Turkish Belly Dance: Everything You Need to Know About

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Turkish Belly Dance, or commonly belly dance, is a very popular touristic attraction for Turkey. Among many other attractions of Turkey, millions of people visit Turkey every year just to watch Turkish belly dancers live. So, we are gladly going to introduce you to this Orientale body dance.

You can also see belly dancers at weddings, circumcisions, and even trade shows. (Image Credit-Oryantal Dansöz)
You can also see belly dancers at weddings, circumcisions, and even trade shows. (Image Credit-Oryantal Dansöz)

Introduction to Belly Dance

Belly Dance, also referred to as Arabic dance, (Arabic: رقص شرقي‎, romanized: Raqs sharqi, literally: “oriental dancing”) is an expressionist type of dance. The dance first originated in Egypt and that emphasizes complex movements of the torso. It has evolved to take many different forms depending on the country and region, both in costume and dance style. However, with Egyptian style and its famous traditional rhymes, the dance became the most common dance worldwide. Thus, it has had many schools around the globe practicing it.

Names and Terminology of Turkish Belly Dance

“Belly dance” is a translation of the French term danse du ventre. French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme coined the term in 1864 as a snide nickname for the Orientalist painting The Dance of the Almeh.

The Dance of the Almeh, Jean-Léon Gérôme. (Image Credit-Wikimedia Commons)
The Dance of the Almeh, Jean-Léon Gérôme. (Image Credit-Wikimedia Commons)

The painting depicts a woman dancing before an audience of seated soldiers in a fantasy Middle Eastern setting. The dancer’s costume consists of a small vest and gauzy blouse. It seems that contemporary Awalem (Egyptian slang for Dancers) has inspired women’s clothing. The Awalem woman of the period would have worn an elbow-length blouse tucked into her skirt at the waist. However, this dancer’s sheer blouse is open over her bare breasts and her nude abdomen is thrust toward the viewer of the painting.

Awalem is an Egyptian slang for Dancers. (Image Credit-Connect2Classes)
Awalem is an Egyptian slang for Dancers. (Image Credit-Connect2Classes)

Over time, danse du ventre came to use in French for all solo, torso-articulated dances of Middle Eastern origin. The English translation “belly dance” seems to have made its first appearance in 1889 in reference to the Egyptian dancers. So, they performed at the Exposition Universelle held in Paris the same year.

Importance of Turkish Belly Dance in Turkish Culture

Belly dancing is very popular in Turkey. Night clubs are the most common venues. However, you can also see belly dancers while they are “göbek atmak (“to toss the belly-button”) at weddings, circumcisions, and even trade shows!

Far from being a resuscitated tourism show, this is a very old art form still Turks of all classes and ages enjoy it. Indeed, it may be the descendant of ancient Anatolian fertility dances. The dancer is usually a woman with exceedingly well-trained abdominal muscles, and it doesn’t hurt to be shapely. She accompanies her moves with clangs on small finger cymbals called “zil” (Turkish for “cymbal” or “bell”).

Putting Paper Money into the Dancer’s Bra!

During the dance, appreciative observers stuff paper money into the few, scant recesses of her costume. She dances close enough that they can do that; and when she dances close enough lots of men want to do that. As far as we know, belly dancers do not yet accept credit cards in this fashion. It would be funny though, wouldn’t it?

A tourist puts some paper money into the belly dancer's bra. (Image Credit-Antalya Manşet Gazetesi)
A tourist puts some paper money into the belly dancer’s bra. (Image Credit-Antalya Manşet Gazetesi)

Where Can I Watch Belly Dancer?

For a less raucous and better-mannered performance, you can go to the Hodjapasha Arts & Culture Center in the Sirkeci district of Istanbul. Thus, you can bear witness to an evening of Turkish traditional dances, including belly dance.

Belly dancing is not limited to women, however. At any good Turkish belly dance party, at least one brave guy jumps up and throws some moves of his own. It is, by the way, hard to understand his proficiency because of his fully clothed appearance. (Happy about that!).

At any good Turkish belly dance party, at least one brave guy jumps up and throws some moves of his own. (Image Credit-Newsweek)
At any good Turkish belly dance party, at least one brave guy jumps up and throws some moves of his own. (Image Credit-Newsweek)

Man and Woman Belly Dancers May perform Together

In more Islamic-ly conservative countries like Egypt, both men and women may perform the dance. Sometimes, they can even perform as pairs. However, they must be fully clothed except at exclusively touristic performances.

It’s easy to see how belly dancing could have been a fertility rite in ancient times, particularly in a place like Aphrodisias. The city is the city of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, or at the Artemision (Temple of Artemis) in Ephesus. Fertility dance for goddesses! It sounds impressive and epic, doesn’t it?

Where Can I Buy Belly Dance Materials?

To buy belly dance costumes, jewelry, videos, music, and accessories, check out Tulumba.com. They’ll ship purchases to you anywhere in the world. So, they are %100 trustable!

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