The quick answer is YES. Belly Dancing is the western coined term for the Arabic dance style officially called Raqs Sharqi. Belly Dance as we know it, encompasses dance from many cultures including Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco for example. It is primarily a Middle Eastern, African, and Mediterranean dance tradition. There are folk dances and street dances (informal club dance styles). All Belly Dances are suitable for all ages and all audiences.
The costuming for Belly Dance is geared towards flattering the female body. Ranging from modest, folkloric, to conservative. There is a standard cabaret costume of a bra, skirt, and belt. In stage dance, this is an elegant costume suitable for Belly Dance. The movements accentuate the entire body, focusing on the technique involving the hips, shoulders, and stomach.
Because Belly Dance is such a liberating platform for dance, oftentimes, exotic dancers have encompassed the style and added the dance to their routine. This is not the fault of the Belly Dance tradition. Exotic dancers have taken from many dance styles including Hip Hop, Aerial Dance, and Hoop Dance for example and incorporated those elements into their work. Belly Dance should not be associated with an exotic dance form.
Raqs Sharqi is a blanket name for describing all of these different techniques and provincial dances from different countries in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Raqs Sharqi means “oriental dance.” Western gaze has often exotified the orient. We no longer use the term oriental to describe people of Far East Asian heritage. It is not acceptable or tolerated. However, you can apply the term oriental dancer to Belly Dancers.
Different countries also have specific folk dances and traditions that have nothing to do with Belly Dance. An example of this is, Sirtaki from Greece. Sirtaki is a group dance done in a line or circle. Many cultures have group dances like this and these folk dances should not be considered a Belly Dance just because it is from a Middle Eastern, African, or Mediterranean culture.
Overall, Belly Dance is a celebratory dance style that is meant for performance. You can certainly request a more conservative costume and ask your Belly Dancer to wear costuming that covers the stomach for example if you are uncertain about the traditional cabaret costume for your event. The term cabaret, in this case, is not a reference to Showgirls or exotic dance. Cabaret in the Belly Dance world takes on a different meaning. Cabaret describes a glitzy, flashy, style of stage dance with Belly Dancers.
When you hire a Belly Dancer, the dancer should be treated with respect and dignity. Please do not allow audience members or guests to cross treatment boundaries. Here is an example of what you can typically expect when you hire a Belly Dancer for engagements such as birthday parties, festivals, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, or another special event:
Sample Belly Dance set for 15-20 minutes –
- An attention-getting entrance dance.
- A dance with a specific prop. Common props include a cane or sword.
- A fun upbeat melodic dance.
- A fast-paced dance that is done to a drum beat without lyrics.
- Perhaps an audience participation segment, dependent on participants.
- An amazing finale!
I hope this answers the question of Is Belly Dance Family Friendly?