- Lisa Lumina
Level One: Figure 8 Unit, Class 4
Updated: Feb 22
There are many ways raqs sharki can be healing: it brings us back emotionally in touch with our bodies, balances physical muscle imbalances, builds confidence, provides a creative outlet, and creates community. In Egyptian and other MENAHT cultures, there are also dance rituals specifically for psychological healing, one of which is the zaar. Although it is illegal due to it's pagan roots, folks who need that sort of outlet still find a way. Roxanne talks about one ritual she witnessed in this article.
Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on North Africa. 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).
The only Libyan dance that I know about is called hagalla, and it is a dance that once crossed the border with Egypt, before the border was closed for security reasons. A version of this dance is on a film at the NYC public library, and the Reda Troupe tableau of it can be found below.
The Reda Troupe traveled all over Egypt to learn regional folk dances. They then turned these into folkloric dances by modifying them to fit a stage show. We'll learn more about this process in level 2.
There are also rituals where dance & music are used, especially for women, for healing. Although the ritual is illegal, the zaar is considered an important cultural heritage. This group performs public zaar performances, where they switch rhythms more often to prevent people from entering trance, although when I was there a few audience members still experienced trance state, even without dancing.
Student performances frequently are seen in groups (safety in numbers ^_~), and sometimes you do see troupe performances past the student level, like this one from professional troupe, Soulfire, a Modern American style group on the West Coast.