Saidi Dance

Saidi Dance
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Saidi Dance

Saidi Dance, also known as Raqs Assaya or cane dance, is one of my favorite folkloric dances.  It is currently a very popular folkloric dance, performed by men and women at festive events, such as weddings.

Saidi dance originates from the male dance called Raqs Tahtib (Raqs Tahtyb) which is a stick dance performed by men, in which the men mimic the moves used in the martial art, Tahtib. In Tahtib the men use bamboo poles. It is used while on top of horses and/or in actual combat.  In Raqs Tahtib, the dance, the men will dance around each other while pretending to attack and block each other.

The first women to use the stick for performances were the female gypsies of Upper Egypt, called the Ghawazee.  They copied moves from the men’s Tahtib as well as incorporating their own movements into the dance. The Ghawazee dancers would place the sticks between each other, pressing into their bellies, as they danced around in a circle, showcasing their hip twists and shimmies.

Today, it gets confusing to know what you are looking at as there are so many different variations of this dance.  Sahra Saeeda was the first to open my eyes to the many styles of Saidi dance.  There’s home style Saidi dance, Saidi performed by the local entertainers (Ghawazee), Raqs Tahib performed by men, Saidi styles coming from two different National dance companies of Egypt (including Reda style), and a nightclub version, which you might call “Cairo Style” female dance, which is most common today among women performers.

Mahmoud Reda, who was the artistic director of one of the National dance companies of Egypt, took the dance to the stage, modifying the costumes. As Saidi women were forbidden to dance in public, Mahmoud was unable to witness women dancing, other than the Ghawazee dancers, and therefore had to invent the women’s Saidi dance using what he learned from the men.

saidi dance galabeya belly dance costume

Saidi Galabeya

The traditional costume of Saidi dance is a long galabeya (dress).  There are many versions of the galabeya, including the men’s traditional, solid-colored galabeya which is often modified with added color for the stage; a female glitzy version of a galabeya; or a traditional Ghawazee style galabeya costume. It’s also fine to wear a cabaret bedlah (bra and belt), especially if the Saidi piece is in the middle of a set of other cabaret songs.

Saidi music uses the mizmar, nay, rebaba, and tabla.

Resources:

What is the Sa’idi “Tahtib” by Sahra Saeeda
Mohamed Shahin
Hadia
Shems
Farida Fahmy
Gilded Serpent

Here are some videos of Saidi dance:

Mohamed Shahin

Mahmoud Reda dancers performing “Raks Baladna – Saidi”

Raqs Tahtib

Hadia

Hala al Safy & Metkal Kanawi

Yasmina of Cairo

Orit

Metkal Kenawi & Hala el Safy

For more info about the author, visit www.mellilah.com

About Mellilah Jamal

Mellilah teaches belly dance classes in Redmond and Bothell and performs for private parties and restaurants throughout Seattle.

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