RELATED FOLK DANCES
Egyptian style dancers often study some of the following styles:
- Baladi (the roots of Raqs Sharqi)
- Saidi and Raqs Assaya (cane or stick)
- Melaya Leff (not pure folklore)
- Raqs Shamadan (candelabra)
- Dervish/Sufi (male dancers)
- Khaleegy (because of Saudi tourism to Egypt)
- Bedouin dances of North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria etc)
- Arms: Typically lifted and graceful. Movement flows from the upper back through the fingertips.
- Upper body: Ribcage is very lifted and slightly forward of pelvis. Movements are simple — the ribcage may lift and drop rhythmically throughout the dance like a heartbeat (Fifi Abdo) or downward locks might be used as accents (Dina). Shoulders ‘punch’ or roll forward or backward, and the dancer may shimmy with her shoulders or her whole ribcage.
- Pelvis/hips: Large hip accents happen, but intricate, detailed hipwork is the hallmark of Egyptian style. Little pelvic undulations, backward releases, vertical figure 8s, downward locks, or dainty mixtures of horizontal 8s with twists are common. Each famous dancer has a signature big hip circle and may have a signature shimmy as well.
- Footwork: Sharqi often includes a great deal of traveling, compared to baladi style — usually with very small steps and with hipwork. Typical steps include traveling sideways with a tiny pelvic undulation, backward with a pelvic drop, forward with a touch-step. Spins and turns are used sparingly. Reda-style dance (see below) includes lots of detailed footwork, weight shifts, and directional changes. Folkloric steps from Saidi and Khaleegy are often employed as well.
- Abdomen: Belly rolls and flutters aren’t often seen in Raqs Sharqi. Instead, you’ll see the belly popped outward as an accent, or locked inward strongly (‘punch-in-the-gut’ style).
- Other: Backbends are used, but they’re not usually the deep U-shaped backbends seen in Lebanese dance or the extreme laybacks that are common in Tribal Fusion. Shimmies are often intricately layered over other hipwork to reflect the tremolo of the qanun or oud. Movement is concentrated but not strictly isolated. Raqs Sharqi values musical interpretation over displays of physical ability.
Things you WON’T see, or won’t see much
- Veil work: Egyptian dancers will sometimes enter with a veil, swish it around, then discard it. Extended veilwork (wrapping, unwrapping, tossing, etc) is not typical of the style.
- Floorwork was outlawed in public performances in the mid-20th century, except during certain folkloric performances, notably shamadan (candelabra).
- Finger cymbals (zills, sagat) have fallen out of common usage in Egypt. Most dancers can play them, but Sharqi dancers typically play them only during a baladi segment of their show and have an orchestra member who plays them the rest of the time.
The characteristic costuming for modern sharqi style dancers is sleek lycra two piece costumes (bra and decorated skirt) or dresses. Top designers in this style are Eman Zaki, Sahar Okasha, Raqia Hassan, and Mamdouh.
Sometimes a Raqs Sharqi dancer wants to evoke the Golden Era or a vintage look. Then she might wear a bra and belt set with lots of fringe and fluffy chiffon skirts (maybe with high slits over the legs) or sleek sarong skirts. A body stocking in a color that matches the skirt is a style made popular by Soheir Zaki and Fifi Abdo and is a popular ‘vintage’ look.
Each related folkloric style has its own associated costume.