The History of Belly Dance in Spain
The history of belly dancing in Spain is strongly associated with the Roma or Gypsy culture. Although the origins of belly dancing are largely attributed to the Middle East and North Africa, the Gypsies of Spain performed dances of a similar style.
When Belly Dance Came to Spain
As early as 1000 AD, Gitanos from Northern India traveled west across Europe and became known as the Romani or Gypsies. These nomads eventually arrived in Andalusia, a remote region of Spain. As they traveled, the Romani assimilated elements from different cultures, including the Arabic dancing styles now associated with belly dance. By the late 15th Century, Gypsies or "flemenc," had put down roots in Spain.
Who Brought Belly Dance to Spain
Although the original Gypsies were from the Punjab and Rajasthan areas of Northern India, as these groups traveled west towards Spain, they absorbed numerous poverty stricken and disenfranchised individuals from diverse countries including Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Arabia and Morocco. Isolated from their individual cultures, a new culture was forged by blending Indian raga music with Arabic dance, particularly those styles introduced by the Ghawazi, Egyptian Gypsies. This amalgam of styles is apparent in modern belly dance.
How Belly Dance Developed in Spain
Modern belly dancing in Spain bears a strong resemblance to historical Gypsy dances performed in both religious and erotic contexts. Having settled in Andalusia, the Gypsies developed their own dance style, which evolved into the modern Flamenco dance while bearing similarities to Arabic belly dance. Despite persecution under the Spanish Inquisition, the culture of belly dance and Flamenco thrived, giving rise to modern dance culture, particularly in Barcelona.
Why Belly Dancing is Popular Today
Belly dancing has become part of mainstream Western culture and Spain is no exception. Seen as a tremendous form of exercise that tones muscles while providing a cardiovascular workout, belly dancing classes are offered in gyms and fitness centers, as well as at dedicated dance clubs. In Spain, belly dancing is extremely popular as a "dance therapy" used to treat various psychological and health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer and the effects of old age.
Where to Belly Dance in Spain
Belly dancing can be found in all the major cities of Spain, but is perhaps most popular in Madrid and Barcelona. There are a number of women registered as professional belly dancers in Barcelona offering dance classes to a clientele consisting mostly of women. Belly dancers make regular appearances at parties and clubs all over the country, including the party capital, Ibiza, but Barcelona is the "dance therapy" capital of Spain -- particularly when it comes to the use of belly dancing in the treatment of various health issues.
Belly dancing has evolved beyond its origins, particularly in Spain where it is no longer just a Gypsy dance, but a source of both entertainment and therapy. Barcelona is the modern Spanish home of dance, offering all a chance to experience the joy of belly dancing.
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