Belly Dance

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Belly dance or is a general name for ‘solo’ dancing based on the articulation of a dancer’s torso. Belly dance came from the Middle East while its numerous popular varieties are knows as: include Egyptian dance, Oriental dance, Middle Eastern dance, Arabic dance etc. There is a vast variety of forms for belly dance depending on the region, costuming and dancing styles. From Asia, the popularity of the belly dance has spread to the West and ultimately the rest of the world.

This paper will outline the regional peculiarities of the Egyptian belly dance as the country is considered as the home of belly dance. In Egypt, the two main styles of belly dance are known as ‘raqs Sharqi’ and ‘raqs Baladi’, and ‘raqs Sha’abi’ (Buonaventura 57). The repertoire of Egyptian belly dancing often involves numerous folk dances and dances that depict particular characters. Today, modern ‘shaabi’ street dance is rather popular in Egypt combining the elements of ‘raqs Baladi’ style (Dallal 24).

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Baladi style (stands for ‘of the country of Egypt’) originated in Cairo when Egyptian farmers migrated to the city and has become the most popular belly dancing in the country today. It applies easy-to-dance-to Baladi rhythms, earthy music, vocals, and even question-and-answer transitions between the vocals and musical instruments.

In the etymological sense, the Baladi dance style is often used as a complement since the word ‘balad’ is regarded as ‘the salt of the earth’ when Egyptians refer to somebody as unrefined. This style resembles the life of everyday people as opposed to ‘raqs Sharqi’. While dancing Balabi, Egyptians do not put on any special clothing to perform on stage. The Baladi dancers wear occasional (everyday) things considered fashionable. Baladi is being danced in towns and villages though its roots are always associated with the dance style created by Cairo working class (Buonaventura 56).

Baladi music applies such common local instruments as nay and table, the rebaba, alongside with the traditional western instruments, including organ, accordion, and violin. The music is fun and joyful while the dancing rhythms are rather dynamic. The baladi taksim starts the dance followed by the main instrument and subsequent dialogue between the tabla and the solo instrument. Baladi music often apply a drum solo during Egyptian celebrations to reveal the dancing potential of the family members. The whole idea of the Baladi style consists in starting the dance understated and gradually generate energy until the dancer performs in full gear (Carlton 12).

The Baladi style became most popular in 1952 when King Faruk ousted from power and the forefront in Egypt was taken over by the nationalist movement over 1960s-80s. With the acquiring of voting rights, the ordinary man (referred here as the ‘salt of the earth’) became popular. The same became with the Baladi and Shaabi dancing and music.

The most referenced person in Egypt when it comes to the Baladi style is Fifi Abdo, known as the daughter of the country. Souhair Zaki is another outstanding promoter of the Baladi who inserted baladi taksims during her numerous performances in live and film shows (Wise 48).

  • Buonaventura, Wendy. Serpet of the Nile: Women and Dance in the Arab World. Saqi. 1989.
  • Carlton, Donna. Looking for Little Egypt. Bloomington, Indiana: International Dance Discovery Books. 1995.
  • Dallal, Tamalyn. Belly Dancing For Fitness. Berkley: Ulysses Press, 2004.
  • Wise, Josephine. The JWAAD Book of Bellydance. Croydon. 2012.

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