Turkish Belly Dancing & Dancers

Belly dancing is very popular in Turkey. Night clubs are the most common venues, but belly dancers are also hired göbek atmak (“to toss the belly-button”) at weddingscircumcisions, and even…trade shows!

Far from being a resuscitated tourism show, this is a very old art form still enjoyed by Turks of all classes and ages. It may be the descendant of ancient Anatolianfertility dances.

The dancer is usually a woman with exceedingly well-trained abdominal muscles, and it doesn’t hurt to be shapely. She accompanies her moves with clangs on small finger cymbals called zil (Turkish for “cymbal” or “bell”).

During the dance, appreciative observers stuff paper money into the few, scant recesses of her costume. She dances close enough that they can do that; and when she dances close enough lots of men want to do that.

So far as I know, belly dancers do not yet accept credit cards in this fashion.

For a less raucous and better-mannered performance, go to the Hodjapasha Arts & Culture Center in the Sirkeci district of Istanbul for an evening of Turkish traditional dances, including bellydance. More…

Belly dancing is not limited to women, however. At any good Turkish belly dance party, at least one brave guy is bound to jump up and throw some moves of his own. It’s usually difficult to judge his proficiency because he’s fully clothed (thank goodness).

In more Islamic-ly conservative countries like Egypt, both men and women may perform the dance, sometimes in pairs, fully clothed except at exclusively touristic performances.

It’s easy to see how belly dancing could have been a fertility rite in ancient times, particularly in a place like Aphrodisias, city of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, or at the Artemision (Temple of Artemis) in Ephesus.

To buy belly dance costumes, jewelry, videos, musicand accessories, check out Tulumba.com. They’ll ship purchases to you anywhere in the world.

Here are two websites with video clips of bellydancing:

— Aziza Nawal

— Johara and her Snakedance Productions

—by Tom Brosnahan

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