- Lisa Lumina
Level One: Infinities Unit, Class 1
Updated: Feb 23
Articles Old fantasies had people in the West thinking that raqs sharki (the Arabic name for bellydance) was a dance of seduction, but the actual job of a dancer in MENAHT (Middle Eastern North African, Helene, and Turkish) cultures is much different. While of course some dancers just need to get money from men in the audience (hello patriarchy) the main reason a dancer gets hired is to inspire and spread joy. Alia write about this, in this post of hers.
Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on the Arabian Peninsula and Levant. These regional highlights are meant to give a general orientation, and really only scratch the surface of the diversity of arts in the MENAHT/SWANA area (Middle East, North Africa, Helene, & Turkey/SouthWest Asia & North Africa).
Lebanon and Syria were the same country at the time many folks from the Arabic Diaspora came to the US, they were divided after getting freedom from the Ottomans and then the French.
The Lebanese capital of Beruit has been called the "Paris of the Middle East" (and Cairo has been called the Hollywood). The most popular folk dance of the entire levant region are variations on dabke.
Sometimes you will also see a "sword and sheild" dance rooted in Bedouin culture.
The details of dabke vary from one region to the next, and from one village to the next. In Northern Iraq a similar dance is called Chobi.
Egyptian dancer Zara entertains at a wedding here, where the dancer's job is both to bring the joy and encourage the bride to be ready for her upcoming night.
Souheir Zaki was known as “Cairo’s Sweetheart” (even thought she was from Alexandria ^_~). She is famous for the hip move we learned in class, which is why many dancers name it after her, although she was not the first to do it.