Finding Your Style

Belly Dance styles have changed drastically since it first came out of the Middle East.  In just the last 20 years I have seen a whole new style of costuming that never existed before. I barely recognize the market place for belly dancers from then to today. When I started dancing in 1990, there were lots of variations of basically the same style.  Heavily on the style of cabaret with beaded tops and belts and various skirt styles. Props were zils, veils, and swords. Now there’s tribal tassels, fringe, and big, metal jewelry, ruffles and bustles, goth and fantasy and toys like wings, veil fans, and voi (poi with veils attached).

I will discuss here the basic differences and styles of choice for today’s belly dancers.



Typically what most people picture when thinking of a belly dancer.   Coins or Beaded fringe and sequins on the top and belt and shiny fabric for the skirt and pants. Cabaret can also have differences. For example, the top and belt sets of Turkish vs. Egyptian cabaret can be different by shape of the base material and choice of material and design for the sequins and beads. Harem pants seem to be optional with this style, but dancers in clubs tend to have 1 or 2 slits in her skirt to reveal her legs.  Props are generally zils, veils, or swords.


Ethnic and Traditional

Full dresses, harem pants and hip scarves – See Baladi, , Ghawazee, and Khaleegi.

Props are canes, baskets, pots



Full skirts, pantaloons, fabric fringe and tassels, sea shells, coin bras and belts, clunky metal jewelry, turbans. Props are zils and swords.  Tattoos are also common.


Fusion Styles – Gothic and Fantasy

These dancers blend or ‘fuse’ the above styles with dark make up and black fabric and creepy props like snakes and swords for gothic or glitter make up and wings for fantasy dance.




These descriptions are generalized and combinations of any of the above elements can exist together.  I have seen cabaret and tribal dancers use snakes and canes, but it would be inappropriate for the ethnic dancer to use wings.


My costume closet has elements of all of the above.   As my own personal dance and style has evolved, I find that I am leaning more to tribal than cabaret.  I find that as my body has aged and weight can fluctuate a bit, tribal is more forgiving as it usually has more ties and elastic than does cabaret with snaps and hooks that are harder to keep changing. Tribal also tends to be a little more covered and feels more comfortable on my older body than flashy beads and slit skirts.  Also the dance itself is more grounded and earthy.


Comments, questions, or feedback are welcome!

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