Belly Dance Belts and Finger Cymbals
Belly Dance Belts and
Origin of the Belly Dance
The information presented here is a short synthesis of the many pages
that can be read on The Art Of Middle Eastern Dance by Shira with excerpts
by Elizabeth Artemis Mourat. We thank Shira for her years of effort in
collecting and presenting this information on the web, http://www.shira.net/
The view of ‘Belly Dancers’ as seductive women of the harem,
dancing for a sultan, is a Hollywood interpretation. The word "harem"
comes from the Arabic "haram" which means ‘forbidden.’
Women and children lived in separate quarters that were “haram”
to men outside of the immediate family. These quarters protected the respectability
of the women and the family. These women never danced for the entertainment
of the men of the house.
The folk dances of the Middle Eastern societies were never entertainment,
the way that Belly Dancing is today. Just as we dance at parties, men
women and children of the Middle East all participated in dancing to celebrate
weddings, births, and other joyous events. There were no special dance
costumes. In Northern Africa dancers sometimes used handkerchiefs or shawls.
These were substantial pieces of cloth, not the diaphanous veils we see
today. In Azerbaijan and Uzbek, the women danced with veils attached to
their headdresses. In Turkey men and women could dance together by holding
the opposite ends of a scarf. In all cases the veil, headdress or scarf
was for modesty and not to entice.
The term ‘Belly Dance’ was coined in 1893 at the Chicago
World's Fair by Sol Bloom. For the very first time the American public
was introduced to wonders never before seen, such as the Ferris Wheel
and "moving pictures." Sol Bloom had the daunting task of trying
to entice fair goers from these awesome sights into his pavilion: The
Algerian dancers of Morocco! In a very successful attempt to draw in viewers
Sol promoted his act as “Belly Dancers.” At a time when a
women’s calf was considered risqué, Sol soon had all the
publicity he needed. A Senator tried to shut down the pavilion. Newspapers
reported the scandal and throngs of the curious lined up to buy a ticket.
Inside they were treated to fully clothed folk dancers, with nary a belly
to be seen.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Western photographers began to document
these cultures. The Western view of these cultures as “primitive”
and therefore more sexual gave rise to a new form of trade, the “French
Postcard.” These posed photographs of supposedly “forbidden”
women, gave the European voyeurs what they craved; seminude women dancing
with flowing scarves.
Around this same time there were several individuals who combined elements
from the Middle Eastern folk dances, with other more interpretive dance
styles. Women like Zourna, Ivanova, Samia Gamal, Kate Vaughan and Loïe
Fuller choreographed expressive pieces that led directly to Hollywood’s
portrayal of the Oriental Dancers.
Today the ancient Eastern and Middle Eastern folk dances, collectively
known as "Oriental Dance" bare little resemblance to what has
become know in the Western World as Belly Dance.
Description of Dance Belts, Dance Bras and Drapes
The decorative accessories of the Belly Dancer’s outfit are varied.
Just like the style of the Belly Dance, almost all the props are modern
additions. Props include but are not limited to flowing veils, jewels,
canes, swords, tassels and the list goes on. The development of the coin
Belly Dance belts has been debated. There is very likely a historical
seed to the coin belt. According to Siovana these coins may relate to
the custom of Young Algeria girls who at the age of around 12 leave home
their homes in Ouled Nail to raise money for their wedding dowries. They
work as dancers and are paid in coins which they sew into their costumes
the coins are not worn as a belt. Even today at Some Eastern and Middle
Eastern wedding the gifts to the bride take the form of gold; gold chains,
coins, bracelets, etc. The bride accepts the gifts and wears them at the
celebration. Again these gifts are individual pieces and not arranged
in a belt. These gifts most likely evolved from a history of dowry and
pride price; both of which were originally intended to ensure the prosperity
of the new couple’s family and therefore the prosperity of both
families’ progeny. While there is historic basis for women wearing
their wealth, or the wealth of their families, some claim the draped coin
belt that is worn today may have got its modern design from Bob Mackie,
the famous costume designer for Hollywood. Like any other art form, modern
Belly Dancing has evolved and incorporated new ideas over time.
DulcimerShofar Belly Dance Belts, Dance Bras, and Drapes
All of our Belts, Bra Covers and Drapes are of the highest quality and
solid brass. The belts weight up to 3 lbs. The DulcimerShofar Dance Belt Sets
come in three finish styles: brass, nickeled brass, or a mix of the two.
They also come with different accents: mirrors, crystal, stones, or colored
beads. Each style is available in three sizes. The bras and drapes are
meant to be sewn to the dance costume and are one size fits all.
The large linked decorated medallions that rest on the hips make the
belt. Hanging from theses linked medallions are chains that form three
sets of swags; the largest swag hangs in the back and the two smaller
in front. Hanging from these chain swags are the accent pieces; bells,
small medallions with mirrors, coins or beads. There are two hanging medallions
that should lie to the sides over the hips. By removing the back-middle
waist medallion you can adjust the size of the belt down by two inches.
The easiest way to describe the belts is to explain DulcimerShofar's
codes. Each belt has a 3-letter/1-digit code. The first letter is always
B and stands for Belt. The second letter identifies the finish style;
B stands for Brass, N for Nickeled Brass, and X for mixed. The third letter
designates the type of accent; C is for Coin, M for Mirrors, S for Stones,
any other letter is for a colored bead. The numeric code designates the
size, 2 is for 32”, 6 is for 36” and 0 is for 40 inches. The
code for the Bra Covers all begin with C for Cover, the B or N for Brass
or Nickeled Brass and then M, C, or B for Mirror, Coin or Beads. The last
letter D indicates it can be used up to a D cup (or more). Each drape
code has only three letters; D for Drape, B, N or X for Brass, Nickeled
Brass or Mixed, and M, C, B for Mirror, Coin or Beads.
For Example: BBC6 is the Belt, Brass medallions with Coins and
bells in the 36 inch size. CXBD is the Bra Cover, Mixed brass and nickeled
brass medallions, with black Beads in D size.
DNM is the Drape in Nickeled Brass with Mirrors and bells
In the different combinations DulcimerShofar carries over 25 different Belts,
6 Bra Covers and 6 styles of drapes.
Care of your Belts
Usually all that is necessary is to rub the belts with a soft cloth dampened
with warm soapy water. Periodically check the connections and the links.
If they have loosened use pliers to tighten the link so they stay secure.
These Belts can tarnish. If you want the Brass to shine more you can soak
the belt in mild vinegar. Do not let it soak too long or the ascent pieces
may pop off. Never put the Nickeled Brass in vinegar. If an accent piece
does come loose glue it back with some type of “super-glue”