Dance of the Great Mothers: A Pharaonic Style Belly Dancing

by Delilah

I propose that the original Bellydancer was the great Goddess Gaia herself. Her body rolled and undulated the topography with which she would rock and cradle all the new life forms and prepare the way for the coming of humankind. Her watery, sun-lit womb was alive with the glistening of seeds, and fish, and fowl. A vital whirling dance began to the heartbeat of the pounding rains and drumming surf. A dance for the celebration of life!

Next came the potential in every woman who heard the stories of creation moving through her own body, since our time began. With each birth her belly’s dance gave honor to the sacred with gratitude and the spirit behind the miracle of creativity!

After that came the midwives who studied the wisdom of the earthdance, who learned the ways of herbs, rhythms and drum, who guide the birthing Mothers through the thresholds of transition with their own sympathetic ancient Egyptian birthing dance of wisdom.

I get phone calls and email every month from women wanting to know more about the connection between birth and bellydance. “Where can I find more information?” they ask. Sometimes the women have just discovered they are with child. Sometimes a teacher has an expectant student in her classroom. Sometimes it’s an expectant Father or Mother in law who wants to give the gift of Dance to the Great Mother (a performance video) to a loved one who is pregnant.

Here are some of the basic physical benefits as I see them:

The mind/body connection as developed in the art of bellydance is very much in tune with Hatha Yoga principles. The energetics involved in focus and concentration bring the dancer into full body awareness. This is important in feeling a greater sense of control physically, emotionally and mentally in one’s everyday life experience. It is also an important factor in birthing whether it’s a baby or an idea! All healing processes are strengthened. Concentration in the pelvic and lower abdominal areas send additional blood flow to female organs allowing more oxygenation to take place and thus enhancing proper growth and healthy functioning of the body. Physical competence leads to emotional well-being.

The veil dance, characteristic of bellydance, involves large extended arm movements which when combined with the fast paced-aspects of the dance provides an aerobic work-out strengthening the heart and building stamina.

Involvement in a local bellydance class or association can contribute greatly to a woman’s self-esteem and sense of community with other women. It is a dance which has been enjoyed by women for centuries that celebrates life and the stories of our lives remembered and expressed wordlessly through our bodies.

“If I could tell you what I mean, I wouldn’t need to dance” -Isadora Duncan

The idea that bellydance was used as prenatal conditioning for women in ancient times is not a new one. I’ve heard it since the day my bellydance career began twenty five years ago. Anyone familiar with the true art would come to this conclusion intuitively. However there isn’t a definitive body of information out there yet. The connection has a ways to go yet. Information is not obvious and out front to the greater public. Susanne McNeil did some important research in the 80’s on “Birthdance” as she called it. Currently (to my knowledge) the person doing the most with researching, documenting, and pursuing the reclamation of this bellydance/birth connection is Gaby Oeftering from Freiberg, Germany. Her work has culminated in a quality video release a few years ago in Germany and recently has been re-mixed in English for American audiences. It’s entitled Belly Dance During Pregnancy. It is a must-have, and not just for bellydancers. It is an excellent resource for three important interest groups:

  • Bellydancers, and most importantly Instructors
  • Midwives, doctors and childbirth educators
  • Pregnant women or mothers-to-be

There are basically 8 parts to the video. It is a mix of lovely performances by Sabine and Havva during their pregnancies. There are lectures by Gaby and Dr Liseiotte Kuntner, doctor of ethnic Medicine on the research, regarding the birth dance connection, through art and manuscript they chart the herstory, as prenatal child birth preparation. Irmtraud Scnieder, a physiotherapist, discusses tools and therapies currently being employed in child birth education classes for women. They talk about safe practices, and give us inspirational words. The rest of the video is an actual real time bellydance class with Gaby. It’s great for all women pregnant or not!

Continued Education Sources:

The reconnection of midwifery and bellydance is an emerging field of study right now. Here is a list of articles and resources in regards to Bellydance/Birthdance.

The following articles appeared as a theme collection in the Winter 1996, Volume 15, No. 1 of Habibi Magazine: A Journal for Lovers of Middle Eastern Dance & Arts, published by Habibi Publications, P.O. Box 90936, Santa Barbara, CA 93190-0936: ph. # (805) 962-9639

Birth Dance by Elizabeth Clark
A true story of a troupe of bellydancers who performed their dance all through the birthing process as a therapeutic aid to the birthing mother.

A Labor of Love by Delilah Flynn >>
This article briefly describes how Delilah, a professional bellydancer, continues to dance professionally throughout her pregnancy, and in so doing, opens women’s eyes as well as her own eyes, to the sad fact that our society has few powerful and radiant images of pregnant women doing anything representative of themselves. To capture the image, a video tape was released of the herstoric performance, “Dance To The Great Mother”, which has become, in certain capacities, a focal point for midwives, birth educators, dancers and pregnant women to network through. The article focuses on one such connection, describing the findings of Susanne McNeil, a yoga and dance instructor who taught a curriculum called Birthdance. McNeil taught Birthdance to pregnant women who had not previously known bellydance. She researched individual case studies through to birthing, and documented the findings.

The Expectant Dancer by Jawahare
A professional bellydancer’s profile of her experience throughout her pregnancy.

Giving to Light: Dancing the Baby into the World by Morocco
AKA Carolina Varga Dinicu: This article sums up countless articles she’s published on the subject of bellydance and childbirth since the early 60’s. In 1967, Morocco witnessed a birth ritual in a small village in Morocco where the women all did a softly undulating dance circled around a birthing woman who delivered twins in a hollow in the earth.

Other Sources:

Honoring the Belly by Lisa Sarasohn
Yoga Journal July/ August 1993; A look at how the western world views our belly compared to Yoga and Hara Training . Many detailed belly centered exercises are explained with photos.


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