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Women's Sacred Belly Dance

In popular culture, belly dancers from Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia exude an air of mystique and intrigue. They draw the audience into their fluid hip and shoulder movements, while simultaneously being unapproachable and taboo. This perception of belly dance has been shaped by a history of religious fundamentalism promoting patriarchal values. Although belly dancing originated as a social and celebratory dance, it later became forbidden in public spaces because of restrictions on viewing women’s bodies. As Middle Eastern cultures spread around the world through a diaspora, so did the practice of belly dancing. Modern day practices of belly dancing can be culturally authentic, or present the dance as a cabaret type performance for entertainment. The cultural and sexual connotations of belly dancing mean it is banned in some places, while simultaneously embraced as a way to reclaim sexual expression and cultural identity in other places.