|Ahlan wa sahlan — Welcome!|
|Welcome to the world of Middle Eastern dance! Here you will find some articles to introduce you to the dance, the music, and the culture it exemplifies. Our collection of “Did You Know…” articles is full of cultural tidbits from past Beledi Beat Newsletters. To encourage your journey, we have included some links to a few informational sites and outside sources pertaining to Middle Eastern dance and culture. Start your tour of this fascinating world!|
Costume-Colorful fabrics and shiny beads draw the eye to where the rhythm is being expressed, especially the hips! Veils can add a flowing or floating quality to the dancer’s movements.
Facial Expressions are a vital component of the dance. Arabic poetry often comments on how the eyes express emotions.
Hair may be covered for folkloric dances, uncovered for classical dances. Dancers in the Arabian Gulf region may toss their hair in time to the music.
Hands-Delicate hand movements ornament the dance. A dancer may also play the underlying rhythm of the music on her sagat (finger cymbals).
Arms create a frame that draws the eye to the isolated movements of the hips. They also move in sinuous, snake-like fashion, or in graceful curves around the body.
Torso-Unlike classical ballet, which focuses on moving the limbs in intricate patterns, Middle Eastern dance focuses the viewer’s gaze on the torso - the region of the body from the shoulders to the hips - because this is where the rhythms are most frequently displayed. So don’t be shy - go ahead and look! Remember that the point is not to expose the body but to illustrate the musical rhythms and express the joy of movement.
Upper Torso-A dancer can express a particular rhythm by lifting and dropping her sternum or rib cage, or she may use the rib cage to fluidly undulate the spine.
Belly-The belly generally moves in a rippling, fluttering, or undulating motion. The belly may move slowly or quickly depending on the tempo of the music.
Hips-When in doubt, look here! There is a vital relationship between the hips and the drums, because the hips usually move in time to the main drumbeat.
Legs-Although the lines of the torso are visible, it is traditionally considered inappropriate to display the legs. Hence, they are usually covered with swaths of fabric.
Feet-Unlike classical ballet, the point of Middle Eastern dance is not to move the body through space in patterns, but rather to embody the music. Although folkloric and group dancers may move about the room with quick and delicate steps, a solo dancer generally covers less space.
What’s the most amazing thing about Middle Eastern dance?
Where does the dance come from?
What are the different styles?
Folkloric-Dances based on distinct regional styles. Examples range from the lively rhythms and colorful costumes of Upper Egypt, to the zar, a dramatic dance ritual from North Africa, to khaleegy, a delicate, graceful dance performed in the Arabian Gulf by women dressed in flowing beaded gowns and accompanied by female musicians.
Classical-During the Ottoman Empire, which unified much of the Middle East under a single rule, many regional styles merged into the classical form of the dance, known as raqs sharqi. This urban form of the dance, considered more sophisticated than the folkloric, is generally improvised by a solo dancer and represents her personal interpretation of the music.
Contemporary-Today, dancers in both the Middle East and the United States are experimenting with new ways of presenting the dance, marrying the costumes, movements, music, and folktales of the Middle East with all the magic and technology of the Western stage. Like all great dance traditions, Middle Eastern dance is a living art form that is always adapting and changing while staying true to its heritage.
Where is the dance performed?
Do the individual movements mean something?
What’s that funny noise the audience keeps making?
How do you learn this dance?
What do we know about the history of the dance?
How can I learn more about the dance?
Yalla! Dance and Music of the Middle East, is a 6-page brochure explaining these rich and beautiful art forms. For information on how to order, see The Souk.