BD origins in India

Ahava_Melantha

New member
I keep on hearing that bd history has origins in India. I don't see it. At all. they say because of a traditional pose that looks similar to a move done in chiftetelli that bd must of come from India.

1. I don't see how all eastern dances can have one origin

2. I have seen some traditional indian dancing and I still don't see it

can anyone explain this to me. enlighten me. whenever I ask for further proof people act like i can't see that 1 + 1=2 or they become quiet.

I would deeply appreciate the help.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
Hi, Ahava. I'm not exactly sure where some bellydance "experts" get that, other than Bollywood dance has a few hip-driven articulations, but not that many. It's been pointed out in past threads that Asian dances have more hand articulations, while Middle Eastern/North African dances are more hip-driven (and of course, Egypt is in North Africa :D ). You are exactly right in being able to distinguish the differences.

For whatever reason, some people want to tie India to Middle Eastern dance, where no such connection exists. It's only wishtory on their part. Those who teach this have not done their homework, and refuse to give up their personal notions. Maybe someone else here can better elaborate on why some are so determined to believe that bellydance has any ties to India (and absolutely NO disrespect here on my part against India. I love that country and its dances, too---I just don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole).

Although I can't explain why some are set on believing what they do, I have read some of their "theories." One author of a book I own states that in the 5th century A.D., the Romany from India travelled through Turkey and Persia, then on to Egypt and North Africa, and from those places, spread bellydance everywhere they travelled. No disrespect to the Romany, but, yeah, no. -_- :wall: The author cites no resources for what she wrote, just stating, "many people agree." :doh:

While many cultures share similar articulations in dance, each culture puts its own spin on these movements that are peculiar to their country. Just because two or more cultures share a similar movement vocabulary doesn't mean they ran over to each other and said, "Heeeeeey! Lookie what WE can do, let's ALL do it!"

Aaaaaaaand with that, I think I'll get off my iPad and get some sleep, I think I'm losing where I was going with this and am beginning to not make sense to myself! @____@
 
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Kashmir

New member
India is seen as "high culture". Many people doing the hippy trail went to India. India has neat drugs. Indians (as a generalization) are attractive looking. India women are visible - and lightly dressed. Indian religions are looked up to. Britain had a long association with India with mutual respect with the ruling classes, and appropriate subservience with the lower classes (unlike Egypt where the upperclass preferred the French and the lower classes just hated the British).

The Middle East is full of Arabs, Jews and Turks. All of whom we have been at war with for centuries (some European countries still celebrate the overthrow of the Turks). People from the Middle East are mostly Muslims - which is not cool. MEers don't look as pretty as Indians. They keep their women away from well meaning Europeans that only wanted to paint them and have sex with them. Their music is all out of tune which proves how primitive they are.

Add to that a shocking ignorance of history and a romancisation of "Gypsies" (not helped by fantasies like Latch Drom) and you have a perfect storm. We like belly dance so it must have come from a place we admire - India - and have nothing to do with dirty Arabs. Simple.
 

Roshanna

New member
Totally agree with Kashmir and Farasha. I've never seen any convincing evidence of any important Indian connection. But I got into a bit of an online bustup with another dancer a little while ago when I cited "bellydance is from India" as an example of a common misconception about bellydance. She was utterly adamant that bellydance was brought to Egypt from India by the Roma, and said she had read books that supported this :-/

I think Kashmir is right that people (especially British people, perhaps) like the *idea* of India as somewhere that they know a little more about than they do about the Middle East, that's a bit familiar and is seen as more spiritual and more glamorous (bollywood! yoga! tasty curry!). All very orientalist, but in a different way than people are orientalist about Egypt. India is seen as an ancient wise civilisation full of pretty shiny things, whilst the ME is seen as barbaric and backwards, and in the case of Egypt as having fallen from former ancient glory (which I'd guess is why people are also so keen on pharaonic origin myths).
 

Ahava_Melantha

New member
thank you all for the insight.

its pretty interesting that Roma are used as evidence. Seeing how as one of the movements they use is sort of taboo or pushing the envelope in Egypt lol

I love Romani and Domari dancing. I love Rajasthani dancing. and they are not the only gypsies, there are others who say that they are NOT Romani, but most of them just all grouped as Romany by ignorant people.

but I don't think they spread it around. And I agree about wishstory. I see it a lot as many people hate hearing that belly dance might be arab or African. Oh boy.
 

Amulya

Moderator
Will read the other posts later. The only 'roots' I could think of is where 'gypsies' (sorry for the word, I don't mean Roma, but all the different 'gypsy' people who originated from India, there are many) bringing dance with them from India and influenced local dances. I can see some similarities in Indian 'gypsy' dances but they are just a few.
There was an exellent show years ago by the Dutch dance theatre which showed all the various 'gypsy' dances from over Asia, Middle East and Europe, there was also a folkloric 'belly dance' style included from Egypt, but sadly it was clearly choreographed by Suraya Hilal (or a follower of her style) so it was a bit incorrect. I have the show on DVD and watched it often because it really showed all the connections between different dance forms. Very interesting. If you come across it, it's worth buying.
 

Kashmir

New member
Will read the other posts later. The only 'roots' I could think of is where 'gypsies' (sorry for the word, I don't mean Roma, but all the different 'gypsy' people who originated from India, there are many) bringing dance with them from India and influenced local dances. I can see some similarities in Indian 'gypsy' dances but they are just a few.
Except normal cultural flow is from high status to low - not vice versa. If you look at most Roma style dances what is really striking is how they have more in common with the local folk/socialdance than Roma from other areas. For instance - have you seen Hungarian Roma dance? Does it look anything like Roma dance from Turkey? from Germany? from France? from Spain?
There was an exellent show years ago by the Dutch dance theatre which showed all the various 'gypsy' dances from over Asia, Middle East and Europe, there was also a folkloric 'belly dance' style included from Egypt, but sadly it was clearly choreographed by Suraya Hilal (or a follower of her style) so it was a bit incorrect. I have the show on DVD and watched it often because it really showed all the connections between different dance forms. Very interesting. If you come across it, it's worth buying.
Okay - so you recognized that the Egyptian was wishtory. What makes you think the 'gypsy' dance wasn't also made up to fit a pre-conceived worldview? I remember an exchange I had some years ago with a 'folk' dance company that was doing 'Egyptian' dance. None of of it was even vaguely Egyptian other than the costuming was vaguely Reda-esque. Basically the 'respected' choreographer (who wasn't even Egyptian - or Hilal trained) decided any hip work was vulgar so included none in any of their work!
 

Amulya

Moderator
Because it was so clearly Suraya Hilal style

The Dutch Dance Theatre is known to research their stuff really well, they don't want to come up with nonsense fantasy stuff. Yes there were dances that were completely different, they did include the countries you mentioned and more. All I say is that there were a few similarities here and there, but not that they are all the same.
 
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shiradotnet

Well-known member
So far as I've seen in my own observations, the India origin theory seems to have three dominant sources:

1. The 1993 movie Latcho Drom was misinterpreted by people who saw it. In this misinterpretation, people thought it was a documentary of how the Roma carried their dances from India to everywhere they went. But, that's the wrong way to interpret what the movie shows. I NEVER heard the India-as-origin theory for belly dance until after Latcho Drom was released. Now, it's possible the theory was out there somewhere, but I never heard it. However, after Latcho Drom, I heard the Roma-brought-belly-dancing-west-from-India theory a lot, probably because of the brief Egypt scene. Never mind that the music/dance in the Egypt scene bore NO resemblance to that appearing in the other scenes.

2. A dancer named Meira did some research into the history of belly dance back in the 1990's, and for reasons that are not clear to me, wrote a long, extended segment on the history of the Gypsies. You can see the 1998 version of it here: https://web.archive.org/web/19990202103030/http://www.bdancer.com/history/BDhist2c.html She did not actually claim that the Roma carried belly dance to the Middle East from India, but the presence of this detailed information about the Roma in an article that was otherwise about belly dance history led many people to draw unfortunate conclusions. She was in the SCA at the time, so her work was published and widely read by SCAdians. Also, she was one of the first dancers to publish "history of belly dance" info on the web, which also caused her article to be widely read.

3. FatChance embraced & popularized the notion of the Romany connection. I'm not sure where they got the belief, maybe from both #1 & #2 above? Advocating a Central Asian connection is useful in justifying a costuming aesthetic that involves cholis, multi-tiered skirts, fringed hip shawls, Afghani jewelry, and textiles from India.

Anyway, most of the people I hear advocating the India-as-origin theory are typically repeating variations on one of the above theories.
 

Jans

New member
Hi. As a belly dance student from India, I thought I should share my perspective here. While I completely agree with all your points, I would just like to point out that a lot of times, belly dancers, specially tribal dancers, are also responsible for this. It is not uncommon to find tribal dancers incorporate steps from classical indian dance forms, or even dance on classical indian music. (Steven eggers and april rose's performance tribal fest performance is a good example. It's a Beautiful performance,though) Some even dance on indian classical music. This confuses people and they come to the conclusion that there must must be some connect between BD and India. I know this is an old post, but well..
 

Ahava_Melantha

New member
thank you Jans. I deeply appreciate your perspective and thats very true. Plus there a bolly/oriental fusion. I know it confuses a lot of Egyptians, calling something belly dancing but wearing a choli top, etc.

I'm an orienetal girl myself. Although I lean more towards Egyptian style and folklore styles. but again thank you.
 

Jans

New member
Thank you for understanding. Almost all belly dance schools in India are fusion ones. If you don't mind me asking, is this inherently a bad thing? I am new here, and belly dance is new in india as well. Though the instructors at these schools are very qualified, trained under "superstars' and regularly travel to the ME to update their skills. Most of the time we dance only on arabic music, and the CDs given to us consist only of arabic music. But we have alot of fusion performances as well. Meher malik has a lot of fusion performances, where she combines BD with kathak. (Trained in both) Could you please help me? I am deeply confused.
 
While I completely agree with all your points, I would just like to point out that a lot of times, belly dancers, specially tribal dancers, are also responsible for this. It is not uncommon to find tribal dancers incorporate steps from classical indian dance forms, or even dance on classical indian music.
Yes of course they do - that's what Tribal belly dance is all about, it's a 20th century American dance invention which was created from a fusion of many different dance styles. ATS incorporates elements from Indian, Spanish, Middle Eastern and probably others I'm not familiar with. Tribal fusion can include any dance forms you like - I've seen fusion with ballet and hip-hop.
 

Duvet

Member
When I visited India in 2004, when bellydance came up as a topic (as a hobby), I was informed by my hosts that bellydance came from India. I had never heard this before. But I have other Indian associates today in the UK who also inform me that bellydance is from India. All these persons just happen to have lived or come from Kerala. Is there a stronger 'tradition of bellydance' in Kerala, are these people mislead about their own cultural dances, or are they all (and it was children, women and adults) reflecting a myth imported to their country from the west? If an imported myth, when do you think it would have happened, and why would they want to believe and claim bellydance as Indian?
 
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Jans

New member
Thank you so much for your reply :) As a newbie, I was extremely confused. A lot of our instructors first began to dance on indian music because there were so many negative stereotypes about belly dancing in India, and dancing on indian music sort of..helped people connect with it. Now things are changing though! Thanks.
 

Jans

New member
Hello Duvet. I am very surprised that your hosts and your associates told you that, honestly. The first (and the only) time I ever heard this, was from a indian belly dancer who told me that 'apparently' there are some traces of similarity between rajasthani dance and BD, but she said it's all very ambigious. (She, btw, was told this by a egyptian teacher 0_0 ) I have learnt now, through this forum that it's not true. But I have never heard of any other indian person say this. Belly dance is always perceived as a Middle eastern thing, an 'alien' dance form by people in India. So I am quite surprised at that. Personally, I do not see ANY similarity between dances that have originated from Kerala and BD, and I am a student of both. Kerala is the birth place of many dance forms and maybe this leads people to wrongly believe that it originated from there maybe? There is no tradition of bellydance in India, not that I know of. The only dance form that just happens to have a bit of similarity is rajasthani dance.(specially the whole 'gypsy' idea, costumes and certain steps) But people don't even compare these two in India. So I am quite surprised at this, but I can assure you that hardly anyone in India thinks of BD as anything 'indian', forget originating from india. Hope I helped:)
 

Duvet

Member
Thank you Jans. I was very doubtful when my Indian hosts told me bellydance was Indian, even back then when my knowledge and experience was pretty low. It was children and women who told me this (I was staying in a children's hostel). In the UK it was quite recent that Indian men informed me that bellydance is Indian.

Perhaps it is because the history is so uncertain that Indians, just like Europeans, assume a superficial similarity is enough of a connection. Yet I was (naively?) surprised that people could be so confused about their own cultural dances. I do notice that all these people were Christians - whether that adds any perspective. Next time I hear it said, I'll challenge them for where they heard it from!
 

Jans

New member
Christians and children? Wow even more confusing :eek: I don't know about Europeans,but in India the problem is that there are SO MANY dance forms and cultural practices and diverse groups of people, that it leads to confusion. We arent a homogenous group of people. Its a very diverse country with groups of people who are culturally very different from each other. There are around 10-12 classical dance forms ( Mohiniattyam, Bhangra, Ghoomar, kathak etc) and most have nothing in common with each other. On top of they are all perfomed on music of different languages. And I haven't even added stuff like mujra and of course, Bollywood to that. One individual cannot possess knowledge on all these, hence the confusion about their 'own cultural dance forms'. Indian people don't have one 'cultural dance form' that they all well informed about and connect with. North indians do not have any connect with Bhartanattayam, in the sense that they consider it to be 'Indian classical' but dont consider it be 'theirs' and south indians have zero connect with Rajasthani dance forms, because of language barriers. I don't think the similarity between BD and Rajasthani dance is what made people believe that BD originated from India ( now that you mention that they were Christians from Kerala) but some other Ill informed dancer or person (or countless internet articles). Who knows! in India people give me a very wide eyed response when I mentioned that I belly dance, and always add stuff like ' oh I saw belly dancers when I went to Egypt! They were so hot/beautiful/ amazing. (Most common) or 'aren't you too thin for belly dance? Most Egyptian belly dancers are curvy!' Or (You see, I'm extremely thin) That instant connect with the Arab/ other world. *Sigh* sorry this is really long :/
 
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Jans

New member
If you want more information on this topic (or the reason why people believe this) check these - http://bhuz.com/bellydanceblog/history-of-belly-dance-rajasthan/ http://www.bhuz.com/belly-dance-traditions-styles/54128-indian-dance-belly-dance.html
 
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