™.
In fact, if you watch any of the old â€śI Dream
of Jeannieâ€ť programs,
Barbara Edenâ€™s costume covers her navel at all times!
* Dance of the Seven Veils: This idea was popularized by an 1896 French
play written by Oscar Wilde. "Salome", the title of the play, was
based on a biblical story in which the step-daughter of Herod, danced
before Herod and her mother Herodias on Herod's birthday,
and by doing so caused the death of John the Baptist. The Bible story doesnâ€™t actually describe the dance but the play
characterized it as the "Dance of the Seven Veils".
* Dancing with a Veil: According to Morocco, the well-known Middle
Eastern dance historian, veil dancing similar to what we see today did not
make its way into the formal Oriental dance theaters until the 1940's. King
Farouk of Egypt
hired a famous Russian ballerina, Ivanova, to
teach his daughters to dance. During entrances and to improve arm carriage,Ivanova began
teaching her students how to carry a veil. One student, Samia
Gamal, subsequently brought veil dancing to the United States
in the movie "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" which was then
exported to other countries. This became popular and was incorporated by
other Oriental dancers in their repertoires.
* Dancing for the Sheik in Harems: It is unlikely that women danced for
anyone but themselves while whiling away long days in the harem. Even
today, women in the Middle East often
dance for each other. Usually men were kept segregated from the women and
if a girl was looking to win the attention of the Sheik, it would more
likely have been by dancing to please his mother or first wife who would
have had the most influence in deciding who to introduce him to.
* Bellydance as Preparation for Childbirth:
Research has found that the movements used in bellydance
have their origin in birthing rituals. During these rituals, at which men
were prohibited, the women would dance around the mother-to-be during labor
in an effort to hypnotize her into copying their own undulating movements
and aid her in coping with the painful contractions of birth.
* The term â€śBellydanceâ€ť: "Bellydance" was a
term introduced to the United
States at the Worldâ€™s
back in 1896 by Sol Bloom. Sol Bloom was a San
Francisco businessman who, upon seeing a Middle Eastern dance
show at a Paris Exposition, decided to bring it to the United States.
The term used to describe their dance in France was "danse du ventre".
"When the public found out that the literal translation was
"belly dance", they delightedly concluded that it must be
salacious and immoral. The crowds poured in. As it became debased and
vulgarized it began to acquire the reputation that survives today-the reputation
of a crude, suggestive dance known as the 'Hootchy-Kootchy.'"
(Autobiography of Sol Bloom)
The Two-Piece Beaded Costume (bedlah): This
costume originated in Egypt
in the 1930s in Badia Mansabnyâ€™s
nightclub. Mansabny was a dancer as well as a singer,
actress, and businesswomen who was very much
influenced by Hollywood films and European
cabarets when she introduced the bedlah. Many of
her clientele at that time were European men who found the original dance
costume (which was either a long dress with a sash tied around the hips, or
a long shirt with a long blouse, vest and sash worn over it) not revealing
Hopefully the above information helps to shed some light on the background
of this dance form. Historical mysteries have always fascinated me so this
is one area which I have really enjoyed researching. If you are interested
in learning more, I highly recommend the writings of "Morocco"
at www.casbahdance.org and the wealth of information found at
Crisp isolations, sharp technique and an incredible head for choreography
are just a few ways to describe Jennifer, this month's featured dancer.
Born and raised in San Francisco,
Jen was bit by the bellydancing bug when she
wandered into a local hookah joint called Kan Zaman.
She was immediately taken by the sinuous and sultry movements presented by
the dancer that evening and resolved to try it out herself. A few years
later and a relocation to San Diego found Jennifer enrolling in
classes with the recently retired Bahira. She quckly entered into the performing circuit at Zorba's Greek Buffet Restaurant where she continues to perfrom regularly.
A big fan of choreography, Jennifer found herself craving more technique
and movements for her dance repertoire. She was blown away upon witnessing
the crisp isolations displayed by Rachel George of Portland,
Oregon (who lived/taught briefly here in San Diego) and began
taking private lessons each week. Rachel, an avid student of Suhaila Salimpour, introduced
Jennifer to a more structured and controlled format of dance movement. When
Rachel returned to Oregon,
Jennifer began studying with Vilia who's teachings are also based on the Suhaila format. She is inspired by the strong technique
exhibited by Aziza of Montreal, Suhaila Salimpour and Rachel George.
A member of the HipSlinger dance company,
Jennifer has a love affair with choreography and a true gift for picking up
moves and dance combinations quickly. Currently Jennifer performs weekly at
several locales throughout San Diego
including Zorba's, BirdHouse
Grill, Marrakesh and Greek Town.
She is also in frequent demand for private events such as weddings and
birthday parties. As if that isn't enough, Jennifer also moonlights as a
"Fly Girl" backup dancer once a month at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach with Atomic Groove! Don't miss
her upcoming performance at Claire de Lune in North Park featuring the live
music of Middle Earth...and if you'd like to catch her "fly girl"
act, she'll be performing at the Belly Up on Friday, April 13th at 5:30PM
($5 Cover - 21 and up).
If you didn't make it to Christine's dance debut last month at Kolbeh Persian Restaurant, you missed a great show.
Christine performed beautifully in a costume of her own design and handled
her performance like a true professional. I actually got tears in my eyes
watching how all of her hard work, time and dedication has
paid in off in such relatively little time! I know Christine must have been
a nervous wreck as she prepared to dance to a full house of restaurant
patrons as well as a huge table full of friends and colleagues. Not to
mention the fact that her boyfriend...visiting for two weeks from Germany...had
no idea that she was going to be dancing! What an amazing look of pleasure
and surprise when he heard Christine's name announced over the PA System as
the next dancer.
Christine's demeanor was one of confidence and excitement as she easily
maneuvered her way through the restaurant tables to her opening piece of
music...an upbeat dance song by Setrak Sarkissian. She followed up with a beautiful veil piece
from Middle Earth's latest album, Lavendar.
Performing effortless turns using a multi-colored china silk veil she dyed
herself! The exciting drum solo followed allowing her to display her hard
earned isolations and body rolls. Her finale had her playfully dancing
through the audience leaving her virtually covered with dollar bills. The
look on her face was priceless and the reaction from the audience was one
of pure enjoyment. The joy in Christine's dance was certainly infectious.
Don't miss Christine's next performance on April 22nd at Turquoise Cafe' Europa in Pacific
Beach. Christine and
I will be performing solo to the wonderful music of Middle Earth and the
fantastic drumming of San Diego's
own, Frank Lazzaro.
NEW CLASS! INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED PERFORMANCE & TECHNIQUE
By popular demand, I will be starting a new
Intermediate/Advanced level bellydance class for
those wishing to push themselves to a higher level of technique and
performance. This class will include stretching and conditioning exercises
building stamina and strength, advanced combinations, drills and focussed instruction on the use of props such as finger
cymbals, veil and candle tray. There will also be a focus on performance
preparation in which Middle Eastern rhythms, stage presence and
improvisation will be explored. For those wishing to, or already performing
professionally, this is the class for you. Performance opportunities will
be available. Class time is Saturday from 1:30 to 3PM starting this weekend
(4/7) at Stage 7 in North Park. Click HERE for the
complete address, directions and tuition information.
TWO-DAY WORK SHOP - SUHAILA SALIMPOUR!
A most wonderful opportunity! Meleah of San Diego
will be hosting the legendary Suhaila Salimpour in a two day workshop (May 26/27th). Price is
only $150...a steal given that Suhaila, the one
responsible for creating the format which I base my own teaching, is also
the daughter of the legendary Jamila Salimpour. Jamila, a pioneer
in the Middle Eastern dance world, is responsible for much of the movements
and terminology used in Middle Eastern dance throughout the United States.
Jamila is considered to be the
"Mother-Ship" when it comes to bellydance
lineage and her daughter Suhaila has carried on
the tradition of excellence and innovation in Middle Eastern dance. Please
don't miss this chance to study with one of the best. A show featuring Suhaila, her amazing assistant Tiffany, her beautiful
daughter Isabella, and top talent from San Diego including myself and my
dance company, The HipSlingers, will take place on
Saturday evening, May 26th at Greek Palace in Kearny Mesa. Cost is just $25
for the show and complete buffet. If you can't make the class, you MUST see
the show. Suhaila is phenomenal and you will not
to view a flyer with more detailed information.
8-WEEK BEGINNING BELLYDANCE AT UCSD
The Spring beginning bellydance session at UCSD
starts this Saturday (4/7) from 11:30 to 1PM at RIMAC - UCSD's
Recreation Center. This is an excellent class
for those just getting started in bellydance or
for those wishing to brush up on the basics. Proper dance posture and
technique will be the focus along with a fun choreography. $58 for the
entire session makes this class a great deal! You don't have to be a UCSD
student and parking is free! Be sure and sign up quickly as this class is
********** SHOWS! **********
Friday, April 6th, 20th & May 4th, 18th - Vilia
will be performing at the Marrakesh Restaurant in La
Jolla. Enjoy an exotic Moroccan dining experience featuring
two dance shows (7:30PM/9PM). Reservations recommended.
Thursday, April 19 - Jennifer will perform to live music by Middle Earth at
Claire de Lune Coffee House in Hillcrest. Show starts at 8:30PM. $5/Cover.
Saturday, April 21st - Jennifer performs at The Birdhouse Grill in
Encinitas. Show starts at 7:30PM. 250
North Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-944-2882
Sunday, April 22nd - Christine and Vilia perform
at the Turquoise Cafe' Bar Europa in Pacific Beach. Show starts at 8PM - 873
Turquoise Street featuring live music by Middle Earth and drumming by Frank
Lazzaro.(21 and up)
Saturday, April 28th - Jennifer performs at Zorba's
Greek Buffet in Chula Vista. Seating begins at 8PM. $10 Minimum.
Saturday, May 19th - Vilia to perform at Night of
Divine Dance in Tijuana.
(More info to come.)
Saturday, May 26th (7PM)- Vilia
and The HipSlingers perform with Suhaila Salimpour at the Greek Palace. (8878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.)
Buffet and show - $25.00. Contact Meleah
(619)280-8424 for tickets.
Tuesdays - Jennifer performs at Marrakesh in
La Jolla. First show starts around 7:30PM.
** See the "Relevant Links" column to the right for restaurant
websites and location information. **
For Detailed Class Descriptions
La Jolla YMCA Firehouse
7877 Herschel Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Middle Eastern Dance Basics
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Intermediate/Advanced Performance & Technique
3980 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104
Private Coaching by Appointment
** Existing Students ** Bring a friend to class and receive your class
** All Students ** Purchase a 6-class card and receive a FREE half-hour
private coaching session valid for six months.