Belly dancing as exercise: Image-building of a foreign dance in Taiwan

Yuchi Changa*, Po Hsiu Lin, Tsuneo Sogawa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Belly dancing originated in the Middle East as a form of folk dance but has widely transformed into a leisure dance activity in recent decades. Belly dance was introduced to Taiwan in 2002, marketed primarily as a ‘body slimming exercise’ with a sense of exoticism. According to previous studies, fitness, weight-loss and body-shaping are the main motivations for most female participants despite their wide range of age groups and social classes. While the former studies generally regard ‘the popularization of belly dance in Taiwan’ as a fad, this study aims to give a deeper interpretation of the phenomenon by exploring the social and cultural factors which have contributed to the localization of this dance. The paper employs methods of textual analysis, participant observation and in-depth interview. The data collected reveal that belly dance is primarily defined by Taiwanese women as an exercise rather than a folk dance or an art form. In addition, the study examines the importance of the roles played by the marketing strategies adopted by the pioneering promoters of belly dance, government policies on sports and health, the association with community universities, and the ideas of traditional Chinese medicine in Taiwanese society in building the beneficial image of belly dance in Taiwan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Dance for fitness
  • East Asia
  • Exercise
  • Oriental dance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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