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  • Lisa Lumina

Level One: Undulations Unit, Class 1

Updated: Feb 21


The proper names for bellydance are raqs sharki, in Arabic, and dans oryantal, in Turkish. Besides the music and torso focused movement, there are other elements that make it raqs sharki. For example, hula is also primarily movements of the hips and torso, but is a very different dance. Hula has a religious role and is narrative, raqs sharki is abstract and a dance of social enjoyment. Alia Thabit's article talks about some of the essential ingredients in making a dance be raqs. (Now, I love some chipotle "hummus" with avocado and beansprouts, and a good raqs fusion, but we should be honest about what we name things ^_^)


Regional Highlights This unit, we're focusing on Anatolia and Iran. 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).

Turkey had a big influence on the development of raqs sharki/dans oryantale, which is someh what lost in the popularity of Egyptian style. More on this in level 2. For now, without losing sight of Turkey as a modern country with its own mix of modern problems and successes, know that Turkish was the fashion for rules and elites all over the MENAHT area, and arts moved through the empire for centuries.



In terms of the energy they are known for, Turkish style tends to have more sass and haughtiness compared to Egyptian. They also do floorwork more often, and since the dancer is not the band's employer, she will often need finger cymbals to give her a "hand on the wheel" to steer the show.

Many of the dancers in Turkey were Armenian, Greek, Rom, or Jewish women and men, and they carried their dancing with them when the fled the genocide during world war 1. The community that they built was a foundation for the "American Nightclub" style.

In this video, Egyptian dance Nebawaya Moustafa's character was put into a mental institution. I don't love 40s/50s depiction of mental illness, but the sort of DIY music and dance party the women put together is illustrative of family dance parties (which are generally too private for youtube).

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