Oriental dance (Arabic, Persian, and Indian) is not just a type of entertainment; it is a lifestyle, or philosophy like yoga.
Today most often the term “belly dance” is a synonym of Arabic dance. The term “belly dance” is a translation of the French “danse du ventre” which was applied to the dance in the Victorian era. It is something of a misnomer as every part of the body is involved in the dance; the most featured body part is usually the hips. Belly dance takes many different forms depending on the country and region; both in costume and dance style, and new styles have evolved in the West as its popularity has spread globally. Although contemporary forms of the dance have generally been performed by women, some of the dances, particularly the cane dance, have origins in male forms of performance.
- Raqs sharqi is performed in restaurants and cabarets around the world It is a solo improvisational dance, although often can be performed as a choreographed dance in a group.
- Raqs baladi is the folkloric style, danced socially by men and women of all ages in some Middle Eastern countries, usually at festive occasions such as weddings. However, this naming is used synonymously in Egypt with Raqs sharqi as a generic term for “belly dancing”.
As this source states belly dance was popularized in the Europe in 18th and 19th centuries, when Orientalist artists depicted romanticized images of harem life in the Ottoman Empire. Around this time, dancers from Middle Eastern countries began to perform at various World’s Fairs, often drawing crowds in numbers that rivaled those for the science and technology exhibits. It was during this period that the term “oriental” or “eastern” dancing was first used.
Belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise and is thus suitable for all ages]. It is a good exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis in older people. Many of the moves involve isolations, which improves flexibility of the torso. Belly dance moves are beneficial to the spine, as the full-body undulation moves lengthens (decompress) and strengthens the entire column of spinal and abdominal muscles in a gentle way.
Dancing with a veil can help build strength in the upper body, arm and shoulders. Playing the zills trains fingers to work independently and builds strength. The legs and long muscles of the back are strengthened by hip movements.