I’ve heard many folks say that the folk dance of Central Asia have nothing whatsoever to do with belly dance. I beg to differ.

Turkish Oryantal dance expert Artemis Mourat notes three main “parent” dances of Turkish Oryantal dance. If you read some of her articles or attend one of her history lectures you’ll hear the hows and whys of those influences. The short version:

  • the “mother” (main influence): Turkish Romany dance
  • the “father” (strong influence): Egyptian Raqs Sharki
  • the “auntie” (secondary influence): Ottoman court dances

It is through this third influence, Ottoman court dances, that the Central Asian connection exists. Central Asian dance certainly influenced Ottoman court dance. The Turkic people who give Turkey its name originated much father east, related to the Huns and Mongols. They crossed Central Asia and settled in Anatolia. Later, the Ottoman empire stretched all the way back to the borders of China. The Ottoman empire was known for importing artists to the capital from all over its lands.

Through this conduit, I’ve long believed, the beautiful, ornate arms of Central Asian dances made their way into Turkish Oryantal dance.

I recently attended Central Asian Dance Camp in Washington D.C., put on by Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, and in both the dance workshops and the spectacular evening show, I identified arm movements we use in Turkish Oryantal. Oryantal dancers tend to execute the movements in a more dramatic and less precise manner, but they are clearly the same.

I’ve collected clips of some of the arm and hand movements the styles have in common. In order to avoid overwhelming your browser, the clips for each movement are on a separate page. Each clip is linked to start at the movement in question. Click the page links below to see the clips.