Folk Dance Styles of the MENAHT Region
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
MENAHT is a short hand way to say Middle East, North Africa, Hellenic (Greek), and Turkey.
Hello bellydance students! This post is going to list many of the folk dances of the MENAHT area. Thanks to the influence of various empires and the silk road I've also included Iran. Bellydance music and shows will often include references to many of these folk dances, sometimes in a tableau during the folkloric part of an Egyptian stage show, sometimes as a verse in an oriental entrance piece, sometimes in the name of an ATS move that subtly references one of the folk dances of that area. Knowing about the different folk dances and folkloric dances will enhance your appreciation for bellydance shows and MENAHT music. And who knows, maybe you'll even find a new dance that you want to learn to do!
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Most of these dances are not dances I am familiar with, they are listed here because the goal of this post is NOT for you to memorize all of these dances, or to learn all of them. Instead, I want you to take away from this post that, although Hollywood or certain news outlets (or even certain historians-with-an-agenda) might portray this as a homogenous area, each section of that acronym MENAHT is diverse and each culture is a beautiful part of the mosaic.
Hopefully you'll find some dances, regions, and cultures you want to learn more about, but I really believe no one person could possibly do all of these dances, certainly not well. So for now, knowing that they exist, appreciating the diversity, and maybe finding one you'd like to start with is the main goal.
For now, I am just pasting a list here. I will eventually return to say a little about each of the dances that I know about, post clips, and to link to the sites of dancers who specialize in the regions I am unfamiliar with. I am certain that this list is NOT exhaustive. Even if I were an expert in each region (which I am not!) there are always elements of cultural privacy that keep some dances from foreign researchers, and changes that happen over time. For example, Marhagan is a type of music and dance that arose in Egypt after the revolution, while hagalla most likely comes from Libya and has declined since the border between the two countries was closed.
bombuteyya, Ghawazee, Rheda-esque (meleya), fellahin, shaabi, marhagan, Nubian, Saidi, beledi, Siwa, Bedouin, hagalla*
Levantine (I've used this name instead of listing all of the countries because of the complicated history and borders that were drawn by colonizers)
Rom, zeybek, horon, halay, bar, kilic kalkan, hora, kasik oyunu, misket
Kawliya, khashaba, hetcha, thobe al Nashaal, Muradah, Samri, Bedaawi, Jalsa, Ayalah, Sawt, Tamburah, Khatwa, Khubaiti, Sana’ani, Raboba,
Hagalla (*this is also listed under Egyptian just because of the shared Lybia/Egypt border, and the fact that hagalla is included in Egyptian folklore companies’ tableaus, but my understanding is that it comes from Libya), Moroccan-shaabi, shikkat, Algerian Rai, Tunisian, Ahidous, Ahouache, Hadra, Ouled Nail, Maharem, Juzur, Seniyya, Schikkat, T’bal, Fazzani, Mezoued, Kabyle
MISC. (I will flesh out this list and give each region included its due when I revisit the post)
Persian court, mushwahat, hora, Greek line dance, Greek Zeibekiko, etc.