It is my pleasure to welcome you to
Lila's BellyDanceCostumes.com -- the internet's first, oldest, and most
dependable Belly Dance costume website! Since 1995, I have been offering
professional and affordable Middle
Eastern costumes to the dancers of the world! I am
proud to have been the first website to introduce the world to the
sacred consciousness of Belly Dancing!
The story of BellyDanceCostumes.com begins in the 1980's when, as
a student of cultural anthropology,
I traveled throughout the Middle
East and experienced the "magic" of authentic belly dancing! I was
studying the role of gender in Middle Eastern culture and was perplexed by
the freedom of expression granted to belly dancers in otherwise
repressive, male-dominated societies. This paradox intrigued me and
inspired me to pursue graduate studies in feminist theology at Harvard Divinity
At Harvard, I learned that belly dancing traces its origins to the ancient
traditions of women's fertility cults. These primordial
proto-religions blended the erotic with the sacred. However, when
the Indo-Europeans invaded the Mediterranean world around 1500 B.C., the
female Goddess of the fertility cults was suppressed and supplanted by the
male God of their own patriarchical war cults. Since that time, the
feminine has been suppressed in the Middle East! Yet, also since
that time, the belly dance has provided women with support
in the face of patriarchy's oppression. The belly dance
given women an outlet for self-expression and empowerment in their
repressive, male-dominated societies. Simultaneously, belly dancing
has helped women
their ancient, iconic connection to their own innate, feminist roots.
As an initiate into feminist theology, I
"reclaimed" my matriarchical origins. I experienced the universal creative force as feminine, not
masculine--a Goddess, not a god! And I embraced sacred-erotic
dance as my natural form of worship. Like the dancing Maenads of Minoa/Crete, the dancing Hathorae of Egypt, the dancing Karyatides of Greece, the dancing
of Ishtar/Astarte, and the dancing Korybantes of the Great Mother, I began to shimmy
and twist with my sisters! No longer would the words
"mania" (to dance wildly like maenads) or "ecstasy"
(to step out in dance) have the same meanings for me!
Belly dancing provided
the key to understanding the paradox of modern Middle Eastern society that
had started me on my quest of self-discovery. The belly dancers I
met were strong women who, despite social biases and cultural taboos, revered their
insisted on expressing it. They
felt dancing was their "calling" and that to suppress their natural talents and urges would be unnatural.
Despite the misconceptions of Western patriarchy, the goal of the belly
dancers I met was not to please or entertain men! On the contrary, their
highest purposes were self-fulfillment and self-esteem. Most became entranced with dancing as young girls while spinning their
hoops. Their incessant gyrations led to their first encounters with
an altered state of consciousness. They became "addicted" to the hula hoop and danced to satisfy themselves,
not others. The very fact that these girls were pre-pubescent
confirms to me, anthropologically, that their love for belly dancing was not sexual in
origin, but something much deeper.
As the belly movements of these girls improved, so did their stature and
esteem within their communities. The best performed acrobatics with
their abdomens while keeping their head, arms and feet still. A
dancer's ability was self-evident to those who watched her. The
better dancers became role models for younger girls and women. The
best dancers became divas respected throughout the community. A
wonderful example is Nagwa Fouad of Egypt. She could move her belly while
the rest of her body stood as still as a stone. Her performances
were athletic marvels, the envy of Olympian athletes and Bolshoi ballerinas
alike. She became a superstar and a role model for generations of
Belly dancing offered women
opportunities for advancement and betterment in Middle Eastern
society. Successful dancers could support themselves and, thereby, avoid
the inevitability of a forced marriage and dependence on a male
bread-winner. In Turkey, I saw amateur dancers organize informal
support groups that nurtured and supported each other. These groups were
especially therapeutic for battered women. A network of supportive
sisters, combined with the therapy of dancing itself,
helped these women reclaim their self-respect.
One very practical and
widely-known benefit of belly dancing is its ability to ameliorate the
travail of childbirth. All the dancers I met, who were mothers,
testified to this fact. And each recounted how their own mothers
and grandmothers had passed this knowledge to them. I found it
interesting that belly dancing, which itself had been born out of ancient
procreative rituals, was beneficial to women nine months later at the time
of birth. Was belly dancing a product of natural selection? Or
were women just intuitively reconnecting to their female progenitors? Either way, the benefits of belly dancing to female health and
spirituality are undeniable.
Belly dancers in the
Middle East have been and are today the facilitators of change and reform
in their patriarchical societies. On individual and community levels,
they are helping to promote the dignity of women and female sexuality. The international appeal of belly dancing is helping to transcend national
borders. In primitive tribes, cultural change was most frequently
brought by women. In modern culture, belly dancing demonstrates that
the same may be true today.
Finally, there is one other contribution belly dancing has made to society that is especially
dear to my own heart...its influence on fashion! When I was a little girl, my grandmother, who was
half Egyptian, told me how Hollywood directors came to the Middle East in
the 1920's in search of women to star as dancers in their
movies. These women traveled to Hollywood and influenced the
styles which were used in the films of the time. Then,
when the movies were shown in the Middle East, they, in turn, influenced the fashions of
Middle Eastern women. As my grandmother said, "Every woman wanted to dress like Mata Hari!"
grandmother would be shocked to know that until the 8th century BC,
nudity was the norm for the female dancer in the Middle East! Ironically, the rise of patriarchy in the Middle East also brought with it
the rise of women's fashion! The iconographic record of the time shows that
in the 8th century BC the nude female was superseded by the image of the
semi-nude female adorned in robes, belts, and jewelry! Haute
couture was discovered by the priestesses of Aphrodite and the belly
dance costume was born!
Since the 1920's, and the influence of
Hollywood, the costume has become an essential part of the belly dance. The costume serves to accent the dancer's movements and heighten the
viewer's experience. It creates a spellbinding blend of motion and
color, that is flashy, yet feminine.
costumes at BellyDanceCostumes.com
are specially crafted to facilitate a magical dance experience. Each
sequin and bead of every designer bra and belt is hand-stitched, just as they have been in
the Middle East for generations. Days are required to complete a single
costume. The process is painstaking, but the result is a work of art unique in
all of Mother Universe!
My cabaret costumes are the finest in
quality and are designed to withstand vigorous dancing! Each costume
is edge-wired for comfort and flexibility. Our fringe is made of the
finest Czech glass beads. My costumes are not stiff and will not
lose beads when dancing. Each costume comes complete with seven
pieces--bra, belt, skirt, veil, two wristbands, and a crown.
My purpose at
is to help preserve the ancient tradition of
women's dance by offering
authentic, Middle Eastern belly dance costumes at affordable prices. By
authentic, I mean a costume that is one-of-a-kind, not mass produced, made by
an individual artisan who puts days, even weeks, of effort into her creation. I
hope you find something here that titillates
your dancer's fancy! Enjoy
your visit to the sacred world of women's dance and return again soon!
Your sister in sacred dance, Lila
1995-2022, N.W.C. Inc. All
rights reserved. This article is copyrighted material.