Belly dancing has it's roots in the East, but as an art form it would appear most eastern countries would like to claim ownership for it's origins. Cultures as diverse as they are similar, Egyptian, Indian, Turkey and even Greece have declared it a form of tradition at some point in their rich histories.
Folk dance itself is constantly in flux and as these cultures crossed paths and possibly shared what they had in trade and what they held dear in their own villages. In Egypt for example there are three main forms of traditional dance which are performed in public: folk dance, classical dance and cabaret dance. Egyptian law however does not allow certain movements and styles of costume in cabaret dancing, so the dancing is more controlled and the dancers costumes cover their stomach.
Turkish dancers however are more active and the energy they bring to their dances is widely known. Turkish belly dancers are also known for their use of finger cymbals which denotes a degree of accomplishment. The belly dancing performed in Turkey is widely known as the 'Oryantal Tansi'.
Western civilisation has an ongoing fascination for things eastern and in the various forms of belly dance find a certain sensuality and promise. The evolution of the belly dance from is eastern format through music and entertainment history encompass and influence the cutesy-ness of a girl with a hula-hoop to the more mainstream styles of R n'B or hip-hop.
I have heard a lot about belly dancing being sacred to the Goddess, etc. However, belly dancing is just that – Dancing! The spirituality is whatever your own heart brings into the dance. For me it is something sacred, a way in which I celebrate the Spirit, for someone else it may simply be a fun way to unwind, celebrate sensuality etc. However it is definitely a positive evolutionary experience, in terms of developing healthy positive attitudes, leaving behind cares and stress – this is certainly fertile ground for developing spiritual attitudes, meditation etc. The choice is yours.
But what about the early sacred Goddess rituals, I hear you ask. I actually don’t know. What really matters is what matters to you. If the dance is your sacred ritual to your Goddess then that is the truth of it. If it is your celebration of Arabic culture and tradition then that is the truth too! However I will say that true belly dance expression (not just a particular way of moving) lies in the passion of Arabic rhythm and the expression of those feelings. If you put belly dancing to different music, you can have a beautiful dance, but it no longer relates to the traditional dance. Nothing wrong with this so long as the difference is made clear.
First of all congratulations! How very exciting for you. The fantasy of the fertility goddess has been linked to belly dance on countless occasions. Certainly the exercises would be very beneficial in toning the body especially the belly. I wish I had started belly dancing before I had my babies. Because the pelvic muscles and the deep abdominal muscles, including those used for giving birth are strengthened I am sure my labour would have been easier!
Belly dancing does help maintain a general fitness and is great for relieving stress as well as back ache brought on by pregnancy. Belly dancing has also on occasion been known to encourage your baby into a position which is more optimal for the birthing process.
Caution, and some advice from your doctor are what I advise if you are planning to start belly dance class for the first time after falling pregnant – for the simple reason that the movements are new to your body, at a time when your body is in a state of initiating extreme change in preparation for carrying this growing baby.
If you had been dancing before pregnancy, your body would be trained already to, for example, give you the stability and support of trained back muscles or trained hip muscles stabilizing the hip joint. With the ligaments softened by pregnancy hormones, certain of the sharper and more vigorous hip movements may cause injury. However having said all that, you can do belly dance so long as there are no complications and you have the approval of your doctor.