Belly dance is the fruits of a stunning synthesis of sensual and divine elements. The beautiful stories that inspire the art give you a little window into another world.

It is said that in ancient times, fertility cults would inspire sacred dancing to appease the Mother Goddess and ensure a fruitful harvest.

In one Babylonian legend, the goddess of love and sensuality, Ishtar, bravely descended into the underworld in search of her lover Tammuz. At each of the seven gates to the underworld, Ishtar erotically removes a single piece of fabric, dancing her way into admission. With each discarded fabric, she slowly relinquishes her ties to the living world until she stood naked in the front of the seven judges of hell.

Meanwhile during her descent, the earth had transformed into a dry, barren land. The abundance of fruits and lush green had quietly withered away, desperately awaiting Ishtar’s return to the living. Graciously the gods allowed the couple to leave the underworld in order to restore the earth to its fertile splendour.

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Today, the reincarnation of this fertility myth is often believed to be revealed in Egyptian belly dance—a poetic sequence of gestures, characterised by soft hip movements and inherent feminine grace.

In this style of dance, dancers often sensually swirl on stage with a piece of fabric, performing soft movements with every breath until the fabric is abandoned. The audience is then taken on an emotional journey, as the dancer uses dramatic facial expressions and uncluttered movements to bring the essence of the music to life.

What’s your favorite folkloric dance story? Share with us!

Photography by Bbtomas and Creative Commons

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