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Belly Dancing

By: Victoria L. Moore

Date Posted: 1998-02-07

The dance we have come to know as "Belly Dancing" has a vast and unique history. The Egyptian folklore dance, originally named Raks Sharki is actually a type of Middle Eastern Folk dance. This form of dance, called "beledi," was misunderstood as "belly" dance because of the style of costume worn by dancers that exposed the midriff. The origin of the dance stems from all over North Africa and the Middle East, including Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Saudi Arabia to name a few. The exact roots are extremely ancient and cannot be pinpointed to one specific time, place or people.

The term 'belly dance' is actually not the original name for the dance, though it is the most common one currently used. Belly dancing was an American name coined at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, where a dancer called Little Egypt shocked American audiences with the shaking and undulating of her hips and belly. A type of dancing they had never seen before. The dance, called Baladi dance, meaning 'of the people,' was misinterpreted as belly dance for obvious reasons.

The Arabs call the dance "Raks Sharki" or "Raks Balady." Raks Sharki refers to the dance in its more sophisticated form as it is performed in the cabarets of Cairo and other cities. Beledi means village or people. Beledi also refers to a particular Middle Eastern rhythm and a style of dress worn by dancers.

The idea of seductive dance is not new. The first culture to infuse its entire society with the mystical qualities of this romantic dance was that of Egypt.

Although the dance and history of this folklore ballet were made popular in the Middle East, you can experience the magic of the dance right here in Okinawa. Hany and Soraya developed a special blend of east meet west and interpret it in an incredible Egyptian Dance. Their love of dance and for each other emanates through to their audiences everywhere.

Soraya was born in Brooklyn, New York. She began studying ballet and tap dance from the age of four, at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in New York. She studied Hawaiian Dance, and Modern Dance as well. In 1974 she began her studies of Oriental Dance and Folklore, and began her professional career in 1976 at Busch Gardens, Tampa Florida.

Hany was born and educated in Cairo, Egypt. He studied classic ballet in the National Academy of Cairo. As a professional dancer and choreographer, Hany performed for eight years with famous groups such as Nagwa Fouad, National Folklore Group of Cairo and Hasan, Hasan. From 1988 until 1993, Hany was engaged by the Bremerhaven, Germany Theater as a ballet soloist. In 1993 Hany became a dance instructor.

Together they fascinate audiences from Luxembourg to Cairo. Their own individual talents and dance experience are combined to create an authentic show demonstrating the many styles of the dance. A belly dancing class will be offered at the Foster USO beginning on 31 Jan from 5 - 6 p.m. and on 1 Feb from 12 - 1 p.m. Contact the Foster USO for more information.

Hany teaches ballet at the Kadena Youth Center on Monday and Friday evenings for ages 6 - 12. If you are interested in learning or experiencing a unique part of Middle Eastern culture you can contact Soraya and Hany at 938-7870.

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