Gothic bellydance, also known as Raks Gothique, or abbreviated as GBD, is a relatively new phenomenon that started in the 1990s in the USA. Gothic belly dance blends the gothic culture with both cabaret and tribal style belly dance.
The dance vocabulary of Raks Gothique incorporates elements of belly dance (tribal and cabaret) with some influences of various world styles, such as flamenco, Indian dance and gypsy. However, gothic belly dancers add an aura of intensity and drama to their performances, to express the mysteries of life, death and eternity according to gothic philosophy. Gothic belly dance performances are trance like and emotionally intense.
Raks Gothique can be performed in a group or as a solo and improvisation is considered very important. Mostly, gothic belly dancers like spontaneity and prefer at least an element of improvisation to a strictly choreographed routine.
Gothic belly dance costumes are inspired by 1920s Art Nouveau, punk, Victorian fashion, Cyber, medieval and ethnic. There are some elements that are a must in every gothic belly dance costume, such as:
Within the gothic bellydance style, or Raks Gothique, there are some sub styles or trends, according to the preference of each individual dancer. For example, some gothic belly dancers add a distinctive burlesque element to their dance; other dancers are inspired by 1920s vamps like they appeared in the movies of that time (see for example Theda Bara). There are gothic belly dancers who prefer to emphasise the ritualistic / spiritual elements as portrayed at the beginning of the 20th century by Ruth St. Denis. Also, there is the cyber / techno / industrial trend, with futuristic features.
Music for this belly dance style is a blend of western Goth music with world music from India and the Middle East. Some musicians, whose music gothic belly dancers dance to, include: Faith and the Muse, Vas, Dead Can Dance, Sisters of Mercy, Solace, Jehan, Collide, Knossos and Gypsy Caravan.
Gothic belly dancers or belly dancers who have experimented with gothic style include: Tempest, Sashi, Ariellah, Asharah, Ya Meena, Jeniviva, Ayshe, Jehan, Tanna, Blanca and Neon. Gothic belly dance hafla are called gothlas; the first ones were organised in the USA, but there are now gothlas in other countries too, including the UK (see for example the annual Gothla UK in Leicester).
If you would like to learn more, on Amazon it is possible to find performance and instructional gothic belly dance DVDs, such as ‘Gothic Bellydance’ or ‘Gothic Belly Dance Revelations’, both produced by World Dance New York.