Monday, May 12, 2014

Is it Belly Dance or Bellydance?

Although I am not 100% sure the exact date when it happened or in what context; I do believe I have a good idea who, what and why some in the belly dance community started spelling and referring to belly dance as “bellydance” – one word.

I don’t see spelling “belly dance” as one word as anything negative at all and view it as just a personal preference for some dancers.  I do however prefer - as most other dancers and the public at large do - to spell it as two words.

I believe this trend started as a positive attempt to gain more legitimacy for our art form. It was in the early to mid 1990s when some started using the one word term. The first time I remember seeing “belly dance” spelled as “bellydance” was Atea’s instructional videos.  Even in the 1990s we were still dealing with negative stereotypes left over from the 1970s. Everyone who belly danced in the 1970s remembers how we fought hard against being referred to as strippers or just a small step above.  None of us wanted to be automatically tied in with strippers or worse.  Hey! We were serious about our dancing! 

Although most of us would have preferred a more dignified term for our dance such as Raks Sharki or the more generic term “Middle Eastern Dance”, it is the term “belly dance” that stuck in minds of the public and it became clear that it was an exercise in futility to educate the public at large otherwise.  (See also a related article "Naming the Dance")

In the early years of IAMED I also adopted the spelling as “bellydance”.  The flyers for the awards shows as well as the original VHS covers were “The First Awards of Bellydance”, etc. 

By the early 2000s, I changed to “belly dance” in main part because the general public rarely spelled it any other way. So, yes – I embraced “belly dance”. 
The other reason I went to the 2 word spelling was that I started noticing dancers also using the terms: “bellydancer” and “bellydancing”.  I have no objection to dancers doing this, but frankly I think the words “bellydancing” and “bellydancer” just looks odd. 

In the end no matter how you shake it (pun intended) it just matters that you dance.

Please leave me comments and thoughts on this subject.  I’d like to know your thoughts and opinions. 

Hadia in the 4th
Awards of Belly Dance
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