Middle Eastern Dance:
What everyone should know about Middle Eastern Dance.
Belly Dance, known also as Raks Sharqi or Danse Orientale, fits into a broader category known by its practitioners as Middle Eastern Dance (MED). It is an art form that celebrates the feminine form, feminine strength, Middle Eastern music and the rich and beautiful culture tied to it. The more commonly recognized style of this dance originated in Egypt in the early to mid-twentieth century. It is more commonly performed solo by women, but has more recently developed into a form of expression for dance troupes and men. Belly dance has also developed into many different styles throughout the years in addition to the traditional Raks Sharqi such as: American Tribal Style (ATS), Tribal Fusion, Gothic Belly Dance, and American Cabaret style. Each style has its own unique flavor to offer, but all of them are tied to the original Egyptian style dance in some way.
Women and men who study MED spend years of their lives and much of their energy studying this form of dance. Not only is a serious dancer required to learn the technical aspects of MED movements, but they often find themselves compelled to study the use of props (veil, cane, sword, Shamadan (candelabra worn on the head), zills/sagat (finger cymbals), etc.), choreography, history, Middle Eastern culture, the Arabic language and Arabic music theory. Many dancers also choose to branch out into other forms of dance such as Central Asian, Flamenco, dances of the Gulf region (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait..), and Egyptian folk dance styles.
There is no Ivy League school for Middle Eastern Dance. You can't earn a degree for it. People who choose to study this dance form do so through years of self motivated study. They must depend on the guidance of other dancers in the community and must always be open to learning new things.
For more in depth information about belly dance, you can take a look at my links where you will find interesting and informative web sites.
There are reasons to book and NOT to book a belly dancer.
Reasons to book:
1) Cultural Events or Diversity Fairs
2) Private parties where children and adults alike are welcome.
4) Any party where many of the guests will be from the Middle East or of Arabic descent.
5) You own a restaurant/café and would like to add entertainment for your patrons.
6) Soireés or parties that are business-like in nature.
7) Nightclubs with ample security or a dedicated stage area.
Reasons NOT to book a belly dancer:
1) You want a stripper.
You'll be in for a very unpleasant surprise if you expect the dancer you've hired to take it off. It isn't going to happen. You will also want to refrain from making attempts at touching the dancer in any way. You may get a warning or two, but if you step out of line you will surely ruin your party (think of what would happen if you tried to grope a ballerina!).
2) You want cheap entertainment.
Though the going rate for dancers varies from area to area you must remember that, as in many cases, you get what you pay for. The general consensus among the MED community is that only students dance for free. If you want a professional dancer, you will have to pay her.
I would suggest doing a bit of research on the internet in order to accustom yourself with what a good, well trained dancer looks like in action. The more you know, the better your results.
If you keep in mind that your dancer is putting in a great deal of time, energy and money to study this style of dance and respect her efforts and her art, you and your guests will have a wonderful time. You may also learn a thing or two. =)