Where Does Belly Dancing Come From

belly dancing lessons

As I believe that ballet dancers should expand their horizons and expand themselves by trying other dance forms, I have decided to write a little on where does belly dancing come from and belly dancing in general.

I am not a teacher of belly dancing and have only been to a couple of lessons in my life, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a dancer or dance teacher, you can only improve on your existing dance skills by exposing yourself to as many other dance forms as you can.

belly dancing

If you enjoy things like Pilates, yoga, Latin American dancing or slow and sexy movements, then I recommend giving belly dancing a go.

What Is Belly Dancing?

Belly Dancing is a sensual Middle Eastern dance form, where you learn to isolate body parts and translate movement from muscle groups in the abdomen, pelvis, trunk, spine, and neck into graceful hip rolls, circles, and drops. By doing belly dancing, you will gain more strength in your stomach, abs, and thighs, as well as tone up these areas even more.

Here is a quick video to watch on belly dancing basics.

Flexibility and cardio stamina will increase because you will be working your core while belly dancing. Balance and posture will also improve. Even though your focus is on your torso, your whole body will be used to dance.

You will need a few classes to get into this dance form, but be patient with yourself and it will come surprisingly quickly.

So Where Does Belly Dancing Come From?

Many people believe that belly dancing is the oldest form of dance, having roots in all ancient cultures from the Orient to India to the Middle-East. The greatest misconception with belly dancing is that it is a dance form that is designed to entertain men.

So where does belly dancing come from? No one is 100 percent certain of this, but you can rest assured it started up in one of the countries above.

Throughout history, this ritualized dance form has mostly been performed by women for other women, generally during fertility rites or parties preparing a young woman for marriage. In most cases, the presence of men is not permitted at all.

Belly dancing is a dance form especially designed for women to do and is generally performed barefoot. This dance form is thought by many to emphasize the intimate physical connection between the dancer, her expression, and Mother Earth.

Belly dancing costumes are often colorful, flowing garments, accented with flowing scarves and veils. Finger cymbals (made of brass and known as zills) are common, dating right back to 200 B. C. Exotic jewelry and belts made of coins that showed off the family wealth in the early days were worn and are still worn. The jewelry was sewn into the garments to make them portable in the event of the woman needing to flee in a hurry.

Other interesting accessories that were and are still used include swords, snakes, large vessels and flaming candles.

belly dancing

In America, this dance form enjoyed its first significant event 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 flare and, in turn, influenced dancers in the Middle East, thus evolving the art form to a new level.

For example, belly dancing with flowing veils hadn’t been documented before the 1900s but is now quite popular throughout the world.

Since the turn of the century, belly dancing has grown hugely in popularity worldwide.

Belly dance festivals, workshops, and seminars take place constantly, attracting huge gatherings.

Many dancers now study the art form intensively, traveling to the Middle East and elsewhere to experience it where it all originated from.

Who Can Do Belly Dancing?

The wonderful thing about this form of dancing is that you can start at any age, as it is a relatively low impact form of exercise. It has become very popular with women in their 50s and 60s of all shapes and sizes.

A word of caution though, although it looks easy, it isn’t. It takes time, practice and patience to master all the movements so that they look effortless. There are also a lot of different styles of belly dancing to master and dancers can progress through the levels as they get more advanced. Styles can include Egyptian, Tribal, Turkish or Cabaret to mention a few.

To read about some interesting Belly Dancing Myths click here.

This type of dancing is a great way to shed extra centimeters and your self-confidence and body image will improve. This makes belly dancing an alternative form of therapy. It’s the toned limbs as well as the emotional lift that brings so many women back to classes week after week.

You can start off in leggings and socks with a scarf tied around your waist for effect. The fancy costumes come later, but some glitter and black eyeliner won’t hurt either.

Click here for a basic belly dancing course that you can do online to prepare yourself for your first real live class.

The Elements Of Dance – How To Incorporate Them Into Class

elements of dance

The elements of dance are the tools of the craft. These are things you already do in everyday life but haven’t thought about much.

The elements of dance are the foundational concepts and vocabulary that help students develop movement skills and understand dance as an artistic practice.

In this article, I am going to be relating to the elements of dance as used in creative dance, but you can use them in all types of dance. Creative dance is a great basis for all forms of dance and is a great way of getting the children to move freely, without the constraints of ballet.

Take the elements of dance and study and memorize them. Make them a part of your daily life and think about them each time you move.

For example, you stretch to reach for a jar on a high shelf, you run for the bus, you lower your level as you get into the bath and you twist your upper body to talk to the person behind you. So make these movements a part of you.elements of dance

Four Elements Of Dance


Body Parts

These include the inner parts, like bones, joints, muscles, heart, and lungs (breath).

The outer parts include the head, shoulders, arms, hands, back, rib cage, hips, legs, and feet.

Body Moves

The body moves in various ways:

Bending, stretching, rising, circling, twising, swinging, shaking, swaying and collapsing.


These include walking, running, leaping, sliding, skipping, hopping, jumping and galloping.


Space is the second element of dance and has various factors worked into it too:

  • Shape – the design that the body makes in space
  • Direction – this can be forwards, backward, sideways or turning
  • Level – this includes high, middle and low
  • Size – big or little movements
  • Focus – the direction of the gaze
  • Place – staying on the spot or moving through space
  • Pathway – curved or straight


Force has its own elements too:

  • Flow – is it free-flowing, balanced or bound?
  • Attack – is the dance sharp or smooth?
  • Weight – is it light or heavy?
  • Strength – is it tight or loose?


Time is broken up as follows:

  • Tempo – fast or slow
  • Beat – the underlying pulse
  • Accent – the force
  • Duration – long or short
  • Pattern – a combination of steps

For some more reading and exercises to do with your class for a deeper understanding you can see more on the Elements of Dance here.

How To Use The Elements Of Dance In A Class Setting

The structure of you creative movement class should have three steps:

  1. Present the element you wish to teach your pupils.
  2. Have your pupils explore the posibilities.
  3. Give it form.

The method used above should be one of questions and challenges.

The children need to learn from the inside out.

They need to discover for themselves what their bodies can do. So ask them what to do rather than show them.elements of dance

How To Present Your Class Using The Elements Of Dance

It helps to use visual aids, words, materials or gimmiks that make it clear what it is you want the children to learn.

For example, if you want to teach swinging, you can try showing them a pendulum made of a string and weight or even a yo-yo. Other things you could possibly use would be plastic packets feathers, rubber bands ect.

These sorts of things can help clarify the movements like stretch and bend, lightness and heaviness, change in size, change in tempo.

Use things like windows, clocks, flags, and bars to make shapes and create pathways for their designs.

Ask questions like how, what and where.

Examples For Working With Swinging

For a swinging lesson you could ask:

  • What parts of the body can swing?
  • What makes a swinging movement?
  • Where does a swing go in space?
  • How does the body swing?

Suggest and define until they understand what the element is. Let them experiment first on the spot and then through space. Try the movements with different parts of the body. Then have them try all the steps with the element and then at all levels and in all directions.

Experiment with opposites. Have them do the movements with different speeds and force and challenge them to do the movement in every possible way.

The elements of dance are explored through the changed movement that is produced by combining or crossing it with other elements. It is impossible for any part of one element to be used without also using the other three elements, but to simplify matters when you are teaching, first consider the element as a separte entity before varying it and combining it with others.

Let’s take the element as swinging. Now go right down the list of elements:


  • What is swinging – muscles? bones? joints?
  • What body parts can actually swing?
  • Can you swing while you gallop or skip?
  • Can you swing and bend or swing and stretch?


  • Can you use a swing to propel yourself through space?
  • Can you use a swing to make a curved path in space?
  • Can you swing at a high and a low level?
  • Can you swing in an upside down shape?


  • Can a swing be tense?
  • Can a swing be sharp?
  • Can a swing be heavy?
  • Show a free flowing swing and then a sudden stillness.
  • Can you swing and then find a balance?


  • Show an accent at the lowest part of the swing.
  • Show a swing with an even beat.
  • Can you make swings in an uneven pattern?
  • Can you make one long swing and three short ones?
  • How slowly can you swing?element of dance

These are examples of questions a teacher could use, but each teacher is different and may want to find her own questions, as each element of dance has its own challenges.

A teacher must work out how she will use the crossovers between the dance elements to stimulate the children to explore the same basic elements.

Using Breathing In Dance

Another example is when you are teaching breath in movement. You could try the following:

Tell the children to breathe deeply to feel how their bodies move as they breathe. Now have them extend the movement by rising as they breathe in and lowering as they breathe out.

Now try using gasps and add jumps. Have them move around the room through space carrying themselves forward as they inhale and relaxing the body forward as they exhale.

Challenge them to try gallops, leaps, and skips with a breath impulse. Finally, forget the actual breathing and concentrate on the types of movements breath produces.

Exploring The Element Of Fast Movement

Here you can encourage the children to explore which body parts can move fast.

Which movement and which steps can be done fast?

Try asking them to move fast and low or fast and high or even fast and small.

See if they can create a fast, high, light, small sideward movement and see what they come up with.


The trick is to see what you can come up with to bring the dance experience to your children in a way that they can understand and at the same time have fun learning.

Use the list of the elements of dance above and form questions to go with each element.

You will be surprised at how your ability will grow as your memory and imagination is stimulated.

Even if you are not a creative movement teacher, I would encourage all dance teachers to try and use the methods above from time to time to stimulate your students and get them to move in different ways.

What Is Creative Dance Exactly?

What Is Creative Dance?

Many people are not quite sure when you ask them what is creative dance. Some teachers think it is a load of rubbish aimed at those who cannot learn formal dancing, but I believe this is a specialized niche, and everyone can benefit from creative dance, even if you don’t know your left foot from your right foot.

Dance can be so many things, and this is why some forms of dance have to just be called creative dance.

What is creative dance? Well, dance can be a leap for joy, a religious ritual, a set of steps set to music or even a work of art, like you see at the theatre.

Dance can be anything from the Ostriches performing their mating ritual to Pavlova performing her Dying Swan.

Because dance can mean so many forms of movement, we have a niche called creative dance.

what is creative danceThe goal of creative dance lessons is to learn to communicate through movement.

Most dancers learn skills and become expert at executing difficult patterns or steps in a certain dance form, but unless they are good at expressing themselves through movement, their art is incomplete.

The language of dance is movement and the instrument used is the human body.

When it comes to creative dance, there is no right or wrong, no routines to learn, no feet that have to point or 180-degree turnout from the hips. The most important thing is that the dancer draws upon inner resources to make a statement. The statement comes before technique in creative dance.

Because creative dance comes from within, it cannot blossom in an instant, as most people are not that closely in touch with their souls. They have to find a starting place and first become familiar with the art of dance to develop a language of movement.

Working on this will open a pathway for expression for the inner being.

For any professional dance performer, the road to dance begins with the training of the body. In creative dance, the road begins with the exploration of the elements of dance. When it comes to answering the question what is creative dance, I find that this is one of the best ways to explain it.

Whenever a person moves, the body uses space, force and time. These are the four basic elements of dance. Creative dance explores all the possibilities inherent in combinations of these elements.

The body is a marvelous instrument, and it is fascinating to discover which parts can do which moves. In this way, one discovers both the function of the body and the poetry of its use.

There are eight basic locomotor steps in creative dance. They are called locomotor because they carry the body from one place in space to another. These include:

  1. Walks
  2. Runs
  3. Leaps
  4. Jumps
  5. Hops
  6. Skips
  7. Gallops
  8. Slides

When learning creative dance the steps are organized as follows:

  1. Walks, runs and leaps – they transfer weight from one-foot to the other.
  2. Jumps – Elevation on two feet.
  3. Hops – Elevation on one foot.

Skips, slides, and gallops are simply variations of the three basic modes of locomotion.

Even when people are not moving, their bodies are making shapes in space at a certain level.

When they do move, each move has direction, size, focus, a place and a pathway to get there.

All movements in creative dance can be altered by changes in force, depending on the attack, flow, weight, and strength of the dancer.

A thorough knowledge of the basics is essential to anyone contemplating the teaching of dance.

Once a teacher has a clear view of what is to be presented, the next step is working out how to present or structure the class.

The objective is to take the basic elements and explore them with joy, challenge, and involvement in the personal artistic growth of the dancer.

what is creative danceThe Importance Of Creative Dance

Creative dance is unique and is the only activity in which physical movement is used nonfunctionally and as personal expression.

A lot of children find a fulfillment through dance that can be realized through no other discipline because dance simultaneously involves the inner being and the physical body.

Because children are fixed on the act of moving, they discover a great deal about their bodies, minds, thoughts, imagination, and ideas through the use of creative dance.

Dance experience teaches children both awareness and control of movement. They use these skills in other areas of their lives like sport, games, other performing arts, and everyday living.

Awareness helps them to appreciate line, design, mass, and shapes in art, music, and imagery and flow in literature. They learn to speak through their bodies and so become aware of body language and its relation to words.

It is important for all children to be aware of themselves as growing and changing beings. Awareness of self is of primary importance to difficult and withdrawn children, in fact, all children. So another way to describe what is creative dance is that it is a discipline for dealing with the self.

In addition, the use of free and large body movements during the school day has been shown to benefit children’s ability to concentrate on mental subjects.

Dance can also be related to mathematics, social studies, language and science and it often only takes a question or two from the teacher to start the children making the connections.

Movement of any sort gets the brain working. If you are under stress you will find that you want to move. Children need to move – a lot.

As a formal ballet teacher, you may think that free dancing will be too embarrassing for a class, but children need and want to dance so badly they will ask for free dancing at each class, so I do try and include some of this in my lesson plans.

Here are some more ideas that border on creative dance for class.

How To Lose Weight Dancing

how to lose weight dancing

how to lose weight dancingI have taught a lot of adults in the past who have not only wanted to get fit but also wanted to know how to lose weight dancing. Many people want to lose weight and know that they must get more active in order to do this, but lugging themselves to the gym for yet another session on that treadmill or bicycle is just way too boring. Strength training, especially on your own is also terribly tedious, and often people give up before they have even started.

Luckily going to the gym is not the only solution available if you want to lose weight. You can join a dance class which is way more fun and this is sometimes just the answer you have been searching for, as you can have fun while you exercise, and it won’t be as much of a chore to go to a dance class as it will be to go to the gym.

How To Lose Weight Dancing

If you want to lose weight with dancing, you need to choose a vigorous dance class. If you do this you can burn between 400 – 600 calories in an hour, depending on your body weight and the intensity of the exercises. This is just as much as you would burn with biking, swimming or evenhow to lose weight dancing fast walking.  This is why dancing is considered one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can give your body.


If you go for two classes a week and practice at home for a few hours, you could easily rack up the recommended 5 hours of cardio activity that doctors recommend a week, and even better, you could lose anything from 1.5 – 2 kgs per month if you kept your diet healthy. Obviously, if you load up on junk food and calorie rich foods, this may not be the case.

What Types Of Dancing Are The Best For Losing Weight

If you are looking primarily at how to lose weight dancing these are options you could try:

  • A good ballet class with a bar warm-up, center work that does a lot of jumping and grand allegro is excellent.
  • A fast-paced Latin American class will burn a lot of calories.
  • High energy disco or freestyle is great for burning calories fast and getting fit.
  • Hip Hop, especially the B-Boy or House Style will give you a great cardio workout.

For losing weight, the more energetic the class is, the better.

How To Lose Weight Dancing At Home

If you are too shy to dance in public, or do not have any options close to where you live, you can try out some of these options that you can purchase online. They are all excellent programs, and it depends on what sort of dancing you are looking at doing:

Shaun T’s CIZE Dance Workout – Base Kit
how to lose weight dancing

This is a great set you can start on at home.

  • CIZE helps you get fit in 4 weeks as you master professionally choreographed dance routines.
  • Shaun T breaks down the freshest choreography step-by-step, move-by-move so that by the end ANYONE can bust out an impressive dance sequence.
  • You’ll be so focused on mastering the moves and having fun that you’ll forget you’re getting a cardio, core, and strengthening workout at the same time!
  • You’ll get 6 Dance Courses plus an Ab Workout on 3 DVDs
  • You’ll also receive a Get Started Guide, Eat Up Meal Plan, Beginner and Advanced Calendars and a Weekend Survival Guide

Stop Exercising and start dancing! Forget everything you dread about workouts. Because starting today, exercise isn’t something you have to do. It’s something you’ll want to do. Beachbody is about to show you how to dance your way to fit in just 4 weeks!

Let loose your inner dancer as you learn the hottest professionally choreographed dance routines. You’ll be so focused on mastering the moves and having a blast, you’ll forget you’re working out and losing weight! This is your chance to dance like no one is watching in the comfort of your own home.

And here is another option:

 The Cardio Samba Workout with Quenia Ribeiro
how to lose weight dancing

Learn authentic Rio De Janeiro style Brazilian samba as you perform a high-energy dynamic cardio workout. The dance instruction is blended into the fitness program in a way that will keep you focused on the dance steps as you are working out, so the workout feels like a dance party.

Even if you have never danced the Samba, you will easily pick up the moves of this elegant dance from this easy to follow program!

Body Groove

For The Body Groove Program Click Here. There are some excellent video’s on the site that demonstrate just what Body Groove is.

Body Groove workhow to lose weight dancings no matter how old or young you are.

This video is awesome. Instead of following a strict boring workout, Misty leads us through a workout that lets us be creative and have fun. We get to move the way we want while being guided into moves that burn calories in a fun groovy way. This video is for anyone who is looking for something a little different in a workout. The Body Groove exercise way is to follow your body’s natural movements and have a lot of fun doing it. The movements are simple, joyful and fun to do.

This video is for anyone who is looking for something a little different in a workout. The Body Groove exercise way is to follow your body’s natural movements and have a lot of fun doing it. The movements are simple, joyful and fun to do.


What Other Advantages Are There To Doing Dance

Dance not only tones all your muscles but also keeps your cardiovascular system healthy. If your muscles are toned, your metabolic rate will go up, and that means that you will be burning more calories, even when you are not exercising.

Dancing also makes you more flexible, which is great to have as we age.

Because dancing is weight bearing, dance has the potential to boost bone density in women.how to lose weight dancing

Learning a dance form can be an extremely enriching cultural experience. Apart from that, you will get the opportunity to make new friends and learn how to love and connect with your body far more.

Dance is becoming more and more popular, which is why Gyms worldwide are now offering classes such as Zumba and other dance related classes.

The choices are vast and endless on how to lose weight dancing, so there are no more excuses not to get fit or lose weight anymore.