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JapanFocus
A Sexy Japanese Belly-Dancing Duo
The Far East meets the Middle East
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2007-09-12 15:22 (KST)   

jud Wa: Japanese Belly Dancing Duo performing on Sado Island
©2007 D.Weber

Belly Dancing: the word conjures up in the mind's eye exotic desert locations where beautiful women in silken robes dance sensuously either in opulent palace harems for the pleasure of sultans or in luxurious, enormous tents of nomadic desert chieftains. In modern times, belly dancing has spread across the globe finding adherents everywhere including Japan.

Modern belly dancing is a mish-mash of original folkloric elements, strong stereotype images, and modern pop culture additions. Some groups hold to the traditional ways while others use a variety of forms.

Aco has been doing Belly Dancing for 6 years
©2007 D.Weber

Belly dancing was introduced to the West from Turkey and Egypt. Heavily-laden with misconceptions and lingering Victorian repressive prudishness, the old Western view of belly dancing was one of heathen hedonism that was at the same time exotic, repelling, alluring, sensual, and morally damnable. One form of belly dancing which evolved (or de-evolved) from the Vaudeville days of entertainment became burlesque dancing which later became full on stripping. Even today some uninformed people still associate belly dancing with stripping.

K has studied Belly Dancing in Turkey and Egypt
©2007 D.Weber

Like many Americans, my image of belly dancing was firmly entrenched in my brain by old episodes of "I dream of Jeanii" and the like. The silken robes and tassels, the coin-bras/belts, the navel jewels ? much of these were actually products of Hollywood imagination. In addition, despite the impression given by the Silver Screen, belly dancing was not a seductive dance used in order to entice the sultan and win from him favors and attention. Belly dancing was often performed at celebrations such as weddings or it was done privately in small groups with members of the same sex as a way of passing the time.

©2007 D.Weber

I first saw live belly dancing performed at night clubs in Cairo several years ago when I was living there. A few of the belly dancers that I saw were Russians and were rather new to the dance. This was obvious when their male patrons would come up and dance around them often doing the dance better than the girl. In fact, belly dancing has not always been exclusively for females. There have been male dancers as well both in the modern times and in the past.

Although Japan has many of its own native dance styles from formal geisha dances to traditional folk dances, the appeal of foreign dance has always been strong from hip hop to flamenco to belly dancing.

©2007 D.Weber

I encountered a Japanese belly dancing duo recently during a taiko drum festival on Sado Island in northwestern Japan. They call themselves by the Hindu name "jud Wa" which means "twins" due to the similarity of their appearance. Their stage names are K and Aco. jud Wa is currently based in Tokyo and perform there regularly.

Aco playing the sagat: Egyptian finger cymbals
©2007 D.Weber

They use a variety of forms in their performances. K balances a sword on her head and Aco uses the sagat -- Egyptian finger cymbals. At night they dance with fire. Fire dancing is another addition to modern belly dancing that many audiences have come to expect. On Sado, they were accompanied by another Japanese-based belly dancing group named gKazoku h which had both a male and female belly dancer. The male dancer performed in the evening while Aco and K rhythmically waved fiery torches.

©2007 D.Weber

Both of the girls have studied belly dancing close to five years. They have visited Egypt to study the techniques of dancers there. K has also traveled to Turkey. When I asked them why they liked belly dancing, their first response was: "It's sexy!" I couldn't argue with them on that point.

©2007 D.Weber

Their choice of using a Hindu name for their group is interesting one because it coincides with one of the origin theories of belly dancing. One theory is that belly dancing was part of the native dance of the Roma people or gypsies whose roots go back to India. Supposedly they picked up other dance styles from the lands they had traveled through and incorporated them into their dance.

The popularity of sword-balancing in Western Belly Dancing was sparked by a painting from French Orientalist Jean-Leone Gerome
©2007 D.Weber

Other origin theories say belly dancing came from the birthing rituals of Northern Africa designed to ease the child birthing process. Some theories trace the origins of the dance all the way back to Ancient Egypt. The fact is many countries from India to Middle Eastern and African countries had similar native dance styles that over the centuries have been melded into a variety of belly dancing styles.

jud Wa also plays with fire
©2007 D.Weber

Let the experts dither over the details, though. Belly dancing is a fascinating and exciting form of entertainment and not a thing to miss wherever it is performed -- but leave your misconceptions behind.

©2007 D.Weber

- jud Wa: Japanese Belly Dancing Duo on Sado Island 

©2007 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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