Holistic Centre for Body, Mind & Spirit

What is Belly Dance?

Many historians believe that belly dancing, also known as Raqs Sharqi (Dance of the East), is the oldest form of dance, having roots in all ancient cultures from the Orient, to India, to the Middle East.

Probably the greatest misconception about belly dancing was that it was intended to entertain men. Throughout history, this ritualised expression has usually been performed by women for other women, encouraging them to take care of themselves physically, emotionally and psychologically. The shimmy belts had heavy coins attached to them as did the bra tops so that this could stimulate the Kundalini (spiritual) energy. The dance movements were designed to strengthen the muscles throughout the body and release pleasure-enhancing endorphins. The dance moves were designed for women of all ages but were especially important for pregnant or lactating women. It was generally used as a form of expression during fertility rites and parties, or preparing young women for marriage. In most cases, the presence of men was not permitted.

Belly dancing is natural to a woman’s structure with movements emanating from the torso rather than in the legs and feet. The dance often focuses upon isolating different parts of the body, moving them independently in sensuous patterns, weaving together the entire feminine form. Belly dancing is generally performed barefoot, thought by many to emphasise the intimate physical connection between the dancer, her expression and Mother Earth.

Belly dancing costumes are often colourful, flowing garments, accentuated with flowing scarves and veils. Finger cymbals which were made of brass and known as zills are common, dating back to 200BC. Exotic jewellery is also worn. Other interesting accessories which can be used during the dance include swords, snakes and flaming candles.

Belly dancing enjoyed its first significant revival when the famous dancer Little Egypt performed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Americans found themselves fascinated by the exotic body rhythms and music, eventually including them in many silent films made just a few years later. Costumes and dancing styles were given a distinctive Hollywood flavour and, in turn, influenced dancers in the Middle East, thus evolving the art form to a new level.

Since the turn of the century belly dancing has grown enormously in popularity worldwide. Belly dance festivals, workshops and seminars take place regularly, attracting large audiences of interested men who now perform the dance, as well as women. Many dancers who now formally study the art travel to the Middle East and elsewhere to experience its history at its roots.

This form of dance and its body movements can promote dynamic wellbeing, create good body image, increase self-confidence and self-worth, as well as stimulating the Kundalini energy. It can encourage the individual to feel grounded, centred and truly joyful. For many women, learning to belly dance has been both liberating and life changing, helping them to experience their inner Goddess.

Health and belly dancing

Belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise. 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 also beneficial to the spine, as the full-body undulation moves lengthens (decompresses) 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. University researcher Anette Paffrath researched the effect of belly dance on women with menstruation problems and the subjects reported a more positive approach toward their menstruation, sexuality and bodies.

Anam Cara’s practitioner says, “I have been a therapist since 1999 and have studied many healing disciplines including: allergy testing, animal healing, aromatherapy, crystal therapy, Egyptian sekhem, essences, health kinesiology, hopi ear candles, Indian head massage,ionic detox foot spa, reflexology, reiki, sea shell healing, sex therapy, swedish massage and tree spirit healing. I have also studied psychology, psycho-sexual counselling and stress counselling.

“As an experienced holistic practitioner I utilise my many skills to create totally unique programmes for each individual patient. I also believe in the power of prayer and that this coupled with each discipline brings the greatest potential for healing. In addition I believe that healing is enhanced when the patient takes an active part in their own recovery process.

“As a practitioner I share the same beliefs and ways of working as Sonia and the whole of the holistic team at Anam Cara. Therefore I look forward to meeting you and working with you within this framework, all within the beautiful and serene setting that Anam Cara provides for us all.”