What style exactly is the “belly dance” that you teach?
Thank you for asking this thoughtful question! We’ve dedicated this page to answering as best we can with some labeling information, along with some background context as to why this question merits a detailed answer.
Friendly warning, the length of this page best resembles a blog post 🙂
An eclectic artform
The history, diversity and subjective nature of belly dancing mean that many different forms, styles and fusions have developed over millennia. Throughout history, we can find clues that point to the existence of elements of belly dancing, stretching back thousands of years – and perhaps even further than anyone today knows.
Ancient paintings and sculptures may not necessarily depict belly dancing in the exact form as we know it now. However, they certainly show recognisable features that have developed to become what’s widely accepted today as belly dancing.
The labels and terminology associated with belly dancing have evolved throughout history too. As such, there are no universally agreed descriptions of types or styles, or of what belly dancing should actually look like. Instead, different countries, schools and even individual dancers attach different meanings to the language and words used to describe belly dancing.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, the rise of web based video platforms like YouTube play a huge role in the ‘modern’ evolution of belly dance. They’ve allowed belly dance traditions from around the world to become much more accessible and instantly shareable. And they’ll continue to play an important part in belly dance’s ongoing development, as dancers carry on drawing inspiration from others around the world, and incorporate new – and old! – ideas into their own styles (as we do too).
Sometimes we’re asked what style of belly dancing we teach… which is a pretty tricky question to answer, given the way belly dancing has evolved! And because we offer a fairly diverse range of courses at our School, one label just won’t cover them all. But we do need to use some words to talk about what we do!
So, here’s how we do it:
- Our Belly Dance Level 1 – 6 courses are best described as Oriental Pop Belly Dance
- As an extension of these, we also run Drum Solo courses (Level 2 – 6)
- In addition, we have Tribal Fusion courses (one of the slightly easier styles to categorise!)
- And various other creative fusions, and courses that focus on specific core elements of belly dance
But! The layers don’t end there… if you Google “Oriental Pop Belly Dance”, you may discover videos from separate sources that seem to show different styles of dancing, or descriptions that perhaps don’t quite align with each other or with ours. That doesn’t mean to say we don’t teach Oriental Pop Belly Dance. Instead, we teach our interpretation of Oriental Pop, in the same way that other schools and dancers will teach their own interpretations of the label too.
The words we use, and the way we classify our classes, are just our School’s way of organising the beautifully complicated world of belly dancing. They’re not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – they’re just ours!
How important are the labels?
There is no simple answer to this question – and we can only answer it based on what belly dancing means to us. Some people may attach ultimate significance to the labels – whilst others may think they don’t matter at all. And that’s one of the beautiful things about belly dancing – you decide what means most to you!
Without a doubt, we believe the labels have their place in belly dancing – and of course we need them to talk about what we do. But at our School, we’ve chosen to keep the dance itself centre stage, and not the labels. It’s important to us that our students enjoy their classes, and that they can learn in a safe, creative and supportive environment – without being limited in any way by the labels.
Belly dancing is by nature an inclusive artform, and in many ways being too rigid with definitions becomes very restrictive. It doesn’t allow for the creative and cultural differences that are such an important part of belly dance’s history, and that make it such a beautifully diverse artform. And anyway, we can only piece together the birth and evolution of belly dance using fragments from history – so who can say for sure what ‘real’ or ‘pure’ belly dancing should be?
Think of all the languages around the world – just because one person may speak a different language to another person, it doesn’t mean either language is more meaningful or real than the other. And even within the same countries, there can be countless variations of dialect – but they all mean something to someone. And we believe it’s the same for the language of belly dance.
Whether it’s a name for a ‘specific’ style of belly dancing (e.g. Oriental Pop), or even a word used to describe a move (e.g. haggala), the variations in meaning and emphasis are probably impossible to count.
So, the belly dancing we teach is based on popular, widely recognised and shared moves and techniques, which draw influence from various origins around the world. We use music from many different countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and North Africa. We use a mixture of lyrical, instrumental and drum music – alongside a few ‘unexpected’ tracks to add even more variety and keep things fresh!
We teach in a way that promotes healthy posture through muscle engagement, and that helps each student to become aware of their body and how they move.
What our styles means to us!
In essence, the labels are as important as you want them to be. We attach more significance to the physical dance than the labels – because that’s what works for us and our students! And when it comes to the labels themselves, none of them are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because there really is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to belly dancing.
As long as we teach safely and consistently, and you feel inspired, encouraged, happy and challenged during your classes, we think that’s the most important thing. And anyway, the movements of belly dancing are a language of their own – so if you enjoy the visual artistry that you learn to create with your body, you can start to communicate without any words at all!
The very best way we can explain our style is to show you. After all, belly dance is a visual art!
Explore the video links in each section below to see exactly what we do.
Belly Dance Levels 1-6
Our Belly Dance Levels 1 – 6 courses teach the moves and techniques of belly dancing, which increase in complexity the higher up the levels you progress. We’ve created a consistent syllabus for each level that enables us to teach belly dancing to complete beginners (Level 1), all the way up to experienced dancers still looking for a new challenge (Level 6). Each level is structured in a way that’s designed to offer just the right mix of challenge and fun, and to gradually build and reinforce confidence along the way.
Drum Solo Levels 2-6
Drum Solo is an energetic extension of Belly Dance that draws on the same syllabus, but teaches movements that are more staccato and percussive. In essence, during Drum Solo, you learn to emulate the beat of the drum through short, sharp, isolated movements and accents. The Drum Solo levels correspond to our Belly Dance levels. As an example, students will often complete Belly Dance Level 3, and then take Drum Solo Level 3 to solidify Level 3 techniques and add another layer to their repertoire by adapting them to the Drum Solo style. The same applies for Levels 2 – 6. Just in case you’re wondering why there’s no Drum Solo Level 1 at our School, it’s because it’s healthier for the body to learn the basics of Belly Dance Level 1 first, before adding too many sequential sharp accents of Drum Solo. This is why our Drum Solo courses start at Level 2.
Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Levels 1-4
Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is a more visually muscle driven form of belly dancing. Although all belly dancing requires strong muscle control, Tribal Fusion’s much slower, more snake-like and flexible moves emphasise the ways the muscles are being used. Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is a more physically intense form of belly dance, and each class starts with a more intense warm-up, including core strength exercises for development. As with Belly Dance and Drum Solo, the levels range from beginners (Level 1) to advanced (Level 4). However, please note these levels are specific to Tribal Fusion only and don’t correspond to Belly Dance Levels 1 – 6. For example, if you’ve completed Belly Dance Level 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 and you’d like to explore Tribal Fusion, we always recommend starting from Tribal Fusion Level 1. It’s a very distinctive style that is based on specific core techniques that are only taught in Tribal Fusion Level 1.
belly dance with props
Props add artistry and a visual wow-factor to your belly dancing performance. They include veils, fanveils, swords, isis wings, finger cymbals and saidi canes. We run various props courses on rotation throughout each year. Some of these courses require a minimum level of previous belly dance experience (indicated on the course page). Learning to dance with a prop is like learning to dance with a partner and creates a visual extension of your dance. Veils or fanveils elevate the beauty and the grace of your movements, while isis wings and swords add drama and energy to your dancing. Finger cymbals add a beautiful touch of musicality, and saidi canes bring hops and twirls to any routine.
Our Hybrid Fusions courses are seasonal and do not run throughout the year. They are fusion dances that combine techniques from our usual Belly Dance levels mixed with moves from other dance forms to create a roughly half-half style. Examples include Belly-Bollywood, Belly-Hip-Hop and Turkish Fusion Belly Dance. These courses are great for exploring a new dimension of belly dancing, and discovering how different styles and techniques can come together to create fresh and inspiring artforms in their own right.
Our Bespoke Themes courses all take a core element of belly dancing – and specifically focus on it! These courses provide students with the opportunity to delve deeper into the core techniques and skills required to take their dancing to the next level. For example, our Isolations course focuses purely on developing the ability to isolate muscles and muscle groups (which is a key feature of belly dancing in general). Our Improvisation & Musicality course encourages students to embrace the unknown and learn how to improvise, alongside developing the ability to interpret music with dance. The Create-Perfect-Perform course gives students an opportunity to learn how to create their very own choreography, and perform it on stage at the Belly Dance Showcase. These courses are ideal for gaining in-depth knowledge in the fundamental areas of belly dancing that translate across all styles, fusions and hybrids.