Midriff motions from the Mideast to the Midwest (VIDEO)If you watch a belly dance, you’ll soon notice that this fluid dance with Middle Eastern origins has as much to do with the hands, the shoulders, feet, arms and legs as it does the belly and hips. So why is it called belly dancing?
If you watch a belly dance, you’ll soon notice that this fluid dance with Middle Eastern origins has as much to do with the hands, the shoulders, feet, arms and legs as it does the belly and hips. So why is it called belly dancing?
Blame bad translation and cultural misunderstanding, said Debbie Jacklitch-Kuiken, who teaches belly dancing in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls. The “belly” part of belly dancing came from the word “baladi,” which is type of rhythm in Arabic music, she said.
“It is kind of one of those little language things that it took on over here, and because a lot of the dance comes from your core or abdomen,” Jacklitch Kuiken said.
Wednesday nights, Jacklitch-Kuiken of Warren, Minn., and Natasha Thomas of Grand Forks teach a belly dancing class at The 12 Houses in Grand Forks to 10 or so women and young girls.
Dressed in jeans or yoga pants and T-shirts, the students also wear hip scarves embellished with shiny coins. The jingling of the coins helps the dancers know they are moving correctly, Thomas said.
The origins of belly dancing are in the Middle East, and it exists in a variety of styles in Egypt, Lebanon, Romania, Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and beyond.
“You just see it blend all across the Middle East in all kinds of styles,” Jacklitch-Kuiken said. Americans, when they think of bell dancing, perhaps imagine beautiful women swaying and gyrating in midriff-baring costumes. However, in some countries, like Egypt, women who dance must be covered neck to foot. Their movements also tend to be less flamboyant.
“The Turkish and Lebanese, they are the ones when you think of the fancy bras and beaded skirts,” Jacklitch Kuiken said. “They tend to be more open and liberal and take up a lot of space twirling.”
America, too, has developed a style of belly dance called American tribal style. When she dances, Jacklitch Kuiken said, she uses a fusion of styles.
Today the belly dance is done for lots of reasons: for exercise, for stress relief, as a performance and for the joy of dancing. But originally women danced it for and with other women.
“It was a way women got together. They danced together to celebrate a marriage or the birth of a child or the upcoming birth of a child. It was a way to socialize and to celebrate life,” Jacklitch-Kuiken said.
Jacklitch-Kuiken, a mechanical engineer and meteorologist for Tuv Sud America, and Thomas, a music therapist who works primarily for the North Dakota School for the Blind and School for the Deaf, each love different things about the dance, Thomas said.
“I love the community aspect,” Thomas said. “I think it’s a great way for people to come together to share the love of an art. It’s a very old art form.”
Her fellow teacher enjoys the health benefit and the way belly dance helps strengthen core muscles and develop coordination and balance.
“It’s a great stress reliever,” Jacklitch-Kuiken said. “For an hour, you leave everything behind and you leave the stress behind.”
In addition to their Wednesday night class at The 12 Houses, Thomas teaches a belly dancing class Tuesday night at the Altru Y Family Center for which Jacklitch-Kuiken is the substitute teacher. Jacklitch-Kuiken also teaches a Monday night class at Healthy U in Thief River Falls.
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