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
Please pay us a visit at


Nancy Young said...

Hi, Suzy,
Your comments on the spelling "belly dance" versus "bellydance" are intriguing. For a long time I had stupidly thought I was alone in sensing a vaguely "political" aspect to this matter. Goes to show I just didn't know history.

Especially interesting to me was your comment about the change to the spelling "bellydance" in the 1990s as an effort to elevate public perception of our art. My sense of the matter runs exactly the opposite way: I feel that "belly dance" is the more dignified term. Is that nuts?

To my mind, the spelling "belly dance" emphasizes that our art is first and foremost *dance*, right along with ballet dance, flamenco dance, ballroom dance, modern dance, jazz dance, tap dance. The term before "dance" just specifies the particular type of the generic artform: DANCE.

"Bellydance," on the other hand -- so my sense of it goes -- overwhelms the dance with the BELLY, sort of mashes them together in a way that makes "bellydance" some sort of icky hodgepodge that is not real DANCE. Here's an analogy: lima bean, black bean, pinto bean, navy bean, jellybean. Which one doesn't belong? Or: angel food cake, black forest cake, lemon chiffon cake, pancake.

So I'd love to hear more about the idea that "bellydance" is the more elevating term. Perplexing!

Suzy's Belly Dance Blog said...

Very good points Nancy.

Suzy's Belly Dance Blog said...

As I have time I will write more about this subject.

Anthea Kawakib Poole said...

I know, it's confusing! I've used bellydance as alloneword since I started my website in 1999. But recently - in the past year or so - I noticed Google seems to use two words; EXCEPT for the face that the #hashtag Google (and everyone else) uses, is of course, alloneword: #bellydance. So there's more confusion?
Or is it to be used as one word for hashtags, and two words in search!? :)

Suzy's Belly Dance Blog said...

Antheam, it is confusing. I just leave the choice up to the individual dancer and what they prefer to use.
As far back as I can remember Google has preferred the 2 word version and that's because the majority of the general public spells is that way. As far as the #hashtag - I just don't know.