Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:03 PM
No other dance form has been as mythologized as Middle Eastern dance. Popularized in the West as "belly dance" or "Oriental dance," it is known in the Arab world as raqs sharqi. While it is impossible to determine its precise origins we do know that dance of a similar nature has survived since antiquity. Variously associated with exotic Eastern entertainment, fertility rites and tawdry nightclubs, it has been difficult to gain acceptance for raqs sharqi as a respectful profession in Middle Eastern society. Nevertheless, the genre has stood the test of time and become a worldwide phenomenon.