Updated: Jun 19
Historically, dancing as a form of ritual happened across cultures. It was an every day life element that was present in women’s lives since the dawn of human kind. Some sources claim that dancing (moreover belly dancing) is The Ancient Mother of Art. Following from our introductory article to Matrilineal societies… Originally, in most parts of the world there were sacred female dances based on hip and pelvic movements. Dancing was more than a passing emotional explosion, or a feel-good factor of our ancestor’s lives. In Matriarchal societies, rituals and ceremonies were part of a daily routine. For example, during fertility rituals they prayed for their own fertility. They also prayed for nature as a whole, especially in hunting and gathering societies. Dancing was the official form of praying. Moving the body and the soul at the same time, everything as one and united. Our ancestors used their bodies as a tool to raise their spiritual level. As we say nowadays ‘dancing kills the ego’. - Think about it, such a powerful tool that we are using since we walk this earth. The dancer expresses the desire to leave his/her existential limitations. They want to get closer to the goddesses and gods. This technique is still used in some religions (e.g. sufi whirling). How were these ceremonies performed? Drums accompanied the dancing from the very beginning. The rhythm of the drum is the same as the rhythm of the heart. So, this sensation extinguishes the internal sense of space and time. Ceremonies were usually held on a hill or some elevated areas. The hill symbolises femininity; it is the belly of the Earth. These fertility dances are still danced barefoot (keeping the tradition) to form direct contact with the Earth. The wavering, circling hips and abdominal movements were the symbol of life. The female abdomen is the source of life, it was viewed as the guarantee of continuity. It symbolises the future existence of people. The Post- Birth Figure. One of the oldest fertility symbol is the Venus of Lausell, a limestone bas-relief. This relates to the Gravettian Upper Palaeolithic culture which is approx. 25,000-years old. The figure holds a bison horn or a cornucopia in one hand which has 13 notches. This may symbolise the number of moons or the number of menstrual cycles of a year. Here is an explanation about this fertility symbol. Now, do pay attention to her belly, to her wonderful post-birth figure. The way she was carved reveals a natural admiration to the female body. Going through multiple pregnancies leaving her belly round and ‘smiling’. As I have mentioned in my introductory blog post, matriarchal societies were based on appreciation of the feminine being. This wonderful artefact perfectly reflects this approach. I would love to know if she danced during her births. It is likely since women of these era were not made to lie down! What hip movements did she do to help her babies to be in an optimal foetal position? One may ask, did belly dancing already exist since the dawn of humankind as we know it now? It was not exactly danced with the same sophistication. The movements of this dance have changed due to many influences throughout history. Belly Dancing is Instinctual. Yet, belly dancing has a very instinctual attribute which you can try yourself. When you are home alone, focus inward and focus on your own femininity. Put yourself into the mind of someone who would like to pray for fertility for herself, who wishes to have a child, who yearns to have a child since it is your best chance for survival. Play drum music, any basic drum music will do and start moving…don’t forget, you are praying for your fertility... Let me know what did you feel? How did you move? What part of your body started to move instinctually? Our instinctual sense of rhythm sits in our pelvis and hips …it is the centre of our bodies. It is where we welcome our partners and move with them when we make love. If you think about the movement of rocking side to side, how many of you rocked your pelvis during labour? How do you move when you have a baby in your arms? Hip movements are purely instinctual, driven by our deepest instincts. With belly dancing, you will learn to fine tune these natural movements and develop them into the artistic expression of LIFE. The historical relationship between women, fertility and belly dancing is truly fascinating. It emphasises just how belly dancing truly could be The Ancient Mother of Art.