Bellydance is a growing global dance form which comes from the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

It is fascinating that this dance has become so popular all around the world. What is it about bellydance that makes people adopt it into their lives? Perhaps it’s because bellydance music (which is incredibly diverse) can be so shockingly beautiful, emotive and soulful, and invites the body to express the music in a sensual, feel-good way. It is also inclusive – you don’t have to be this or that to be able to do it – you can still be you.

Bellydance in its authentic social form, which is difficult to see outside of the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey is done with friends and family, normally at weddings and parties. It is believed in ancient times in the Middle East a form of bellydance was practiced as part of rituals and aids for fertility and birth. As performance and entertainment it has romany, folkloric and balletic influences.

There is some debate about the name bellydance. Alternative names are Oriental Dance, Raqs Al Sharqi (Dance of the East), Middle Eastern Dance, Egyptian Dance or Arabic dance. Although it’s inadequate and misleading the term ‘bellydance’ seems have stuck. It’s inadequate because it doesn’t include the myriad of folkloric dances which have evolved in the diverse cultures and places in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

In defence of this term, the source of core, inner-strength and soul feels to be located in the belly and this source is very much developed through the dance. But every aspect of the human form – the eyes, the smile, the hands, the heart, the eyebrows – is emphasised in the dance, not just the belly.

Even if we don’t have the perfect name for it, we are lucky to have such a rich and wonderful world of music and dance and I invite everyone to partake in the fun, beauty and grace of ‘bellydance’!