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India is known as a country with a fantastic blend of different varying cultures, religions, art, music and dance. India’s film industry ‘Bollywood’ draws in big crowds of Indians from various backgrounds to enjoy a singing, dancing, romantic film to watch for two-to-three hours. No Bollywood film is complete without singing and dancing.

The music and dances in Bollywood range from a blend of east and west, traditional folk dances, classical Indian dances and belly dance! This article looks at the Indian/Bollywood style of belly dance.

Belly dance moves are if you like an inspiration to many of the Indian dances in Bollywood nowadays. Bollywood does not really include traditional belly dance but a fusion of belly dance, Indian and western movements.

Traditional belly dance is not seen as an Indian dance but it is believed that belly dance was practiced in India thousands of years ago. Some even suggest that a number of classical Indian dances borrow from belly dance moves. (One example is the Baharat Natyam).

Another theory is that the Romany (Gypsy) people who come from Northern India may have also practiced similar dance movements like those in belly dance. As they migrated to other parts of the world they took their dance to various cultures such as Europe.

One more argument that is said to tie belly dance to India are the mythical female figurines and statues who are often posing in classic belly dance poses and wearing the hip belt often worn by belly dancers.

Belly dance however has become popular in mainstream India mainly due to Bollywood films. The films are colourful and a form of escapism to many Indians. The heroines performing the singing and dance numbers often wear Arabic inspired outfits and some belly dance costumes too. Sometimes the outfits are traditional Indian clothing but with some Arabic flavour to them.

The jewellery worn is also a mix of native Indian and Arabian. Sometimes the jewellery is 100% Indian only.

The music too in India has a belly dance/Arabian element to it. Bollywood films currently have western influences such as hip-hop and rap. This is blended in with Arabian music or Arabian instruments.

Just like Hollywood or any other film industry, Bollywood often ‘borrows’ from different cultures or countries. Belly dance is becoming quite popular and many hit songs include belly dance moves.

There are positive aspects to belly dance being incorporated with various other styles. It is giving more exposure to belly dance and more and more young Indians are looking to learn belly dance. Dance schools who teach belly dance are popping up throughout India.

On the negative side may traditionalists claim that Bollywood does not show ‘real’ belly dance. It is not authentic belly dance and that belly dance may end up losing its originality in the various cultures inside of Bollywood.

Whatever the issue Indian belly dance style in Bollywood films looks as though it is a style that is not going to go away.

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