Would a shimmy by any other name jingle as much?
In the western world, Middle-Eastern or Arabic Dance comes under the banner of “Belly Dance” or “bellydance” but this expression was only coined in 1893 when it was translated from the French danse du ventre or “dance of the belly”. In reality there are many different names, all of which are correct. Just as ‘Ballroom’ is also known as ‘Dancesport’ and has many different sub-categories so does Belly Dance.
Another name for Belly Dance is Oriental Dance or Oryantal Dansi (Turkish) meaning “dance of the east”. However, it is getting more commonly known for the Arabic version Raqs Sharqi or Raks Sharki or “eastern dance”, or “Raqs shaabi” the street version of the dance These terms are not differentiated in western ideas, but in Egypt you have the street style, more closely linked with folkloric and then you have the classical Egyptian performed in night clubs and hotels known as “sharqi”. Various spellings include sha’arki, sharki, sha’abi. With the folkloric style being referred to as Raqs Beladi or Raks Baladi. Within these styles are many different types of dance depending on the instruments and tempo of the music.
Why all the names? And spellings? The answer to that is as varied as the different names! Middle Eastern dance forms (as in dances that originate from all the different Middle-Eastern countries (remembering that all the villages and families had their own way of dancing) are popular in all the Middle Eastern countries, and each one has it’s own language and interpretation. Also we have translations from Arabic, which uses a completely different alphabet so translations tend to be phonetic. Being the English language, phonetics are tricky with so many ways to spell the same sound no wonder we have so many interpretations!