AHLAN WA SAHLAN’ – WELCOME
In the midst of a serene summer afternoon a gentle Nile breeze enfolds you. At a distance, drums beat a hypnotic rhythm. Intrigued by the spontaneous zaghareet, festive cry, of a party of women, you investigate. A celebration is taking place. Generations of women dance together, uniquely moving their bodies in time to the music. It is a visual expression of joy. This is the essence of Raqs al Sharqi... the dance also known as Belly Dance.
The world of belly dance is mysterious and alluring.
Belly dancing is an expressive art that manifests itself early in the lives of Middle Eastern women. The dance entices women to sway a little and laugh a little.
The belly dancer symbolizes through her art the beauty within every woman.
Music, dance and rhythm have always been part of Middle Eastern culture. In a spread of countries over three continents, the styles of dance are as diverse as the many cultures occupying the land. From the Bedouin dancers in colourful kaftans to the baladi dancers of urban Cairo, folkloric traditions have survived the generations. Throughout the Middle East – from Turkey through Egypt to Morocco – free-form belly dance retains its exuberant, feminine quality and continues to be noted for its interpretive artistry. While this dance varies from region to region, its breadth transcends class and culture. The women of the Middle East, to whom this dance belongs, use it to celebrate their bodies and to communicate a powerful message bequeathed to them by their ancestors. They remind us that beyond the confines of society, this is a dance for the spirit.
Belly dance is the hidden language of the soul!
The dance has structure and discipline, but the personality of the woman will define her individual style. It is an art form rather than a typical folk dance. It is an instrument that carries the personality or energy of the dancer to the audience. The steps are common to all of the countries of origin. The style; however, is seasoned with the flavours of the cultures in which it is found. From the glitz and flash of Mohammed Ali Street cabaret to the traditional baladi dancer, all are valid representations of Raqs al Sharqi. Most contemporary dancers blend many influences into a subtle, intricate pattern as colourful, unique, and varied as a Persian carpet, and as graceful as the movements of Bastet. Dance is an ever evolving language drawing influences from a myriad of cultures. Raqs al Sharqi is no exception. As the Nile flows, so does the Dance, gathering influences and making them her own.
Benefits of Belly Dancing
Many women undergo a personal transformation when they begin belly dancing. Because you learn to have independent control over your own body, you also learn to have more control in your life. Belly dancing brings music and dance into the lives of women and creates a friendship between them, helping with self esteem.
RELAXING AND CALMING
Belly dancing is both a relaxing and enlivening dance that can help tone the body and improve body confidence. Its physiological benefits include improved fitness, circulation and suppleness, and correction of postural alignment. On a body confidence level, many women feel they regain their feminine self and become more comfortable with their bodies through belly dancing. The relaxing benefits of belly dancing calm the mind and assist the focus required to learn new movements. Repetitious swaying, circular and flowing movements are likened to a state of dance-meditation.
PHYSICAL FITNESS AND STRENGTH
The basis of the core moves in belly dance is always the centre – just below the navel – or, in esoteric arts, the place known as the hara, second chakra or simply ‘the centre’. Yoga and Pilates are two popular exercises that, like belly dancing, focus their energies on the centre and the breath, which are two key factors in building core abdominal strength, revitalizing internal organs and improving posture and balance. Physical fitness can greatly improve with regular sessions of belly dancing. It helps firm and tone the muscles in a gentle way, especially the abdominals, arms, upper back, hips and thighs. Belly dancing can be a fun and energetic form of aerobic dance.
Belly dancing boosts self-esteem in a gentle yet powerful way. The movements are artistic and feminine, creating a positive feeling of sensual expression and freedom. In the act of dancing and exploring her own sensuality, the dancer frees herself in physical and emotional ways. The body which becomes increasingly supple and graceful through practicing the dance, literally begins to move more beautifully. Dancers feel a heightened sense of elegance and poise when they dance, and this confidence remains long after class or performance is finished.
FERTILITY AND CHILDBIRTH
Belly dancing originated thousands of years ago as a fertility rite – the circular hip movements celebrating the birth process through mimicry. Today, belly dance is linked with birthing mainly through its focus on the belly and hips. As a pre-natal exercise, belly dancing in its gentler form strengthens the pelvic muscles and relaxes the mother-to-be. The dance can be a comfortable exercise that not only gets the mother ready for the birth process, but connects her to the unborn child through a series of movements that focus her attention on her belly. The body also gets into shape quickly, the pelvic floor muscles are toned and strengthened, thereby improving problems with incontinence and the general condition of health is better with regular dancing sessions. Belly dancing and childbirth have been inextricably linked for thousands of years – from the days of ancient female deity worship to tribal fertility ceremony, harems and existing birthing customs in Arabian villages. Celebrating the miracle of birth with its original dance reflects gratuity and praise for the creation of life.