How old do I need to be to dance?

I take students 16 and older, but all ages of people danced in the Middle East, where Oriental Dance originated.  The young children learned to dance from their aunties, mom, and grandmothers.

I have a back problem. Can I dance?

Most individuals suffering from back issues are able to dance, but I d suggest you seek the permission of your doctor. Given such, dance may actually be quite beneficial to your ailment. Oriental dance strengthens the muscles that support our backs, aids with flexibility and eases pain in the joints. I personally have degenerative disc disease and only found that out after I stopped dancing on a regular basis. Now that I’ve returned to regular dancing, my back is no longer bothering me. Of course I take care to warm up and stretch every time I dance.

What should I wear to class?

I suggest comfortable clothes that will allow you full range of motion. Most students wear yoga type pants or a skirt with a tighter top so that you can see the movements that you are making. A hip scarf is also helpful to see how your hips are moving.

Do I have to be in good shape to dance?

No; Oriental dance is a wonderful way to add movement to your routine without high impact exercise. Begin where you are comfortable, and over time you will notice improvement in the your stamina and the time you can shimmy and dance. The moves will become easier and your range of motion and flexibility will increase.

Is this a good type of exercise?

Yes; it is an excellent exercise for women of all ages and fitness abilities. Oriental dance is gentle movement that works with the structure and muscles of women. It is not high impact aerobic exercise that can stress joints or tear muscles.

Isn’t belly dance just to entice men?

No; Oriental dance started as folk dance. It was done by everyone in the community, old, young, male or female. Like most folk dances, the steps were easy and repetitious. Over time the dance has changed. When religious influences became stronger, the dance became segregated, with the women dancing with the women and the men dancing with the men. This was because the society had become segregated. It was the western influence that brought the dance from the home to the stage. With this transition, the dances became more complex and choreographed. The two piece costume that we associate with Oriental dance also was a western invention, more tantalizing than watching women in long skirts with over skirts, blouses, vests and maybe a hip scarf.

How old is Oriental Dance?

No one really knows for sure. According to Marija Gimbutas, dance has been found depicted on ceramics dating 4000 bce. We cannot call it belly dance or give it any type of name, but since the cradle of civilization is located in the Middle East, many assume that Oriental dance is that old.

Do men dance?

Yes, they do.  What we now refer to as belle dance began as folk dance. For those residing in the Middle East,  this is the fashion in which  you might dance at festivals or weddings.  It is similar to how we polka and dance at weddings and parties; it is a cultural tradition that people of all genders participate in.

Do I need to be skinny to dance?

Absolutely not! Oriental dance is for everyone, all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness abilities.

How did the name belly dance come to be?

It started at the Chicago Expo in 1893. Sol Bloom had brought over ethnic dancers from Syria and the surrounding region to perform in his ethnic village that he set up. Ethnic dance didn’t get much attention and since the dancers moved their stomachs he called it belly dance. This caused quite a commotion. At the time women were laced up tight in corsets and the mere mention of the word leg would send any decent woman into a swoon. So you can imagine how popular “belly dance” became as everyone came to see this indecent act.

Are there different styles of Oriental Dance?

Yes; each region of the Middle East has its own flavor of dance. The foundations of the dance are similar but each area will add its own spice. Upper Egypt dances differently than lower Egypt, and both are different from Persian dance or Turkish dance.

In the United States, we have added our own inventions to the dance. ATS, Tribal and fusion are all American versions of the ancient art of Oriental dance.

What kind of dance do you teach?

I teach traditional Oriental dance that was found in the night clubs of America and Egypt from the 1950’s to present. In class, we will use traditional, classical, pop and modern music from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Do they really dance with swords in the Middle East?

There is a fantasy story about women dancing with swords on their head to help free the village men that were being held captive. However, there is no proof of such. The more realistic way that swords came into Oriental dance is with American dancers looking for a good gimmick to help enhance their dance. Middle Eastern women did dance with canes as a response to the men's traditional dance with fighting staffs.

What are those things on the fingers that the dancers wear?

Zils (Turkish) or sagats (Egyptian). They are traditionally worn by dancers around the Middle East.

What will I learn in dance class?

In class we will cover proper Oriental dance posture, the basic steps, and how to combine steps into choreography. We will also talk about the history and culture of the origins of Oriental dance so that you have an appreciation of the art behind the movement. We will cover basic drum rhythms used in Oriental dance.