As guests in the tradition of bellydance aka Raqs Sharqi, it is so important to educate ourselves about the cultural context and history of this beautiful dance. For those of us who choose to pursue it more seriously as an advanced student, performer, and especially as teachers, it is KEY to be constantly updating our knowledge and adapting as we learn.
Here are a number of recommended resources for students to delve a little deeper!
A note on these books - sometimes things presented as "historical facts" are actually conjecture and based on cultural assumptions, opinion, and information from a very small pool of sources. Many assumptions about this dance are weakly supported so I recommend taking "facts" with a grain of salt and getting information from multiple sources before jumping to conclusions.
Looking for Little Egypt
by Donna Carlton
This is a very well-written history of the Columbian Exhibition and the Little Egypt legends that abounded after the 1893 Fair. A fascinating read; highly recommended. Looking for Little Egypt is well-researched, a fascinating history, that is eloquently written.
Before They Were Belly Dancers: European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760-1870
by Kathleen W. Fraser
Focusing on Egypt during the period 1760 to 1870, this book fills in some of the historical blanks for a dance form often known today in the Middle East as raqs sharki. Eyewitness accounts written by European travelers, the major primary source for modern scholars, provide most of the research material. The author shapes these numerous accounts into a coherent whole, providing a picture of Egyptian female entertainers of the period as professionals in the arts, rather than as a group of unnamed ethnic dancers and singers. Analysis is given of the contexts of this dance that was a legitimate performing art form in Egyptian society appreciated by a wide variety of audiences with a focus on actual performances and a re-creation of choreography.
You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi
by Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu)
Over 50 years of research and experience…No other book contains such an in depth look at what we popularly call ‘bellydance’. Country by country, region by region, Morocco breaks down customs, dances, rhythms and folklore while answering common questions and addressing major misconceptions about the world of Oriental dance. ‘You Asked Aunt Rocky’ is the definitive text book for the study of Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi. Informative enough for any scholarly study of the subject, yet written for those who love the dance, this great tome is a treasure and an asset to any collection on the arts of North Africa, Asia Minor and the Middle East.
Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing power of Belly Dancing
by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi
Al-Rawi has written a strikingly graceful and original book that blends personal memoir with the history and theory of the dance known in the West as "belly dancing." It is the story of a young Arab girl as she is initiated into womanhood. It is a history of the dance from the earliest times through the days of the Pharaohs, the Roman Empire, to the Arab world of the last three centuries. It is a personal investigation into the effects of the dance's movements on individual parts of the body and the whole psyche. It is a guide to the actual techniques of the dance for those who are inspired to put down the book and move. Al-Rawi conveys in this book not only the history and technique of grieving and mourning dances, pregnancy and birth dances, but the spirit of these age-old rituals, and their possibilities for healing and empowering women today.
For a longer list of more specific recommendations I recommend Shira's Reading List .
Websites & Online Resources
This section is in progress
This incredibly informative website has been a wealth of resources for bellydancers since 1998, and Shira has won multiple awards for her site and her contributions to the community.
Teachers from the Cultures of Origin
This section is in progress
There are many highly trained and fabulous instructors of bellydance who are not "of the culture", however it is important to balance our education out and make sure we are also learning from teachers from MENAHT (Middle East, North Africa, Hellanic and Turkish) cultures to benefit from their unique perspective. Some of theses artists travel to teach, some are available for bookings in their home country, and some even teach online!