Where did the term "Belly Dance" come from?

The proper Arabic name for the dance is "Raqs Sharqi", which means Oriental Dance. The French originally called it "danse du ventre" or dance of the stomach which was badly translated into English as belly dance. It is often referred to in much of the Middle East as "danse oriental".

Oriental dance did not originate in any one place. There are records of "castanet dancers" in ancient Rome, using metal castanets. In ancient cultures dance was associated with both religion and celebration. Later, each country developed forms of dance that people did at home to entertain themselves, as well as a class of professional dancers. Some of those professional dancers were courtesans, and others were associated with temples of worship, such as temple dancers in India. In the Middle Eastern and North African cultures, dance is merely a way for people to entertain themselves in family and tribal gatherings. Both men and women dance, but in many instances, parties are segregated - one for men and one for women!

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