Raqs sharqi, literally „oriental dance” or „eastern oriental”
is commonly known as „belly dance”. It was created in areas of the Middle East and North Africa and is characterized by the richness and diversity of styles. Its tradition dates back to several thousand years. The most famous varieties of this dance are: Egyptian, Lebanese and Turkish.
Belly dance is a solo dance performed mainly by women (but not only!). It is based on improvisation, which allows the dancer to express her emotions. The most important elements of this dance are soft elements as number eights, waves, circles of hips and chest, hard elements such as accents and isolations of the upper and lower parts of the body, delicate hand gestures and the shimmy, or shaking belly or chest.
Belly dance was originally performed exclusively among women, away from the male eyes. However we should not forget that Raqs Sharqi styles include also numerous folk dances. And these are also danced by men, for example “raqs al tahtieb” – Egyptian male dance with sticks.
The nature of the dance varies depends on the style. There are many varieties of folklore, of which worth mentioning styles are such as: raqs al assaya, fellahy, haggala, melaya leff / eskandarani, dabke, guedra, ouled nail or khaleegy. They are danced in built-up costumes. The costumes for the classical dance, like tarab, mejanse, Golden Era consist of 2 parts – a decorated bra and a skirt. This type of costume is called bedleh. On the other hand the belly dance show style allows dancers to choose among wide range of the costume and prop.
An important element of belly dancing are also props. The oldest, having centuries-old tradition are assaya or zills. Over time, the dancers began to use candles, sword, veils, wings of Isis, and fan veils in style called belly dance show.
An important element is the selection of oriental dance music. It must be appropriate to the rhythm, instruments and an interpretation of the melody. Check out oriental rhythms and sketches of oriental instruments below.