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As both a scholar and a belly dancer, I believe that belly dance is recognizable on aesthetic grounds. In addition to the movements that belly dancers typically perform—muscle isolations, undulations, graceful hand motions and turns, and lots of hip work—belly dancers wear costumes that are visually identifiable as belly dance costumes. While this description may seem tautological, there are recognizable standards both in the public sphere and among dancers for what constitutes the belly dance image—or images, as belly dance is a diverse phenomenon that encompasses teaching, learning, performing, watching, socializing, and costuming.
Distributed by the Hoosier Folklore Society, by way of the HathiTrust under a Creative Commons Attributions License in Midwestern Folklore, 2006, Volume 32, Issue 1-2.
Jorgensen, Jeana, "Whether it’s coins, fringe, or just stuff that’s sparkly': Aesthetics and Utility in a Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Troupe’s Costumes" Midwestern Folklore / (2006): 83-97.
Available at http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/facsch_papers/673