Is Belly Dancing cultural appreciation or appropriation?

A high school classmate of mine is an avid belly dancer, she performed belly dancing in front of the entire school in several performances. Belly dancing has its origins in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Northern Africa(United States.). In Arabic it is called Raqs Sharqui or East Dance(Jarrar, Randa). Historically Belly Dancing was performed during formal events like wedding and futility ceremonies and it was only performed in front of woman(United States.). My classmate performed her belly dancing mostly in front of woman because I went to an all-girls school, but she broke a couple of cultural norms in belly dancing. She is white and she does not fit into the societal expectation of beauty. Cultural appropriation is defined by our textbook as: “The unilateral decision of one social group to take control over the symbols, practices, or objects of another”(Welsch, Vivanco, 2015:49). Is my classmate culturally appropriating in performing belly dancing which doe not come from her culture? Or is she culturally appreciating belly dancing by performing mostly to woman and studying the art and culture of belly dancing to the best of her ability?

Works Cited

Jarrar, Randa. “Why I Can’t Stand White Belly Dancers.” Saloncom RSS. Salon, 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <;.

United States. National Park Service. “Belly Dancing:  An Ancient Art.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 21 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. <;.


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