The dance form we call "belly dancing" is derived from traditional women's dances of the Middle East and North Africa. Women have always belly danced, at parties, at family gatherings, and during rites of passage. A woman's social dancing eventually evolved into belly dancing as entertainment ("Dans Oryantal" in Turkish and "Raqs Sharqi" in Arabic). Although the history of belly dancing is murky prior to the late 1800s, many experts believe its roots go back to the temple rites of India.
Belly dance is natural to a woman's bone and muscle structure. The movements center on the torso rather than the legs and feet, as is common in Western dance. The belly dancer isolates parts of her body, to move each independently in a completely feminine interpretation of the music. The music seems to emanate from her body, as sometimes she emphasizes the rhythm, sometimes the melody of the song. Bellydance is often performed barefoot, now thought by many to signify the intimate and ancient physical connection between the dancer, the music, and Mother Earth.
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