This style is based on the traditional dances of Egypt. The sinuous and percussive movements are accompanied by the hypnotic rhythms of the tabla and douff: drums that have barely changed for many centuries.
Egyptian dance in its many forms is beoming increasingly popular in the West as an alternative way of keeping fit and having fun. To download my handout An introduction to Raqs Sharqi: click here.
There are three main forms of oriental dance - sometimes called Raqs Sharqi or bellydance:
- Sharqi (classical based on dances originally performed in the Ottoman courts combined with influences of the takt or 'enchantment' music)
- Sha'abi (folk based on the Ghawazee gypsies, the Fellahin or farmers, and from the Said or Upper Egypt)
- Baladi (urbanised folk which evolved during the early part of the 20th century and often called Egyptian jazz).
Each form has its own style of music, emotional 'feel' and costume but, like many things in life these distinctions are far from clear cut. Egyptian dance isn't narrative, nor do the movements have any particular meaning. It is interpretive and expressive and could be described as 'music seen in 3D'. The dance is primarly an improvised form, particularly when danced solo: groups will often perform a choreographed piece, however.
One of the main features is 'groundedness'. A good way to define this is to say that if ballet is a 'horizontal' dance (lots of travelling around the stage and a feeling of lightness), Egyptian dance is more 'vertical' (very centred and with movements rarely straying from a connection to the earth and emmanating from the core, or inside-out).
The dance is constantly evolving: new styles have emerged mixing 'bellydance' with other traditional ethnic styles including Indian, Flamenco, Thai, street dance and even Gothic. These Tribal and Fusion styles mainly originated in America and offer a different look, feel and structure to Egyptian-based styles, often with amazing costumes. I still love the more traditional style and music I first discovered - and which I am still trying to master!
We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams." (Unknown)