Belly Dance Styles (Middle Eastern Dance)
“Belly dance” is a common term used to represent past and present styles of folkloric, cabaret, and contemporary dance, originating in the Middle East. The term is used so broadly that a more specific title is warranted in order to properly represent the dance. Of course there is subjectivity in placing belly dance into categories, as there are often commonalities rather than hard rules, but I believe that in attempting to organize the information we can better understand it. Below I have categorized the dance into three main belly dance styles.
Folkloric Belly Dance Styles: Folkloric dances are the various regional dances of the people, performed by the general public at celebrations or by professional entertainers. Folkloric dances differ from country to country, as well as within a country. On the stages of past and present times, folkloric dances of the Middle East were, and are, performed in their original authentic forms as well as in a theatrical form for the stage. The theatrical forms of “Egyptian” folkloric dances were influenced by and introduced to the Egyptian theatre by Mahmoud Reda, who studied the authentic regional dances of the people throughout Egypt in the 1950s and then modified the dances and costuming for the theatre. Some examples of folkloric dances you may see performed include Saidi, Khaliji, Malaya Luff, Raqs Baladi, Ghawazee, Nubian, Hagala, Tunisian, and Turkish Rom.
Cabaret Belly Dance (Raqs Sharki): What we think of as “cabaret” or “raqs sharki,” often performed on a stage with fancy bedlahs, sequins and beads, evolved over time and was originally developed through combining the many styles of “raqs baladi” (the home style dance of the people from various regions), as well as influences from many cultures and/or dance styles, like ballet, the influences of Mohmoud Reda’s theatrical productions, and even Hollywood. Badia Masabni is credited as the original pioneer of the cabaret style. In the mid-twentieth century, she was the first to perform on a European-like nightclub in Cairo, fusing existing dance styles for the stage. Since then, cabaret has spread like wild fire all over the world and with advances in technology (internet, travel, etc…), the style of cabaret has branched off and evolved even further, making it even more difficult to define.
Contemporary (Belly Dance Theatre): As belly dance has reached almost every corner of the world, belly dancers have experimented with the art form by incorporating western influences to a greater degree and adding their own unique artistic “twist,” while keeping some aspects of folkloric and cabaret styles. “Belly Dance Theatre” may be another good name for this type of creative expression. An example of a contemporary style is Tribal Belly Dance, which became popular in the US and can now be seen performed in other nations, too. Improvisational, Tribal Fusion, and American Tribal are well known sub-categories of the tribal belly dance style.
Cabaret Belly Dance Styles in Greater Detail (Video Examples Included):
Egyptian Oriental, also known as Egyptian Cabaret or Egyptian Style Belly Dance is the belly dance style that is most true to the past and present dancers of Egypt, mainly Cairo. The style tends to be fluid without much isolation and is rich in emotion and music interpretation. The style can be further subdivided into three categories, Classical, Modern and Post Modern. As present Egyptian dancers begin teaching abroad and foreigners have begun performing in Cairo, you begin to see native Egyptian dancers using current Western stylizations. Therefore, the present day trends of Cairo are more difficult to pinpoint.
Samia Gamal Classical
Mona al Said Modern Eygptian
Sahra Saeeda Modern Egyptian
Randa Kamel Post Modern Egyptian
Leila Post Modern Egyptian
Sohaila Includes dialogue about the style.
AMERICAN RESTAURANT / AMERICAN CABARET
This is the most common form of belly dance seen in the US. Although the cabaret style began as fusion and dancers continue to fuse, in the US and other non-Arabic countries, dancers will more commonly and freely add jazz and dance elements from other dance styles. Additionally, drum solos seem to have more importance in the American style than in the Egyptian style, with the added theatrics of pops, locks, lots of layering and even kicks. Chest rotations, isolated chest lifts and drops, and more isolation of body parts is typical of American Cabaret. Dancers in America, as well as abroad, often label it as Egyptian Cabaret or Egyptian Style, but there is a significant, yet subtle, difference that is difficult to recognize and quite subjective. No one can better notice these subtleties than a native Middle Easterner who is familiar with the dance and music.
Video Example Bellydance Superstars
RUSSIAN CABARET STYLE
In Russia, dancers tend to be classically trained in ballet, which leads to a uniquely Russian style.
LEBANESE CABARET STYLE
I haven’t studied this style to be able to speak about it but here’s a clip of Amani, famous Lebanese dancer. I do know that Lebanese dancers are known for wearing heels.
There are other Cabaret Styles that are not noted here.
Contemporary Styles in Greater Detail:
U.S. TRIBAL Belly Dance
This style can also be broken into three sub-categories, Improvisational, Tribal Fusion, and American Tribal
Unmata- Improvisational Tribal Style
Unmata- Improvisational Tribal Style
Fat Chance- American Tribal
Rachel Brice- Tribal Fusion
Of course you will find many more styles belly dance, which I have not referenced here.
For an historical video reference, visit my blog article “Belly Dance Videos” which shows a progression of Egyptian dancers through time and breaks the videos into styles of dance, too.
Hossam Ramzy Historical information on the stars of belly dance
How to Analyze Dance Styles by Meissoun A great article!
For more info about the author, visit www.mellilah.com