Level One: Circle Unit, Class 2
Updated: Feb 23
There are many styles of raqs sharki (the Arabic name for bellydance), influenced by changes in politics, technology, and audiences. Each style is a bit like a dialect of a language. What is generally considered more important is a dancer's individual voice. Of course, while someone may have a strong regional accent, we often borrow words, phrases, and expressions from many areas. In the same way, the lines between dance styles are very blurry. Here is an the Lebanese Diva Amani about finding your voice in your dancing.
Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on Egypt. These regional highlights are meant to give a general orientation, and really only scratch the surfface of the diversity of arts in the MENAHT/SWANA area (Middle East, North Africa, Helene, & Turkey/SouthWest Asia & North Africa).
Moving south down the Nile, the areas labeled "middle" and "upper" Egypt are known as the Said, and famous for a folkloric stick dance that will be the feature of a level 2 reading.
Both upper Egypt and the delta are also home to Ghawazee families. We'll learn more about them in level 2, but they are countryside entertainers who typically perform at festivals.
The Said is also famous for a special kind of fabric called assuit, named for one of the most famous towns that makes it. Some designs feature stylized people, but prejudice against coptic christians has caused those designs to be less common, since making those is usually a give away that the maker does not share the Muslim taboo against depicting people in artwork).
Here is the Reda troupe performing folkloric Saidi dance. The men's style is very accurate to the regional folk dance, while the women's is more stylized and inspired by. This is partly to suit Cairo tastes, and to respect the privacy of the people who invited the troupe into their homes and danced with them.
This is a piece of a movie featuring a saint's day festival, you can see a group of ghawazee dancers as well as a bellydancer both entertaining at the festival.
You can see here how two dancers of the same era and country have very personal styles. Although they have more in common with each other than they do with most Turkish dancers of the same era, they have very different "voices".