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  • Lisa Lumina

About Props: Veil

Updated: Feb 21

Prop of the Week


​If you're in this class, you've been doing raks sharki/dans oryantal for over a year. So it's time to deepen your background information and get you more context for the things you see in bellydance. This semester, each email will have some background information about a different prop, and this week that prop is VEIL!


The information most cited is that Samia Gamal was suggested to use a length of fabric to improve her arm carriage in her raqs performances by a ballet coach. This may be apocryphal, but dancers on the Egyptian the silver-screen have used fabric in this way. In another week, we'll explore the maleya, which is a modesty wrap used by some Muslim women in Egypt. It is a bit old fashioned, but distinguishes the idea of a "veil" as a modesty garment from the idea of a "veil" that we dance with. They're really only similar in name.


We'll get into different styles of raks sharki/dans oryantal in another semester. I will note that dancers, even in Samia's day, would wear a stage-version tarha (a long head covering that resembles one kind of modesty veil) during certain character dances, but they wouldn't dance with it in the same way we dance with a bellydance-veil. I included the above passage as a simplified orientation, but of course it is always more complicated than that!


​Now that we've got some basic info about veil taken care of, here'e the eye candy!



In this clip, Taheya wears a tarha








Samia in color! In the second half she uses a chiffon veil








and Taheyya Karioka with super long fabric.









Mona Said's unique take on the veil









Souheir with some fun fabric choices (oh, the 80s! lol) ​










Fifi entering with a Cape, a sort of cousin of the veil.








 

Veil in the vintage Turkish style. I am still looking for information to determine if veil dancing in Turkish style was introduced and elaborated on from Egypt, if dancing with large pieces of fabric was a convergent evolution, or if Turkish dancers brought it back from the US after dancers here developed the oriental fantasy style that was popular in the


Here is the amazing Turkish dancer, Tulay Karaca.








Turkish style also takes cape to a whole nother level








 

In the style popular in MENAHT supper clubs in the US, veil would typically be used for the second song of a set. Back in the day veils were often chiffon, but silk is the current favorite for most dancers.



Here is an example of the veil section of a traditional 5 part am cab routine (more on the styles another semester, and more on the parts of a set in yet another semester).





A languid Am Cab veil to a Turkish song. Am-cab dancers would enter and dance a lively song with the veil wrapped around themselves, then remove it and dance with it as the second song.





​Corey Zamora, doing a mini-routine in the Am Cab style: ​








Layla Isis, playing cymbals AND dancing with veil at the same time! (I have not trained up to do this. But I will do my best to teach you to hold your veils in a way that will make this possible for you to learn.)





Aziza of Montreal









Mariyah, demonstrating what TO DO when your veil misbehaves, and it is inevitable that it will misbehave sometimes.







I couldn't pick just one clip of Aziza, her veil work is just magical <3








 

Some examples of veil in modern American styling. Silk is often the favorite these days, although you do still see chiffon. You also sometimes see two veils used, called double veil. Dancers often go for a surprise reveal of the second veil.


Ruby with double veil








This one works, you just need to open youtube to see it. When this song first came out, I think everyone danced it to at the same time!







Petite Jamilla taking double veil and spinning to the max. This style of performing draws on Tanoura dance from Egypt, which is a topic for another week.






 

Some modern Egyptian styling: in this style, as in vintage Egyptian, the veil is usually entered with before being discarded fairly early, if it is used at all.





















And veil in a modern theatrical piece





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