Belly Dance

Frequently Asked Questions about Belly Dance

We get asked many questions on email regards all aspects of belly dance and with everything connected. Below an attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Raqs outfits

What should I wear to a class?

For footwear you can go barefoot or with hermes dance sandals or soft ballet shoes, if you want to protect your feet or you are cold. Some people wear socks, but depending on the surface you will be dancing to, you may want to use anti slippery socks. For clothing, at the bottom you can wear Stretch leggings, yoga pants, or jazz-dance pants . On top, a suggestion is Sports bra or other bra that offers adequate support underneath the proper top. Also recommended is a Leotard or choli top that keeps the midriff visible, or, if you do not want to bare your midriff, something not too baggy so the teacher can see your posture. A hip scarf or shimmy belt is needed to emphasize and define hip movements. It does not have to have coins or beads, but for beginners coins are useful as, by seeing their movement and hearing the sound, it will help you understand if you are moving correctly.

Am I too fat or too skinny to belly dance?

Absolutely NOT! Belly Dancers come in all shapes and sizes and the beauty of this art form is that you can feel free and comfortable and around other people. You can read more about this on our misconceptions page.

Can I do this dance form while pregnant?

Yes! This is an excellent activity for toning the muscles used in childbirth. If you have any concerns though, please consult your doctor. I am not a doctor and if you are unsure they you might be better off not dancing. Read more on the page about pregnancy and belly dance.

Am I too old for this activity?

Many see it as a woman’s dance, celebrating sensuality and power of being a woman (although men dance it too and many are very good!). Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, Lucy, Dina, who are all popular dancers in Egypt, are above the age of 40. Many feel that you have limited life experiences to use as a catalyst for dance until you reach “a certain age”. More mature dancers tend indeed to be more expressive. Also, because belly dance movements are kind on the body and natural in the way that they do not force the body in unnatural positions, the body does not tend to be worn out after many years of practice and one can also start practising this dance after the age of 50 (I know a few dancers who started at 50 and they still dance in the in 70s and they dance very well).

What are the different styles of costumes?

Whatever the costume, some kind of hip scarf is essential. This can be as simple as a scarf tied around the hips. It should be positioned below the hip bone. A triangular fringed shawl is great for practice or many ethnic looks. Coin hip scarves are nice for the sparkle and noise and are available through most dance suppliers. You can read here for a guide on the most commonly used items of clothing for belly dance. Also, for information on where to buy items of clothing and costumes read here.

What are the different styles?

There are too many to list, but here are some:

  • American Tribal Style (Nericcio format)
  • Electronica Fusion / Techno Tribal
  • Turkish style
  • Modern Egyptian Style (Raqs Sharqi)
  • Folkloric or Beledi Egyptian Style
  • Lebanese style dancing
  • Gypsy style

You can read more information about individual styles on our styles section.

What are the health benefits?

The health benefits are both mental and physical. Dancing is a good cardio-vascular work out, it helps increase flexibility and focuses on the torso or ‘core muscles’. It is suitable for all ages and body types and can be as physical as the participant chooses to make it. Individuals would be wise to consult a doctor before starting belly dance, just as with starting any new exercise routine. It is also advised that one talks with the instructor to see what level his or her classes are geared for. Mental health benefits, for many belly dancers, include an improved sense of well being, elevated body image and self-esteem as well as a generally positive outlook that comes with regular, enjoyable exercise.

Where does this art form come from?

It is thought that the dance has been known through the oral tradition in Egypt since the pre-Islamic times. There have been many theories about the origins, but most evidence links it to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa. Egyptian  tomb paintings dating from as far back as the fourteenth century BC depict partially clad dancers whose callisthenic  positions appear to be very similar to those used in belly dancing. However, there is no evidence that they were actually belly dancing, nor it is possible to check if that was the case, as those paintings are the only records of dance we have from pharaonic times.

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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.