ABC's of Bellydance

ABC's of Bellydance was a column that produced a fun little glossary of bellydance terms and phrases. 
The point of this column was to have fun and we did. There has been, however, an interest in co-creating a more "official" glossary. If you are interested in contributing, by all means, send your additions either through the comments here or via email:
Thank you to everyone that played!
Shimmy, Sizzle, Pop!

A is for...

Adawiya by Ali Kudi, which is so beautiful and sensual Per Brooke
Ala Nar, a great classic song. - Sandy Tiss
Alf Leyla We Leyla - classic Oum Kalthouhm song
Amani one of my favorite dancers. - Sandy Tiss
Amaya and Aisha Ali!  - Cat, "Tanktrika"
American Tribal Style - aka ATS, the popular group improvisational style performed by Fat Chance Belly Dance. -  AJ

Amint Billah - Part of a Baladi- the One count is VERY important in Amint Billah. Per Dawn
Anaya Tribal - my teachers:) - AJ

Ansuya - Accomplished performer, instructor, and choreographer. Co-founder of Fire in the Belly Fusion Fitness Center in Florida. Former BDSS, IAMED Best Cabaret Dancer of the Year 2001, Daughter of Jenaeni who was a renowned belly dancer in the 60’s and 70’s. Per BrandyeAssaya - as in Raks Assaya, is the ever popular Upper Egypt (which is southern Egypt) cane dance.
Assiut - this is sometimes spelled assuit, is an Egyptian textile, fine cotton netting fabric with hand applied hand hammered silver wire. Typically found in black or white.

Arabesque - I love the drama that pause with the lift and the sweeping of the leg creates in this lovely move, plus to me it represents the way dance styles, like ballet and belly dance mix and evolve, never stagnant, always evolving. - Brooke
Arabesque - the belly dance journal Per Laura 
Arabic - the movement. - Donna Hefley, Arabic people to dance for and culture to appreciate Per Brooke
ARMS! ARMS! ARMS! I love watching a dancer with graceful, strong arms that emote. Yes, us belly dancers dance with our hips and our feet, but our arms also dance. Per Brooke
Arm Path - The arm path is very important to a dancer, without it our arms would just hang there and not know where to travel! Per Dawn
A Trade Like Any Other: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt - an ethnography about Egyptian performers Per Laura

Asya - “Grace”. Also, the name of a Turkish pop singer popular in the 90’s. Per Brandye

Attitude - What you share when you dance from your heart. Per Brandye
Ava Fleming - International Performance Belly Dancer, movement coach, overall awesome fusion/American Cabaret Dancer. Per Dawn
Awwady - In Arabic music, this refers to the free-form improvised instrumental solo that has no underlying rhythm.Often used for the opening few phrases of music played for a belly dancer, and it is then followed by the fast- or medium-tempo entrance music. Per Annalisa
Aziza of Montreal, one of my favorites! Per Laura

B is for...
Bahaia  - of Austin, who taught me my performance basics and still inspires me. Per Laura
Baladi - also known as Beledi.The term itself means "from the country." It's a type of music that is literally from the country. Per Dawn
Bal Anat - name of dance troupe created in late 60's by Jamila Salimpour. Credited with giving birth to   what has evolved into today's "tribal style". In this sense Jamila is known as the mother of tribal.
Balls!  - Cuz it takes guts to take the stage and dance for ourselves, each other, and larger audiences. Any woman who takes a belly dance class has some balls if you ask me, and I like it! Per Brooke
Bambi - A coquettish style of baladi dance. Also the color pink in Arabic. Per Annalisa
Basics - having the basics down is one of the most important ways to start! Per Dawn
Beads to make us sparkle Per Brooke
Beat - Oh how important it is to dance to the music and accent just the right spots to keep your performances exciting and your audiences engaged. Per Brooke
Bedlah - the bedlah is the known as the belly dancer's bra and belt set, but it really is referring to the entire costume. The word Bedlah means "suit." Per Dawn
Beledi -  Middle Eastern rhythm, in Arabic can mean "my country" or "of the country", can be a costume dress style
Belly - The stomach, abdominal muscles, womb, center, chi, power. When you dance, the belly is where your power comes from whether via your muscular core or from the essence of your femininity. Per Brandye

Belly dance - which I am very much in love with. Per Brooke
Belly Dance -  Orientalism, Transnationalism, and Harem Fantasy - on my Amazon Wish List. Laura
Belly Flutters - A concept that I understand but can't quite master. Yet. Per AJ
Belly Rolls - Donna Hefley
Benefits -  Empowers, challenges, and promotes a positive body image. Belly dance is the passage to unlocking pure emotions from within. Then there are the obvious health and well-being benefits as well. Per Brandye
Bert Balladine - such an inspiration! Sandy Tiss - a belly dance forum i read frequently and post sparingly on. Per Laura
Bitwannes Beek - Donna Hefley
Blume Bauer - President of the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association. Per AJ

Body wave - A massage for your inner core. That’s how I see it anyways. Laura A. Cooper says, ‘A full undulation moves both to lengthen and strengthen the entire column of spinal and ab muscles.’ *Sited from Belly Dance Basics by Cooper. (I'll let someone else detail the mechanics of the body wave) Per Brandye
Bouncing butt - as in follow the bouncing butt, the way many Middle Eastern dancers teach! - Sandy Tiss
Bra and belt is for two of the essentials no dancer can be without -  Per Cat, "Tanktrika"

C is for...
Cabaret - a style of bellydance. Stephanie J. Moats

Cairo - one of the centers of Arab culture, past and present (stop me from nerding out) - Laura
Carioca - As in "Tahiya Carioca". The term Carioca refers to natives of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but also to a type of dance with brazilian/latin footwork that was famous during her time (think Carmen Miranda).  Tahiya was so adept at incorporating these steps into her dance that "Carioca" became part of her name.
Carolena Nericcio - The founder of Fat Chance Belly Dance, the troupe that gave us ATS. AJ
Charisma - The key that you get by just having that stage presence. That little something that makes the audience simply want to watch you dance. Dina
Cheironomia - play of the hands - Annalisa
- A pretty, sheer material that makes nice veils and skirts. Per AJ
Chiftetelli - a beautiful rhythm - Sandy Tiss
Chik Chak Chouk -another great song
Classes - Something you can or may not need to attend but it's kind of recommend to become a better dancer. :) Dina 
Classical Egyptian  - composers and musicians - There are some standards that every belly dancer should at least be able to recognize! - Laura
Community - one of the best things about belly dancing, and it's what keeps the dance scene healthy. Stephanie J. Moats
Constructive Criticism - Something every dancer has to be open to receiving from their teachers and peers if they ever want to improve. AJ
- an essential (and sometimes lamented :)) part of performing. Stephanie J. Moats
Confidence and Character - 2 essentials for the performing belly dancer - Laura
Courage - Having the ability to actually go out there and dance. It can be scary just showing up to class at times because you feel everyone in the class is on a different level than you. Dina
Create - to love dance and CREATE what we love. Ana

D is for...
Dahlal - a bellydance costuming store - Stephanie J. Moats
Dancing - The whole reason we're all on this blog. We love to dance! AJ
Danse du ventre - The french term for belly dance...the French always make everything sound prettier! And similar to the Spanish term for Belly dance~ Danza del vientre, which I always loved! Annalisa
Darbouka - Also known as 'doumbek'. These are the Middle Eastern terms for this goblet drum. The body of the drum is made of either aluminum or ceramic. The head of the drum is plastic or sometimes fish or goat skin. Gina
Debke -  a Levantine folk dance (L is for the Levant... lol) - Laura

Decadent costumes - I drool over at :) - Laura
Dead Can Dance -  A pioneering Goth band with a very tribal sound. Personally important to my dance journey because when I first learned to dance, I practiced a LOT to DCD. AJ
Delilah - bellydancer (and I believe a certain move is called that too). Stephanie J. Moats
Determination - something I don't have, except when it comes to running. But you have to have it to want to say okay...I'm going to be a better dancer because I'm doing to drill x times a week or you will perform on x day at x show. Dina
Development - it seems like in this dance there is always room to develop and grow in new ways. And just when you think you have something down - POW! you realize that there's another level -Laura
Dina!!!!  - Another one of my very favorite dancers
Drills - so important for learning good technique. Stephanie J. Moats
Drop Ins - Something I do all the time. I can't stick to a class because my work schedule it never the same. So, I've kind of gotten used to the drop in thing. Dina
Drum solo - an important part of a full bellydance set - Sandy Tiss
Dum - The deep sound from striking a drum at the center. In traditional articulation, a dancer will step on the "dum" and/or do a movement that has a downward or inward motion. AJ
Durable - Some of our costumes are not.... Dina

E is for...
Egypt - Misr in Arabic, Masr in Egyptian Arabic, this is the country that gave us the glammed up Raks Sharki, and many of the regional folk dancer we now include in our bellydance today. Many would argue that Egypt gave birth to bellydance itself. Sadly it is also a country experiencing much political turmoil currently. 
Ehab Tawfik - Allison
Eman Zaki - A very sought after Egyptian costume designer, see her designs here. 
Emotion -- A key ingredient to any belly dance performance! Show the audience what you feel! AJ
Exterior hip circles
- bigger and more skeletal than interior Jenn Johnson

F is for...
Fairuz - beautiful and famous Lebanese singer - Jenn Johnson
Falafel - fried ball of chick pea flour. Only tangentially related to bellydance I guess, but I've eaten falafel while watching bellydance at Middle Eastern restaurants many times! -Jenn Johnson
Fallahi - also Fellahi, Falaahii, an upper Egypt rhythm. Info on rhythms here. 
Farida Fahmy - a beautiful and very famous dancer, principal member of the Mahmoud Reda troupe. She was married to Ali Reda (Mahmoud Reda's brother). Farida is most certainly an important figure in the history of bellydance. Learn more about her here.
Figure 8s - down to up, up to down, front to back, back to front, horizontal or vertical with the chest, too... they're pretty versatile! -Jenn Johnson
Finger Cymbals - Allison
Fringe -- Love it or hate it, an element in many costumes. Made out of strands of beads, yarn or string, chain, etc! AJ

G is for...

Gallabiya - typical outfit of Egypt mostly worn by men, although women wear it as well (but known better as 'Baladi' dress for women). Worn as everyday attire specially for the rural lifestyles. Long dress type robe,as costume it's worn by men performing the stick dance or musicians.  Annalisa
Gauntlets - one of many options for arm coverings/decorations. Sandy Tiss
Ghawazi -- a group of female dancers of the Nawari people of Egypt, many of the. In the Ghawazi dance you will find many of the fundamental movement used in Raks Sharki.
Ghazaal Beledi -  the troupe of dancers and musicians who perform at our AZ Renaissance Faire and many other events across the state! AJ
Gina -  the host of this blog ;) AJ
Glass beads - what adorn many of our beautiful costumes. Sandy Tiss
Glute squeezes -- muscle contraction and release, a key element of the format made famous by world famous bellydancer Suhaila Salimpour
Goblet drum- (a hand drum with a goblet shape used mostly in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe)... speaking of Eastern Europe, did you know that the English term -Lagartisa
Graceful arms an
Goddess - Gina's nickname!; ) Bringing out our sensuality,passion and womanhood through belly dance brings out the goddesses in all of us. This term usually relates to the art of belly dancing because myths claim belly dance to have originated amongst ancient goddesses or performed in worship of them. Annalisa
d hands - the mark of a beautiful dancer. AJ
Gypsy - comes from the Greek word for "Egyptian" (Aigyptioi), in modern Greek gifti, however, 'gypsy' is considered derogatory by many members of the Roma community...Lagartisa

H is for...
Habibi - for all the beloved and darling and adorable women that enjoy bellydancing!!! Lagartisa
Hafla - (social gathering centered around bellydancing and of course food) Lagartisa
Haggalah - shimmy, a shimmy variation that I still don't entirely get and probably spelled wrong. AJ
Hamsa - a hand shaped amulet. It is thought to protect against the 'evil eye' and is popular motif in both Jewish and Middle Eastern jewelry
Haifa Wehbe -  a beautiful Lebanese singer. Sandy Tiss
Hamza el Din - an amazing singer. He does one of my favorite versions ever of "Lamma Bada Yatasana". Sandy Tiss
Haik - Moroccan article of clothing; long piece of fabric, which is wrapped around the body and fasted in place at the shoulders. Like what is used to cover up your costume before a performance. Annalisa
Hair garden - the look adopted by many tribal dancers to make sure their hair is as ornate as the rest of their costuming. AJ
Hakim - an incredibly popular Egyptian singer. The first person from an Arab country to perform at a Nobel Peace Prize event. The name Hakim means wise or ruler.
Head slides - head rolls (from Zaar or Guedra trance dance). Annalisa
Henna- (plant used for temporary artistic tatoos) on our hands and arms? Lagartisa
Hips!!! -  like true egyptians...and drop some jaws with our sharp and clean hip drops..hip twists, hip locks, hip figure 8 and mark the beat of the 

I is for...

I - (me)...what makes belly dance unique! Going into myself and bringing out my inner core, my life experiences and interpreting that in my dancing! Annalisa
Improvisational Tribal Style -  group tribal dancing consisting of a collection of moves and cues which the dancers use to create spontaneous dancing awesomeness. AJ

Indigo - as in 'The Indigo' the tribal fusion bellydance company founded by Rachel Brice. 
Inside eights - figure 8's drawing a figure eight inwards, towards your tummy.
Inspiration -  that spark that leads to new ideas for solos, group choreography, costumes, jewelry and more! AJ
Interior Hip Circle -  a nice tight hip movement.AJ

J is for..
Jairk - fast Nubian rhythm,often used in modern day Arabic pop music. Annalisa
Jamila Lotus - one of the belly dance troupes that performs at the Renaissance Faire. AJ
Jamila Salimpour - I know, this one is almost like cheating it's so obvious. Jamila is Suhaila Salimpour's mother -- Jamila has played a principal part in bringing bellydance, bellydance classes and structured format to the west coast!!
Jawaahir - jewelry in Arabic...all those accesories that complete our costumes! Annalisa
Jill Parker - influential Tribal Fusion belly dancer. AJ

K is for...
Kami Liddle!  AJ
Karim Nagi -  an absolutely amazing Arabic musician great on drums,zills and I'm sure plays the "Kawala" as well!(Arabic reed flute) Annalisa
Karislama - Turkish Folkdance,usually danced in a group! Annalisa
Khadijah- who is teaching the Kahleegi workshops. I met her last time she was in Tempe for workshops and she was really nice! AJ
Khaleegy is a rhythm and dance from the Arabian Gulf. 
Kit - as in all the gear you need to bring to class, to performances. Extra sparkles, bindis, make-up, hip scarf, bobby pins, hair spray...Marcie Vargas

L is for...
Lakoum -  Turkish gelatine dessert,but also a turkish bellydance move(could it be a shimmy that makes our belly's look like jello giggling? ;D) Annalisa
Lessons - Can't be a belly dancer without 'em! Beginner, advanced, everything in between. Marcie Vargas
Lower undulations - which I hope to some day dominate!!! Annalisa
Luxor -  is a city in southern Egypt; also all the Luxor restaurants out there, love 'em or hate 'em eventually you're going to go to a resaurant called "Luxor" and you're going to see bellydancing.

M is for...
Maksoum - is an Egyptian rhythm.
Mardi Love - part of The Indigo. AJ
Melaya Leff -  a flirtatious folkloric dance using a scarf-like garment as a prop.  Allison
Mira Betz - I adore her. I learned so much and was so inspired when I took the "Mira Mania" workshops at Plaza de Anaya last year. AJ

N is for...
Nebtidi Mnain El Hikaya - the song I danced to for my first solo! Allison

Ney/Nay - is a wind instrument is commonly heard in Middle Eastern music. AJ
Niya- one of my favorite Middle Eastern bands. AJ

O is for...
Omi - An interior hip circle.
Orit Maftsir - The beautiful and fanstastic Raks Sharki dancer from Israel. 

P is for...
Posture - Every dance form begins with the correct posture. Yet there isn't just a one correct posture for all forms of bellydance. Just as there are a variety of dance styles, there are also a variety of postures. Let me give you a big tip that not enough dancers take seriously, you ready? "Know your dance and know your posture!" You're welcome:) 
Princess Farhana - belly dancer with a very fun, informative blog.

Q is for...Qanoon - Stringed instrument used in Middle Eastern music.
Quarter tones - Middle Eastern music uses tones, half tones and quarter tones. 

R is for...
Rachel Brice -  I might have used her for B, too. I make no apologies.
Raks Sharki - Meaning 'dance of the orient'. It's a term used to describe a more Egyptian style of "bellydancing".

S is for...
Sadie -  a skilled but controversial dancer.
Saidi - Saidi could have various meanings, the term refers to the Said region of Egypt also known as "Upper Egypt" It is used to refer to the people of this region, to a dance style, to music, or a rhythm. 

T is for...
Taksim - Bellydancers usually refer to the slow, improvised, melodious section in their performance routine. The definition of the word: division, partition. In bellydance it's known as improvisation, instrumental solo. 
Turkish drop - a dramatic move where the dancer suddenly drops into a back bend on her knees.

U is for...
Umm Kalthoum - One of the many spellings of the name of the famous singer.
Undulation - There are a various forms and names for this basic movement. Undulation, body wave, snaky spine, belly roll, rolling spine. It could refer to the upper body or include the lower half of the spine.

V is for...Vegas - City that hosts several popular belly dance events.
Vibration - A very small and tight shimmy that results in a small muscle vibration 

W is for...
Wahida - A drum rhythm. Listen to a sample here.  See it here. 
Wa wa - Arabic pop song that my troupe just performed to.

X is for...
The X - Step - I know it's a stretch but go with it.   Jamila Salimpour is credited with introducing it to the USA  in her format (that's how I learned it:)See some descriptions and breakdowns here.
Xiq Xaq Xoq A song that I will never be able to take seriously, because the first time I heard it was as part of a video where the girl was dancing with a gummy snake.

Y is for...
Yallah  - Arabic term means "let's go" or "yeah" used to indicate one is in agreement. 
Yasmina - Arizona dancer who hosts an annual swap meet.

Z is for...
Zagat - Arabic term for finger cymbals (which are more popularly known as Zills - which is a Turkish term).
Zoe Jakes - Influential tribal fusion dancer AND member of Beats Antique.


  1. Great ! Love it. Thank you for provide the bellydance terms and phrases.i am also search these type of information.

  2. ABC's of Bellydance was a column that produced a fun little glossary of bellydance terms and phrases.....
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  3. it would have improvised instrumental solo that has no underlying rhythm.Often used for the opening few phrases of music played for a belly dancer.

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