"It is the darkness that is the light, and the stillness that is the dancing"

TS Elliot


Belly dance costume styles

What are the elements that typically make up belly dance costume styles or Middle Eastern dance costume?

When designing a costume for yourself, the character, story or feeling you want to convey is expressed through your movements, the music and the costume, so for a successful performance these three elements should harmonise. Your belly dance costume styles are part of your dances and create the character and mood of your expression and expresses your personality.

You may choose to always dance in a costume style that you resonate with in particular, or to have a wide range of costumes to suite different styles of dance, giving you the freedom to explore as many costume styles as you do dance styles.

Your belly dance costume styles can in some cases be the focus of your dance for example... in the dance of the seven veils the veils are your costume for the majority of the dance and are the focus of the dance.

Whilst on this subject it may be useful to know that this dance is inspired by a mythical story, the dance of Salome, who journeyed into the underworld to retrieve her lover and at each of the seven gates of the underworld, she was to remove one article of clothing, so returning to the natural, naked state, bare before the eyes of truth.

So if this dance interests you, know that there is no particular choreography for it, it is how you choose to choreograph a dance which incorporates seven veils, draped in various ways over your normal performance costume, that are removed one by one throughout the dance leaving you at the end in your normal base costume.

Belly dance costume styles and their components are used to give a certain personality or story to your performance for example with the use of a face veil. This costume piece creates a space between you and your audience, bringing in the element of mystery.

Belly dance costume styles provide an opportunity for your imagination to have free reign. They allow you to indulge in those styles, colours, accessories or antique jewellery pieces that may not be practical for you to wear everyday.

In the context of performance, how you are received by your audience in a professional performance space, will be dramatically enhanced or diminished by your choice of belly dance costume styles. The costume adds an extra element, it brings the fantasy to life, it lets the audience into who you are, your personality, or into the fantasy you want to portray. It enhances your own integrity and energy and takes you out of the world of the ordinary and into the world of the performer.

When practicing it is tradition to wear some form of hip scarf. When I practice and put on a belt, it is a symbol of me entering into the world of the dance.

Belly dance costume styles have been defined by the main styles of Middle Eastern Dance which can be categorised like this...

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