The West Michigan School of Middle Eastern Dance is the premier dance school in West Michigan dedicated to celebrating the joy and beauty of Middle Eastern dance, through scholarship, education, and creativity. The West Michigan School of MED is a community for sisterhood that promotes beauty, healing, and joy through dance and is housed within Mosaic Hall and Dance Center at 10097 Oakland Drive in Portage.
Belly dance is an ancient art and at its best looks effortless, graceful and engaging. Though it may look easy, learning to belly dance beautifully is challenging yet rewarding. Diligent study and practice are necessary to train your body to respond to the music with ease and grace. It is more than a tantalizing dance as described by the Orientals of long ago as they visited the Near East. It is a dance of exercise and discipline created by women for women. Belly dance gradually evolved over thousands of years to tone a woman’s body from the inside out. The West Michigan School of MED prepares students to reach their individual dance goals, whether they include simply having a fun workout or eventually performing on stage.
Whatever your goals, we recommended students to start with taking multiple beginners classes followed by intermediate classes. All classes are built on a standardized curriculum based on class level. Because each instructor has different strengths and styles, taking multiple classes at each level with different teachers will allow you to expand your knowledge and improve your technique. Repeated exposure to class material will also help you to build the movements into your muscle memory and experience the nuance of the music and each movement. Practice, patience and consistent class attendance are essential to getting the most out of your dance experience.
The timeless art of belly dance is practiced by women and men of all ages. The West Michigan School of MED seeks to be your home for Middle Eastern dance. We hope you will join in the many community events we offer, such as performances, costume trunk shows, Friday night fusion, master classes, lectures, and workshops.
Many scholars believe that the origin of the name 'belly dance' comes from the French ''Dance du Ventre," which translates as "dance of the stomach". Sol Bloom a promoter at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 is credited for using "belly dance" to promote his show of the Algerian dancer "The Egypt" at the fair. This is no official documentation proving these theories but many scholars surmise this is the origin. Belly dance is also often referred to as "oriental dance" and also sometimes raks sharqi (Arabic for dance of the east).
No academic scholar is officially sure exactly where, when, and how belly dance originated. There are many theories and myths that most dancers today use to describe the origins. More research in the anthropology and historical community is needed to accurately crush the myths and provide a truthful foundation.
Many believe that belly dance become a form of mainstream public entertainment care of the Romi tribes who first danced out on the streets and who performed in the theatres. Originally coming from India, the gypsies first travelled west into Afghanistan and Persia. Then some of them migrated North to Turkey and then onto Europe. Others went south until they reached Egypt and other parts of Northern Africa. One of the ways that gypsies supported themselves during their journeys was by providing entertainment for the people of the communities in which they stopped. More research is needed to confirm the Romi Trial as the originating source and up until now, speculation only exists on this theory. Egypt was already a thriving society before the Romi tribes branched out. Belly dancing is especially popular in Egypt and remains the capital of the art form.
In Turkey, after 1453, the gypsies settled in Istanbul and were requested as entertainment for the women. Patrons were amused by female-only dancers and musicians called chengis. The chengis built an artistic style that is the root of many movements in belly dancing today. The complex hip work, shimmies and varied facial expressions, as well as veil dancing and finger cymbal playing, can be linked back to the chengis. These days in Turkey, chengis dance primarily as a tourist attraction.
Performances in Egypt did not only involve women but men as well.Ghawazees, or festival performers, danced for the public at celebrations, wedding processions and in front of coffee houses and market places. Their repertoire was a mix of music and dancing, including improvised performances with veil, sticks, swords and candles. Generally, public dancing was tolerated by the authorities, because they earned substantial revenue by taxing performers' profits. However, religious complaints finally outweighed the financial benefits and public ghawanzee dancing was outlawed in the city of Cairo in 1834. Between 1849 and 1856 the ban was lifted and dancing was allowed in Cairo again, although the sanction against dancing in public remained. The dance moved inside to a music-hall type environment and Egyptian cabaret-style dancing was born.
The expansion of Belly dancing in Europe and America occurred as a result of the flow of Oriental tourists into the Middle East. Dance troupes were contracted by foreigners and taken to exhibition forums in London, Paris and Chicago to perform. Their art was appreciated for its uniqueness. Belly dancing's popularity grew tenfold at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with the publicity surrounding a belly dancer named Little Egypt. Little Egypt sparked a wave of controversy. Her pelvic and torso focused dancing was imitated by so many to such an exaggerated extent that she began to protest against the impostors for distorting her performance into sheer vulgarity. The fantasized and often distorted version of belly dancing grew at a rapid pace, becoming a popular subject in books, art and Hollywood movies. But in recent years more and more women have discovered the true elements of this incredibly feminine and self-affirming art form.
Middle Eastern dance is as esthetic and holistic as it is misunderstood. Belly dance is a spiritual connection between mind and body. Belly dancing is as majestic and regal as classical ballet but differs because it offers its practitioners a total experience. It offers a sense of well-being, joy, freedom and most importantly, a celebration of the feminine soul and inner spirit through movement. Something as beautiful as belly dance cannot be exploited, unless it is taken out of its intended context and it is placed into the wrong hands. Many individuals study for just 2–3 years and claim they are qualified to teach or perform professionally. Anyone could put a costume on and claim to be a dancer. It is these misrepresented and ignorant individuals that have only helped to educate the public that this dance is not worthy of study. It takes multiple years of study to master the technique to teach others but everyone can enjoy the benefits.