Belly dance is a Western term for a traditional Middle Eastern
dance form. Some American devotees refer to it simply as "Middle
Eastern Dance". The term belly-dance is a creation of Orientalism,
and is first attested in English in 1899, translating French
danse du ventre.
There are two forms of belly dancing. The first is called raqs
baladi, a social dance performed by people of all ages and by
both sexes, during festive occasions- such as weddings- and
other social gatherings for fun and celebration. The second
form- the more theatrical version- is called raqs sharqi, and
it is this type that is most popular in America today. Like
raks baladi, raks sharqi is performed by both male and female
Where belly dancing is a native dance, boys and girls learn
it from an early age. As with many social dances, children learn
it informally, by observing and imitating their elders during
family and community celebrations, as well as during informal
gatherings with friends.
The Great Maharani --- Mickey Of Miami
Mickey's education began in 1959 when she was first introduced
to the art of tribal dance by a Moroccan teacher known as Allahia.
Mickey took to the dance and her career was born. Taking the
stage name thrust upon her when she went to Egypt in 1960 was
that of Maharani. She was later after traveling the world so
named by her compatriots of the Dance The Great Maharani. But
in America all just call her Mickey Of Miami.
Mickey of Miami is a Psychic, Medium and paranormal columnist,
who resides in Miami, Florida. Mickey has been a professional
psychic for many years and has investigated Haunted Houses,
Haunted Cemeteries and Haunted items. Mickey wrote an astrology
column for Middle Easter Dancer Magazine called Star Dancer
for many years. And was well received where ever she went and
hailed as a leading Psychic and Astrologer for over the past
She used the Belly Dance stage name of Maharani. Appeared 6
nights a week at The Meridien-Heliopolis Hotel, Cairo, Egypt
in the early 1980's. She has appeared in several "Belly
Dance" video and DVD's. And is also hailed as the Queen
of the Psychics.
As a Belly Dancer in the 21st century, Mickey has danced and
shared the stage with such Belly Dancing greats as Morocco,
Helen Noreen, Amaya, Delilah, Bert Baladine, Aziza, Shalimar
Serene, Aliza and countless others. The ever fantastic Bert
Baladine commented once about Mickey in an interview. "To
Belly Dance on the same stage with Mickey Of Miami is to dance
with a goddess unleashed."
Mickey has always been called the most popular Middle Eastern
Dancer of the 20th Century and now the 21st. Her expressive
and explosive moves have made her Style and beauty known to
generations of dancers from around the world. Each year Mickey
still takes on aspiring students and still turns out the best
dancers in the world. Recently her star pupil Sanzibabah has
gone on to dance in egypt, Turkey and is now on a world tour
along side Mickey and also has become an internatiaonal Star
on her own.
Mickey collects vintage Tarot Decks, fine art and has been
the subject of many fantastic paintings by several well known
artist from around the world. A large Mural adorns a local Miami
building of the fabulous star.
She also is involved in Paranormal Investigating of Haunted
Houses, Cemeteries and Buildings and has worked as a sensitive
along side many of the great names in Ghost Hunting Today. Mickey
has a second sight where as she can see and hear ghosts as if
they were still alive.
Now a days she can be seen attending several Santeria and Haitian
voodoo rites in the Southern Florida area, and investigating
real spirit possession. She also read Tarot cards for the public
and was the star featured reader at the well known Athene Bookstore.
Mickey is constantly helping people with her ability to communicate
with those who have passed over to the Other Side! She is also
known to many as a great survivor and as one who has faced incomputable
odds and still keeps smiling.
As a member of the world community Mickey loves helping those
that she says are guided to her by the supreme powers to overcome
their personal obstacles to attain the rewards that they so
richly deserve. That's is why she makes herself accessible to
the public to contact her directly to her from this site.
The Dance Oriental
Because the most popular venue for the dance remains night
clubs, (as well as the proliferation of video and DVD recordings
of popular Egyptian dance celebrities), it is this version,
rather than the folk or social versions of the dance that is
most popular. The costume now associated with this dance is
called bedlah in Arabic (meaning "suit") and was adopted
by dancers in Egypt in the 1930s, from where it spread to other
countries in the region. It owes its creation to the harem fantasy
productions of vaudeville, burlesque and Hollywood during the
turn of the last century, rather than to actual authentic Middle
Eastern dress. An enterprising dancer, singer and night club
owner in Cairo named Badia Masabni is credited with adopting
this costume due to the fact that this was the image that Western
tourists came to expect, rather than the native costumes which
covered and concealed the contours of the body, with only a
scarf or belt tied around the hips to highlight the movements.
The mainstays of costuming for these styles include a fitted
top or bra (usually with fringe of beads or coins), a fitted
hip belt (again with a fringe of beads or coins), and skirt/s
(straight, layered, circular, or paneled). In the western world
a "veil" may also be used for an entire dance, a three-and-a-half
to four-yard piece of fabric, or in part of the dance to move
about and frame movements for the dancer.
In the 1940s King Farouk of Egypt employed Russian ballet instructor
Ivanova to teach his daughters, and it was she who first taught
the great dancer Samia Gamal to use the veil to improve her
arm carriage. Most Egyptian dancers use the veil as an opening
prop which they discard within the first few minutes of their
In Egypt, dancers will also wear full beaded dresses, to do
the folkloric and baladi routines. These types of outfits are
also used by American and European dancers when performing folk
dances. These dresses in Egypt, however, are designed according
to the dance and the tradition. Western dancers have more freedom
and may choose freely according to taste and fantasy.
Raqs Sharqi belly dancing consists of movements that are executed
throughout the body. The focus of the dance is the pelvic and
hip area. It is, fundamentally, a solo improvisational dance
with its own unique dance vocabulary that is fluidly integrated
with the music’s rhythm.
Raqs Sharqi dancers internalize and express the emotions evoked
by the lyrics and the music. Appropriately, the music is integral
to the dance. The most admired Raqs Sharqi dancers are those
who can best project their emotions through dance, even if their
dance is made up of simple movements. The dancer’s goal
is to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm
of the music. Raqs Sharqi translates from Arabic as "dance
of the Orient" or "Oriental Dance". This is the
oldest dance in the world. Belly dance is a misnomer as the
all parts of the body are involved in the dance, and the most
important body part is the hips. The dancer’s goal is
to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm
of the music.
Egyptian-style raqs sharqi is based on Baladi an later the
work of belly dance legends Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima
Akef, and other dancers who rose to fame during the golden years
of the Egyptian film industry. Later dancers who based their
styles partially on the dances of these artists are The Great
Mahrani "Mickey Of Miami", Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou,
and Nagwa Fouad. All rose to fame between 1960 and 1980, are
still popular today, and have nearly risen to the same level
of stardom and influence on the style. The most important non-Egyptian
forms of belly dance are the Syrian/Lebanese and the Turkish.
Both of which Mickey Of Miami is the Master of.
Though the basic movements of Raqs Sharqi have remained the
same, the dance form continues to evolve. Nelly Mazloum and
Mahmoud Reda are noted for incorporating elements of ballet
into Raqs Sharqi and their influence can be seen in modern Egyptian
dancers who stand on relevé as they turn or travel through
their dance space in a circle or figure eight.
In Egypt, three main forms of the traditional dance are associated
with belly dance: Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and Sharqi.
Egyptian belly dance was among the first styles to be witnessed
by Westerners. During Napoleon's invasion of Egypt (the campaign
which yielded the Rosetta stone, leading to the translation
of Egyptian hieroglyphics), Napoleon's troops encountered the
Ghawazee tribe. The Ghawazee made their living as professional
entertainers and musicians. The women often engaged in prostitution
on the side, and often had a street dedicated to their trade
in the towns where they resided, though some were quasi-nomadic.
At first the French were repelled by their heavy jewelry and
hair, and found their dancing "barbaric", but were
soon lured by the hypnotic nature of their movements.
Some mistakenly believe that Turkish oriental dancing is known
as Çiftetelli due to the fact that this style of music
has been incorporated into oriental dancing by Greeks and Roma,
illustrated by the fact that the Greek belly dance is called
Tsifteteli. However, Turkish Çiftetelli is more correctly
a form of wedding folk music, the part that makes up the lively
part of the dance at the wedding and is not connected with oriental
Turkish belly dance today may have been influenced by Roma
people as much as by the Egyptian and Syrian/Lebanese forms,
having developed from the Ottoman rakkas to the oriental dance
known worldwide today. As Turkish law does not impose restrictions
on Turkish dancers' movements and costuming as in Egypt, where
dancers are prevented from performing floor work and certain
pelvic movements, Turkish dancers are often more outwardly expressive
than their Egyptian sisters. Many professional dancers and musicians
in Turkey continue to be of Romani heritage as well. (However,
it should be noted that people of Turkish Romani heritage also
have a distinct dance style which is uniquely different from
the Turkish Oriental style.) Turkish dancers are known for their
energetic, athletic (even gymnastic) style, and particularly,
until the past few years, their adept use of finger cymbals,
also known as zils. Connoisseurs of Turkish dance often say
that a dancer who cannot play the zils is not an accomplished
dancer. Another distinguishing element of the Turkish style
is the use of the Karsilama rhythm in a 9/8 time signature,
counted as 12-34-56-789. Turkish belly dance costumes can be
very revealing, with the belt sometimes worn high up on the
waist and split skirts which expose the entire leg, although
dancers today are costuming themselves more like Egyptian dancers
and wearing more modest "mermaid"-style skirts. The
Turkish style is emphasized further by the dancer wearing high
heels and often platform shoes. Famous Turkish belly dancers
include Tulay Karaca, Nesrin Topkapi and Birgul Berai.
When immigrants from Turkey, Iran, and the Arab states began
to immigrate to New York in the 1930s and 1940s, dancers started
to perform a mixture of these styles in the nightclubs and restaurants.
Often called "Classic Cabaret" or "American Cabaret"
belly dance, these dancers are the grandmothers and great-grandmothers
of some of today's most accomplished performers, such as Anahid
Sofian and Artemis Mourat.[
The term "belly dancing" (believed by some to be
a mis-transliteration of the term for the dance style Beledi
or Baladi) is generally credited to Sol Bloom, entertainment
director of the 1893 World's Fair, the World Columbian Exposition
in Chicago. Although there were dancers of this type present
at the 1876 Centennial in Philadelphia, it was not until the
1893 fair that it gained national attention. There were authentic
dancers from several Middle Eastern and North African countries,
including Syria, Turkey and Algeria, but it was the dancers
in the Egyptian Theater of The Street in Cairo exhibit who gained
the most notoriety. The rapid hip movements and the fact that
the dancers were uncorseted, was considered shocking to the
Victorian sensibilities of the day. In fact, there were attempts
by many, most notably Anthony Comstock, head of the New York
Society for the Suppression of Vice, to have the Egyptian theater
Although it is popularly believed that a dancer named "Fatima",
also known as Little Egypt, stole the show, and continued to
popularize this form of dancing, there is in fact no evidence
to support this claim.
The dance performed by the many dancers calling themselves
"Little Egypt" was nicknamed the "Hootchy-Kootchy"
or "Hoochee-Coochee", or the shimmy and shake. Due
to cultural misunderstanding about the nature of the dance and
misrepresentations by the many imitators in Burlesque halls
and carnival sideshows, the western world considered it risqué,
leading to the stereotype of an erotic suggestive dance. Another
name for the dance is "danse du ventre", which in
French literally means "dance of the stomach."
Because this dance style created such a craze, Thomas Edison
made several films of dancers in the 1890s. Included in these
are the Turkish dance, Ella Lola, 1898 and Crissie Sheridan
in 1897 both available for on-line viewing through the Library
of Congress. Another in this collection is Princess Rajah dance
from 1904 which features a dancer playing Zils (finger cymbals),
doing "floor work", and balancing a chair in her teeth.
In addition, the sensational stories about the pseudo-Javanese
dancer Mata Hari, who was convicted in 1917 by the French for
being a German spy during World War I, and the fact that belly
dancing could be seen only at vaudeville and in burlesque shows
gave belly dancing a questionable reputation in polite society.
Hollywood did not help the reputation by only having three roles
for a belly dancer (those of slave to be saved, a background
dancer while the main characters talk, or a deceitful woman
who uses her wiles to trick the main character), which created
stereotypes of belly dancers that many dancers and instructors
today are working hard to overcome. It is due to these stereotypes
that many practitioners refer to the art as "Middle Eastern
While the beautiful classical Raqs Sharqi is still popular
in the West, many dancers have created fusion forms such as
American Tribal Style inspired by the folkloric dance styles
of India, the Middle East and North Africa and even flamenco.
Dancers in the United States, while respecting the origins of
belly dance, are also exploring and creating within the dance
form to address their own needs. Many women today in the U.S.
and Europe approach belly dance as a tool for empowerment and
strengthening of the body, mind, and spirit. Issues of body-image,
self-esteem, healing from sexual violation, sisterhood, and
self-authentication are regularly addressed in belly dance classes
With its emergence at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, the
last four decades of the 20th century moved belly dance in the
U.S. more into the mainstream. The current interest in the dance
can be traced back to the 1950s and '60s. It was in the ethnic
nightclubs in major cities like New York, that most Americans
first became acquainted with the dance. These clubs were owned,
operated and patronized by members of the ethnic communities
of Mediterranean countries like Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and
Syria. At the time, most of the dancers were Greek or Turkish,
but in time their ranks would grow to include Americans as well.
One example of this is the dancer "Morocco" of New
York, who started her career in the night clubs of Greek Town
on 8th Avenue. These American dancers learned the dance by watching
and imitating their Greek and Turkish sisters, as well as the
In the late 1960s and early '70s many of these dancers began
offering dance classes. With increasing exploration of the East
in the late 1960s, many people became interested in everything
Eastern, including dance. Many touring Middle Eastern or Eastern
bands took dancers with them as they toured to provide a visual
representation of their music, which helped to spark interest
in the dance. This had the effect of creating many beautiful
dancers who have generated greater interest in belly dancing.
The increased interest in belly dancing created diverse names
for the same simple movements and the need to have a "style"
as each teacher tried to distinguish differences in their way
of teaching from other teachers. This has hampered belly dance
from acceptance with the more established dance forms because
there is no nationally recognized choreography terminology that
can be used to create repeatable dances.
A recent movement in the U.S. called American Tribal Style
Belly Dance, or ATS, represents everything from folklore-inspired
dances to the fusion of ancient dance techniques from North
India, the Middle East, and Africa. Created in the early 1990s
by Carolena Nericcio, founder of FatChanceBellydance in San
Francisco, ATS has a format consisting of a vocabulary of steps
that are designed to be performed improvisationally in a lead-follow
manner. Pure ATS is performed in a group, typically with a chorus
of dancers using zills, or finger cymbals, as accompaniment.
The music can be folkloric or modern, and the costume is heavily
layered, evoking traditions of any or all of its fusion of cultural
Multicultural trends that have shaped Western and U.S. belly
dance are still at work. Ever evolving, this versatile dance
keeps absorbing a blend of influences; modern fashion, film
and television imagery, the world of rock and hip hop, underground
subcultures, and many other contemporary influences. The umbrella
term used to describe these hybrid forms of belly dance is "belly
dance fusion", including "tribal fusion". One
of the newest belly dance fusion trends is gothic belly dance
that incorporates many belly dance styles and motifs and seeks
to express the darkness of the unknown that has inspired the
music, philosophies, and lifestyles of the Goth subculture.
Health and belly dancing
The benefits of belly dance are both mental and physical. Dancing
provides a good cardio-vascular workout and helps increase both
flexibility and strength, focusing on the torso or "core
muscles", although it also builds leg strength. Many belly
dance styles emphasize muscular "isolations", teaching
the ability to move various muscles or muscle groups independently.
Veil work can also build arm, shoulder, and general upper-body
strength, and playing the zils can build strength and independence
of the fingers. Belly dance is suitable for all ages and body
types, and can be as physical as the participant chooses.
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