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by Roanny Colon, student writer

The oriental dance, or belly dance, originated in the Middle East about the 14th century BCE. Despite beliefs that the dance was used as a way for women to seduce their sultan, belly dancing was created by women for women, and was used at such celebrations of femininity such as births and weddings.

It is believed that the dance originated as a fertility dance. According to BellydancebySasha.com, engravings found in the caves of Addaura, in Palermo City, Italy, show women dancing to the goddess of fertility.

Although it is unclear how and why the dance was invented, there is no doubt that belly dancing is indeed a difficult and intense workout requiring pure muscle control and muscle isolation. It is also a combination of belly rolls, snake arms, shimmies, and body waves. All of these moves have to be in coordination with music and drum beats, which makes it more difficult.

According to rumpuree.com belly dancing was introduced to the western world during the late 18th century by French explorers. In 1893, the dance was introduced to America by promoter Sol Bloom, at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Although the dance was a hit in some major cities, the Victorian era was indeed a conservative one. Some people weren’t ready to accept the idea of a woman dancing and baring so much skin. Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time before the dance’s exoticism and gracefulness caught on in other major cities.

As the dance grew more popular, women added different props to their routines, such as canes, finger cymbals, swords, veils, and other items.

Little by little belly dancing gained acceptance in America. Thomas Edison made several films of dancers during the late 1800s: Turkish Dance, Ella Lola, Crissie Sheridan and Princess Rajah. Today belly is dancing popular around the world.

It can also be an ideal way to stay in shape, with benefits that are both mental and physical. Dancing provides a good cardio-vascular workout, which also increases blood flow and thus oxygen to the brain, and it helps increase flexibility and strength.

Glenda Buis, an Air Force member stationed in Hawai‘i, uses belly dancing as a way to maintain the fitness that her job requires. Buis performs with the belly dancers in Paradise Troop. “I enjoy how I feel every time I perform,” said Buis. “I also love the recognition I get from my friends and family.”
For Corina Evans, a University of Hawai‘i student majoring in linguistics and also a dancer in Paradise Troop Dancers, staying healthy is very important. “I have to workout because diabetes runs in my family. I belly dance because it keeps me from gaining weight, and it helps me express my femininity in an elegant and positive way. Belly dancing has helped me to stay focused and happy,” she added.

Evans says, “Belly dancing helps her to deal with the stress that she faces as a student. “Before and after my exams, I go to the dance studio and dance for about an hour. It helps me a lot, plus it keeps me smiling,” said Evans.

Belly Dancers in Paradise is a local dance troupe owned by well-known belly dance instructor Malia DeLa Pena, who has been teaching belly dancing for almost nine years. She performs at Pyramids Restaurant on Kapiolani Boulevard every Sunday, and she offers classes in different studios around the island.

For more information about belly dancing, Belly Dancers in Paradise, or to locate a dance studio in your area, call Malia DeLa Penia at 808-381-3100 or visit her Web site at www.BellyDancersin Paraside.com.

Another view of the Dancers in Paradise




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