My name is Jacqueline and I am a Lebanese Belly Dancer. I am about to lay out my definition of what Lebanese Belly Dancing is and how it is different from the rest of the world’s versions of belly dancing.
For starters, if you google ‘Lebanese Belly Dance’, Wikipedia is the first site that has a small section for Lebanese Belly Dance which says:
“Belly dance in Lebanon
Lebanese style belly dance is somewhere between the Egyptian and Turkish styles. Lebanese dance takes from the classic oriental dance, but still incorporates a feisty, modern edge. There are large steps, backward leans to the torso, twisting hip rotations, large and busy arms and lots of shimmies. The types of techniques that are used in Lebanese style dance are quick layered shimmies and subtle internal movements. Lebanese dancers sometimes include kicks, splits, deep back bends, and Turkish drops.“
To me, this is not enough.
There are so few articles that explain why Lebanese Belly Dance is different, so I am writing this article to give my definition.
Modern Lebanese Belly Dance Style
Lebanese Belly Dance originated in Lebanon, which is located in the Middle East, where the people speak a unique dialect of Arabic. The population consists of religions that include various Christians, Druze, and Muslim sects. Lebanon is known as the Paris of the Middle East because of the night life, entertainment, and westernized way of thinking. Many of the Lebanese people embraced Western thinking and incorporated co-ed dancing at weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Together, the men and women would dance to folk, dabke, and modern music. Lebanese Belly Dance organically weaved through many homes and became a part of the culture. Many mothers taught their daughters when they were young and women also incorporate these movements into exercise routines.
Today, the most well known Lebanese Artist that dominated the concept of modern belly dancing is entertainer, singer, dancer, song-writer and artist, Shakira. Shakira has a Columbian mother and Lebanese father. The very fact that her father has roots from Lebanon, truly excites the Lebanese people. With specific songs like, Eyes Like Yours aka Ojos Asi and Hips Don’t Lie, they inspired and rejuvenated the concept of Modern Lebanese Belly Dance. She hypnotized audiences around the world with fluid hip mayas, deep chest undulations, and a charismatic attitude.
With the inspiration from watching Shakira and owning other cultural habits derived from unique mannerisms and specific facial expressions, Lebanese Belly Dance can be defined as a full experience performance. The dancer demonstrates various emotions through facial expressions and earthy body motions. She wants her audience to feel how she does. She may give looks that kill or smile with pure happiness. She’s very expressive, a jewel on stage. She prefers improvisation as this is how she learned the dance growing up. She delivers a performance with a beginning, middle, and end or a complete story that accompanies the music. Lebanese Belly Dancers may not follow the rules of other Belly Dancers. She is allowed to be creative and take her movements where her heart leads her. She may act and have a theme, or her main objective might be to give an unforgettable performance.
Her back tends to lean back farther with hip drops, back bends, and sometimes undulations. She delivers dramatic hip circles that take time and a lot of facial expressions or acting. Another unique movement is the Lebanese Drop. The dancer will drop to the ground by bending her knees quickly or slowly. She will surprise you and give a dance that is diverse and full of energy. You’ll see winks, clapping, and a maybe even a zaghareet (a fun Middle Eastern noise to make for showing excitement). While incorporating arm movements, she does not focus on the newly adapted European arm movements that originate in ballet. She uses a free form expression that is more natural to the human body. To say you are a Lebanese Belly Dancer generally means that you are of Lebanese descent. If Lebanese Belly Dance is your preferred style but you are not Lebanese, it may be more respectful to say you are a Belly Dancer or Artist that dances the Lebanese Modern or Traditional Style.
Lebanese Traditional Style
Alternatively, Traditional Lebanese Belly Dance implies the heavy influence from Egyptian and Turkish styles. Many female actresses and leaders like Egyptian dancer Nadia Gamal coined the term Lebanese Belly Dance. However, Badia Masabni was born in Lebanon in the early 1890’s and is considered the “Godmother” of oriental dance or belly dance. In the 1920s, she moved to Egypt and spearheaded the discovery of belly dance by working as a dancer and actress, and later opened a night club known as Opera Casino. She went to Egypt because it was the center of entertainment at that point in time.
In the 1980’s and 90’s Lebanese born artist Amani began developing a unique style of belly dance that paved the way for more freedom with technique and style. With coverage from various media outlets, she received world-wide attention as one of the most famous Lebanese belly dancers. She dared to be different from Egyptian Style and stayed true to representing the unique cultural side of Lebanese Belly Dance.
Specific Lebanese Movements
Taking various body parts and moving them simultaneously is a Lebanese Belly Dancing specialty. Dancers may take 2-4 body parts and move them at the same time. Here are the specific movements for Lebanese Belly Dancing that may incorporate internal, external, level and speed variations:
Head (winks, smile, or dramatic facial expressions)
Neck (slides, locks, circles)
Shoulders (rotations -fwd and bwd, shimmies, lifts, and drops)
Arms & Hands (snake arms, rolling wrists, relaxed hands, undulations, frame body and face)
Chest (circles, pops, locks, slides, undulations)
Back (back bends that hold for more than 3 seconds, side bends, bend over)
Belly (roll, flutter)
Hips (drops, shimmies, figure eights, circles, mayas)
Legs (K, choo choo, jazz walks, kicks, spins)
Today, traditional Lebanese belly dancers seem to be few and far between, especially because of the heavy Egyptian and Turkish styles that seem to dominate the term in nearly every definition. A wave of change is currently taking place to give more attention to the Lebanese Style. Please join me by subscribing to my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/jacquelinebellydancer and supporting my efforts to spotlight Lebanese Belly Dancing in 2017!