Raqs Baladi as Old as History!

I Once Ruled Over Three Continents!

In Celebration of the Feminine Divine

Raqs Baladi has descended from a religious dance which bore sacral sense, praised feminine origin, goddesses of fertility and women in general. In the society of that time Belly dance symbolized what was considered as divine mission of each woman: process of conception of the child, incubation and childbirth. As early as 1000 B.C., temple engravings depicting dancers have been found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

They emergence of belly dance is connected with the ceremonies worshiping of the Egyptian Goddess Isis, the Greek Aphrodite, Mesopotamian Ishtar, Marduk and Innana, all of whom are personifying an image of Great Mother Goddess; The Feminine Divine, The Masculine Divine, Fertility and Power.

Most Bellydancers used to be Queens, Princesses or Warriors. They were presented to the monarchs as heroes of their nations and got to spend a night with the King, they were the Queens of the Night.

From the Pharonic Courts of the ancient Pharoahs to the Harems of the Sultans (Kings), Bellydance has generally speaking been considered a divine dance reserved for elite females, hopefully by preserving this beautiful and joyous music and dance which traces its roots to Pre-Historic times along with these beautiful traditional rhythms (mizan, iqa, vazn, darb, dawr, adwar) that are played as Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dance rhythms or as accompaniment to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean melodies we can pass on the beauty of these traditions to the next generations.

Famous Dancers:

Salome comes from Shalome which in Hebrew (Shalom) and in Farsi (Salam) means Peace, Harmony, Wholeness, Completeness, Prosperity and Greetings!

Salome, Shalome "peace"; the daughter of Herod II and Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great and stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, is known from the New Testament, where she is not named, and from an account by Flavius Josephus.

In the New Testament, the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas demands and receives the head of John the Baptist. According to Josephus, she was first married to her uncle Philip the Tetrarch, after whose death (AD 34), she married her cousin Aristobulus of Chalcis, thus becoming queen of Chalcis and Armenia Minor.

The gospel story of her dance at the birthday celebration of her stepfather, who had John the Baptist beheaded at her request, inspired art, literature and music over an extended period of time. Among the paintings are those by Titian and Gustave Moreau.

Oscar Wilde's eponymous play, and its subsequent operatic setting by Richard Strauss, are among the literary and musical realisations which endeavoured to portray her.

The story of her dance before Herod with the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter led medieval Christian artists to depict her as the personification of the lascivious woman, a temptress who lures men away from salvation.

Christian traditions depict her as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness, notably in regard to the dance mentioned in the New Testament, which is thought to have had an erotic element to it, and in some later transformations it has further been iconized as the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Other elements of Christian tradition concentrate on her lighthearted and cold foolishness that, according to the gospels, led to John the Baptist's death. David Flusser, a scholar of early Christianity, believes that her "biographical profile suggests a normal, moral personality".

Little Egypt was the stage name for at least three popular belly dancers from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. They had so many imitators, the name became synonymous with belly dancers generally.

Fahreda Mazar Spyropoulos, (c. 1871 - April 5, 1937), also performing under the stage name Fatima, got her start at the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona. In 1893 she appeared at the "Street in Cairo" exhibition on the Midway at the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago. Legend has it that Mark Twain had a near fatal heart attack watching her go through her paces.

Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, a belly dancer who went by the stage name of Fatima got her start at the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. In the reopened saloon's lobby hangs a larger-than-life sized painting she donated entitled "Fatima". It bears six patched bullet holes; one can be seen above the belly-button and a knife gash in the canvas below the knee.

In 1893 Spyropoulos went to Chicago to appear at the World's Columbian Exposition. At the Egyptian Theater on the fair's Midway Raqs dancers performed for the first time in the United States. Sol Bloom presented a show titled "The Algerian Dancers of Morocco" at the attraction called "A Street in Cairo" produced by Gaston Akoun, which included Spyropoulos, though she was neither Egyptian nor Algerian, but Syrian. The melody that accompanied her dance became famous as the Snake Charmer song. Spyropoulos, the wife of a Chicago restaurateur and businessman who was a native of Greece, was billed as Fatima, but because of her size, she had been called "Little Egypt" as a backstage nickname.

Spyropoulos gained wide attention, and popularized this form of dancing, which came to be referred to as the "Hoochee-Coochee", or the "shimmy and shake". At that time the word "bellydance" had not yet entered the American vocabulary, as Spyropoulos was the first in the U.S. to demonstrate the "danse du ventre" (literally "dance of the belly") first seen by the French during Napoleon's incursions into Egypt at the end of the 18th century.

Some time after the fair Spyropoulos went to Europe, and performed under the stage name "Little Egypt."

Subsequently, several women dancers adopted the name of Little Egypt and toured the United States performing some variation of this dance, until the name became somewhat synonymous with exotic dancers, and often associated with the Dance of the Seven Veils. Spyropoulos then claimed to be the original Little Egypt from the Chicago Fair. Recognized as the true Little Egypt, she always disliked being confused with Ashea Wabe, after Wabe's performance at the Seeley banquet in 1896 ended up in her arrest and a full-scale New York City scandal.

Spyropoulos danced as Little Egypt at the 1933 Century of Progress in Chicago at the age of 62.

At the time of her death, she had filed suit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the use of her name in the motion picture The Great Ziegfeld, claiming that the producers of the movie failed to ask her consent.

Ashea Wabe (born Catherine Devine (1871, Montreal, Canada - January 3, 1908, New York City) danced at the Seeley banquet in New York in 1896, enjoying a fleeting succes de scandale.

Ashea Wabe became front-page news in 1896 after she danced at a swank Fifth Avenue bachelor party for Herbert Seeley. A rival promoter reported that Wabe was going to dance nude and the party was raided by the vice squad. Though the raid precluded Wabe from completing her act, she nonetheless admitted to local authorities that she had been paid to dance and pose "in the all-together", a euphemism for having no clothes on. Theodore Roosevelt, then a New York City Police Commissioner, supported the police captain who conducted the raid and who was subsequently vilified by the city media for interfering with a party held by upstanding gentlemen. Only later did the story come out that Wabe (a.k.a. Little India) had every intention of performing in the nude and would have done so had the police raid not occurred.

The raid brought some amount of fame to Wabe. She was hired by Broadway impresario Oscar Hammerstein I to appear as herself in a humorous parody of the Seeley dinner. She might have then been forgotten except for a series of photographs taken by Benjamin Falk.

On January 5, 1908, she was found dead in her apartment at 236 West 37th Street, New York City, by her sister, having apparently died from gas asphyxiation. She was said to have left an estate of over $200,000

Lorraine Shalhoub (born December 20, 1931 in Brooklyn) used the name Little Egypt for her acting career.

Fatima Djemille (died March 14, 1921) appeared at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Fatima was the subject of two early films, Edison's Coochee Coochee Dance (1896) and Fatima (1897).

Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, better known by the stage name Mata Hari, was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I. Professor Pat Shipman, a noted scholar and biographer of Mata Hari, stated she believed Mata Hari was innocent and condemned only because the French Army needed a scapegoat. She was executed by firing squad in France.

Promiscuous, flirtatious, and openly flaunting her body, Mata Hari captivated her audiences and was an overnight success from the debut of her act at the Musee Guimet on 13 March 1905. She became the long-time mistress of the millionaire Lyon industrialist Emile Etienne Guimet, who had founded the Musee. She posed as a Javanese princess of priestly Hindu birth, pretending to have been immersed in the art of sacred Indian dance since childhood. She was photographed numerous times during this period, nude or nearly so. Some of these pictures were obtained by MacLeod and strengthened his case in keeping custody of their daughter.

Mata Hari brought a carefree provocative style to the stage in her act, which garnered wide acclaim. The most celebrated segment of her act was her progressive shedding of clothing until she wore just a jeweled breastplate and some ornaments upon her arms and head. She was never seen bare-chested as she was self-conscious about having small breasts.

Although Mata Hari's claims about her origins were fictitious, it was very common for entertainers of her era to invent colourful stories about their origins as part of the show. Her act was successful because it elevated erotic dance to a more respectable status and so broke new ground in a style of entertainment for which Paris was later to become world-famous. Her style and free-willed attitude made her a popular woman, as did her eagerness to perform in exotic and revealing clothing. She posed for provocative photos and mingled in wealthy circles. Since most Europeans at the time were unfamiliar with the Dutch East Indies, Mata Hari was thought of as exotic, and it was assumed her claims were genuine. One evidently enthusiastic French journalist wrote in a Paris newspaper that Mata Hari was "so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms." One journalist in Vienna wrote after seeing one of her performances that Mata Hari was "slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair" and that her face "makes a strange foreign impression."

Mata Hari's career went into decline after 1912. On 13 March 1915, she performed in what would be the last show of her career. She had begun her career relatively late for a dancer and had started putting on weight. However, by this time she had become a successful courtesan, known more for her sensuality and eroticism than for her beauty. She had relationships with high-ranking military officers, politicians, and others in influential positions in many countries. Her relationships and liaisons with powerful men frequently took her across international borders. Prior to World War I, she was generally viewed as an artist and a free-spirited bohemian, but as war approached, she began to be seen by some as a wanton and promiscuous woman, and perhaps a dangerous seductress.

Famous Warriors:

Khawla bint al-Azwar was an Arab female warrior during the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and was one of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (صحابه) and later a military leader. She has been described as one of the greatest female military leaders in history and was once compared with Khalid Bin Walid by the opponents in the battlefield. She was the sister of Dhiraar bin Al-Azwar, the soldier and commander of the Rashidun army during the 7th century Muslim conquest. Born sometime in the seventh century, daughter of Malik or Tareq Bin Awse, one of the chiefs of the Banu Assad tribe, Khawlah was well known for her leadership in battles of the Muslim conquests in parts of what are today Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. She fought side by side with her brother Dhirrar in many battles, including the decisive Battle of Yarmouk in 636 against the Byzantine empire. On the 4th day of the battle she led a group of women against the Byzantine army and defeated its chief commander and later was wounded during her fight with a Greek soldier.

Born sometime in the seventh century in Arabia (modern-day Saudi Arabia), Khawlah was the daughter of one of the chiefs of Bani Assad tribe. Her family was among the first converts to Muhammaden. Her father's name was either Malik or Tareq Bin Awse; he was also known as al-Azwar.

Her talent first appeared during the Battle of Sanita-al-Uqab in 634, fought during the Siege of Damascus, in which her brother Zirrar (or Deraar) was leading the Muslim forces and was wounded and taken prisoner by the Byzantine army. Khalid ibn Walid took his mobile guard to rescue him. Khawlah accompanied the army and rushed on the Byzantine rearguard all alone. In her armor and typical loose dress of Arabian warriors she was not recognized as a woman, until she was asked by Khalid about her identity.

In the Battle of Ajnadin, Khawlah had accompanied the Muslim forces to provide medical attention to wounded soldiers. After her brother Diraar was captured by the Byzantine forces, Khawlah took a knight's armor, weapons, and mare, wrapping herself in a green shawl. She fought the Byzantine battalion, who were attacking Muslim soldiers. Khalid bin Walid, the leader of the Muslim forces, ordered the soldiers to charge the Byzantine. Many of the Muslim soldiers thought that Khawlah was Khalid until Khalid appeared. The Muslims defeated the Byzantines, who fled the battlefield. When Khalid found Khawlah, she was covered in blood. He asked her to remove her veil. After refusing several times, Khawlah revealed her identity. Khalid ordered his army to chase the fleeing Byzantines, with Khawlah leading the attack. After a search, the Muslim prisoners were found and freed. One of the Rashidun army commanders, Shurahbil ibn Hassana, is reported to have said about her that:

This warrior fights like Khalid ibn Walid, but I am sure he is not Khalid.

In another battle, Khawlah was captured after falling from her horse. After being taken to a camp with other women prisoners, Khawlah was to be taken to the leader's tent as he intended to rape her. Instead, Khawlah roused the other prisoners, who used the tent poles as weapons and attacked the Byzantine guards. According to Al Waqidi, they managed to kill five Byzantine knights with Khawlah taking credit for one, including the Byzantine who insulted her.

Many streets and schools in Saudi Arabia, are named after her. Jordan issued a stamp in her honor as part of the "Arab Women in History." Many Arab cities have schools and institutions carrying the name of Khawla Bint al-Azwar. An Iraqi all-women military unit is named the Khawlah bint al-Azwar unit in Khawlah's honor. In the United Arab Emirates, the first military college for women, Khawlah bint Al Azwar Training College, is also named for her.

Queens of Bellydance!

Egyptian Dance of The Pharaohs