There are 3 main ethnic styles:  Egyptian, Lebanese, and Turkish.    There, bellydance it is called raks sharqi, Oryantal tansi, or “Orientale”.    The dance form as we know it dates only to about the 1920’s, and was forged in the upscale night clubs of Cairo and Beirut.   Badia Masabni, a singer, dancer, choreographer and club owner, is generally credited with creating the modern, Arabic version of “bellydance”.

Folkloric and regional dances that are related culturally, historically, and/or stylistically may also be seen from Morocco east to Persia, from Sudan north to Greece and Armenia.   More distant connections may also be seen in Indian, Rom,  and Flamenco dance.

Bellydance came to Western shores with the 19th century World’s Fairs.   Middle Eastern dancers and musicians were brought over to entertain in their native styles, which were immediately mimicked by the boardwalk, Vaudeville, and burlesque performers of the time.  American-style bellydance is a fusion of the above main styles, as well as large doses of jazz, modern, circus tricks, interpretive, Vaudeville, burlesque, and Vegas showgirl dance.   American bellydance developed in 2 main centres:  San Francisco and New York. There is now an off-shoot of American style called “tribal” which has in turn evolved into yet more fusion styles.

There are lots of books and links with good, reliable information on the known, traceable history and academic ethnography of Orientale and related dance forms.