Second edition

Middle
Eastern
Dance
=Wor d of Dance<
World of Dance
African Dance, Second Edition
Asian Dance, Second Edition
Ballet, Second Edition
European Dance:
Ireland, Poland, Spain, and Greece, Second Edition
Latin and Caribbean Dance
Middle Eastern Dance, Second Edition
Modern Dance, Second Edition
Popular Dance: From Ballroom to Hip-Hop
Second edition
Middle
Eastern
Dance
Penni AlZayer

consulting editor:
elizabeth A. Hanley,
Associate Professor
emerita of Kinesiology,
Penn State University
Foreword by
Jacques d’Amboise,
Founder of the national
dance institute
=Wor d of Dance<
World of Dance: Middle Eastern Dance, Second Edition
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
AlZayer, Penni.
Middle Eastern dance / Penni AlZayer. — 2nd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-60413-482-7 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4381-3256-3 (e-book)
1. Dance—Middle East. 2. Dance—Arab Countries. I. Title.
GV1704.A52 2010
793.3’1953—dc22 2009041333
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Contents
Introduction 7
by Consulting Editor Elizabeth A. Hanley,
Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology,
Pennsylvania State University
Foreword 10
by Jacques D’Amboise,
Founder of the National Dance Institute
1 Middle Eastern Dance Comes
to America 15
2 North African Dances 28
3 Religious Dancing 38
4 Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant 54
5 Dances of the Arabian Gulf 59
6 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of
the Woman’s Solo 66
7 A Controversial Dance:
The Man’s Solo 88
8 The Evolution of American Tribal
Style Belly Dance 93
9 Two Examples of Middle Eastern
Dance Movements 103
Chronology 110
Glossary 115
Bibliography 118
Further Resources 119
Picture Credits 122
Index 123
About the Author and Consulting Editor 128
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 6 2/11/10 3:09:25 PM
7
IntroduCtIon
Te world of dance is yours to enjoy! Dance has existed from time im-
memorial. It has been an integral part of celebrations and rituals, a
means of communication with gods and among humans, and a basic
source of enjoyment and beauty.
Dance is a fundamental element of human behavior and has evolved
over the years from primitive movement of the earliest civilizations to
traditional ethnic or folk styles, to the classical ballet and modern dance
genres popular today. Te term dance is broad and, therefore, not limit-
ed to the genres noted above. In the twenty-frst century, dance includes
ballroom, jazz, tap, aerobics, and a myriad of other movement activities.
Te joy derived from participating in dance of any genre and the physi-
cal activity required provide the opportunity for the pursuit of a healthy
lifestyle in today’s world.
Te richness of cultural traditions observed in the ethnic, or folk,
dance genre ofers the participant, as well as the spectator, insight into
the customs, geography, dress, and religious nature of a particular peo-
ple. Originally passed on from one generation to the next, many ethnic,
or folk, dances continue to evolve as our civilization and society change.
From these quaint beginnings of traditional dance, a new genre emerged
as a way to appeal to the upper level of society: ballet. Tis new form of
dance rose quickly in popularity and remains so today. Te genre of
ethnic, or folk, dance continues to be an important part of ethnic com-
munities throughout the United States, particularly in large cities.
When the era of modern dance emerged as a contrast and a chal-
lenge to the rigorously structured world of ballet, it was not read-
ily accepted as an art form. Modern dance was interested in the
8 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
communication of emotional experiences—through basic movement,
as well as uninhibited movement—not through the academic tradition
of ballet masters. Modern dance, however, found its afcionados and is
a popular art form today.
No dance form is permanent, defnitive, or ultimate. Changes oc-
cur, but the basic element of dance endures. Dance is for all people.
One need only recall that dance needs neither common race nor com-
mon language for communication; it has been, and remains, a universal
means of communication.
Te World of Dance series provides a starting point for readers
interested in learning about ethnic, or folk, dances of world cultures,
as well as the art forms of ballet and modern dance. Tis series fea-
tures an overview of the development of these dance genres, from
a historical perspective to a practical one. Highlighting specifc cul-
tures, their dance steps and movements, and their customs and tra-
ditions underscores the importance of these fundamental elements
for the reader. Ballet and modern dance—more recent artistic dance
genres—are explored in detail as well, giving the reader a compre-
hensive knowledge of their past, present, and potential future of each
dance form.
Te one fact that each reader should remember is that dance has
always been, and always will be, a form of communication. Tis is its
legacy to the world.
***
Author Penni AlZayer delves into the fascinating history of the Middle
East, native dances of the area, and religious infuences on these dances.
AlZayer also provides, in the fnal section, examples of Middle Eastern
dance movements for the reader to explore on his/her own.
AlZayer notes that the Middle East is a region with some of the old-
est and richest civilizations of the world and that many of the dances as-
sociated with the region have endured for centuries. She includes in her
discussion the dances of North Africa, as well as the Western “Oriental-
ist” interpretation of Middle Eastern dance and its inaccuracies, mostly
with regard to belly dance. While belly dance may be one of the region’s
best-known exports, AlZayer demonstrates that the Middle East has
a wide array of other vibrant dances, some with religious signifcance
9 Introduction
(e.g., the dance of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey) and some that are
secular (e.g., the dabkeh of the Levant).
Troughout this book, AlZayer takes great care to highlight the
purpose, costumes, and music associated with each dance tradition, and
in so doing, she sheds light on the legends and mystery surrounding the
region once known as “the Orient.”
—Elizabeth A. Hanley
Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology at
Pennsylvania State University
10
foreword
In song and dance, man expresses himself as a member of
a higher community. He forgets how to walk and speak
and is on the way into fying into the air, dancing. . . .
His very gestures express enchantment.
—Friedrich Nietzsche
In a conversation with George Balanchine [one of the twentieth cen-
tury’s most famous choreographers and the cofounder of the New York
City Ballet] discussing the defnition of dance, we evolved the following
description: “Dance is an expression of time and space, using the control
of movement and gesture to communicate.”
Dance is central to the human being’s expression of emotion. Every
time we shake someone’s hand, lif a glass in a toast, wave good-bye, or
applaud a performer, we are doing a form of dance. We live in a universe
of time and space, and dance is an art form invented by human beings
to express and convey emotions. Dance is profound.
Tere are melodies that, when played, will cause your heart to
droop with sadness for no known reason. Or a rousing jig or mazurka
will have your foot tapping in an accompanying rhythm, seemingly
beyond your control. Te emotions, contacted through music, spur
the body to react physically. Our bodies have just been programmed
to express emotions. We dance for many reasons: for religious rituals
from the most ancient times; for dealing with sadness, tearfully sway-
ing and holding hands at a wake; for celebrating weddings, joyfully
spinning in circles; for entertainment; for dating and mating. How
many millions of couples through the ages have said, “We met at a
11 Foreword
dance”? But most of all, we dance for joy, ofen exclaiming, “How I love
to dance!” Oh, the JOY OF DANCE!
I was teaching dance at a boarding school for emotionally disturbed
children, ages 9 through 16. Tey were participating with 20 other
schools in the National Dance Institute’s (NDI) year-round program.
Te boarding school children had been traumatized in frightening and
mind-boggling ways. Tere were a dozen students in my class, and the
average attention span may have been 15 seconds—which made for a
raucous bunch. Tis was a tough class.
One young boy, an 11-year-old, was an exception. He never took
his eyes of of me for the 35 minutes of the dance class, and they were
blazing blue eyes—electric, set in a chalk-white face. His body was slim,
trim, superbly proportioned, and he stood arrow-straight. His lips were
clamped in a rigid, determined line as he learned and executed every
dance step with amazing skill. His concentration was intense despite the
wild cavorting, noise, and otherwise disruptive behavior supplied by his
fellow classmates.
At the end of class, I went up to him and said, “Wow, can you dance.
You’re great! What’s your name?”
Tose blue eyes didn’t blink. Ten he parted his rigid lips and bared
his teeth in a grimace that may have been a smile. He had a big hole
where his front teeth should be. I covered my shock and didn’t let it
show. Both top and bottom incisors had been worn away by his con-
tinual grinding and rubbing of them together. One of the supervisors of
the school rushed over to me and said, “Oh, his name is Michael. He’s
very intelligent, but he doesn’t speak.”
I heard Michael’s story from the supervisor. Apparently, when he
was a toddler in his playpen, he witnessed his father shooting his moth-
er; then putting the gun to his own head, the father killed himself. It was
close to three days before the neighbors broke in to fnd the dead and
swollen bodies of his parents. Te dehydrated and starving little boy was
stuck in his playpen, sitting in his own flth. Te orphaned Michael dis-
appeared into the foster care system, eventually ending up in the board-
ing school. No one had ever heard him speak.
In the ensuing weeks of dance class, I built and developed choreog-
raphy for Michael and his classmates. In the spring, they were scheduled
to dance in a spectacular NDI show called Te Event of the Year. At the
12 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
boarding school, I used Michael as the leader and as a model for the
others and began welding all of the kids together, inventing a vigorous
and energetic dance to utilize their explosive energy. It took awhile, but
they were coming together, little by little over the months. And through
all that time, the best in the class—the determined and concentrating
Michael—never spoke.
Tat spring, dancers from the 22 diferent schools with which the
NDI had dance programs were scheduled to come together at Madison
Square Garden for Te Event of the Year. Tere would be more than 2,000
dancers, a symphony orchestra, a jazz orchestra, a chorus, Broadway stars,
narrators, and Native American Indian drummers. Tere was scenery that
was the length of an entire city block and visiting guest children from six
foreign countries coming to dance with our New York City children. All
of these elements had to come together and ft into a spectacular perfor-
mance, with only one day of rehearsal. Te foremost challenge was how to
get 2,000 dancing children on stage for the opening number.
At NDI, we have developed a system called “the runs.” First, we di-
vide the stage into a grid with colored lines making the outlines of box
shapes, making a mosaic of patterns and shapes on the stage foor. Each
outlined box holds a class from one of the schools, which consists of
15 to 30 children. Ten, we add various colored lines as tracks, starting
ofstage and leading to the boxes. Te dancers line up in the wings, hall-
ways, and various holding areas on either side of the stage. At the end
of the overture, they burst onto the stage, running and leaping and fol-
lowing their colored tracks to their respective boxes, where they explode
into the opening dance number.
We had less than three minutes to accomplish “the runs.” It’s as if a
couple of dozen trains coming from diferent places and traveling on dif-
ferent tracks all arrived at a station at the same time, safely pulling into
their allotted spaces. But even before starting, it would take us almost an
hour just to get the dancers lined up in the correct holding areas ofstage,
ready to make their entrance. We had scheduled one shot to rehearse the
opening. It had to work the frst time, or we would have to repeat every-
thing. Tat would mean going into overtime at a great expense.
I gave the cue to start the number. Te orchestra, singers, lights, and
stagehands all commenced on cue, and the avalanche of 2,000 children
was let loose on their tracks. “Te runs” had begun!
13 Foreword
Afer about a minute, I realized something was wrong. Tere was a
big pileup on stage lef, and children were colliding into each other and
bunching up behind some obstacle. I ran over to discover the source of
the problem: Michael and his classmates. He had ignored everything
and led the group from his school right up front, as close to the audience
as he could get. Inspiring his dancing buddies, they were a crew of leap-
ing, contorting demons—dancing up a storm, but blocking some 600
other dancers trying to get through.
I rushed up to them, yelling, “You’re in the wrong place! Back up!
Back up!”
Michael—with his eyes blazing, mouth open, and legs and arms
spinning in dance movements like an eggbeater—yelled out, “Oh, I am
so happy! I am so happy! Tank you, Jacques! Oh, it’s so good! I am so
happy!”
I backed of, stunned into silence. I sat down in the frst row of
the audience and was joined by several of the supervisors, teachers,
and chaperones from Michael’s school, our mouths open in wonder.
Te spirit of dance had taken over Michael and his classmates. No one
danced better or with more passion in the whole show that night and
with Michael leading the way—the JOY OF DANCE was at work. (We
went into overtime, but so what!)
—Jacques D’Amboise
Author of Teaching the Magic of Dance, winner of an
Academy Award for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’,
and Founder of the National Dance Institute
15
Middle Eastern
Dance Comes to
America
1
Solomon Bloom attended school for only one day because his parents
could not aford to buy him books. Te son of Polish immigrants, he was
subsequently educated at home by his mother in San Francisco, where
he also began working in a brush factory at the age of seven. By the age
of 16, he had established a business of his own and was already wealthy.
He was a regular visitor to Woodward’s Gardens, San Francisco’s frst
museum, which he considered a valuable source of instruction. Bloom
produced a play and even built his own theater by the time he was 17
years old.
At the age of 19, “Sol” Bloom decided to tour the world to further his
education, and his frst stop was the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle.
On the exposition grounds, he saw incredible exhibits from throughout
the world that showcased the wonders of science, industry, art, history,
anthropology, and culture. Te one exhibit that really captured his imagi-
nation was that of an Algerian village. Although he was intrigued by all
that he saw, it was the women’s traditional dancing that fascinated him
most. He was not quite sure how he would showcase the dance troupe, but
he felt certain that if he could bring them—or even the entire exhibit—to
the United States, he could make a fortune with it. Bloom negotiated with
16 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
their manger and, for a fee of about $1,000, obtained the right to negoti-
ate a contract to exhibit them in North and South America.
Shortly afer his return to the United States, Bloom learned of plans
for the World’s Columbian Exposition, or World’s Fair, which would
commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival
in the New World. Te chief contender to host the large international
fair was the city of Chicago. It was awarded the international exhibition
rights in 1890, when President Benjamin Harrison signed the exposi-
tion bill into law. Early in their planning, the commissioners ofered the
ambitious 21-year-old the position of manager of the Midway Plaisance,
the area that contained all the amusement concessions of the fair. When
asked to name the salary that he required, Bloom knew that he had a lot
to consider and asked for one night to think about it. When he seriously
refected upon the ofer, he realized that if he accepted the job, he would
have to relocate to Chicago, leaving his family and home as well as his
successful San Francisco businesses in the hands of others.
Te following day, fully expecting to be refused, he asked for $1,000
per week. Much to his amazement, the agent for the commissioners
agreed. Just a few months earlier, his greatest ambition had been to con-
tract a spot on the Midway. Now he would be managing it—and at a
salary that equaled that of the president of the United States!—all at the
tender age of 21.
the MIdway PlaIsanCe
In the days before television, events such as these international expo-
sitions brought millions of people together in an important new way
of sharing and exchanging ideas and experiences. Historians agree that
the Chicago fair changed the world in many ways. Te architecture of
the Columbian Exposition was spectacular, and the whitewashed exte-
riors of all the buildings caused some to name them the “White City.”
Japan’s pavilions introduced its traditional style of architecture to the
Midwest, which later infuenced the great American architect Frank
Lloyd Wright.
Other important seeds of change were sown at the exposition as
well. Milton S. Hershey purchased an entire chocolate-making assembly
17 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
line he saw displayed there, enabling him to mass-produce the frst af-
fordable chocolate bars. Musicians from the South introduced the
world to the catchy new rhythms that would eventually become known
as ragtime. Te frst motion pictures and even the invention of the zip-
per have been associated with the fair. It was also there that a shocked
America frst encountered what would become known as the hootchy-
kootchy dance.
About 200 separate buildings were constructed for the fair, with
exhibitions about agriculture, electricity, fsheries, forestry, machinery,
manufacturing, liberal arts, mines, stocks, and women. Every state and
territory of the Union and 19 foreign countries constructed buildings
of their own. Tere were also formal discussions of medicine, educa-
tion, fnance, religion, evolution, and art. When planners decided upon
a separate amusement and exhibition area, they had expected that this
This painting of the World’s Columbian Exposition by T. de
Thulstrup shows the main thoroughfare, called Midway Plaisance,
at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. On the right is the Dahomey
Village, while the Austrian Village is behind it. The dome of the
Moorish Palace can be seen in the far distance.
18 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
area would pay for the huge expenses of the event and make the fair
more popular with working-class people.
Te Midway Plaisance was built on a strip of land 600 feet wide
and almost a mile long. Under the direction of Harvard professor F.W.
Putnam and the exposition’s Department of Ethnology, the exhibits in
that area were supposed to be collected from regions throughout the
world and to show the progress and development of human civilization.
Tis was to be achieved by building models of working villages complete
with natives of the countries they were meant to represent. Sol Bloom
was brought in by the commissioners to work on creating an impressive
show that would draw crowds and make money.
In the frst few months, ticket sales to the World’s Fair were disap-
pointing. Te national economy was faltering, and a number of banks
had failed. It was thought that the cold spring weather, expensive rail-
road fares to Chicago, and the harvest (which prevented rural folk from
traveling until afer its conclusion) were all adverse factors. Tere was
also some controversy about the fair being open on Sundays, but in the
end, it was generally accepted that it was the only day the majority of the
working class could attend.
Te most bold and daring visitors could see the fair in its entirety
from high above the ground in the balloon ride, but the most other-
worldly area was the Midway Plaisance. Te foreign world created by
the international concessions included villages representing Algeria,
Turkey, Java, Germany, Austria, Ireland, and Lapland. An Egyptian
street in Cairo (usually referred to simply as Cairo Street), a Hungarian
Orpheum (restaurant and music hall), a Dahomeyan settlement, an Es-
kimo camp, a Chinese joss house, a Samoan settlement, and a group of
Jahore bungalows rounded out the view of the world available to fairgo-
ers. With so much to see, it probably would have taken weeks and much
walking to view everything, but it seems that one exhibit attracted more
visitors than any other.
CaIro street
Attracting more than 2 million visitors in six months’ time, Cairo Street
was a model of how the people of Cairo lived, transacted business, and
amused themselves. In addition to a replica of the Luxor Temple and
19 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
a mosque, there were more than 60 shops. In the Cairo Street Teatre,
performers usually called “dancing girls” had their performances la-
beled by a number of names, most notably danse du ventre—French for
“dance of the stomach.”
Tere were at least 12 female dancers who accompanied themselves
with tiny cymbals attached to their fngers. Tey were joined by male
musicians who played traditional instruments, including reed futes,
oud (the original lute), and a variety of percussion instruments. Te Al-
gerian, Tunisian, and Turkish villages also gave performances that were
intended to be authentic portrayals of music and dance from their re-
spective countries, even though they were performed on Western stag-
es. Sadly, this was not the case everywhere on the Midway, and these
performances contrasted sharply with those at the Persian Palace.
Just before the ofcial opening of the exposition, Sol Bloom escort-
ed his dancers to a press conference where they were to give report-
ers a preview of their art. Teir costumes and appearance must have
intrigued the men as Bloom introduced them. Rather than have them
dance accompanied by their fellow countrymen on traditional instru-
ments, as they were accustomed to doing, Bloom personally sat down
at the piano. Using only one fnger, he improvised what he imagined to
be a Middle Eastern tune. Bloom’s melody may well have been based
upon one that was authentic, and there is some evidence that suggests
that it was the familiar tune that has come to be identifed with hootchy-
kootchy, or belly dance. It has endured for more than 100 years, and is
still frequently used in cartoons, television, and movies to support many
exotic themes, including snake charmers.
By presenting the dancers in this manner, Sol Bloom joined the
company of many artists and writers of his day whose work refected
what they imagined (and wished) Eastern culture to be—rather than
what it really was. Known as the Orientalists, painters such as Eugène
Delacroix, Jean-Léon Gérôme, and Gustave Moreau, and writers such
as Lord Byron, Gustave Flaubert, and Victor Hugo were among those
who contributed to this style of art and literature. Artists who felt disap-
pointed when the appearance of real Middle Eastern women was not
what they had imagined frequently chose beautiful Caucasian women
dressed in fantasy versions of Arabic clothing to pose for their Oriental
paintings and photographs, thereby perpetuating the myths.
20 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
the PersIan PalaCe
An impressive structure with towering minarets and domes, the Persian
Palace of Eros originally included a company of Persian men who dis-
played athletic skills, gem cutting, carpet weaving, and other traditions
of their country. Some of the male athletes with huge clubs performed
demonstrations to the music of fute and drum, but this entertainment
failed to excite fairgoers, so the management decided to change the
program. Tey hired a troupe of female dancers from Paris to perform
Faux-Oriental dance in skimpy costumes for male audiences. Not sur-
prisingly, the French dancers attracted huge crowds, and a grossly dis-
torted picture of Persian dance was presented to the masses.
Tough the Midway Plaisance was an amazing spectacle in its own
right, the public sadly seemed to have preferred the Orientalist fantasies
Many Western artists, such as Eugène Delacroix, depicted the
Middle East in a romantic—and often inaccurate—way in their
paintings. Images of Middle Eastern women, such as those in
Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (above), were
often embellished and made to look Caucasian by Western artists.
21 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
to the real thing. Tis was hardly surprising, though, because in spite of
a few reformers’ lofy speeches about uplifing humanity, the villagers
were generally looked upon as inferior. Nonwhite Americans were not
included in planning the fair, though one day was observed for people of
color. Native Americans were portrayed as savages, and the few people
who tried to object were ignored.
As soon as Chicago’s 1893 fair closed, amusement parks, carnivals,
and circuses began to cash in on the popularity of the Middle Eastern
entertainment from the Midway Plaisance. Since the French dancers in
fantasy costumes had been so successful during the fair at the Persian
Palace, it was not surprising that other non–Middle Eastern women
were brought in to perform the danse du ventre, which was now nearly
always referred to as the hootchy-cootchy. Oriental sideshows were also
featured in the later international expositions in San Francisco, Atlanta,
Nashville, Bufalo, and St. Louis.
Tese new dancing girls commonly used stage names, and regard-
less of the performers’ real nationalities, their names usually evoked the
Middle East. Te most popular name was Little Egypt, and at one point,
there were so many entertainers using that name that it became synony-
mous with that type of performance. Many old photographs of sideshow
dancers still exist, some of them with costumes and poses that look gen-
uine, and just as many that are obviously not. A performer known as
Madame Ruth was featured in the 1894 kinetograph Dance du Ventre.
A surviving flm of a truly authentic-looking performance from around
1897 at Coney Island, New York, is entitled Fatima’s Dance.
One of the more interesting places claiming to have employed the
talents of Little Egypt is a popular tourist site called the Birdcage Te-
ater. Located in the infamous Arizona Territory town of Tombstone, a
bullet-scarred oil painting of an Oriental dancer still hangs above the
bar of the former outlaw hangout. A plaque at the bottom of the portrait
names the subject as Fatima, later known as Little Egypt, who played
the Birdcage in 1881—12 years prior to the Chicago World’s Fair. If that
information is accurate, Fatima may well have been the frst belly dancer
to perform in the United States.
Te incident that really brought the Little Egypt persona to the at-
tention of the public was a scandal that has come to be known as the
“Awful Seeley Dinner.” A grandson of the famous circus showman
22 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
P.T. Barnum gave a bachelor party for his brother in a fashionable New
York City restaurant. Captain George S. Chapman turned up to inves-
tigate a tip that indecent dancing was the planned entertainment. Al-
though the dancer—who called herself “Little Egypt”—was hidden away
until the policeman had lef, and no arrests were made that night, re-
porters jumped on the story, as this was quite scandalous in 1906. In the
ensuing investigation, the captain, Little Egypt, and many others were
required to testify before the police board. Although several indictments
were handed down, the charges were all dropped several months later.
When the scandal broke, Oscar Hammerstein—the Broadway pro-
ducer and grandfather of one-half of the famous Broadway writing team of
Rodgers and Hammerstein—took advantage of the publicity and created a
burlesque spectacle called Silly’s Dinner. It ran for two months at the Olym-
pia Teatre at 44th and Broadway and starred the same Little Egypt and
other entertainers who had appeared at the real dinner. Tat was the frst
time a current event became the basis for a show in a music hall. However,
though the newspapers extensively reported both the Awful Seeley Dinner
and the Silly’s Dinner comedy, none of those reports suggested that Little
Egypt had danced at the Midway Plaisance. Tat is probably because the
young woman who performed at both the infamous bachelor party and at
the Olympia Teater was a petite Algerian named Ashea Wabe, and there
is no evidence that Wabe had anything to do with the World’s Fair.
Farida Mahzar probably did dance at the fair. Although the details
of her life and career are shrouded in mystery, it is believed that she
was Syrian and that she had learned to dance in Cairo, Egypt. It is gen-
erally accepted that she performed on the Midway Plaisance and was
part of the surrounding controversy, but she eventually married a Greek
restaurateur and became a devoted wife. Mahzar continued performing
occasionally, but in a conservative manner unlike that of her many imi-
tators. Shortly before her death, she sued the makers of the 1936 motion
picture Te Great Ziegfeld because they presented Little Egypt as a lewd
character. Fourteen diferent witnesses gave depositions that they had
seen her perform at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, all swearing that her
performances were skilled and never lewd, and that her midsection had
never been seen uncovered. Farida Mahzar died of a heart attack before
her lawsuit came to trial, and her obituary noted that she claimed to be
the original Little Egypt.
23 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
According to popular legend, the famous author Mark Twain suf-
fered a coronary upon seeing her dance, and Tomas Edison’s flm of her
performance caused the motion picture camera to become an instant
success. It is highly doubtful that either story is true. It is possible that
the dancing of someone else who used the name Little Egypt may have
caused Twain to have a heart attack. It could not have been Mahzar,
though, because Twain was ill while he was in Chicago and never set
foot on the fairgrounds. As for Edison, he had intended to display his
new motion picture camera, the kinetoscope, but technical difculties
kept him from completing it in time for the exhibition. If the famous
inventor had made a moving picture of one of the infamous dancers at
the fair, it would almost certainly have been front-page news.
Probably the strangest thing attributed to Little Egypt was that she
helped launch the invention of the zipper. It has been said that it enabled
her to change costumes more quickly during her performances in Chi-
cago. Others claimed that the newly invented electric Ferris wheel and
the sideshow featuring the belly dancer Little Egypt caused the world’s
frst zipper to be ignored.
It should be remembered that in the late nineteenth century, Ameri-
can women were still tightly laced into corsets, and the sight of a fe-
male ankle (even in thick stockings) was considered risqué. Any woman
who performed in public was automatically assumed to be of low moral
character. It is hardly surprising that the costumes and movements of
the female dancers who entertained fairgoers caused quite a stir. In spite
of the controversy, Cairo Street was indisputably the most awe-inspiring
spectacle there. Crowds enjoyed the fortune-telling, camel and donkey
rides, and snake charmers, but it was defnitely the dancing girls that
intrigued the public most of all. It seems that they equally repulsed and
fascinated fairgoers.
By 1948, Sol Bloom had become a member of Congress and chair-
man of the House Committee on Foreign Afairs. Congressman Bloom
was considered an authority on amusements at the fair, yet he denied that
there was ever a dancer called Little Egypt on the Midway. He further
added that there was a riding camel by that name in Cairo Street. Some
think that perhaps he was embarrassed to admit to ever having known a
performer of such notoriety. Others who knew him well felt sure that he
would have enjoyed claiming the acquaintance of the real “Little Egypt.”
24 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Sol Bloom (left, with fellow congressman Charles Eaton) is pictured
shortly after becoming chairman of the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs in 1948. Bloom denied that there ever was a
performer named Little Egypt at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
25 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
Tere is no conclusive evidence regarding who the original Little
Egypt really was, or even when or where she frst appeared, even though
many diferent women have claimed that title during the past 100 years.
However, it seems clear that all the documented references to her as a
specifc dancer at the 1893 exposition were written long afer the event.
Te hard evidence that has survived in the form of photographs, play-
bills, advertisements, and even farewell poems to the Midway dancers
published in the local newspapers and other forms of memorabilia never
mention her. Although many photos of dancing girls from the fair have
survived, not a single one is verifable as Little Egypt.
In spite of the lack of historical evidence, many still stubbornly
cling to the belief that Little Egypt of Columbian Exposition fame
was America’s frst notable belly dancer. She lives on in our history,
reference, and dance books, and has become a popular legend. Her
true identity, her dance, and even whether she ever existed remain a
mystery.
the real MIddle east
Te Middle East has ofen been called the Cradle of Civilization. Te
birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it is an area whose in-
fuence has also deeply impacted the disciplines of science, medicine,
architecture, and certainly music and dance. Tough there were a few
bold travelers to the region as early as the Middle Ages, and later oc-
cupations by colonial armies, it was not until the nineteenth century
that the Middle East (ofen called the Orient) became a fashionable
destination for wealthy travelers. Among the curiosity-seeking Euro-
peans, word quickly spread that the dancers were one of the region’s
most interesting attractions. Writers and painters focked to the Middle
East and North Africa for inspiration. For their part, some of the more
enterprising people of the East soon learned that their foreign visitors
provided a lucrative new market for their talents, and thus began the
West’s love-hate relationship with Middle Eastern dance. Troughout its
long history, it has continued to fascinate and, at the same time, appall
audiences everywhere it has been seen.
26 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Since the nineteenth century, many folk dance forms have become
less popular in their homelands due to a number of factors, including
governmental policies and interference, as well as the increasing inu-
ence and outright oppression by conservative elements and fundamen-
talist religious sects. In the best of circumstances, genuine ethnic/his-
torical dance is not easily documented, but due in part to the growing
Western interest, many important Middle Eastern dances have been
documented and recorded before they were entirely extinguished.
Sadly, many customs and traditions of that vast and diversied
part of the world are viewed and judged with as little understanding
or appreciation of their ancient roots today as they were in the past. In
Known as the Cradle of Civilization, the Middle East has always
fascinated Westerners. Though it has no clearly defined boundaries,
the region is loosely defined as stretching from Morocco in the west
to Iran in the east and Turkey in the north to Yemen in the south.
A F R I C A
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 26 2/11/10 3:09:26 PM
27 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America
recent years, as political tensions and turmoil have increased, the cul-
tures of the East and West have collided in new ways, due in part to the
West’s dependence on the oil supplies of the East.
Tough it still receives mixed reviews, despite all the odds, Middle
Eastern dance has survived for thousands of years. Te mysterious art,
with its many and varied forms, has crossed the seas and found accep-
tance and appreciation in many countries around the world. It is a cre-
ative and unifying force among people wherever it is practiced.
28
North African
Dances
the ouled naïl
Te Ouled Naïl (pronounced OO-led nile) are a prosperous people from
the desert and mountain regions of Algeria. Trough paintings of the
Orientalists and later through photographs of the tribes’ elaborately
dressed dancers, Algeria provided familiar images of the exotic East to
the Western world in the nineteenth century. Te frst Ouled Naïl danc-
ers to perform in the United States arrived in 1893 as part of the group
of Middle Eastern entertainers that Sol Bloom imported for the Chicago
World’s Fair.
When they were very young, the girls of the tribe began training
not only in dance, but also in the art of pleasing men. Traditionally, they
lef their desert towns and villages for larger cities where they began to
practice their trade when they were as young as 12. Tey would spend
as long as 15 years working there, earning money until they fnally re-
turned to their desert homes to marry, using their savings as a dowry.
How well they married generally depended upon how much money they
had been able to save, but once they retired and married, they became
good wives and mothers.
2
29 North African Dances
Residents of the desert and mountain regions of Algeria, the Ouled
Naïl, are known for their belly dancing. From an early age, young
girls of the tribe leave their villages to earn money by dancing in
larger towns and cities. Pictured here is an Ouled Naïl woman in
Algiers circa 1900.
30 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Historically, dancers who perform publicly have been looked upon
with suspicion and disapproval in the Middle East and generally have been
assumed to be disreputable. Te dancing women of the Ouled Naïl, how-
ever, have always been valued by their own tribes, and their ability to earn
money both accepted and condoned. Afer their retirement, not only the
dancers themselves but also their husbands and families are given great
respect and can always take pride in their accomplishments and success.
Even at a time when almost all other women in North Africa were
veiled, the dancers of the Ouled Naïl were not. Tey wore heavy black
eye makeup and practiced facial tattooing. Teir oiled, black hair was
worn in looped-up braids and then covered with decorated veils. Tey
dressed in long, full skirts and shawls with very elaborate headdresses
and wore a tremendous amount of jewelry (made of real silver and gold),
including bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. One of the most interesting
types of jewelry worn by the girls was a large bracelet with long, sharp
studs and spikes that protected them from unwanted attention from
men. (Sadly, this protection was sometimes insufcient, because many
of the girls were attacked and even murdered by would-be suitors, and
their hard-earned wealth was stolen from them.)
Tey also wore the money they had earned as decoration and as tan-
gible proof of their personal wealth and success at their trade. Tis dis-
play sometimes took the form of long necklaces made of coins, or coins
fastened directly to their clothing or decorating their headdresses.
Te costumes have evolved somewhat, and although they still have
the same general look, the rich natural fabrics and real silver and gold
coins of yesteryear are rarely seen today. Much of the material used in
making the costumes is synthetic, and some dancers completely cover
their faces with a transparent veil. Tose who are able to sing as well as
dance are able to earn more money and can generally work to ages older
than they did in the past.
Te dance style is heavy and earthy. In times past, some dancers
would frst perform in their traditional costumes and, upon request,
later go behind a screen and remove most of their costumes, return, and
continue to dance, wearing only the headdress and jewelry. Te twisting
hip movements common to many North African dances were accom-
panied by shoulder shimmies, strong muscular movements of the belly,
and snakelike arm movements.
31 North African Dances
A famous American dancer named Ted Shawn (husband of the leg-
endary dancer Ruth St. Denis) saw the Ouled Naïl dancers in the early
1900s and found them disgusting. Being a typical white tourist of the
day, he was probably ofended by their appearance and body language,
and would likely have disapproved of them morally as well. However,
many other witnesses of the time admitted to amazement and even
grudging admiration for the mastery these women demonstrated over
parts of the body for which most people have no control.
Although there are still some young women who follow this his-
torical practice of their tribes, it is not as common as it once was; the
increase in Islamic fundamentalism has no doubt caused it to be viewed
in an extremely unfavorable light. Bou Saada is home to the best-known
troupe of contemporary musicians and dancers, and tourists still some-
times visit that area of Algeria. A performance is typically done to live
music, and soloists and groups are alternated.
Te men of the tribe also perform and are well known for a dance
incorporating their rifes. Tey typically wrap part of their head to veil
the lower portion of their faces, especially their mouths. Many varieties
of images document performances of this type, frequently accompanied
by demonstrations of their famous skill in horseback riding. Most per-
formances now begin with a procession led by the musicians with all
participants clapping, shouting, and engaged in general merrymaking.
From time to time, tribes continue to gather and set up their tents
for festivals and holidays when the Ouled Naïl entertain informally for
those who attend. Contemporary women’s performances are probably
more similar to the typical belly dance in appearance than that of the
traditional dance of yesteryear. Te purpose of the dance performanc-
es is still to attract potential patrons for the dancers. In the past, some
towns became famous because of the presence of Ouled Naïl dancers
and are notorious for that reason today.
the Ghawazee
It is believed that Gypsy tribes moved into the Middle East—probably
from northern India—as early as the ffh century a.d. Many of them
became traveling entertainers. Although it was their habit to adopt (at
32 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
least on a superfcial level) the religion of their host countries, they were
still considered to be outsiders. Terefore, even afer the advent of Is-
lam, they were not subject to the same restrictions as the local Islamic
population.
Tose who settled in Egypt came to be known as the Ghawazee. Un-
like most other Middle Eastern peoples, the Ghawazee traditionally pre-
ferred female babies over male, probably because of their ability to earn
money. Traveling from city to city, the women danced in the streets, solo
or in small groups, while the men accompanied them on instruments.
Although it is well documented in tomb paintings that professional
dancers have worked in Egypt since Pharaonic times, dancing was nei-
ther an important nor respectable profession. Te few elite Egyptians
who were able to write kept no written record of their dancers to de-
scribe what they wore, what they were called, or what their dances were
like. Terefore, the earliest known descriptions of Egyptian dancers
were written by Europeans who were traveling in the Middle East as
early as the 1600s.
When Napoleon led the frst organized expedition to Egypt in 1798,
he was trying to fnd an alternate route to India. He was accompanied
by scholars who produced excellent documents recording what they
learned about the country. Tere were many entertainers who lived in
Cairo and along the banks of the Nile, and it was there that the French
soldiers frst saw the Ghawazee (meaning “thieves of the heart”), the
Gypsy dancers of Egypt.
Although they were popular with the soldiers, the generals disap-
proved of them, and under the orders of one of Napoleon’s generals, 400
of the Ghawazee were captured, beheaded, and thrown into the Nile in
sacks. Te French ofcials then forced those who remained to live to-
gether in houses for the convenience and comfort of their soldiers. Te
dancers were forced to be checked regularly by doctors and also to pay
taxes on their earnings.
By the late nineteenth century, Egypt had become a common part of
the fashionable “Grand Tour” of Europe ofen taken by wealthy people
from Western countries. A few of those early travelers made a real efort
to understand the native people and their culture and customs. Most of
them, however, preferred to believe the fantasy of the decadent exotic
33 North African Dances
world of the East that was such a stark contrast to their own very re-
stricted Victorian societies.
Early pictures of the Ghawazee women show them wearing low-
cut, ftted vests or longer tunics, usually with sleeves ftted to the el-
bow, which then hung loose from the elbow down. Tey ofen wore
fairly sheer blouses underneath and either very full pants that ft at the
ankle (ofen called harem pants) or full skirts underneath. A scarf tied
around the hips was a standard item. Te Gypsy women in Eastern
Europe were wearing very similar clothing at the time. In contrast to
the ofen revealing costumes of delicate, gauzy materials worn by most
belly dancers even today, the Ghawazee costumes were usually made
of heavier fabrics and did not allow as much freedom of movement.
Both men and women blackened the rims of their eyes with kohl and
As evidenced by these tomb reliefs in Saqqara, Egypt, dance has
been an important part of Egyptian culture for millennia. However,
it did not become well documented in Egypt until Europeans came
to the region in the 1600s.
34 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
used henna on their hands and feet, much like other Egyptians of the
middle and upper classes.
Te main movement of the dance of the Ghawazee has been de-
scribed as a rapid vibrating, or shimmying, side-to-side motion of the
hips performed to very fast music. (While hip shimmies are common
to many Middle Eastern dances, they are more typically a vertical up/
down hip movement, rather than twisted forward and backward.) Tey
also incorporated back bends and sometimes foor work and head slides
into their performance. Te use of fnger cymbals seems to have been
a standard feature of the dance. Te dancers also sang, told jokes, and
engaged in light banter with their audience.
Te Ghawazee danced to traditional folk music that had a distinctive
and primitive sound. Te instruments used include the mizmar (similar
to a very loud oboe) and tabla beledi (simple drum), and sometimes
also the rebaba (the one-stringed predecessor of the violin). Te rhythm
commonly associated with the Ghawazee is ofen simply called “Beledi,”
and its sound is approximated by the following syllables: DUM DUM
ticky tack DUM ticky tack ticky DUM DUM ticky tack DUM ticky tack
ticky, and so forth.
Much of the character of belly dancing as we know it today has prob-
ably come to us from the Ghawazee. Te Mazin family of Luxor, Egypt,
is recognized to be the Ghawazee’s legitimate descendants. Known as
Banat Mazin (“the daughters of Mazin”), they call their dance raqs
sha’abi, meaning “folk dance,” as opposed to the more familiar raqs shar-
qi, which translates to “dance of the East/Orient,” but is widely under-
stood to mean belly dancing. However, it has ofen been observed that
belly dancers move around more than the Ghawazee, using a greater
variety of movements (particularly of the arms), and that they perform
to a more varied and classical form of Middle Eastern music.
Today, the custom of hiring the descendents of the Ghawazee to
dance at weddings and other village celebrations is fading away due
to a number of factors, Islamic fundamentalism and its disapproval of
such entertainments chief among them. Fortunately, one member of the
Mazin family still performs occasionally and, in recent years, has begun
teaching privately. She even allows students to videotape, photograph,
and record her performance, thus ensuring that there are accurate re-
cords of her ancient style of dance.
35 North African Dances
saIdI
Many styles of popular Egyptian folk dance are loosely labeled “Saidi”
(sigh-EE-dee) dance because they come from southern Egypt, which
is also called Upper Egypt or simply the “Said” (sigh-EED). One of the
best types of Saidi dance is known as tahtib, and paintings on monu-
ments and tombs in the beautiful old city of Luxor document its ancient
origins.
A battle dance that includes some of the thrusting and swinging
movements of real combat, tahtib demonstrates skill with the thick,
solid bamboo staf that Saidi men originally carried and used for herd-
ing, walking, and protection. Te stick, usually seen as a prop in dance
performances, is approximately 4 feet (1 m) long, but the original was
used from horseback and was closer to 12 feet (3.5 m) long.
Tahtib is extremely masculine and dramatic and has the high energy
shared by most Saidi dances. It is sometimes performed by a fairly large
group, but they usually divide into pairs for the combat movements that
The region of Said, or Upper Egypt, has produced many styles of
folk dance. Here, a woman in Luxor dances to the accompaniment
of a variety of wind instruments while she plays the sagat, or finger
cymbals.
36 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
are integral to the dance form. Te men circle one another in search
of an opening for attack while maintaining defensive postures and fre-
quently exchange mock blows. To create the look of battle fought from
horseback, one common step gives the dancer the characteristic bob-
bing motion seen when a man rides and is even called “the horse.” Tere
is much strutting and posturing as they show of their strength; they also
feint, attack, and parry in time with the music.
Raqs assaya, the women’s version of the tahtib, is sofer and much
more feminine and graceful. It utilizes smaller, lighter sticks that are
ofen glitzy and colorful and can be either straight or hooked. Women
handle their stick in a more delicate way, and ofen twirl their canes over
their heads and of to the sides, sometimes lowering them, and then
kicking them back up in the air. Te canes are also balanced on the head
and other parts of the body, and used to frame undulations and other
more typical belly-dance-type movements. Some of the women’s move-
ments echo the tahtib, but they are not nearly as strong and militant in
appearance.
Tahtib music is fairly primitive and features a double-sided bass
drum called a tavol, which is worn strapped to the shoulders so that it
hangs in front of the drummer. He uses the stick in his right hand to
beat out the heavy “dooms” (rhythm like a heartbeat) and a lighter stick
in the lef hand to produce very quick “tahs.” Most Saidi music is played
on these traditional instruments and might also include the rebaba, the
mizmar, and a fute with a shrill tone.
Te standard dress of a Saidi man is a galabiya (GAL uh BAY uh).
He’ll sometimes wear two—one over the other and ofen in contrasting
colors (one dark and one light). Yet another variation of the cafan-type
garment that is so popular in hot desert countries, the Egyptian galabi-
yas are very loose and wide with round necks and loose sleeves. If only
one is worn, a buttoned vest is usually worn underneath. A long strip of
cloth is wrapped around the head into a fairly close-ftting turban with
one end lef hanging free. Another long, scarfike strip of cloth is worn
loosely around the neck and tossed back over one shoulder. Most men
also wear long, white cotton pants underneath and either short boots or
sandals on their feet. All Saidi men wear mustaches as a point of mascu-
line pride, and many of them protect their eyes from the harsh sun with
kohl, as they have done since Pharaonic times.
37 North African Dances
Saidi women wear long, loose dresses (some with a rufe around the
hemline) and cover their hair with a scarf tied in the back, occasionally
decorated with small, brightly colored pom-poms. For this and many
other dances, shawls or scarves are tied around the hips; otherwise the
movements of the body would be completely hidden in the fullness of
the fabric. Tis style of dancing is done either barefoot or in fat slippers
and should never be done in heels. Gold jewelry, including bangles on
both arms, chandelier-type earrings, and heavy coin necklaces, are ofen
worn by performers, but many older Saidi women actually wear very
heavy-looking silver bangles (not fully enclosed) on their ankles.
38
3
Religious
Dancing
the whIrlInG dervIshes
Known in the West as Whirling Dervishes, the men who try to connect
with God through dance belong to an order that was founded by the Mev-
lana Jalaluddin Rumi (known to the English-speaking world as “Rumi”).
Whirling (spinning in circles) is thought to have originated with central
Asian shamans, or medicine men, who reached altered states of con-
sciousness through its practice long before the time of Rumi. Dervishes
are Sufs, and all Sufs are Muslims, but not all Muslims are Sufs.
Muslims believe that only one religion has truly ever been given,
though it has been delivered by many messengers who have come to ev-
ery group of people on Earth at some time in history. Tey believe that
God is the source of all life and cannot be described or compared to any-
thing but only known through the spiritual qualities that are manifest
in the world and in the human heart. Islam considers itself the continu-
ation of the Judeo-Christian tradition and accepts the Hebrew proph-
ets, as well as Jesus and Mary. Muslims believe that attributing divinity
to a human being is the primary error of Christianity. Muslims believe
that Muhammad, the founder of their faith, is the last and greatest of
39 Religious Dancing
the human prophets who brought the message of God’s love. By Rumi’s
time and in his world, Islam was well established. Te average person
performed regular ablutions (ritual washing) and prayed fve times a
day, fasted from food and drink during daylight hours for the month of
Ramadan, and closely followed a code that emphasized the continual
remembrance of God. Sufsm is a mystical form of Islam with a central
doctrine that promotes tolerance, piety, and love of God.
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh, which is part
of Afghanistan today. In his mother tongue—Persian, the language of
The whirling dervish is an example of religious ceremony
transcending into performance art. Above, an entertainer
performs a simplified version of the dance at the Al-Ghouri
Mausoleum in Cairo, Egypt. Traditionally, the dance is performed
by Sufi Muslims, who use the dance to show their devotion
to God. When the whirling is a performance, rather than a
religious ritual, the performer turns, or “whirls,” endlessly while
manipulating skirts in a colorful display, rather than following the
exactly prescribed sequence of movements and ceremonial removal
of cloaks, among other essential elements, of the authentic Sufi
ceremonial ritual.
40 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Iran—mevlâna means “guide,” and rumi means “from the Sultanate of
Rum.” Because of danger from Mongol invaders, Rumi’s family eventu-
ally lef Balkh and moved to Konya, Turkey, where his father, Bahauddin,
became a prominent religious teacher at the university and also under-
took his son’s spiritual education. Afer his father died, Rumi’s education
was taken up by Seyyid Burhaneddin, one of his father’s friends. Al-
though he was still living in their old hometown of Balkh, Burhaneddin
claimed to have sensed his friend’s death, so he decided that he should
move to Konya to take over the education of Rumi. For the next nine
years, he tutored the young man in a wide variety of subjects, including
religion, meditation, and fasting. During the same period, Rumi spent
several years in Aleppo and Damascus studying with other great reli-
gious minds of the time.
Burhaneddin fnally felt he had met his obligation and that he was
free to retire and spend the rest of his own life in seclusion, because he
had shared all of his knowledge with Rumi. Before going, he prophesied
to Rumi that another great friend would come to him and that they
would be like two halves of a whole, sharing the greatest friendship the
world had ever known.
Highly educated by then, Rumi had become a religious leader and
mystic with a following of his own. Ten he met Mehmet Semseddin
Tebrizi, also known as Shams, and just as Burhaneddin had predicted,
the two men became great friends and companions. Under the infuence
of Shams, Rumi became a gifed poet, and his compositions were col-
lected in a large volume called the Divan-i Kabir.
As close as the friends were, though, Shams vanished without expla-
nation not once but twice. Sultan Veled, Rumi’s son, searched for him
and located him in Damascus afer his frst disappearance. Te second
time he was never found, and it is believed that he was probably killed
by Rumi’s own followers, who resented and feared his infuence on their
master. Rumi was so devastated by the loss of his friend that he with-
drew from the world to meditate, and it was during that period that he
wrote his greatest work, the Mathnawi.
Rumi also shared a deeply spiritual friendship with Husameddin
Chelebi, who encouraged him to make a written record of his beautiful
poetry. It is said that one day, with a smile, he pulled a scrap of writ-
ing containing the opening lines of his Mathnawi from the folds of his
41 Religious Dancing
turban. It began by saying that one should listen to the “reed” (probably
meaning a fute of some type), because it tells a tale and sings of separa-
tion. Chelebi is said to have wept for joy and begged him to continue
with his writing. Rumi agreed that if his friend would be his scribe, he
would recite for him. Sometimes the recitations came rapidly for days at
a time, and other times they stopped completely for as long as two years.
As each section was completed, Chelebi would read it back to the poet
so that he could correct any mistakes.
Some say that the Mathnawi is the greatest spiritual masterpiece
ever written by a single human being. It speaks about every aspect of
life on Earth and discusses all human traits and character, as well as
nature, history, and geography. It also addresses everyday life in both
the physical and spiritual sense and is somewhat of a marvel because it
is so complete.
Rumi died in December 1273. Te brotherhood of Whirling Der-
vishes known as the Mevlevi was formally founded by his son. Te
dervishes were very infuential during the Ottoman period, but Ka-
mal Ataturk destroyed their orders early in the twentieth century and
made museums of their monasteries. Many of the dervish orders con-
tinued to practice secretly until 1957, when they were again allowed to
operate openly in order to preserve a historic tradition of Turkey.
Located in Konya, Turkey, the tomb where Rumi, his father, and his
son are all buried is considered a shrine and visited by many pilgrims
who come bearing food, gifs, and money. It is a tourist attraction to oth-
ers and a fascinating part of Turkey’s history. Konya is also the home of
the country’s largest festival. Culminating on December 17, the Mevlana
Festival features performances of the whirling ceremony and celebrates
the anniversary of Rumi’s death, popularly referred to as the night of his
wedding with Allah (the Arabic word for God).
Today, more than seven centuries afer his death, poet and philoso-
pher Rumi is recognized as a literary and spiritual fgure of great impor-
tance by people of many diferent religions throughout the world. Te
order that has sprung from his practice and belief is unusual not only for
its rites, but also for the freedom of thought (and fanaticism) it encour-
ages within the framework of Islamic belief. Tis approach is focused
upon spiritual love that is attained by a combination of music and dance
through which the practitioner expresses devotion and attains ecstasy.
42 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
sufIsM
Most major religions have some members who believe that an emotional
relationship with God is more important than following rules, and within
Islam, those individuals are called Sufs. Teir name comes from the Ara-
bic word for rough, undyed wool (suf), because the early members of the
order wore rough robes like Christian monks. Many of the earliest Sufs
wandered from village to village living on charity; others were hermits.
All of them rejected possessions and wealth as part of their search for a
rich spiritual life and a close, loving relationship with God.
From roughly the twelfh to the nineteenth centuries, new Suf or-
ders continued to be established. Each order still has its own gathering
place, called a tekke, and its own form of devotional and ritual practices
to lead members into direct experience with the Beloved, who is God.
Turkey’s largest festival takes place annually each December in the
town of Konya. The Mevlana Festival features performances of the
whirling ceremony (pictured here) and celebrates the anniversary of
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s death.
43 Religious Dancing
Eventually, some of the Suf orders began to introduce saints and
make shrines of their tombs. Mainstream Muslims felt that this was
counter to the beliefs set forth by the Qur’an, which says that no prophet
will come afer Muhammad. Although it was considered the duty of a
Muslim to marry and have children, some Sufs began to practice celi-
bacy (refraining from any type of sexual activity) and engage in pagan
customs such as glass eating and fre walking. Tere was also strong
disapproval when they introduced music and a whirling dance to seek
communion with God.
Sufsm became widespread and popular in its many forms. Some
recognized it as a legitimate outlet for religious fervor, but others were
deeply concerned that Islam should be preserved and thought that the
teachings of the Sufs deviated too far from the original form. Te or-
thodox element quietly tried to solve the problem by taking control of
the educational system throughout the Islamic world, thus ensuring that
students would not be permitted to study subjects that might lead to
confusion.
Nonetheless, Sufsm played an important part in bringing Islam
from the Middle East to other parts of the world, including India, Af-
rica, and Southeast Asia. For example, it played a signifcant role in es-
tablishing Muslim political power in India to the extent that the Punjab
remains a Muslim area to this day. Sufsm appealed to Hindus and Bud-
dhists who lived in the region because they already associated singing,
dancing, and even whirling with attaining oneness with God. It also of-
fered a new equality for the lower classes, which reduced some politi-
cal tensions that existed there because of the caste system. Tat is why
dervishes can still be found in many countries around the world, even
though they are most closely associated with Turkey.
Te whirling ritual, called semâ, is part of the Zikr ceremony. It
begins with chanted prayers, followed by the beating of a kettledrum
symbolizing the Divine order, afer which a musical improvisation is
played on a reed fute to represent the breath of life. Te dervishes wear
tall, cone-shaped hats made of felt to symbolize tombstones, and their
long, full-skirted white robes represent their shrouds (burial clothes).
Tey wear very full black cloaks over the robes to represent tombs. Tis
costume is meant to show the death of their egos. Te leader of the cer-
emony leads the dervishes around the perimeter of the room, and as
44 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
they pass the main ceremonial position in the room, they bow to each
other to show respect for the soul inside of each person.
Upon completion of three circles, the dervishes drop their black
cloaks to show that they have given up their attachment to the world.
Folding their arms across their chests, the dervishes approach the mas-
ter one at a time, bow, kiss his hand, and begin to spin. Opening their
arms wide, they raise their right arms and palms upward to receive
blessings while their lef palms and arms are held down to transfer that
blessing to the earth. Tey always whirl counterclockwise (right to lef,
toward the heart). Eventually, all the dervishes are whirling at once until
they slow down or stop as a group, kneel or pause slightly, and then rise
to spin again for four repetitions. When they have completed the ritual,
the leader reads a verse from the Qur’an reminding everyone that all
directions belong to God, so wherever one turns, His face is there. Te
semâ is concluded by praying for the peace of the souls of all prophets
and believers.
Te whirling dancers of today are accompanied by poetry from the
Mathnawi of Mevlana, set to traditional secular art music from the Ot-
toman period and sung. Te musicians are usually trained professionals
or composers who are part of the order, but they do not try to enter a
trance state while making music. Traditional instruments used include
the ney (fute), kanun (a plucked zither), kemenja (a lute played with a
bow), tanbur (a plucked lute with frets), oud (fretless plucked lute), and
kudum (pair of small kettledrums).
While authentic semâ still exists, the many imitations that are per-
formed as secular entertainment today should never be confused with
the devotional dancing of the Suf mystics. Performed for tourists in
many Middle Eastern countries, that type of dancing is an impressive
display of balance and agility. For secular performances, the dancers
wear one or more wide, brightly colored, gored skirts with weighted
hemlines. When the dancers whirl, the skirts rise and undulate in a
breathtaking kaleidoscope of movement and color. Tey sometimes
separate the skirts, leaving one to whirl at the waistline while the other
is lifed to spin in the air above the head, and sometimes further lifed to
spin from one hand. Some performers also thrill their audiences further
by including amazing manipulations of several tambourines in their
acts. In Egypt, the secular form of the dance is called raqs tanbur.
45 Religious Dancing
Te music of the dervishes is both beautiful and haunting, and re-
cordings of it are readily available today, but it should be remembered
that the chants are prayers. It would be absolutely inappropriate to use
it for a belly dance performance of any kind. Te music of the Sufs, like
all sacred music, should be treated with respect.
Guedra
One of the most fascinating dances of the Middle East is a joyful kneel-
ing trance dance called the guedra, which is attributed to the Blue People
of the nomadic Tuareg Berber tribes of southwestern Morocco. Tey are
The Blue People of the nomadic Tuareg Berber tribes of North
Africa are known for a number of traditional dances, including the
t’bal and guedra (performed only by a female). Here, a Tuareg man
performs a traditional dance as members of the tribe chant and
clap their hands to the rhythm of the dance.
46 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
known as the Blue People because, as desert dwellers, they are unable to
bathe regularly, and the powdered dye used for their shiny blue robes
stains their skin and makes them appear blue. Te blue tint serves as a
cosmetic, as it is considered to be attractive, but the dye is also a natural
moisturizer and sunscreen. All the Blue People belong to the Tuareg
tribes, but there are other Tuaregs who do not wear these blue robes and
therefore are not Blue People.
One of the most unusual features of the Blue People is the amount
of power held by the females of the tribe. Unlike most Islamic societies,
the women are unveiled, and the men cover their noses and mouths
with the tail ends of their gauzy turbans, because it is believed that djinn
(evil spirits) can invade the body through the mouth and nostrils. Te
women are not required to veil, because it is believed that they are di-
vinely protected as life givers who are able to give birth to children.
a CereMony of BlessInG
Te guedra is a ritual dance that is meant either to deliver blessings and
peace to others, such as friends, married people, or the community, or
for the dancer to submit herself to God. Some even believe that the mys-
tical drum rhythm can attract a mate from far away. A genuine guedra is
usually danced by one woman at night by frelight or inside a tent with a
circle of onlookers around her, but she is occasionally joined by others.
Spectators are also participants as they chant and clap their hands to the
hypnotic rhythm. One of the most unusual features of the dance is that
it is normally performed entirely on the knees. If the dance is performed
standing or even begun in a standing position, it is called t’bal.
Guedra means “pot” in Arabic, and the drum really is made from
a common kitchen pot with goatskin stretched over its top. It is tradi-
tionally the only instrument used in the performance of this dance, and
its beat mimics the heartbeat, the most basic rhythm of life (dah DAH
dum dah DAH, dah DAH dum duh DAH), and gradually and steadily
increases in speed throughout the dance.
Traditional clothing has always afected how people are able to
move, so it has greatly infuenced many ethnic dances. Most serious
dancers make a great efort to emulate the look and feeling of authentic
47 Religious Dancing
garments in their choice of costumes. Many Middle Eastern peoples
have built their national dress around some type of fowing robe, and so
have the Blue People. Te women, like those in a number of other Afri-
can cultures, wear an outer cloth wrapped around the body somewhat
like an Indian sari. Tat cloth is held in place at the neck with elaborate
fasteners and decorated with long chains. Te waistline is belted so that
the hem is just above the top of the foot. Lefover fabric is lef fowing
free but can be pulled up to cover the head if needed for protection from
the weather.
Te women wear elaborate, tall headdresses that are decorated with
ornaments of silver, turquoise, coral, shells, and other items considered
to look attractive. Tey also contain a wire frame that is held in place
by the hair that is wrapped and woven over it. Not only does this look
amazing, but it also keeps the women cooler in the heat and warmer in
the cold. Constructing this remarkable hairdo is so time consuming and
complicated that it is ofen lef in place for a month or longer before be-
ing redone.
Some dancers begin completely covered by a black veil called a haik,
and others are covered by the lefover blue fabric from their outer gar-
ments. Tis is meant to signify the darkness of the unknown.
Te dancer’s hands, decorated with henna, are seen frst as they
emerge shyly from the veil’s sides, and she begins by saluting the four di-
rections (north, south, east, and west) and the elements (earth, air, fre,
and water). She gestures to her own abdomen, heart, and head and then
ficks her fngers toward the spectators to bless them from the depth of
her being. Since the rest of her body is still concealed, the movement
of her hands takes on great importance. It is believed that the essence
of the soul is exuded through a particular fnger, so it is held separately
from the others.
As the momentum of the drumming, clapping, and chanting builds,
her breathing becomes heavier. She might walk or shufe on her knees
while keeping all movement above the waist still, especially in the fn-
gers, hands, and arms. She continues undulating and leaning forward
and into back bends until the haik falls away, and the dancer, eyes closed,
becomes visible.
Movements of the head can be incorporated, and the rib cage can
be lifed and dropped heavily in rhythm with the music for emphasis.
48 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
As the ritual increases in intensity, observers are drawn in so deeply that
they begin to imitate the movements of the dancer, ofen not realizing
that they are doing so.
Some dancers begin the dance with artifcial braids and ornaments
hidden in their hair or headpieces. Midway through the dance, they
loosen them with a quick and subtle movement so that they hang free
and swing to emphasize the swaying movements. Te rhythm fnally
rises to a crescendo, and the audience becomes louder and even more
enthusiastic. Ten, in sudden silence, the dancer collapses to the ground
in a faint, soon to be followed by another.
zar tranCe
Te zar is thought to be a kind of religious dancing that has its roots in
the worship of pre-Islamic African deities, perhaps as a distant variation
of what the West knows as voodoo. Because of its association with older
pagan religions, it is prohibited by Islam. Most leaders and participants
of the zar are women, though in some instances men have been permit-
ted to help with drumming, the ritual slaughter of animals for sacrifce,
or making oferings to the possessing spirit. Details of the ceremony
vary widely from one area to another. Although the zar ceremony can be
held publicly, it is ofen private and even conducted secretly.
Zar is especially prevalent in Upper (southern) Egypt, where the
people have had less outside infuence and are in closer proximity to the
Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, where it is more commonly practiced.
Today, the zar is danced primarily for relaxation and spiritual healing. It
is particularly popular with pregnant women who hope to ensure a safe
birth. Some say that the ceremony is a kind of exorcism, while many
others believe that it is a means of calming and satisfying the possessing
spirit so that the person can live with it.
Te ritual has a leader, or priestess, who could be called hadjia,
sheikha, umiya, or a number of other names denoting respect depend-
ing upon the region. It was once believed that she was possessed by a
spirit herself but was able to help others because she had learned to pac-
ify or control her spirit. Older women have traditionally flled this role
because unmarried younger females have not been considered worthy.
49 Religious Dancing
By singing directly to the inhabiting spirits and seeing which one reacts,
the leader of the ceremony is able to identify the type of the troubling
spirit and also understand how best to manage it.
(continues on page 52)
Zar musicians and healers perform their ritual in Cairo in June
2006. The Zar trans religious ceremony, which uses drumming
and dancing to cure an illness thought to be caused by a demon,
is performed across Egypt, though it is practiced as far south as
Sudan. The ritual is prohibited by Islam as a pagan practice, but it
continues to be part of Egypt’s popular culture.
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 49 2/11/10 3:09:28 PM
50 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
A’AzA: A RituAl
of SuffERiNg
During the time of the most recent war with Iraq, the
Western world was confronted with images of chanting
Shia Muslim men gathered in circles, rhythmically thrust-
ing their arms into the air and then whipping them back
with a loud, drumlike thump as the men slapped them-
selves across their chests in unison. Their faces were of-
ten highly charged with emotion based in religious fervor.
Many of the men were obviously bruised and even bleed-
ing, but though the ritual is violent in appearance, serious
injury is unusual, and first aid is usually available nearby for
all those who participate.
Although it may appear to be some sort of dance, A’aza
is a ritual of suffering practiced solely by the Shia to honor
the Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad,
who was martyred in the seventh century. He was killed
and beheaded in a battle that occurred in the vicinity of
Karbala, Iraq, because he refused to submit to the author-
ity of the caliph Yazid. The presence of his tomb has made
Karbala a holy city and the popular destination of Shia pil-
grims. This ritual is also observed in connection with other
Shia imams (there are 12 of them) and also in remembrance
of the death of Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad.
The annual Shia pilgrimage to Karbala was still allowed
during the time of the Sunni-dominated government of
Saddam Hussein, but the public rituals involving chanting
and flagellation were banned, as all gatherings that could
potentially become large, emotional demonstrations were
suppressed. However, those who wished to keep this tra-
dition alive continued to practice it secretly.
A’aza is not performed alone, but in groups, ranging
in number from just a few men to hundreds in one circle.
51 Religious Dancing
Each group has a leader, and the others follow the pace
and rhythm he sets, until he eventually steps aside and an-
other leader begins. Several circles can chant concurrently,
and each group might have its own lyrics chanted in ei-
ther a local dialect or in classical Arabic. Perhaps the most
common one is “We will not forget.” Most recently, some
groups chanted about the fall of the regime and the hope
of a new Iraq. The synchronization of the movement and
the chanting is considered very important.
The Iraqi style is the most dominant form of the A’aza
and is considered almost classical. However, several other
regions take great pride in their distinctive local styles. In
one style seen in Iraq, participants first strike their hearts
with their right hands, then strike their chests with both
hands, and finally strike their heads. There are a number of
variations on this form, however, and a few are consider-
ably more extreme. Some men beat their own backs with
whips made of chains, cut their heads with long knives,
and, in the act of tatbeer, strike their heads with swords.
There is controversy as to which elements of the prac-
tice are too extreme and about the exact form the chant-
ing should take. Some Persian Gulf countries are more pro-
gressive than others, and periodically change the rhythm
of the chants to create variety and a more musical sound.
A few pioneers have even added music, and though very
moderate sheikhs (holy men) accept that practice, there
are others who object strongly.
Just a few men chanting slowly can begin the A’aza,
but as the fervor builds, others usually join them. There is
an element of friendly competition, and though most of the
youngest participants admit that mature men are stronger
and can make a louder slap or thump, they boast that the
youths have more stamina. A procession often travels very
(continues)
52 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Te zar is usually danced in an area containing an altar. Tis space
is usually separate from the living quarters. A round tray piled with of-
ferings of nuts and dried fruits is placed in the center of the room. Te
leader and her musicians are on one side of the room, and the partici-
pants fll the rest of the space. Everyone is expected to make a fnancial
donation to the leader, and it is known that she will be willing to pro-
vide charity to women in the community when they have need. Animal
sacrifce—ranging from a chicken or pigeon to a sheep or camel—was
long distances in extreme heat and can last for days until it
reaches the tomb of Hussein.
Although women do not participate in A’aza, they of-
ten watch from the side of the road and sometimes gently
hit themselves or just tap their foreheads and cheeks in
rhythm with the men. There are times, especially during
the month of Muharrem, when women gather in a special
house called the Husseineya, where they tell stories of the
martyrs—even stories of Jesus that focus on how Mary
suffered as a mother and a woman because of how her
son was treated. Those rituals of mourning are also highly
emotional and culminate in rhythmic jumping, hitting the
chest, and chanting.
The ritual is especially associated with Ashura, which
occurs on the tenth day of the month of Muharrem on the
Islamic calendar. However, A’aza is not performed solely
to mark religious occasions, but also used to show solidar-
ity among the Shia about situations and events that im-
pact the Islamic world, such as the plight of the Palestinian
people and political upheaval and outside intervention in
places such as Afghanistan, Kashmir, and lately Iraq.
(continued)
(continued from page 49)
53 Religious Dancing
once a standard element of the zar but is no longer included in all cer-
emonies. Providing some kind of food and beverage as a shared meal for
the participants usually concludes the ceremony.
Te woman who is being treated frequently wears some sort of loose
white clothing and decorates her hands with henna and lines her eyes
with kohl, both materials that are believed to be blessed. Tese cosmet-
ics along with perfumes or incense (bokhur in Arabic) are thought to
please the spirits. It is not uncommon for the participants to change
clothes to accommodate diferent spirits, and in some areas, red gar-
ments are preferred.
Te percussion instruments used to provide rhythm could include a
variation of the tambourine (tar) and a drum (tabla). Te basic rhythm
is very simple (DUM da-da DUM da, DUM da-da DUM da, etc.) begin-
ning fairly slowly and gradually and steadily increasing in speed.
Te opening movements can be just tiny, rhythmic jerks, though
they vary widely as each woman responds to the music as she feels it.
What is most commonly associated with the dance, however, is finging
the upper body—or only the head and hair—from side to side. Some-
times both arms are raised but kept relaxed so that they can rise and fall
to follow the sway of the body in increasingly wild abandon until total
collapse occurs.
Te dance is still done in its original context but also as a perfor-
mance that has the appearance of a real ceremony. As people in the West
are becoming more interested in alternative methods of treating depres-
sion and illness, there is more experimentation with this and other types
of “trance” dancing.
54
4
Dabkeh: Dance
of the levant
Nearly all countries have traditional line and/or circle dances in which
many people join hands and dance together all at one time in a uniform
pattern of steps and fgures. Te Middle East is no exception, and one of
its most popular and best-known dances is the dabkeh (DUB kee). It is
a line dance associated particularly with the Levant, an old name for the
region made up of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and coastal Syria.
Considered the national dance of Lebanon, it is also much beloved by
Syrians, Jordanians, and Palestinians; it also is sometimes danced in
Iraq. Tis dance is currently performed by many professional troupes
at festivals and dance exhibitions, and by ordinary people of all ages at
celebrations of all kinds.
Although at frst glance it may appear to be rather monotonous and
repetitious, on closer examination it is somewhat complex. It is excit-
ing and fun for those who participate and is usually accompanied by
much shouting and laughter. Amazingly energetic and tiring, the dance
sometimes begins as a straight march and stamp, but it gradually be-
comes quite intricate and syncopated. Tose who are adept at the dance
slightly rock forward and back with the crossover steps, and rather than
55 Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant
punctuating the knee bends and kicks with a simple stamp, they beat out
a quick rhythm with one foot to punctuate the fgure.
Te person who leads the dance, the ras, is usually the most talented,
experienced dancer in the group. He or she is always at the right end (top)
of the line and determines the pattern of the dance as he or she twirls a
handkerchief or small scarf (over the head in the right hand) in time with
the music. Te ras begins by getting the line of dancers moving along
well, and then he or she may break away from the line and demonstrate
personal skill and style by adding leaps, quick turns, shoulder shimmies,
more intricate footwork, and other embellishments. At this point, the ras
might put hands on the hips, with elbows out. Te ras sometimes moves
up and down the semicircular line and challenges other dancers to join,
match, or attempt to outdo his or her improvisation.
Dabkeh is a popular social dance practiced throughout the Levant,
the region composed of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian
Territories, and coastal areas of Syria. Here, Palestinian children
dance the dabkeh in Gaza City in 2007.
56 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Tis dance can be done by men only, women only, or in mixed for-
mation, all doing the same steps. Te line, especially if it is long, may
break of into smaller formations. Dancers usually join hands, and for
some formations, the hands are clasped at hip level with the arms held
ramrod straight, shoulder to shoulder, giving the dance a very interest-
ing and distinctive appearance as they lean and sway their bodies in
sync while performing uniform footwork.
hIstory and orIGIns
Te earliest form of the dabkeh may have been introduced by the Turks
during the time of the Ottoman Empire when they ruled much of the
Middle East. Certainly, the traditional costume favored by many profes-
sional performers is heavily infuenced by nineteenth-century Turkish
fashion, and Turkey has retained several folk dances that have a very
similar appearance.
Historically, the dabkeh has played a signifcant role in village life,
perhaps because it is a way of bonding a group of people together. Ac-
cording to folk tradition, stamping the feet on the ground also connects
the people to their mother, the earth. Tis dance is currently performed
by many professional troupes at festivals and dance exhibitions, and by
ordinary people of all ages at most weddings, parties, and nightclubs
where it ofen ends a happy evening. Dabkeh music has a distinctive
sound, and as soon as it is heard, only one man or woman needs to start
dancing before others will soon join.
Professional troupes ofen wear costumes that are similar or identi-
cal in design, but in diferent colors, patterns, or types of material to
add visual interest. Others deliberately vary the designs to present the
appearance of village folk. While the style of costume certainly varies
from one place to another, it is based upon the native dress of the inhab-
itants. Each area might have certain features of the costume that would
distinctively identify it as being from that particular place. If the danc-
ing occurs at a wedding or party, as it so ofen does, the dancers could
be wearing anything.
Men ofen wear full Turkish pants (tight at the ankle) with loose
shirts, belted or sashed at the waists, and fat shoes or boots to emphasize
57 Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant
the stamping steps. Women frequently wear peasant-style blouses with
full skirts, sashes at the waist, and hip scarves. Tey sometimes wear
headscarves (tied either behind the head or under the chin) and per-
haps embroidered vests or jackets over the blouses. Alternately, women
can wear belted tunics or overdresses, traditionally trimmed with heavy
gold embroidery, with the aforementioned full Turkish pants sometimes
worn underneath. Pillbox hats are also common, decorated with coins
and veils that can either hang from the back or be draped under the chin
and fastened on the other side.
Tere is a particular kind of music used for performing dabkeh. Te
most famous and popular female singer to come from Lebanon is prob-
ably Feyrouz, and several of her recordings contain good dabkeh music.
“Te Dal’ouna,” “Aa Nadda,” and “Al Houwara” are other Lebanese songs
For the people of the Levant, dabkeh is an integral part of their
culture. Here, a professional troupe performs the dabkeh in the
mountain village of Deir al-Qamar, southeast of Beirut, Lebanon.
58 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
that are synonymous with this dance. Traditional dabkeh music has six
beats to the measure, but most modern pieces are written eight beats to
the measure though they are still danced in six-beat patterns. (Modern
pieces typically have fairly even rhythms, so this is not very difcult to
do.) When there is live music, a person playing the ney (fute) some-
times participates in the dance while playing, and a very skilled drum-
mer (derbeki) might also be able to combine dance while drumming.
Te much larger tableh drum is also frequently used.
Te dabkeh symbolizes the will and strength of the people of the
mountain villages who are accustomed to a tough way of life. It is en-
joyed by everyone, and even those who are from the cities take pride in
its performance. As ofen as they gather, the people of the Levant will
be found dancing everywhere in the world, wherever they make their
homes, in a continuing show of solidarity and love of their heritage.
59
5
Dances of the
Arabian gulf
A fascinating dance ofen seen by visitors to the Gulf is the ayyalah. Te
vision of rows of men uniformly swaying to a steady drumbeat in their
white thobes has caused some to liken their appearance to the white
crests of waves in the sea, which may have indeed been one of the infu-
ences on the development of the dance.
It is generally believed that traders from Upper Egypt (southern
Egypt) and other parts of Africa came to the present-day United Arab
Emirates in ancient times, bringing their music and dance with them.
Over the passage of time, these dances have gradually changed, adapted,
and fnally become a cherished part of local tradition to be passed from
one generation to the next.
Te ayyalah is a battle dance performed with sticks by men ranging
in age from the young to the very old. One person leads the singing,
reciting tales of legendary bravery in battle and stirring strong feelings
of love and patriotism in the dancers. Te rhythm of drums remains
steady and constant throughout, and against that backdrop, the voices
continuously rise and fall, echoing the swaying movement of the rows
of bodies. Even those who are unable to comprehend the language can
60 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
nearly always understand and be moved by the feeling and the mood
created when the ayyalah is performed.
Two long rows of dancers (at least 30 in each row, ofen many more)
move forward and backward, in a mock battle, while each row sings
challenges to the opposite side, bending forward and pointing the stick
down to represent defeat, and bending back and pointing the stick sky-
ward to signify victory. Occasionally, a third row of female dancers is
present and attired in the traditional thobe neshal (described in the next
section); they cheer the warriors by performing the famous raqs nasha’at
(the Hair Dance).
Te ayyalah is most ofen performed by professional dancers today
and is only one in an extensive repertoire of dances from the region.
Particular instruments, or combinations of instruments, are associated
with each dance. Performers of ayyalah are accompanied by a very large
bass drum (al ras) and three smaller drums called takhmirs as well as
small cymbals and a tambourine.
Most of these men began dancing in childhood, learning from tribal
elders or their own fathers. Tose who showed the most talent even-
tually trained with teachers and fnally formed their own professional
groups. Some feel that because there are more distractions for modern
youth, there is less enthusiasm for traditional dancing than in times
past. Ofen with the support and encouragement of the government,
many of today’s professional dancers participate in educational projects
to pass their art along to a new generation.
the woMen’s “haIr” danCe
Te Middle Eastern countries in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf and
the Arabian Peninsula are collectively called the Gulf States and include
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Ye-
men, and Oman. (Some would include Iraq and Iran, although Iranians
are Persians, not Arabs.) In Arabic, this area is called the Khalij (kha
LEEJ), and the music, dance, and clothing from that area are all loosely
referred to as Khaliji (kha LEEJ ee).
Perhaps because of the harshness of desert climates, many Middle
Eastern people are inclined to nap and rest during the afernoon to
61 Dances of the Arabian Gulf
escape temperatures that can be exceedingly high. As a result, they are
even more inclined to entertain and socialize well into the wee hours
of the morning when the weather is more pleasant. Extended family
is extremely important in Gulf countries, and the women share warm,
close relationships—perhaps even more so because many societies there
continue to segregate men and women. Singing, dancing, and telling
stories are ways that women strengthen those relationships and enter-
tain themselves as well as preserve their rich heritage.
One of the notable dances of this area is the gentle, refned women’s
dance that, like other folk dances, is ofen seen at weddings and social
functions that are celebratory in nature. It is known by a number of
diferent names; for example, in Kuwait it is sometimes called samra or
samri; in the United Arab Emirates it is known as raqs nasha’at; and to
outsiders it is usually identifed as Khaliji dance, Saudi dance, or raqs
na’shaar (“dance of the hair”).
The women’s hair dance is a popular form of cultural expression
throughout the Persian Gulf region. Here, women swing their hair
in rhythm to the music being played during a festival in Muscat,
Oman.
62 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Te most famous and universally recognized movement of this
dance is the hair being swung and tossed in time with the music. Al-
though it has become fairly common for modern Arabic women to cut
their hair, long hair has always been a symbol of female beauty in the
Middle East and is still greatly admired. Tose who are most revered
are skilled dancers with hair that reaches at least to the waist, or even to
the knees and below, who are able to send their tresses fying in breath-
taking arcs, fgure eights, and circles in perfect rhythm with the music.
Certainly, the sight of rows of women with long hair performing this
dance in their splendid costumes is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable
spectacle.
One of the most striking features of raqs nasha’at is the garment as-
sociated with it, one that is worn for no other purpose. Te thobe neshal
is a very long, rectangular cafan-type garment that is usually made of
brightly colored silky fabric. From the keyhole-shaped neck opening to
the hem, a wide vertical panel runs all the way down the front of the
dress. Tat panel, along with all the edges (sleeves, neckline, and hem)
are heavily embroidered in gold or silver and ofen embellished with
beads and sequins, a decoration that also adds considerable weight to
the garment.
Because they are quite sheer as well as very long and loose, women
bring their folded neshals with them in hand but do not wear them until
they are going to dance. Te neshals are pulled on over the head and
worn right over the clothes. Te enormous sleeves have huge arm open-
ings both at the shoulder and the wrist, and one or both sleeves can be
draped over the head to form a veil that also creates attractive folds.
Te footwork is fairly simple, as the dancer takes small steps for-
ward on the fat of one foot while staying on the ball of the other foot,
which is locked into place just behind the fat foot that leads forward.
Tis is done frst with one foot leading, then reversed so that the oppo-
site foot leads. It gives a sort of hopping or limping look as the dancers
bob along together in time with the music. Tere are also steps that
deliberately give a very smooth, gliding illusion, especially since the
feet and legs are entirely hidden from view. Some of the motion of
the dance originates from the shoulders and can range from relaxed
accents alternating between the lef and right shoulders to delicate
shimmies.
63 Dances of the Arabian Gulf
Hip movements are very subtle and mirror the shoulder movements
as the dancers move gracefully around the foor; no sort of hip scarf or
belt is ever worn. Te dancer holds much of her garment up with her
hands; otherwise she would trip on it since the back of it trails onto the
foor. Te dancer manipulates the weighted fabric, ofen rhythmically
swinging it from side to side.
Te Khaliji music has a unique sound and is ofen known as Saudi
music in Western countries. Women have their own variation of it. As
most social gatherings in the Gulf States are still segregated, the women
ofen have all-female bands to play at their parties, especially weddings.
While the melodies are typically very simple, the percussion is rich,
layered, and syncopated. Usually, the leader (mutribah) plays the oud
and sings the main melody, and those who sing the chorus play sev-
eral diferent percussion instruments, in varying pitches and rhythms. It
is common for the audience to sing along, clap, shout encouragement,
and, of course, engage in the ever-present ululation, the zaghroota. Te
women who provide music of this type are not generally judged by par-
ticular musical standards or criteria as they might be in Western coun-
tries, but rather by their ability to touch and move their audiences on an
emotional level.
A live band is not always available, of course, so women also enjoy
dancing to the recorded music of many popular Arabic singers. Tough
a number of songs are associated with the women’s dance, the most fa-
mous one is entitled “Aba’ad” and usually called simply “Leila Leila.”
Written by a Kuwaiti composer (Yousif Mehana) and made popular by
prominent Saudi singer Mohammed Abdou, it is almost synonymous
with this dance throughout the Middle East.
al ardhah
Te music and dance of Saudi Arabia fnd their roots in the chants and
melodies of poets and singing swordsmen of the country’s ancient Bed-
ouin past. Each region has its own style of music and dance, but the
men’s sword dance, al Ardhah, is probably the most familiar and is rec-
ognized both nationally and internationally in its association with Saudi
Arabia. Considered the dance of the Najd, or central region of the vast
64 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
desert kingdom, it shares some features with the ayyalah of the United
Arab Emirates in that it uses singers, dancers, and a narrator/poet. Long
ago, it was a war dance, and women participated by holding swords to
encourage the men to show their strength and courage in battle. Today,
it is performed at important ceremonies, but women are no longer nor-
mally present either as spectators or participants.
Men carrying swords stand shoulder to shoulder in two long lines
that face each other, normally toward the north and south. On the east-
ern and western sides, another two facing lines of men hold drums (tu-
bul). At the center of one of the lines of swordsmen, one man holds a
fag. Also positioned near the middle is the poet/narrator who begins
by singing a verse or a short melody (horabah) to prepare the men for
battle, and that verse is echoed by the chorus of men who repeat it. Afer
In Saudi Arabia, the men’s sword dance, or al Ardhah, is one of
the nation’s most recognized dances. Here, Saudi King Abdullah
bin Abdul Aziz (center) holds his sword during the al Ardhah at the
Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture, near Riyadh in 2007.
65 Dances of the Arabian Gulf
several repetitions of the horabah, the drummers begin to beat out the
slow, stately rhythm, and fnally the dance begins, with the lines taking
turns, advancing and retreating. Te fagman accompanies the leader
(usually a prince or other dignitary or guest of honor) forward to the
middle of the square so that his dancing is showcased. Te dance some-
times lasts for hours with each dancer having the opportunity to show
his personal ability but all the while being part of the group.
Prominent members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia have regu-
larly been seen joining the dance at important public events in the king-
dom. In recent years, the current king (who was then Crown Prince
Abdullah) and his brothers, Defense Minister Prince Sultan and Prince
Abdul Majeed, the Governor of Medina, joined their countrymen in
gesturing high with their fashing swords, much to the delight and en-
thusiastic applause of onlookers. Indeed, in 1931, wealthy and promi-
nent Chicago philanthropist Charles R. Crane was the frst American
to ofcially visit the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was
intrigued when the son of King Abdul Aziz (ofen simply called Ibn
Saud) performed in his honor.
66
6
Belly Dancing:
Te Evolution
of the Woman’s
Solo
Te dance most ofen associated with the Middle East is certainly that
which is commonly referred to as the “belly dance,” a name that conjures
up images of dancers dressed in the costumes that most Americans and
Europeans have always imagined to have been worn by the women of
the harem. One of the more popular theories of the origins of that name
is that upon seeing it for the frst time, French soldiers who were sta-
tioned in North Africa—as long ago as the time of Napoleon—labeled it
danse du ventre, meaning “dance of the stomach.” Other sources credit
the French name for the dance to Sol Bloom, and yet others claim it is
a corruption of the Arabic word beledi, which generally refers to folk
dance. In Arabic, it is never called belly dance, but rather Raks Sharq’i,
which translates to “dance of the east.” It is also known as Raks Masri—
Egyptian Dance. Some call it danse orientale, which also means “dance
of the East.”
Belly dancing is probably one of the oldest surviving dances, and
though its purest form may have been lost, it undoubtedly retains some
67 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
of its original elements. An abundance of evidence is found in artwork
and written descriptions of the dance that have survived, much of it
from ancient sources. What is unique about the belly dance is that its
movements are focused in the abdomen, with the legs and arms being
used in a subtle way, primarily to enhance the swaying, rotating, shak-
ing, and undulating movements of the torso and hips.
This romantic rendition of belly dance by Paul Louis Bouchard is
typical of how many Westerners perceived danse orientale in the
1800s. Titled Oriental Dancers (Les Almées), the painting shows a
harem of belly dancers dancing for their sultan.
68 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
anCIent roots
Since religion was once an important part of daily activity, human be-
ings related it to every part of their lives. Virtually all dancing is believed
to have begun as a part of worship. Te pervasiveness of goddess wor-
ship in the ancient Near East is well known. Astarte, Isis, and Aphrodite
are just a few prominent fgures, and they and many other female deities
were ofen represented in the fgures of mothers. It is not surprising that
dances performed in worship of these earthy goddesses would have had
a strong sexual and reproductive content. It should also be remembered
that the role played by men in the creation of life was not fully under-
stood at that time, so the mysterious ability of women to give birth was
thought to be a kind of magic. Because of this, women were treated with
some degree of fear and respect.
With the advent of Judaism, and later Christianity, goddess worship
was suppressed. Women lost much of the status and power they had for-
merly enjoyed as newly patriarchal (male-dominated) societies began to
dictate what activities were appropriate for females in society. Although
it was not absolutely forbidden, dance was not closely connected to wor-
ship in the new religions and began to evolve into a social pastime to be
performed in the home by women who wanted to entertain themselves
and each other.
By the time Islam became a powerful religion in the Middle East,
the few remaining goddess-oriented faiths were abolished, the temples
destroyed, and the freedoms of women restricted more than ever before.
However, the people in the mountain and desert villages ofen quietly
adapted the strict rules of Islam to suit their lives because women were
needed to help with the focks and in the felds. It was impossible for
their societies to function properly if the women were always closed up
in their houses, entirely separate from the men.
Te female abdominal dance eventually died out in many parts of
the world, but lived on in others, and social dancing among women
in the home was tolerated. Public dancing was another matter, and al-
though professionals were hired to entertain for certain types of social
events, the spontaneous improvisations of street performers were done
by Gypsies and other minorities or the lower classes. Te highly pol-
ished and educated entertainers who were maintained by royalty and
69 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
the wealthy in their harems and palaces, however, enjoyed a certain re-
spectability and status.
A unique dance form has evolved from the old. Even in modern
times, female abdominal dancing ranges from self-expression for enjoy-
ment in the home—and only among the women—to a popular form of
professional public entertainment. Te area most closely associated with
this type of dancing is still the Arab-Islamic world of its birth.
Belly danCInG In MIddle
eastern soCIety
Dancing in Middle Eastern society, as in other places in the world, is a
means for expressing human emotion. Tough we now associate par-
ticular costumes with belly dancing, people originally danced in their
everyday clothes. What they tied around their hips to emphasize and
enhance movement were probably functional items made of substantial
material, such as shawls or head coverings. Te original purpose of the
veil was to modestly cover the woman and was certainly never intended
to be removed in a suggestive manner. Scarves and shawls are still fre-
quently tied around the hips in the home or in social gatherings when
people dance.
Tere are many occasions for women to get together to relax and
socialize, and it is there that children learn to imitate the dancing
without conscious efort. Tose who are clever are ofen singled out
to perform for the adults. Tere is no clear division between audi-
ence and performer because they take turns dancing. Tere is admi-
ration for those who show greater skill or grace, and though there is
some technique, each woman has her own style that shows her per-
sonality as well as how she carries herself. Everyone is encouraged to
participate.
It is somewhat unusual for everyone to dance at once, and more
commonly, participants dance as soloists or in pairs. Singing with the
music, drumming (either on a percussion instrument or any object at
hand), clapping, smiling, and uttering encouraging words and sounds
to excite the dancers are a natural part of it all.
70 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Tis activity is by no means only for the young, for in dancing a
woman can celebrate her entire life experience—her maturity adding
beauty to the performance. In fact, many of the most revered profes-
sional dancers in the Middle East today are well past youth and continue
working until the age of 40 or 50, some well into their sixties.
western PerCePtIons of
Belly danCInG
Following the 1893 World’s Fair, the American public was well aware
of belly dancing, but still knew nothing of its history or social context
in the countries where it had long been part of the culture. Audiences
disapproved of, and were at the same time fascinated by, the exotic en-
tertainers from the East. Although there were also many male perform-
ers, it was the women who captured the imaginations of Americans.
As photographers began to document their performances, so diferent
from Western dances of the day, a postcard trade of “forbidden” women
posing in suggestive costumes eventually developed. Tat perpetuated
the Orientalist myth of belly dancers as seductive ladies of the harem
dancing for the sultan, an idea that was later further developed by
Hollywood.
Just afer World War I, the composer Irving Berlin took up the theme
in his “Harem Nights,” incorporating that same old snake-charmer tune
Sol Bloom claimed to have composed when he presented his dancing
girls to the press. Te tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut) was discov-
ered around that time, and it created quite a sensation. Te spangled net
dresses of Egypt created a fashion fad—they were the perfect garments
for fappers to wear to perform “the shimmy,” which was the most popu-
lar dance of the day.
One of the earliest characters to be closely associated with belly
dancing in this country was the consummate femme fatale, Salome, a
Biblical character. Te role of Salome has been danced on the profes-
sional stage with amazing frequency. She has also fascinated writers and
artists since the Middle Ages, but especially for the past 100 years or so.
It was at the height of Salome’s popularity in the Roaring Twenties that
71 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
she and her dance became the ultimate symbol of sin and sex. If Salome
performed a dance, it would undeniably have been Middle Eastern, but
its content will be forever shrouded in mystery with no scholarly evi-
dence to indicate whether it was of the abdominal genre or not.
Some of the most notable women to interpret the role of Salome and
the mythical “dance of the seven veils” include Maud Allan, Gertrude
Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari, or Margareta Gertruida Zelle, was
probably the most famous woman to dance the role of Salome.
Pictured here in Paris in 1905, she was later accused of being a
German spy and was executed.
72 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Hofman, Ruth St. Denis, and Teda Bara. Perhaps the most infamous
of all the women to dance the role was Mata Hari. An exotic dancer
who was accused of being a German spy, she was fnally executed by
the French during World War I. Other twentieth-century stereotypes
sprang from the many theatrical productions of two other shows with
Middle Eastern themes: Kismet and the ballet Scheherazade.
the develoPMent of
CaBaret danCInG
Te style of dancing ofen referred to in this country as cabaret was de-
veloped in the 1920s in Middle Eastern nightclubs, where the perfor-
mances probably began in response to foreign audiences’ demands for
this type of entertainment. Egypt had also established itself as the center
of the entertainment and flm industry in the region, and dancing was
incorporated into the story line of nearly all early Egyptian movies. In
a bizarre and surprising turn of events, the dancers who were featured
in these flms adopted a fantasy-style of dance costuming, most ofen
composed of a heavily beaded and sequined bra and belt (bedleh), with
matching jewelry worn over sheer or semisheer skirts showing a lot of
leg. Although this type of costume is particularly associated with Egypt,
special theatrical costumes did not originate in the Arab world but were
a product of Hollywood. Middle Eastern countries have long restricted
dancers from showing their navels. Jewels in the navel, strips of fabric
running from the center of the bra to the skirt, and body stockings have
all developed in response to that rule.
It was in this same period that the dance began to incorporate more
movement in the upper torso and use the arms in new ways, rather than
focusing solely on the hips as was customary in more traditional Egyp-
tian dance. As the veil was a garment of modesty in the region, for a
dancer to remove the covering publicly would have had serious implica-
tions, all of them negative, in that culture. Even when veils were used
as part of the act in Egypt, they were only a prop, generally briefy ma-
nipulated in a pretty way and then discarded afer being carried in the
dancers’ hands but never worn to cover the body.
73 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
In the 1950s, the Broadway production of Fanny, starring Turk-
ish dancer Nejla Ates and Egyptian pop singer/musician Mohammed
El Bakkar, played to continually packed houses and created the frst
mass market for Arabic music and dance in the United States. Since
then, Middle Eastern music and dance have been found in nightclubs
and restaurants of major cities not only in the United States, but also
worldwide.
Generally considered to have been the frst to introduce Egyptian
belly dance to Egyptian flms and movies was the late, great Tahia Ca-
rioca. She was best known for dancing in the more traditional beledi,
or folk style, with movements that were heavy and earthy. In her later
years, Carioca gained quite a lot of weight, but her public stayed loyal
and loved every inch of her. She danced well into old age, and was much
sought afer for as long as she performed. Even today she is remembered
with admiration and respect, her name synonymous with belly dancing
in many Middle Eastern countries.
Samia Gamal was another young and beautiful dancer who achieved
fame through her flm association (and ofscreen romance) with legend-
ary Egyptian singer and actor Farid al-Atrache. Up to that time, dancers
had traditionally either gone barefoot or worn fat slippers to protect
their feet, but Gamal’s innovation of dancing in high-heeled shoes gave
her an elegant appearance. Although the real reason she wore the shoes
was merely to show that she could aford them, her shoes gave a new and
diferent look to the dance by changing the center of gravity. She even-
tually married a wealthy Texan and came to the United States. Gamal
starred in Valley of the Kings in the 1950s—the frst American flm to
feature authentic Egyptian music and dance.
Carioca and Gamal, along with Badia Masabni and Nagua Fouad,
were the most prominent dancers of their day and were especially high-
profle because they were featured in Egyptian flms. Another of the
brightest and best-loved stars who danced in Egyptian flms was the
beautiful Faten Hamama, who was at one time married to actor Omar
Sharif. Other dancers who achieved a high level of fame were Nagua
Fouad, Farida Fahmi, Hayatem, Aza Sharif, Hind Rostum, Fif Abdo,
and Nelly, as well as Lucy and Dina.
One of the most honored and respected of all the belly dancers has
been Suhair Zaki. Known for her fne technical skill and subtlety, and
74 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
for the precision of her hip work, Zaki was also admired for her ability
to perform a great variety of movement in a very small space. Her in-
nocent and sweet facial expressions made her appear rather reserved
compared with other dancers of her era. Yet her ability to connect with
Egyptian dancer Samia Gamal, pictured here in 1952, first studied
under Tahia Carioca but quickly gained a reputation for being a
talented solo performer. She would go on to star in dozens of
Egyptian films and was later named the National Dancer of Egypt
by King Farouk.
75 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
and interpret her music had a huge emotional impact, which awed her
audiences and lef them breathless with admiration. In a time when
most other popular performers relied heavily upon elaborate, even ris-
qué costuming and staging, she never used choreographers or incor-
porated props of any kind into her shows, but remained the ultimate
natural dancer. Indeed, she was ofen called “Bint el Baled” or “daughter
of the country.” She retired in the early 1990s while still at the height
of her career, but ofcially came out of retirement in 2001 to teach at
the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo. She has appeared at the festival
several times since.
Tough many cultures have infuenced the oriental dance as it is
performed today—and even claim it as their own—its essential charac-
teristics have probably been best retained in Egypt, which is still consid-
ered by most people to be the home of belly dancing.
turkIsh Belly danCInG
Tere are not only diferences in the styles of individual belly dancers,
but particular characteristics that vary from country to country. Many
countries other than Egypt pride themselves on their own traditions of
belly dancing. Generally speaking, though, the other broad style of belly
dancing recognized in most Western countries is Turkish. Exhibiting a
faster and wilder style, most Turkish dancers are very agile and athletic.
Tey frequently close their performance to music with an irregular beat
called karsilama, one of several musical infuences that likely originated
with the Gypsies.
When the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923, the new leader,
Kemal Ataturk, created a more secular society to distance the country
from the infamy of the Ottomans. Dancing in public was just one of the
bold new freedoms that women could enjoy, though there is evidence
that Turkish belly dancing had already been in existence for at least
500 years.
One innovation was that rather than remaining in the performance
space, dancers would move right out into the audience. Some believe
that the highly developed rippling muscular movements of the abdo-
men—sometimes called belly rolls—originated with Turkish dancers
76 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
who have never been required to cover their navels. (Many others, how-
ever, attribute this type of movement to the Ouled Naïl.) Indeed, they
have achieved certain notoriety for their beautiful costumes, ofen ex-
tremely revealing compared to those worn by dancers of other national-
ities. Although dancers from many Middle Eastern countries use fnger
cymbals—called sagat in Arabic, and zilz in Turkish—Turkish perform-
ers are famous for playing them with great skill and dexterity and would
not be considered to be good dancers without that ability.
Emine Adalet Pee and Nergis Mogol were among the frst famous
belly dancers in the newly formed Republic of Turkey, and they were
followed by many others in the 1950s, including Nimet Alp, Mi-
like Cermai, and Saliha Tekneci. At the end of the 1950s, Ayse Nana
shocked Istanbul by adding striptease to her dance. Sema Yildiz and
Inci Birol were famous throughout the Middle East, and many other
dancers starred in movies and had songs written in their honor. Ozel
Turkbas immigrated to the United States, and during the belly dance
fad of the 1970s she produced a series of successful how-to books and
music. Turkish dancer Ates Altiok was the featured dancer at “Te As-
tor” in Washington, D.C., for many years, where she fascinated Ameri-
can audiences and students alike with her magnetic personality, physi-
cal strength, beauty, and stunningly high-energy performances that
typically lasted for a full hour, rather than the more typical 20-minute
shows danced by others.
In the following decade, Nesrin Topkapi and Princess Banu were
two of the most popular dancers. Burcin Orhon, the daughter of one
of Turkey’s most famous and beloved composers, is one of the biggest
stars of contemporary belly dance. A few other currently popular Turk-
ish belly dancers are Didem, Asena, Tanyeli, and Elcin. In recent years,
many upscale restaurants and nightclubs in Turkey have begun to fea-
ture beautifully costumed Oriental dance performances of a very high
standard. It is interesting, however, that many of them dance to Arabic
rather than Turkish music, using props such as canes and candelabras
that were once only seen in Egypt. Many of the foor shows also feature
several types of traditional Turkish folk dances and also include mul-
tilingual singers who delight visitors and provide a wonderfully varied
show for their patrons.
77 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
MIddle eastern danCe In
the unIted states
Afer Middle Eastern dance made its 1893 debut in the United States,
the frst American dancers were a few daring women who imitated the
native performances they had seen at the World’s Fair for vaudeville,
carnivals, stage shows, and the like. Belly dancers found their way into
our very earliest flms, beginning with the Dance of Fatima, which was
shot by Tomas Edison himself. Unfortunately, though, the majority of
those frst American dancers, many of whom had ballet and jazz train-
ing, fell prey to the Orientalist visions of exotic harem beauties. Tey
presented personal interpretations of belly dancing, most of which were
far from authentic. However, it was not only American men but also
Turkish belly dancers are noted for their athleticism, along with a
faster and wilder style. Here, a dancer shows her flexibility while
performing in Istanbul.
78 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
American women who were intrigued by this mysterious dance of the
East that was so unlike Western dancing.
It was not until the late 1960s, though, that the United States experi-
enced a sort of cultural revolution, which included an upsurge in inter-
est in the arts of other cultures. Ethnic restaurants and clubs in large cit-
ies fnally began to showcase the genuine article: belly dancers from the
Middle East who had learned traditionally by watching female friends
and family members. Both as performers and teachers, they inspired a
generation of American women to don hip scarves and fnger cymbals,
which eventually led to something new: the American belly dancer.
Representing a cross-section of all social, racial, and economic
groups, belly dancers could suddenly be found performing at every con-
ceivable venue. Classes were available in most cities and even ofered
as courses in colleges and universities. Tough in many cases they had
little else in common, the women who joined the classes shared a love
of expressing their unique femininity through dance. Many American
belly dancers are completely unaware of the ancient roots of their dance,
and yet many have sensed that what they were experiencing was natural,
mysterious, and profound.
One of the most appealing things about belly dancing was and is
its accessibility. Tis was a dance for all women, even those who had
always, albeit secretly, wanted to dance but not had the body type or
physical ability demanded by traditional Western forms of dance such
as ballet. Not a dance only for the slim, belly dancing also suits heavier
body types, ofen allowing the emphasis to be placed on the movements
of the hips. Many women are delighted to discover that fuller fgures are
frequently considered more feminine and attractive in Middle Eastern
cultures than the very thin body types so ofen preferred in modern
Western cultures.
Donning a costume for class or performance—even on the smallest
of scales—gives the participant something that has become increasingly
limited over recent years because of Western society’s ever more casual
mode of dress: the opportunity to dress up. Wearing exotic clothing
made of rich fabrics while embellished with jewelry and makeup makes
many women feel more feminine and attractive. Tis dance tradition
with its natural acceptance of all kinds of bodies redefnes the meaning
of female beauty.
79 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
Most American women who dance professionally are underpaid,
overworked, and rarely achieve the kind of respect aorded other kinds
of dance professionals. Few of them are able to support themselves by
dancing alone; they oen have other full-time jobs in completely unre-
lated elds. Many of America’s most successful Middle Eastern dancers
are not only extremely intelligent, but also highly educated women who
would never consider giving up their dancing because of their love for
the art. ey continue to inspire, as they were once inspired, both in
performing and teaching as they pass the torch of their art on to a new
generation of dancers.
As religious fundamentalism continues to grow in the lands that
gave birth to this unique form of female dance, however, public perfor-
mance in those countries continues to become increasingly controversial
as certain segments of society adhere to very conservative interpretations
of Islam. ose beliefs demand that women should be veiled and cov-
ered from the view of all men except those who are either their husbands
or other immediate family members (brothers, fathers, and sons). ere
have been unfortunate reports of violence against dancers who have re-
fused to conform to these very strict standards. It is known that many of
the most famous Egyptian dancers were at one point forced to surround
themselves with entourages of bodyguards to ensure their personal safe-
ty, and others have retired because the di culties have become too great.
e number of less famous dancers who used to be paid for performing
at weddings and less prestigious nightclubs has declined, and they are
frequently replaced by non-Muslim dancers from countries such as Rus-
sia, Argentina, the United States, and other Western countries.
Fortunately, while the dance environment in the Middle East has
been repressed, it has continued to develop and improve in quality in
other places. At this time, there are probably more performers, teach-
ers, and students of belly dancing in the United States than anywhere
else in the world, and American dancers have reached the world via
seminars, workshops, instructional and performance videos, and books.
A huge global dance community has formed and is thriving and con-
stantly growing on the Internet. New dancers everywhere value and are
working hard to preserve not only belly dancing, but also a wide range
of traditional ethnic dance forms. At the same time, dances continue to
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80 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
MoRoCCo of NEW YoRk
Morocco is the stage name that was given long ago to Car-
olina Varga Dinicu. In her many years on the dance scene,
she has become a highly respected performer and author-
ity in the field of Middle Eastern and North African dance,
not only in the United States but also internationally, espe-
cially in the Near and Middle East and North Africa.
A member of MENSA (a national organization of indi-
viduals with very high IQs), Morocco began college by age
14. Needing a break from the intensity of her intellectual
pursuits, she took a class in flamenco, and her eventual ex-
cellence at that dance form led her to tour with the Ballet
Espanol Ximenez-Vargas. Shortly after returning from her
10-week tour with Espanol Ximenez-Vargas, she was hired
to dance at a new Arabic club in New York’s Greektown
section. She learned Middle Eastern dances on the fly and
perfected her art through many hours of practice and im-
mersing herself in Arabic culture.
Although she ultimately decided to devote herself to a
career in the dance world, Morocco holds a BA in Modern
Languages and an MA in Political Science. She feels that
her courses in political science helped immensely in her
understanding of the social/political climate of the various
countries in which she conducts her dance research. This
understanding has also helped her become more familiar
with folk forms in an all-encompassing cultural context,
and her acute awareness of the many factors that impact a
country’s dances has led to her concentrate on the authen-
ticity of the dance forms.
She is credited with opening many new doors for Mid-
dle Eastern dancers and for being a leading force in elevat-
ing their status. Thanks largely to her endeavors, Middle
Eastern dance is recognized as a valid, valuable concert
81 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
form worthy of being presented in churches, libraries, mu-
seums, and schools, as well as in other prestigious settings,
including the Lincoln Center, the United Nations General
Morocco (real name: Carolina Varga Dinicu) has been
one of the main proponents of preserving Middle Eastern
dance. Also an accomplished performer, Morocco has won
numerous lifetime achievement awards.
(continues)
82 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Assembly, the Dag Hammarskjold Theater, the Delacorte
Dance Festival, Columbia University, the Statue of Liberty,
the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and the New York City De-
partment of Cultural Affairs, all of which are venues where
she and her troupe have performed. In addition to her many
lecture/performances, Morocco has written for a number of
publications in her eld, and her work has been reprinted in
dance, medical, and feminist publications, even internationally.
Morocco has also enjoyed a hugely successful career as
an instructor and has taught at SUNY Purchase and Amas
Repertory Theater, at workshops throughout the world,
and at her own academy in New York City. She has been
equally successful as a performer, but she has considered
that aspect of her career secondary to her most important
life’s work: the preservation and presentation of dances that
are quickly disappearing from the global artistic landscape.
Her research has largely been based upon firsthand obser-
vation and interviews of indigenous peoples during a period
of more than 50 years. This has given Morocco the oppor-
tunity to carefully record what has been changed, lost, or
modernized and has given her a basis for comparison and
commentary on trends, developments, and influences.
Before the 1964 World’s Fair, Morocco made the ac-
quaintance of the former minister of culture of Morocco
(one of the two men in charge of the Moroccan Pavil-
ion, where she later danced), an important liaison that
also led to an acquaintance with like-minded individu-
als in Egypt. Through these connections and friendships,
she was permitted to visit areas not open to tourists of
any kind, where much of life, until recently, had remained
unchanged for centuries. Her travels have taken her to
many other countries as well, including Tunisia, Algeria,
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan,
(continued)
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 82 2/11/10 3:09:29 PM
83 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kirghi-
zia, Georgia, Armenia, Greece, and the country formerly
known as Yugoslavia. Morocco has also led many highly
successful dance/culture tours to these regions.
There are many skilled and learned dancers in the
United States, but what sets Morocco apart is her ability
to differentiate between what is real and what is not. She
feels there is room for all sorts of creativity and artistry in
dance performance, but that dancers—and their audienc-
es—should know what it is they are seeing. In addition,
she believes that fantasy and romanticized dances should
be identified as what they are and not be presented as au-
thentic ethnic dance.
Showing positive aspects of Middle Eastern cultures is
more important than ever, according to Morocco, because
this can build bridges between peoples. However, misfor-
tune and economic necessity have led to the breakup of
the communal infrastructures that have preserved some
dance traditions. It is well known that there are those who
now seek to suppress or even eliminate dance—and even
those who create them—but Morocco feels that dance and
all other forms of art are of immeasurable value and must
be saved from extinction.
To that end, she has been able to capture a number
of exceptional and breathtaking dances on film, which is
invaluable, because all of the performers in the footage are
either dead or too old to perform anymore. Because of her
work, there exists the only true record of these virtually
forgotten ethnic folk dances. Her research video series
was presented with the Giza Award in 2000, and an inter-
view with her was commissioned by the Dance Division of
the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts in New
York to be placed in its Oral History Archives for future
(continues)
84 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
researchers. She was nominated for the Dance Heritage
Coalition’s list of “America’s Irreplaceable Dance Trea-
sures” as well.
Morocco has acquired a stunning array of accolades
from her peers. She was one of the first dancers to be
inducted into the American Academy of Middle East-
ern Dance (AAMED) Hall of Fame, with the designation
“World Class” for “International proliferation of her art,
her myriad of talent, and for her untiring pioneering in this,
her chosen field of ethnic dance.” She was named 1997 In-
structor of the Year by the International Academy of Mid-
dle Eastern Dance (IAMED) and was also honored as Best
Dancer and Best Instructor two years running by Mideast-
ern Dancer magazine. In addition, her troupe, the Casbah
Dance Experience, was also twice named Best Troupe of
the Year by the same publication. Morocco was also voted
Ethnic Dancer of the Year in 1997 and Instructor of the
Year in 1998, and given the Lifetime Achievement award in
2002 by Zaghareet Magazine. In 2005, the Middle Eastern
Culture and Dance Association (MECDA) awarded her its
Humanitarian Award for her “body of work over a lifetime
in furthering and enriching Near and Mid-Eastern music
and dance.” In 2006, the Isis Foundation gave her a Life-
time Achievement Award in Ethnic Dance from the Near
and Middle East. In 2009, Morocco was appointed grand
marshal of New York’s Dance Parade.
While many serious Middle Eastern dancers still
shudder about the way Sol Bloom initially marketed his
“hootchy-kootchy girls,” Morocco points out that we must
not forget that in spite of how it was presented, there are
likely millions of people who have been made aware of a
music and dance tradition from another area of the world
due in part to Bloom.
(continued)
85 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
evolve as many experiment with using the ancient movements in new
ways. It is to be hoped that dancers from around the world will continue
to give new life and meaning to this precious gif from the past.
Te most familiar costumes are still modeled on earlier Hollywood
styles, which generally involve a bra-type top that is heavily decorated
with glittering sequins and beads. Te midrif is generally lef bare, and
a skirt is worn at the bikini line and held in place by a matching belt,
with a beaded fringe to accentuate the movements of the dancer. Te
costume frequently incorporates a large veil, and the dancer ofen enters
with it draped around her in such a way that her body is fully covered,
but then later removes it as part of the dance. Tis is commonly called
a cabaret costume.
Variations on these costumes are sometimes made with heavier,
more ethnic fabrics and decorated with coins and tassels. Dancers who
opt for this look ofen prefer more primitive music, using acoustic in-
struments instead of electronic, and might dance fat-footed rather than
on the balls of the feet. A dancer who is attempting this look might also
incorporate henna decoration on her hands and feet, apply a temporary
facial tattoo (wishem), and perhaps cover her hair with a scarf or veil to
complete the tribal look.
With enduring charm, today’s dancer mesmerizes her audience with
a unique display of femininity and grace, as did her sisters of yesteryear.
A good performer moves in a manner that appears to be efortless, yet
creating that illusion requires good technique, great muscle control, and
tremendous stamina. It is as demanding as most other forms of dance.
Te typical performance in American nightclubs today is divided
into distinct sections, each lasting roughly three minutes. Te dancer
normally enters to lively music, and her costume is ofen partially or
even fully covered by a veil draped around her body in an attractive way.
Many dancers also wear and play fnger cymbals from the beginning of
the performance, which provides interest at a point during which much
of the beauty of the costume is still hidden.
Te second section is usually performed to slower music. Te veil
is gracefully removed and manipulated in a dreamy way, as the dancer
whirls it around in an amazing variety of movements, ofen while spin-
ning, before it is fnally discarded. Some dancers use this time to engage
(continued from page 79)
86 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
in playful teasing with a member of the audience; for example, choosing
a “victim” and wrapping the veil around his head into a turban, then
dancing in front of him. Other dancers carry their veils on, perhaps
fowing behind them, manipulate them very briefy, just toss them aside,
or simply unceremoniously drop them.
At the end of that section, the music speeds up again and is then
followed by the slowest pace in the entire performance. Some dancers
improvise undulations on their feet at this point, and others drop to the
foor where they might do belly rolls and futters (called “foor work”).
Dancers who use canes, swords, trays of lighted candles, or other props
for balancing as part of their acts usually incorporate those items at this
point in the dance.
Te music again speeds up, and dancers who choose to move out
into the audience to seek tips do so at this time. Tat section is followed
by one of the most interesting features: the drum solo. Live music usu-
ally makes for the most exciting show, because the drummer comes
right out onto the foor and either stands or sits near the dancer. What
follows is an exciting improvised duet in which they work as a team.
Te dancer and the rhythm become one as she follows the beats with
her body, the most energy being concentrated in her hips. It is difcult
to duplicate this energy with taped music, but a very skilled dancer can
come close. Te performance culminates in a short, fast fnale during
which the dancer acknowledges her audience and the musicians, and
exits the performance area.
Tis difers somewhat from the performance of dancers in Egypt.
Because it would look as if they are removing their clothing, Egyptian
dancers do not wear any kind of veils wrapped around their bodies, but
always carry a length of fowing fabric behind themselves for drama
during their entrance. It is usually quickly discarded. (Because the veil is
a garment of modesty worn by Muslim women around the world, this is
a sensitive issue in Egypt.) Egyptian dancers have long been legally pro-
hibited from showing their bare abdomens, and they wear body stock-
ings, usually made of fne mesh or net, or some type of fesh-colored
material to match their costumes.
Teir dances do not usually have transitions from one section to the
next, though the pace and mood of the music sometimes builds in in-
tensity. Many of the most successful dancers have their own orchestras
87 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo
that compose an entire piece of music just for their performance. Within
that piece, there is usually some variation in tempo, allowing a variety
of movements, but the dancer stays on her feet at all times. Almost all
Egyptian dancers fnally exit to change to a theatrical version of an ap-
propriate ethnic dress and return to the stage to incorporate some sort
of folk dance into their performance. Tis might include a cane dance
(raqs assaya), an earthy country dance (raqs Saidi), or an impressive
show in which the dancer amazes the audience by dancing with a heavy
candelabra, candles fully ablaze, balanced on her head (raqs shamadan).
In another popular fnale, the dancer dons a glittering, beautifully em-
broidered cafan and performs the famous woman’s hair dance of the
Gulf States (raqs nasha’at, also known as raqs Khaliji).
Many American dancers are very talented and highly dedicated and
trained. Because of their love and appreciation of this beautiful dance,
they have gone to great lengths to learn about and understand the cul-
ture from which their art form has sprung. Tere are professional Amer-
ican dancers who speak Arabic, play traditional instruments, and hold
degrees in related felds of Middle Eastern studies. A large number have
visited the Middle East through tours that are organized especially for
dancers.
Still, it could be argued that although dancers from Middle East-
ern countries sometimes lack the polish, fnesse, and technique of their
American imitators, they ofen have an inborn ease and acceptance of
their own bodies, which most Western women lack. Having the added
advantage of an innate afnity with and understanding of their own
music, their performances ofen have an added dimension of authen-
ticity and feeling. Tose who understand the dance and have seen na-
tive dancers perform in Turkey, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, and other
countries in the Middle East might also make that observation.
88
7
A Controversial
Dance: Te
Man’s Solo
Te subject of men performing dance solos in public is surprisingly sensi-
tive and has occasionally been the target of harsh and angry criticism by
men from Middle Eastern countries, in particular. Perhaps one reason for
this is that no people want their cultures and traditions to be misrepresent-
ed, especially when they are being presented as authentic. Tere is likely
concern that the undesirable perception of female soloists over their long
history might well cause male soloists to be perceived in the same light.
Middle Eastern men are generally very masculine, strong, and
proud, and perhaps that is why they are so ofended when Western-
ers (masquerading as Middle Eastern men) present themselves in a way
that might be interpreted as efeminate. Yet, there is a considerable body
of evidence that there have been many periods in history when men in
the Middle East did dance professionally, even as soloists.
Men’s CaBaret
In Western countries, male cabaret dancing is very similar to the female
style, borrowing costuming elements such as glitzy fabrics and beaded
89 A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo
or coin belts. Te frst modern male belly dancers were seen in the Unit-
ed States in the late 1960s and 1970s, but their numbers have increased
signifcantly since that time, throughout the world. Male dancers ofen
incorporate some sort of vest with harem pants, a turban, and perhaps a
cape. Tey ofen use fnger cymbals and incorporate balancing swords,
canes, or trays of lit candles on their heads, while dancing in a way that
is very similar to that of the women. Most Western audiences thorough-
ly enjoy this sort of show, and most likely never even give a thought to
its authenticity or historical precedents.
Tere are numerous men in the United States today, some of them
originally from Middle Eastern countries and others not, who dance
beautifully and have been very successful as teachers and performers.
Tis is a trend that is likely to continue.
In many Middle Eastern countries, belly dancing is regarded as a
female endeavor and is often frowned upon when males participate
in the dance. Pictured here performing in Beirut, Lebanon, is
Mousbah Baalbaki, who is one of the few professional male belly
dancers in the Middle East.
90 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
In nightclubs and at parties, weddings, and other social situations
when the type of music that usually initiates belly dancing is played,
it is not at all unusual for Middle Eastern men to dance. Both in their
home countries and when they are visiting or living in Western coun-
tries, they ofen join the featured dancer, or they dance with their own
friends, not only using most of the same movements that women do, but
even tying something around their hips for emphasis. Furthermore, if
several people are dancing in this manner and one of them happens to
be exceptionally good, the others ofen back of to watch, whether the
“expert” is male or female. Tis type of impromptu performance gener-
ally gets a great round of applause from the audience.
However, there is a great diference between dancing in their own
street clothes, whether T-shirts and jeans or galabiyas, and donning a
costume and appearing as the featured performer. Te diference may
also lie in whether it is perceived that the dancing is a bit of a spoof on
how women dance or whether the dancer is really presenting himself as
a woman.
Indeed, the late Ibrahim Farrah danced solo in all sorts of situa-
tions and generally was exceedingly well received and highly esteemed
by many kinds of audiences, male and female, Western and Eastern. He
was a highly respected leader and teacher who did much to promote the
art form on many levels. He performed well past his youth. It is an ap-
parent mystery that many of those who would normally object to men
dancing in this way accepted and appreciated his performances. It may
or may not have been a factor that Farrah actually was of Middle Eastern
descent, and that he was a mature and sophisticated person.
It seems that there is a very fne line between what constitutes an ac-
ceptable and unacceptable performance, a line that is ofen invisible to
Western dancers and their audiences. One point of importance seems to
be that the male dancer should in no way appear feminine. Perhaps where
or in what situation the dance is performed as well as how the dancer is
costumed and how he deports himself has some bearing on how his danc-
ing is perceived. Tis may also be related to the old prejudices about danc-
ers in general; although men may accept a woman dancing in a seductive
manner, on some deep level, they are embarrassed and unhappy if it is
perceived that a man is dancing to entice other men, especially if it has
been presented as representative of Middle Eastern culture.
91 A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo
However, many photographs, postcards, and paintings of male
dancers have survived, and some of those ofer compelling evidence that
young boys, dressed rather convincingly as women, did indeed dance
professionally in many Middle Eastern countries in the past. It should
also be remembered and taken into account that in most of these coun-
tries, at one time or another, women were forbidden to dance in public.
In the cofeehouses of eighteenth-century Istanbul, the Kocheks
were popular performers. Tey kept their hair short and wore caps that
were known to be masculine, but their clothing strongly resembled what
was worn by females of the time. However, they were so popular with
the Turkish military personnel (the Janissaries) that they sometimes
fought over the Kocheks until the Sultan fnally tired of the continual
chaos and banished them.
Certainly, there is no doubt that Egypt also had some male dancers
(khawals) who impersonated women, as evidenced by the writings of
Western travelers who visited the country early in the nineteenth cen-
tury. Tey flled the void that was lef when Muhammed Ali banned the
Ghawazee dancers from Cairo. (Some believe that they may even have
been the same Kocheks who had been banished from Turkey.) Tey
danced in the manner of the Ghawazee, played fnger cymbals, and were
hired to entertain for the same sort of events. Although their costumes
were somewhat feminine, most of their public realized that they were
male and not female. Many of them allowed their hair to grow long and
wore it braided, kept their faces free of hair, and even applied kohl to
their eyes and henna to their hands like women.
Since Middle Eastern dance made its North American debut at the
Chicago World’s Fair, male dancers have performed in this country. Per-
haps because their female counterparts caused so much public excite-
ment, they were overlooked, but there is no question as to their pres-
ence; irrefutable evidence survives in a souvenir book published by the
fair, newspaper accounts of the day, and surviving photographs.
Tere is an additional body of evidence in older movies and videos
from the Middle East that contain footage of men who seem to be belly
dancing, though they admittedly look entirely masculine and usually
dance in their street clothes. Some of the foremost contemporary au-
thorities on Middle Eastern dance have visited the West and have seemed
surprised but not ofended by seeing other men perform cabaret-type
92 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
solos. Male dancers are not only tolerated, but well liked in modern Tur-
key, where Evrim Sultan is an award-winning dancer; he is just one of
several popular performers who have been featured on television.
Many of those who have opportunities to spend time in Middle
Eastern countries or even in the company of people from that part of
the world have had the experience of witnessing the spontaneous, natu-
ral dancing done by almost everyone: men and women, young and old
alike. Most, if not all, of the movements that comprise the genre we have
labeled belly dancing are as natural as breathing.
New York dancer Tarik Sultan has made signifcant contributions
in documenting the history of the male role in Middle Eastern dance.
His article “Oriental Dance, It Isn’t Just for Women Anymore” is a great
source on the history and culture of Middle Eastern dance. Sultan is also
much sought afer as a performer.
While belly dancing is frmly entrenched in Egyptian culture, there
aren’t many acclaimed performers. Perhaps the most famous Egyptian
man to perform as a professional belly dancer is Tito Seif, who enjoys
great popularity when he performs in Egypt’s popular resort town
Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai. He is also much in demand for weddings
and special events in other major cities. Seif performs in the traditional
loose-ftting galabiya, with a scarf tied around his hips so that his move-
ments can be seen. Although he uses the same dance vocabulary as his
female counterparts, his dancing is powerful and clearly masculine. Seif
gives a wonderful representation of the very best of authentic dance and
demonstrates great technical skill as well as a contagious joy. (A 2005
recording of him performing in Giza can be seen on YouTube at http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=6autbeh_tUk.)
Regardless of their ancient origins, and however ofen they are mis-
interpreted, the movements articulated by belly dancers can be a won-
derful expression of joy for all people, from every part of the world, and
for all of time.
93
8
e Evolution
of American
Tribal Style
Bely Dance
During the past 50 years, the San Francisco Bay Area has become the
epicenter of a relatively new, uniquely American incarnation of belly
dance. It is the birthplace of what has been called California tribal, and/
or American tribal style (ATS), belly dance. Unlike the more traditional
Egyptian cabaret style, it is a fusion of ethnic styles, clearly Middle East-
ern in appearance and feeling, but colored by American innovations in
costuming, choices of music, and manners of presentation.
A NEW TYPE OF BELLY DANCE
Jamila Salimpour was the rst to bring this new style of belly dance to
the public’s attention in a signicant way, and it is she who is widely ac-
knowledged to have begun the belly dance revival in the United States.
While serving in Egypt with the Sicilian military, her father had seen
Ghawazee dancers perform. It impressed him deeply, and it was his
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 93 2/11/10 3:09:29 PM
94 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
descriptions of what he saw that frst made her aware of the dance form.
Salimpour was further exposed to Middle Eastern dancing in movies
she watched with her Egyptian landlady, who was another excellent
source of frsthand information. Salimpour began performing herself
in the 1960s and eventually became the owner of the Bagdad Cabaret
on Broadway, where she had the opportunity to observe and question
dancers hired from diferent countries in the Middle East. All these ex-
periences gave her access to a vast amount of information, which she ar-
ticulated and passed on to students in an organized manner, something
no one had ever done before. She is widely credited with being the frst
to actually name the movements and develop a real vocabulary for this
style of dance.
Although Salimpour initially taught the cabaret-style dance typi-
cally seen in Middle Eastern nightclubs, by 1968, she had formed an
entirely new kind of troupe that was well suited to outdoor perfor-
mance at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in northern California. Her
newly formed group, Bal-Anat, followed a format Salimpour had
learned during her teen years as an acrobat with the Ringling Broth-
ers’ Circus. With their performances, Salimpour attempted to create
the look of an Arabian variety show as she imagined it might look at
a festival or a souk. Te entire troupe appeared onstage together, then
engaged in a series of short, sequential performances representing
old-style dancing from many areas of the Middle East; musicians who
played the music were also part of her troupe. Ouled Naïl, tray dances
performed by men, Algerian water glass dances, Tunisian pot dances,
sword dances, mask dances, snake dances, and even magicians were
all part of the show. Tey were presented alongside the more typical
female solo, with all performers wearing costuming appropriate to the
region and dance they were representing. Te troupe was identifed
to their audiences as American tribal in an attempt to make it clear
that these dancers were Americans and that they were modifying their
dancing to suit the expectations of fairgoers. However, they looked
as though they were indeed members of a tribal village and were so
believable that audiences were ofen confused and thought what they
were seeing was true Middle Eastern dance. What they created was so
impressive that their style of performance and dress was soon being
95 The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance
widely imitated throughout the United States, even though most of
their imitators—like those who saw their performances—did not real-
ize that Bal-Anat’s performances were not entirely authentic.
Masha Archer was a former student of Salimpour’s who put her own
stamp on the new style by not distinguishing between the regions and
simply identifying it all as belly dance. She founded the San Francisco
Classic Dance Troupe, which existed for 14 years. Archer was unwilling
to perform in bars and restaurants and undoubtedly raised awareness
that belly dance can be presented as theater and in venues where people
go with an expectation of seeing respectable performance art. She felt
the dance was timeless—that it was so lovely, special, and worthy of
respect that her nonauthentic innovations were forgivable. Archer be-
lieved that because of the mixed or even negative attitudes Middle East-
ern people had toward the dance and the women who perform it, belly
dance deserved to be adopted by the American women who loved and
honored it so much. Her background as a painter and a sculptor per-
haps contributed to her taking inspiration from the traditional dance,
but she was not opposed to altering it in whatever manner felt right to
her. Likewise, her costume choices were far more eclectic than those of
the earlier tribal dancers, although to most Americans, they appeared to
be authentic because of her use of real tribal jewelry and antique pieces.
Her attitude toward music was much the same; rather than confning
her choices to the usual popular and traditional selections, she experi-
mented with using a variety of types of music.
fatChanCeBellydanCe
Carolena Nericcio, director of FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD), is a danc-
er who began her journey with Masha Archer, and it was she who ulti-
mately created a truly modern and standardized style of “tribal” dance.
She originally began teaching so that she could have dance partners af-
ter Archer’s San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe disbanded. To some
extent, Nericcio and her dancers were isolated from the infuences of
others for a time, and that was a factor in allowing them to develop a
very new look.
96 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Nericcio created cues for particular steps or combinations of steps.
Te cues were subtle changes in arm or head positions that could eas-
ily be seen by those who were following her or another dancer desig-
nated as leader. All steps began with gestures to the right, so dancers
angled slightly lef in order to see and follow the lead dancer. Te end
result was a performance that appeared to be carefully choreographed
and rehearsed, but it was in fact improvised. Nericcio has also taught
her students to respect the wisdom and generosity of their teachers and
to respect and take pleasure from dancing with one another. Te ATS
dancers are known for their posture and dignifed and graceful style of
movement.
Although Nericcio and her troupe favored the heavy costuming
used by Jamila Salimpour, there was uniformity among the dancers
FatChanceBellyDance was founded by Carolena Nericcio (seen
here performing in 2008) in the late 1980s in San Francisco,
California.
97 The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance
more akin to Archer’s style. Teir costuming is constantly evolving, but
ATS dancers are widely associated with heavy turbans, decorated with
fowers and antique jewelry; coin bras worn over cholis; and mirrored,
fringed, and tasseled belts worn over layers of very full “fufy” skirts
over pantaloons. Tere is heavy use of authentic ethnic fabrics and an-
tique jewelry, as well as a distinctive style of makeup that includes facial
tattooing modeled afer real tribal markings.
Another innovation Nericcio brought to the new style was body
art. It was perhaps initially coincidence, but primitive body adorn-
ment was becoming fashionable on the West Coast, and Nericcio was
tattooed. By chance in some cases, choice in others, many of those
who joined her were tattooed as well, some of them quite heavily. Be-
cause of this, Nericcio and her dancers became a visible presence at
tattoo shows and conventions in the Bay Area, to the extent that this
also became an important element in the ATS “look.” It was something
that set the troupe apart from what was traditional among those who
performed belly dance in the United States and among indigenous
belly dancers.
Nericcio and FCBD have kept their movements within the standard
belly dance repertoire. Tose steps are detailed on their Tribal Basics
video, and include the following:
Basic Egyptian (Step Touch with a hips swivel forward and ◆
back)
Choo-choo (Sliding Hip Lif—slide foot out on demi-pointe, ◆
hip up, slide other foot to meet, hips to neutral)
Taxeem (Vertical fgure eight with the hips, accent on the up) ◆
Reverse Taxeem (Maia: a vertical fgure eight with the hips, ◆
accent on the down)
Shimmy (3/4 shimmy, alternating hips up, and a triplet count ◆
1-2-3-rest)
Arabic (Camel: full-body undulation leading with the chest— ◆
like a full-body fgure eight)
Te group strongly favors North African and Middle Eastern folk-
loric music. While Nericcio acknowledges the cultural context of the
dance, she believes that American Tribal Style is here to stay, and it
98 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
will continue to evolve to meet the expectations of the audience—as it
always has done.
other trIBal danCe GrouPs
Tere are many highly successful and distinctive teachers and troupes,
and each group brings its own touches and innovations to the dance, but
there are several particularly noteworthy proponents of tribal style of
dance. Hahbi ‘Ru is another Bay Area troupe of Middle Eastern dancers
and musicians with tribal leanings. Codirectors John Compton and Rita
Alderucci were also once students of Jamila Salimpour and also soloists
with her troupe Bal-Anat during the early years. Because they have been
infuenced by the music and dances of many others, they also borrowed
their name from the Bedouin tribes who once wandered the deserts tak-
ing what they wanted from those they encountered in their travels. Tey
have been performing together and adding their own unique favor to
the folkloric style since 1991.
Located in Hawaii, Black Sheep Belly Dance was founded by Kajira
Djoumahna, the author of one of the best sources on ATS, Te Trib-
al Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon Tat Is American Tribal Style Bel-
lydance. Djoumahna is able to perform many traditional dance forms
but has devoted her career to the proliferation of ATS belly dance. She
was drawn to it because of its unlimited possibilities as a modern take
on ancient dance, but even more, for its ability to develop community
among dancers, which builds self-esteem among dancers—not through
competition but through cooperation as they work together to perform
improvisational dancing. Djoumahna studied with Carolena Nericcio
of FCBD and spent eight years as a student and member of her various
performance troupes. Other teachers who infuenced her greatly include
Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, Delilah, Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour, Ter-
riAnne, Deanne Adams, Tempest, Rachel Brice, Laurel Victoria Gray,
Morocco, and Sarala Dandekar. She and her husband, Chuck, are co-
producers of the award-winning Tribal Fest, the frst, and likely still the
largest, fve-day dance event for ATS. Perhaps her most notable achieve-
ment has been authoring the informative Tribal Bible, a book that has
been so successful that all three of its printings have rapidly sold out. It
99 The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance
is currently the most complete and comprehensive documentation of
the tribal movement in print, flled with interviews with major danc-
ers, history of the dance, and details about textiles, jewelry, music, and
movements, all illustrated with more than 300 photographs.
Paulette Rees-Denis, director of the Gypsy Caravan, is widely ac-
knowledged to have brought tribal belly dance to the Pacifc Northwest.
She has been teaching and performing in Portland, Oregon, since 1991,
and in 2000, she opened Caravan Studio—A World of Dance, along with
her husband and fellow group member, Jef Rees. Rees-Denis directs
Tribal Quest NorthWest, a fve-day festival of tribal-inspired music and
dance in Portland, and also publishes a quarterly international journal,
Caravan Trails, with art, interviews, reviews, and more about tribal and
related dance styles. She is also the author of Tribal Vision: A Celebra-
tion of Life through Tribal Belly Dance. Gypsy Caravan—and its ofshoot,
Mizna—is not only composed of dancers, but the group also includes
musicians of diverse backgrounds who perform original compositions,
which are a blend of music from North Africa, Spain, India, and the
Middle and Near East, using a variety of instruments. Tey have several
popular CDs on the market and are much in demand for a variety of
performances.
Yet another manifestation of the tribal movement in the United
States is known as tribal fusion. Tis category includes dancers who
draw from the ATS style but do not necessarily improvise their perfor-
mances and ofen perform as soloists as well as in groups. While the in-
spiration is clearly belly dance, fusion dancers show more individuality
in their costuming and choices of music, and ofen heavily incorporate
infuences from other forms of dance and fashion. Indian, famenco,
and African dance are ofen fused with Middle Eastern in this style.
Another popular and relatively new trend involves the incorporation
of elements of modern, hip-hop, and funk stylings into movement and
costuming. Tose who are following these fashions are ofen labeled
urban tribal dancers.
One of the most recent variations of this particular genre has been
spearheaded by Rachel Brice and her troupe, the Indigo Belly Dance
Company. Using world fusion and industrial music, as well as more tra-
ditional accompaniments, the dramatically costumed dancers utilize ex-
tremely slow, controlled undulations of the torso and arms punctuated
100 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
One of the most innovative tribal fusion style belly dancers is
Rachel Brice of San Francisco. In 2003, she founded the Indigo
Belly Dance Company, which performs throughout the United
States.
101 The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance
by pop and lock movements, while their faces remain relatively sober,
sometimes even deliberately detached and expressionless. Many danc-
ers of this ilk favor industrial and Gothic fashion expressions. Tis is an
edgy style with many new adherents, and it seems to evolve at a more
rapid pace than most other fusion dances. Not surprisingly, it is some-
what controversial among more traditional dancers.
While the tribal belly dance movement is rooted in and driven from
the West Coast, dancers throughout the United States have steadily been
developing other tribal styles and ofen achieve the same sort of look,
but through choreography rather than improvisation. Just as the tribal
movement was born in a West Coast renaissance fair, so has it continued
to grow and evolve in similar venues all the way to the East Coast, where
it is still very ofen found at Society of Creative Anachronism events,
such as the Pennsic Wars. Because this is the newest incarnation of bel-
ly dancing, terminology is constantly developing and can vary greatly
from one area to another; though, it seems clear that this new American
cousin of the ancient dance is becoming an important genre, not only in
the United States, but throughout the world.
Although Suhaila Salimpour does not ft neatly into the tribal cat-
egory, a signifcant number of high-profle tribal dancers have done at
least some of their training with the second-generation belly dancer.
Salimpour is a much sought-afer performer and teacher who has used
talent, vision, and creativity to build a very successful business. She is a
second-generation belly dancer, the daughter of dance pioneer Jamila
Salimpour and Ardeshir Salimpour, a Persian drummer. Suhaila began
her dance training with her mother at the age of 2 and later also studied
other forms of dance, including jazz, tap, and ballet as well as modern
forms such as hip-hop. She was already working as an instructor and
professional performer by the age of 14.
Like her mother before her, Salimpour feels that for this dance form
to continue to grow and thrive, it must have a solid technique, a format,
and a common language. Her intention is to give her students such a
strong dance foundation that those who study with her will be equipped
to take their dancing in many directions. To facilitate this, she has cre-
ated an organized and progressive system for teaching that integrates
Middle Eastern dance with modern forms. She has also founded a highly
acclaimed certifcation program called the Suhaila Salimpour Format.
102 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
She has very successfully used technology to make online dance class-
es available worldwide and has produced many instructional, ftness,
and performance videos. In addition, she directs the Suhaila Salimpour
School of Dance and the Suhaila Dance Company and has created a
new incarnation of her mother’s famous tribal dance company, Bal-
Anat. Producer Miles Copeland has worked with Salimpour in a series
of performances, videos, and flms for the Belly Dance Superstars and
has featured her and her work in his movie Te American Belly Dancer.
Salimpour has toured Canada and Europe as well as the Middle
East, where she was very warmly received; she was also the frst bel-
ly dancer featured by Arab American Television. In addition, she was
artistic director and producer of the dance show Sheherezade, and her
performance in that glittering theatrical production netted her a nomi-
nation for a prestigious Izzy Award (named for modern dancer Isadora
Duncan). Salimpour has appeared on several American television se-
ries, including Fame, Max Headroom, and an ABC pilot entitled Harem.
She was the featured dancer at the prestigious Arabic nightclub Byblos,
in Los Angeles, for six years. Salimpour’s goal is to see Middle Eastern
dance achieve the same respect and loyalty that other dance forms have
achieved and to continue to prepare her students to be dancers for life.
103
9
two Examples
of Middle
Eastern Dance
Movements
Tere are endless variations of the dabkeh that are based on the coun-
try, or region, of origin, or even family. Te steps are sometimes named
accordingly—for example, Al-Baalbakieh for the people of Baalbeck in
eastern Lebanon, or Al-Shmaliah for the people from the north. Te
speed of the dance is determined by the speed of the music. One of the
most basic and simple six-beat fgures would be:
With knees slightly fexed, bodies close together, hands
clasped and arms ramrod straight, and weight on the
right foot, always moving to the right;
Lef foot crosses in front of right foot;
Right foot steps right, slightly behind the lef foot that
has just crossed in front of it;
Lef foot crosses in front of right foot;
104 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Right foot steps right, slightly behind the lef foot that
has just crossed in front of it;
Low kick with lef foot while sort of hopping onto right
foot to bear weight;
Stamp (or stamps) with lef foot (but then quickly take
weight of lef foot and put it back onto the right foot
as sequence will repeat and lef foot will again cross in
front of right);
Repeat.
Tis might also be written as
step(l), step(r),
step(l), step(r),
kick(l)/hop(r) at the same time,
stomp(l) quick-step(r)
repeat
Belly danCe
Oriental (belly) dance has a general vocabulary of movements that are
used by most dancers. Although there are currently several teachers and
schools that are making real progress toward standardizing the dance
vocabulary and making it more uniform, the names of these movements
are not yet entirely regulated and can vary from one place to another, es-
pecially depending upon where and from which teacher they have been
learned. Every part of the body can be used, though the legs and feet
are used to help create the illusion of fuidity and are rarely the focus
of attention as is usual in other forms of dance. Dancing on the fat of
the foot is usually considered folkloric, while classical danse orientale
is normally performed on the balls of the feet. Te many movements
that are combined to make up this fascinating dance are best learned by
watching good performers and taking lessons. Some have been able to
105 Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements
learn from watching videos. Tere are now some excellent courses avail-
able online as well, though in studying in this fashion, students lose the
opportunity of having the teacher actually observe what they are doing
and make corrections.
Most movements can be classifed as either isolations or undula-
tions. When one part of the body is moved separately, it is isolated, and
the rest of the body is still so that attention is focused on the moving
part(s). An undulation generally involves several parts of the body mov-
ing in a smooth, wavelike motion. Nearly any part of the body can move
in both isolated and undulated fgures, though this requires a mastery of
muscles that is usually best acquired through a combination of instruc-
tion and practice.
Perhaps the most easily recognized family of movements would be
those that are concentrated in the area of the hips, where the emphasis
is ofen either on upward or downward thrusts. In many circles, when
the hips thrust or pop up, they are ofen, but not always, referred to as
Turkish, and when they focus on downward movement, they are like-
wise commonly labeled Arabic. Hip movements can also twist and circle
and roll, and they can include rapid vibrations called shimmies. Most
common movements alternate between hips, but others emphasize one
hip exclusively.
Undulations are probably most closely associated with the dance,
and they can be performed either side to side or front to back. In one
common movement, the dancer actually creates the look of the rolling
gait of the camel by gently swaying the entire torso front to back, with
the hips lagging slightly behind, while walking, a movement that can
also be executed while turning in a slow circle or simply standing in
place. Some skilled performers are able to combine this with raising and
lowering the rib cage to allow fuid and alternating movement between
the diaphragm and the lower abdomen to create the look of a belly roll,
though a true belly roll requires alternately contracting and releasing the
upper and lower abdominal muscles in a continuous movement that can
roll top to bottom, or vice versa. Figure eights can also be traced, either
horizontally or vertically, in a smooth and pretty way, ofen combined
with both large and small hip circles.
Nearly all movements can be executed while traveling, or mov-
ing around the performance space, or remaining in one spot in a fxed
106 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
A variety of interesting and beautiful movements of the hands and
arms comprise the dance vocabulary of belly dance. Author Penni
AlZayer is pictured here dancing in a typical Saidi costume.
107 Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements
position. Being able to travel around the space can be important, es-
pecially because dancers ofen perform surrounded by their audiences,
rather than just to the front as in a theatrical venue. Many dancers also
incorporate much turning into their performances, and this can range
from slow simple turns to more complicated high-speed whirling, and
some circle the foor with a foot pattern that takes them in one direction
while their bodies are spinning in the opposite direction. Tis is particu-
larly efective if the dancer is carrying a cape or veil, as it can be made to
whirl in an endless variety of confgurations.
Most movements are done standing on the feet, whether still or
traveling, but it is also possible to do both types of movements from
other positions. Some dancers make the transition from the fast seg-
ment of the dance preceding foor work by executing a very fast spin,
and then collapsing onto their backs or by making a whirling descent to
land in a facedown position. When the slower music begins, they move
from the landing position ofen to the knees, dancing all the while until
they fnally gradually rise and return to the standing position. Many
performers choose to incorporate tricks such as belly rolls and futters
while lying on their backs, and others balance swords or trays of lighted
candles on their heads at this point. Floor work is illegal in some Middle
Eastern countries, so performers who are striving for authenticity ofen
eliminate it from their repertoire. Floor work can be performed with
grace and elegance, but it can also look suggestive if not executed care-
fully and tastefully.
Tere are a variety of interesting and beautiful movements of the
hands and arms in the dance vocabulary, and also of the shoulders and
rib cage. In most cases, the arms are kept sof and held out and away
from or above the body. Tey can either frame or draw attention to the
moving area, such as the hips, or become the moving area. Te hands
sometimes move in an extension of that rippling or framing efect, or
they may be occupied with fnger cymbals. Te shoulders can be used,
both for subtle shimmies and shakes, sometimes in rhythm to empha-
size a particular feature in the music. Te rib cage is sometimes force-
fully pushed up or slammed down in movements likely borrowed from
folk forms but used very efectively to accent rhythm.
108 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Facial expression can be very important in establishing the mood
of the dance, and many performers use cosmetics to draw attention to
the eyes and give them the black-rimmed exotic look that has been as-
sociated with the Middle East since Pharaonic times. It is common for
dancers to slide their faces and/or their eyes side to side, sometimes
rhythmically and ofen with exaggerated futtering eyelashes, especially
when using veils in the performance. A dancer can also draw attention
to the most subtle of movements, such as a belly roll or tummy futter, or
even an isolated vibrating hip, by staring at it, even feigning surprise—
an efect that is sometimes used for humor.
A very simple hip movement would involve bumping the hip in one
direction. Keeping the hands sof, raise the lef arm straight up over the
head, and extend the right arm straight out to the right side (horizontal
to the foor) with the palm facing up. Standing on the balls of the feet,
with the weight on the lef foot, and knees relaxed, step to the right with
the right foot, and bump the right hip to the right, as though you are
using your hip to close a drawer. Quickly bring the lef foot over to meet
the right in its new position, and repeat this movement eight times. Tis
can be accentuated by looking to the right or even down at your right
hip, and the right hand can also be rotated at the wrist with each fip.
Tat entire sequence can then be reversed and repeated to the lef.
Another simple movement that could be added would be to lead
with the right foot and turn to the right for three counts and shake the
shoulders on the fourth count, then reverse the sequence and repeat it
to the lef, leading with the lef foot. Te arms should be held out and
away from the body during the turns. Raising both arms above the
head in a relaxed position with sof hands, and with weight on the fat
lef foot, bend the right knee and put the toe of the lef foot right be-
side it. Tis will cause the right hip to be in a raised position. Slam the
right hip down toward the foor, quickly raise it back up, and repeat
another three times. As the strong downward movement is empha-
sized, what is seen will be four right hip drops. Tat move should then
be reversed and repeated four times on the lef hip, then once again on
the right and again on the lef.
A slightly more difcult sequence would be to put both arms up and
hands behind the head, and with weight on the fat lef foot, slightly rock
forward onto the right tiptoe. When shifing the weight from the lef to
109 Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements
right foot, lif the rib cage up and out. Afer that, weight is shifed back
onto the lef foot, and there is a slight rocking movement back as the rib
cage comes down and back to its original position. Te knees and back
should be kept very relaxed, and with practice, this becomes a rolling,
undulating sort of motion. Tis can be combined with slowly turning to
the right with each step onto the right tiptoe until a full circle is made
to eight counts.
Te aforementioned three sequences can be combined into many
combinations of movements that can be slightly altered and rearranged
by changing the position of the arms, the emphasis of the hips, or the
direction of the body to form a very simple dance.
110
ChronoloGy
b.c.
Dancing is an integral part of predominant
goddess worship in the Near East, a trend
that lessened with the advent of Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam.
1500 Miriam, the sister of Moses, dances to celebrate
the destruction of the Egyptians.
a.d.
32 Salome dances before Herod Antipas at her
mother’s request and is rewarded with the head
of John the Baptist.
600 Gypsy tribes likely move from northern India
into the Middle East, where they become
famous as traveling street entertainers. (In
Egypt, they are called Ghawazee.)
1273 Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi dies, and the
brotherhood of Whirling Dervishes is formally
founded by his son.
1650 Wealthy travelers to the Middle East make
written records describing Egyptian dancers.
1720 Male dancers (Kocheks) entertain in
cofeehouses in Istanbul.
111 Chronology
1798 Napoleon leads expedition to Egypt, and
soldiers and historians encounter the Ghawazee,
afer which 400 of them are executed and others
confned and controlled by the French army.
1800 Male dancers (khawals) are seen in Egypt by
Western travelers.
1881 A dancer who calls herself Fatima plays the
Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona.
1888 Rimsky-Korsakov composes his most famous
work, an orchestral suite called Sheherazade,
based upon the legendary collection of Middle
Eastern fairy tales called A Tousand and One
Arabian Nights.
1889 Sol Bloom frst sees Middle Eastern dancers at
the Paris Exposition Universelle.
1893 Te Chicago World’s Fair/Columbian
Exposition, where the American public frst
sees authentic Middle Eastern dancers, is
held. Attractive French dancers perform at the
Persian Palace wearing skimpy costumes and
draw huge crowds to see a fantasy version of
Oriental dance.
1894 A performer called Madame Ruth is featured in
a kinetograph entitled Dance du Ventre.
1897 An authentic-looking performance entitled
Fatima’s Dance is flmed at Coney Island, New
York.
1903 Maud Allan makes her acting and dancing
debut in Vision of Salome.
1906 A dancer who calls herself “Little Egypt” is
associated with a scandalous performance at
the Awful Seeley Dinner that ends in a police
investigation and is later parodied by Oscar
Hammerstein on Broadway in a burlesque show
called Silly’s Dinner.
112 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
1907 Gertrude Hofman’s show is stopped because of
her “indecent” dancing in the role of Salome.
1910 Ted Shawn, husband of legendary dancer Ruth St.
Denis, frst sees the dancers of the Ouled Naïl.
1911 Te Middle Eastern play Kismet is written by
Edward Knoblock.
1915 Teda Bara fabricates a Middle Eastern
background and image and eventually stars in
silent flms such as Salome and Cleopatra.
1922 Te tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut) is
discovered by archaeologists, and a new wave of
interest in all things Middle Eastern begins.
1925 Kemal Ataturk abolishes the dervish orders
and turns their monasteries into museums
as part of his plan to modernize Turkey and
distance it from the Ottoman Empire. Due
to his reforms, women are now permitted to
dance in public.
1931 Chicago philanthropist Charles Crane ofcially
visits the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia, where the son of the frst ruler, King
Abdul Aziz, performs the al Ardhah in his
honor.
1936 Little Egypt is presented as a lewd character in
the motion picture Te Great Ziegfeld.
1948 Congressman Sol Bloom denies that there was
ever a dancer called Little Egypt at the Chicago
World’s Fair.
1953 Te play Kismet is adapted and opens as a
hugely popular Broadway musical featuring
Whirling Dervishes and belly dancers.
1954 Samia Gamal stars in Valley of the Kings, the
frst American flm to feature authentic Middle
Eastern music and dance.
113 Chronology
Te dervish orders are again permitted to
practice openly in order to preserve a historic
tradition of Turkey.
Fanny opens at the Majestic Teatre on
Broadway and features Turkish belly dancer
Necla Ates and Egyptian musician Mohammed
El Bakkar.
1958 Ayse Nana shocks Istanbul by adding striptease
to her dance.
1960 Te cultural revolution begins and awakens a
revival of interest in all things ethnic, including
Middle Eastern dance and music.
1968 Jamila Salimpour creates Bal-Anat and brings
the American version of tribal style costuming
and dance to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in
northern California.
1970 Turkish dancer Ozel Turkbas immigrates to the
United States and produces how-to books and
music in response to the belly dance fad.
1975 Ibrahim Farrah publishes the frst issue of
the highly respected Middle Eastern dance
magazine Arabesque.
An international dance community begins
to grow and continues to fourish via many
excellent publications, ongoing workshops,
seminars and organizations for dancers, and
most recently, the Internet.
1987 Carolena Nericcio forms FatChanceBellyDance
(FCBD) and American tribal style, which blends
the costuming and stage formats of her teachers,
Masha Archer and Jamila Salimpour. Te
American tribal revolution begins in earnest.
1996 Suhaila Salimpour continues the work of
her mother, Jamila; she forms a school of
114 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
belly dance and implements the frst formal
certifcation program in Middle Eastern dance.
1999 Kajira Djoumahna publishes Te Tribal Bible:
Exploring the Phenomenon Tat Is American
Tribal Style Bellydance. A defnitive history of
the dance in the United States, the frst edition
includes more than 300 photographs and
quickly sells out.
2002 Miles Copeland forms the Bellydance
Superstars, a professional American belly dance
troupe that has toured North America, Europe,
and Asia, bringing a distinctly American take
on belly dance in many incarnations to the
mainstream throughout the world.
2003 Te Ministry of Manpower and Immigration
bans non-Egyptians from obtaining belly
dancing licenses. Tat ban is reversed a year
later with the result that many foreign dancers,
especially Russians, are now working in Egypt.
Te second edition of Te Tribal Bible: Exploring
the Phenomenon Tat Is American Tribal Style
Bellydance quickly sells out and is now out of
print. Very expensive copies of the book can
occasionally be purchased used.
Indigo Belly Dance Company is founded by
Rachel Brice.
2006 Isis Foundation presents Morocco with its
Lifetime Achievement Award in Ethnic
Dance from the Near and Middle East, one of
several lifetime achievement awards earned by
Morocco.
2007 Brice’s dance troupe, Indigo Belly Dance
Company, is featured in its frst full-length
touring show, Le Serpent Rouge, which is
presented by producer Miles Copeland.
115
Glossary
al ardhah Men’s battle dance of Saudi Arabia
al ras A very large bass drum
american tribal style (ats) A style of belly dancing that includes
a fusion of ethnic styles (not just Egyptian cabaret style); it is clearly Middle
Eastern in origin, but there are American infuences in costumes, music
choice, and presentation style. It is performed by Carolena Nericcio and
FatChanceBellyDance.
awalem Learned woman (singular almeh)
ayyalah Men’s battle dance from the Arabian Gulf countries
bisht Outer garment worn on formal occasions by men in the Gulf
countries
bokhur Incense or perfume made from aromatic gums
dabkeh Famous line dance of the Levant
daff or duff Flat, round hand drum
danse du ventre Literally “dance of the stomach” in French
darbuka Goblet-shaped hand drum
dishdasha Long, fowing cafan-like garment of the United Arab
Emirates
djinn Middle Eastern fairies (singular djini, or “genie” in English)
galabiya Loose, foor-length robe worn in Egypt
Ghawazee Egyptian dancers of Gypsy origins (singular Ghaziya)
ghutra Cloth used for covering men’s heads in the Gulf countries
guedra A simple kitchen pot, sometimes used as a drum
116 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
haram Forbidden
harem Area where women and children are secluded
henna A paste used for cosmetic/medicinal purposes since ancient
times
horabah A verse or short melody to prepare men for battle
iqal Coils worn to hold male head coverings in place
kanun A plucked stringed instrument that is the predecessor of the harp
and piano
karsilama A 9/8 Turkish rhythm of Gypsy origin
kemenja A bowed fretless lute
khaliji Adjective meaning from the Arabian Gulf (noun Khalij)
khawal A boy who imitates the women’s dance
kohl Oil of antimony used as eyeliner since ancient times
kudum A pair of small kettledrums
kufyah A small, white crocheted cap (also called taghiyah)
levant Area comprised of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria
mizmar Middle Eastern horn with a whiny sound, similar to an oboe
mutribah Leader of female band who usually plays oud and sings
nay or ney Bamboo Arabic fute
oriental From the East, ofen understood as Middle Eastern
orientalists Artists and writers whose work represented fantasies of
Middle Eastern people and cultures
oud Arabic stringed instrument without frets and the predecessor of the
lute
Persian Iranian
raqs Saidi dance of the countryside (southern or Upper Egypt)
raqs al beledi Arabic for “dance of the people” or “of the country”
raqs al khawanem Arabic for “dance of the ladies”
raqs assaya Egyptian stick dance, usually performed by women
raqs nasha’at Women’s dance from the Gulf countries, also called the
hair dance
117 Glossary
raqs sha’abi Folk dance
raqs sharqi Dance of the East or Orient
raqs tanbur Egyptian secular form of the whirling dance
ras Te person who leads the dabkeh
rebaba A bowed, single-stringed instrument with a coconut shell body
sagat Finger cymbals (Arabic)
saidi From Upper (southern) Egypt
saudi From Saudi Arabia
semâ Te whirling dance of the dervishes
shimmy A rapid vibrating up-and-down or side-to-side motion
souk Bazaar or market
tabla A simple drum
taghiyah A small, white crocheted cap (also called kufyah)
tahtib Battle dance of Egyptian men
takhmir Drum used in ayyalah
tanbur A lute with frets
taqsim Musical improvisation, usually either a solo or featuring one
instrument
tar Tambourine
thobe Garment traditionally worn by men in the Gulf countries
thobe neshal Decorative garment worn for performance of raqs
nasha’at
tubul Drum
zar A dance performed in Egypt that involves achieving an ecstatic
trancelike state
zhagareet Ululating sound of joy or approval
zikr Te ceremony performed by the Whirling Dervishes
zilz Finger cymbals (Turkish)
118
BIBlIoGraPhy
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Al-Rawi, Rosina-Fawzia. Grandmother’s Secrets—Te Ancient and Healing
Power of Belly Dancing. New York: Interlink Books, 1999.
Appelbaum, Stanley. Te Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. New York: Dover
Publications Inc., 1980.
Buonaventura, Wendy. Serpent of the Nile—Women and Dance in the Arab
World. New York: Interlink Books, 1998.
Carlton, Donna. Looking for Little Egypt. Bloomington, Ind.: IDD Books,
1994.
Djoumahna, Kajira. Te Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon Tat Is
American Tribal Style Bellydance. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Kajira Djoumahna/
BlackSheep BellyDance, 2003
Friedlander, Shems. Te Whirling Dervishes. Albany, N.Y.: State University
of New York Press, 1992.
Morgan, Lawrence. Flute of Sand—Experiences with the Mysterious Ouled
Naïl. London: Odhams Press Limited, 1956.
Rees-Denis, Paulette. Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life through Tribal Belly
Dance. Portland, Ore.: Cultivator Press, 2008
Sachs, Curt. World History of the Dance. London: Allen & Unwin, 1938.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978.
119
FURTHER
RESOURCES
V¡ovoox»Þux
Authentic Dance
Adam Basma Middle Eastern Dance Co.: Live In Concert
Great example of dabkeh performance
Fi Abdo Concert in al Esmailia
Performance by a very famous Egyptian belly dancer
Hahbi ‘Ru Live!
Folkloric-style belly dancing and line dances
Iraqi Variety Folk Dances
A large folkloric troupe performing Iraqi dances
Mezdeke Show and Super Oriental
Turkish belly dance performances
Rare Glimpses by Ibrahim Farrah, prod. by Andrea Breeman, 56 minutes,
1994.
Includes very early (1897) footage of a dancer, a real Guedra, the Leba-
nese dancer Nadia Gamal
Authentic Dance Performance in an American Movie
Valley of the Kings
A 1954 movie starring Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker, includes a
brief dance performance by Samia Gamal with real Egyptian music and
dancers
Instructional Videos
Amaya’s Gypsy Fire!
e connections among Gypsy, Arabic, and Flamenco dances
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 119 2/11/10 3:09:30 PM
120 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
American Tribal Style Belly Dance, Volume 1
Instructional video taught by Kajira Djoumahn
Balancing Act
Sword and candle dancing taught by Mezdulene
Bellydance Live, Part 3—Folkloric Dance
Instructional video taught by Keti Sharif
Bellydance! Magical Motion
Instructional video taught by Atéa
Egyptian Drum Solo Choreography, Volume 1
Advanced level—Jamilla Al-Wahid
Floor Work Made Simple
Instructional video taught by Mahisha
How to Play Finger Cymbals with Mesmera
Instructional video taught by Mesmera
Morocco & the Casbah Dance Experience: Riverside Dance Festival, Morocco’s
#1 Video and Folk Dances of Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan, Morocco’s #6
Video e Dancer’s Toolkit
Instructional video taught by Bàraka
Tribal Basics Volume 1: Dance Fundamentals (Revised)
Instructional video taught by Carolena Nericcio
Veil and Arm Dancing by Amaya
Instructional video taught by Amaya
Middle Eastern Instruments and Rhythms
Bellydance Live, Part 1—Introduction to Music & Rhythms
Instructional video taught by Keti Sharif
W S
e Art of Middle Eastern Dance by Shira
http://www.shira.net/
is Web site includes information on frequently asked questions,
books and videos, reviews, an introduction to belly dancing, and
links to teachers and performers throughout the world.
Authentic Dance on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 120 2/11/10 3:09:30 PM
121 Further Resources
Tis site includes vintage footage of many of the major dance stars
mentioned in this book—as well as performances of countless other
wonderful dancers.
Aziza Sa’id’s Mid-Eastern Belly Dance Site
http://www.ZillTech.com
Tis Web site that includes information for beginners, online dance
lessons, books and videos, and links.
Belly Dance Directory
http://www.bhuz.com
Tis is the largest online belly dance community, with forums, events,
news, and blogs.
Discover Belly Dance
http://www.discoverbellydance.com
Tis Web site includes costumes, videos, belly dance classes, and in-
structor information.
Te International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance
http://www.bellydance.org
IAMED is an international association of belly dancers, belly dance
instructors, choreographers, and musicians dedicated to promoting
belly dancing. Te site includes DVDs for sale, photographs, events,
and links.
Ofcial site of dancer, choreographer, and instructor Suhaila Salimpour
http://www.suhailainternational.com/
Tis site features online classes, certifcation information, a newslet-
ter, and workshops.
Yasmina’s Joy of Bellydancing
http://www.joyofellydancing.com
Here is a comprehensive Web site that includes information on the
history of belly dancing, costumes, books, videos, links, directory,
and reviews.
122
PICTURE
CREDITS
P
17: © Getty Images
20: © Erich Lessing/
Art Resource, NY
24: © Time & Life Pictures/
Getty Images
26: © Infobase Publishing
29: © Getty Images
33: © Picture Contact/Alamy
35: © Sylvain Grandadam
39: © Upperhall Ltd/Robert
Harding
42: INSADCO Photography/
Alamy
45: © Win Initiative
49: © AFP/Getty Images
55: © AFP/Getty Images
57: © AFP/Getty Images
61: © National Geographic/
Getty Images
64: © AFP/Getty Images
67: © Erich Lessing/
Art Resource, NY
71: © Adoc-photos/
Art Resource, NY
74: © Time & Life Pictures/
Getty Images
77: © David Sutherland/Corbis
81: Kathy Chueng of Liverpool,
England
89: © Jamal Saidi/Reuters/
Corbis
96: © Michelle Hoover
100: © Jupiterimages/Brand X/
Corbis
106: By permission of Penni
AlZayer
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 122 2/11/10 3:09:31 PM
123
A
“Aa Nadda”, 57
A’aza, 50–52
“Aba’ad”, 63
Abdo, Fi, 73
Abdou, Mohammed, 63
Abdullah (Crown Prince of
Saudi Arabia), 65
ablutions, 39
accessibility, 78
Adams, Deanne, 98
African dance, 99
Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival,
75
al Ardhah, 63–65
“Al Houwara”, 57
Al-Baalbakieh, 103
Alderucci, Rita, 98
Allan, Maud, 71
Alp, Nimet, 76
Al-Shmaliah, 103
altars, 52
Altiok, Ates, 76
Amas Repertory eater,
82
American Academy of
Middle Eastern Dance,
84
e American Belly Dancer,
102
American tribal style
(ATS) belly dancing,
93–102
animal sacrices, 52
ankles, 23
Aphrodite, 68
Arab American Television,
102
Arabic hip thrusts, 105
Arabic step, 97
Archer, Masha, 95
al Ardhah, 63–65
arm gestures, 107
Asena, 76
Ashura, 52
Astarte, 68
“e Astor”, 76
Ataturk, Kemal, 41, 75
Ates, Nejla, 73
Atrache, Farid al-, 73
ATS belly dancing. See
American tribal style
(ATS) belly dancing
“Awful Seeley Dinner”
scandal, 21–22
ayyalah, 59–60, 64
Azziz, Abdul, 65
B
bachelor party scandal, 22
Bagdad Cabaret, 94–95
Bahauddin, 40
Bahrain, 60
Bakkar, Mohammed El, 73
Bal-Anat, 94–95, 98, 102
Balanchine, George, 10
ballet, 80
Banat Mazin, 34
bangles, 37
Banu, Princess, 76
Bara, eda, 72
Basic Egyptian step, 97
battle dances, 35–36, 59–60
bedleh, 72
beledi, 66, 73
Beledi rhythm, 34
Belly Dance Superstars,
102
belly dancing
development of cabaret
dancing and, 72–75
FatChanceBellyDance,
95–98
Ghawazee dancers and,
31–34, 91, 93
by men, 88–92
in Middle Eastern
society, 69–70
movements of,
104–109
Ouled Naïl dancers and,
28–31, 76
overview of, 66–67
roots of, 68–69
tribal style, 93–102
Turkish, 75–77
in United States, 77–87,
93–102
western perceptions of,
70–72
belly rolls, 75, 105, 107
Beloved, 42
Berlin, Irving, 70
Bint el Baled, 75
Birdcage eater, 21
Birol, Inci, 76
Black Sheep Belly Dance,
98
INDEX
WD MidEast - dummy.indd 123 2/11/10 3:09:31 PM
124 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
Bloom, Solomon
Chicago World’s Fair
and, 15–16, 18, 19
importance of, 84
Little Egypt and, 23
music and, 70
naming of belly dancing
and, 66
Blue People, 45–46, 47
body art, 97
bokhur, 53
Bou Saada, 31
Brice, Rachel, 98, 99–101
Buddhism, 43
Burhaneddin, Seyyid, 40
Byblos, 102
C
cabaret costume, 85
cabaret dancing, 72–75,
88–92
Cairo Street, 18–20, 23
California tribal belly
dancing, 93–102
camel gait, 105
cameras, 23
candelabras, 76, 86, 87
cane dance, 87
canes, 76
capes, 107
Caravan Studio- A World
of Dance, 99
Caravan Trails, 99
Carioca, Tahia, 73
carnivals, 21, 77
Casbah Dance Experience,
84
celibacy, 43
Cermai, Milike, 76
Chapman, George S., 22
charity, 52
Chelebi, Husameddin,
40–41
Chicago World’s Fair, 16
chocolate, 16–17
cholis, 97
Choo-choo step, 97
Christianity, 38, 68
circle dances, 54–58
circuses, 21
classes, 78
classic danse orientale,
104
Columbian Exposition, 16
Compton, John, 98
Cooer-Hewitt Museum, 82
corsets, 23
cosmetics, 30, 33–34, 36,
97, 108
costumes, 78, 85, 90,
96–97, 101
Cradle of Civilization, 25
Crane, Charles R., 65
cymbals, 34, 60, 76, 78
D
dabkeh, 54–58, 103–104
Dag Hammarskjold
Teater, 82
“Te Dal’ouna”, 57
Dance du Ventre, 21
Dance Heritage Coalition,
84
Dance of Fatima, 77
Dandekar, Chuck, 98
Dandekar, Sarala, 98–99
danse du ventre, 19, 21, 66.
See also Belly dancing
danse orientale, 66, 104.
See also Belly dancing
Delacorte Dance Festival,
82
Delacroix, Eugène, 19
Delilah, 98
derbeki, 58
Didem, 76
Dina, 73
Dinicu, Carolina Varga,
80–84
Divan-i Kabir, 40
djinn, 46
Djoumahna, Kajira, 98
drum solos, 86
drums. See also
Kettledrums
al Ardhah and, 64–65
ayyalah and, 60
dabkeh and, 58
trance dances and, 53
Whirling Dervishes
and, 43, 46
E
ecstasy, 41
Edison, Tomas, 23, 77
Egypt
ayyalah and, 59
development of cabaret
dancing and, 72–75
Ghawazee dancers and,
31–34
male belly dancers and,
91
raqs tanbur and, 44
Saidi dances and, 35–37
Egyptian Dance, 66. See
also Belly dancing
Elcin, 76
emotion, dance as
expression of, 69
Espanol Ximenez-Vargas,
80
Ethiopia, 48
Te Event of the Year,
11–13
eyelash futtering, 108
F
facial expressions, 101, 108
Fahmi, Farida, 73
Fame, 102
fanaticism, 41
Fanny, 73
Farrah, Ibrahim, 90
FatChanceBellyDance
(FCBD), 95–98
Fatima, 21, 50
Fatima’s Dance, 21
feet, 73
Ferris wheels, 23
Feyrouz, 57
fgure eights, 105
flm, 83
fre walking, 43
fagellation, 50
fagmen, 64–65
famenco, 99
Flaubert, Gustave, 19
125 Index
foor work, 86, 107
folk music, 34, 97
folkloric dance, 104
Fouad, Nagua, 73
fundamentalism, 31, 34, 79
funk, 99
G
galabiya, 36, 90, 92
Gamal, Samia, 73
Gérôme, Jean-Léon, 19
Ghawazee dancers, 31–34,
91, 93
Giza Award, 83
glass eating, 43
goddess worship, 68
Gothic fashion, 101
“Grand Tour” of Europe,
32
Gray, Laurel Victoria, 98
Te Great Ziegfeld, 22
guedra, 45–48
Gulf dances, 59–65
Gypsies, 68
Gypsy Caravan, 99
Gypsy dancers of Egypt,
31–34
H
hadjia, 48
Hahbi ‘Ru, 98
haik, 47
Hair Dance (raqs nasha’at),
60, 61–63, 87
hairstyles, 47, 48
Hamama, Faten, 73
Hammerstein, Oscar, 22
hand gestures, 47, 107
Harem, 102
“Harem Nights”, 70
harems, 70, 77
Hari, Mata, 72
Harrison, Benjamin, 16
Hawaii, 98
Hayatem, 73
headdresses, 47, 48
henna, 34, 47, 53, 85
Hershey, Milton S., 16–17
Hinduism, 43
hip movements, 105, 108
hip-hop, 99
Hofman, Gertrude, 72
hoochy-koochy dance,
17, 19, 21. See also Belly
dancing
horabah, 64–65
“Al Houwara”, 57
Hugo, Victor, 19
Hussein, Saddam, 50
Husseineya, 52
I
Ibn Saud, 65
imams, 50
incense, 53
India, 43
Indian dance, 99
Indigo Belly Dance
Company, 99–101
International Academy of
Middle Eastern Dance,
84
Iraq, 50–51, 60
Isis, 68
Isis Foundation, 84
Islam, 43, 48, 68. See also
Muslims
Islamic fundamentalism,
31, 34, 79
isolations, 105
Istanbul, 91
Izzy Awards, 102
J
Janissaries, 91
jewelry, 30
Judaism, 68
K
kanun, 44
Karbala, Iraq, 50
karsilama, 75
kemenja, 44
kettledrums, 43, 44
Khaliji, 60–61
Khaliji dance, 61–63
Khaliju music, 63
khawals, 91
kinetoscope, 23
Kismet, 72
knees, 45, 46, 47
knives, 51
Kocheks, 91
kohl, 33, 36
Konya, Turkey, 41
kudum, 44
Kuwait, 60, 61
L
Lebanon, 54, 57, 103
“Leila Leila”, 63
Levant people, 54
Lincoln Center, 81, 83
line dances, 54–58
Little Egypt, 21–25
Lucy, 73
Luxor Temple, 18
M
Mahzar, Farida, 22–23
Majeed, Abdul, 65
makeup, 30, 33–34, 36,
97, 108
martyrs, 52
Masabni, Badia, 73
Mata Hari, 72
Mathnawi, 40–41, 44
Max Headroom, 102
Mazin family, 34
Mehana, Yousif, 63
men’s solos, 88–92
MENSA, 80
Mevlana Festival, 41
Mevlevi brotherhood of
Whirling Dervishes, 41
Michael (student), 11–13
Middle East, overview of,
25–27
Middle Eastern Culture
and Dance Association,
84
Mideastern Dancer
magazine, 84
Midway Plaisance, 16–18,
22
mizmar, 34
Mizna, 99
126 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE
modern dance, 99
Mogol, Nergis, 76
Moreau, Gustave, 19
Moroccan Pavilion, 82
Morocco, 45–46, 80–84,
98
motion picture cameras,
23
Mourat, Elizabeth
Artemis, 98
Muhammad, 38–39, 43,
50
Muharrem, 52
Muslims, 38, 43, 50–52.
See also Islam
mustaches, 36
mutribah, 63
N
“Aa Nadda”, 57
Najd, 63–64
Nana, Ayse, 76
Napoleon Bonaparte, 32,
66
National Dance Institute,
11–13
navels, 72, 76
Nelly, 73
Nericcio, Carolena, 95–97,
98
New York City, 82
ney, 44, 58
Northern African dances
Ghawazee dancers and,
31–34, 91, 96
Ouled Naïl dancers and,
28–31
Saidi, 35–37
O
Olympia Teater, 22
Oman, 60
online studies, 105
Oregon, 99
Orhon, Burcin, 76
“Oriental Dance, It
Isn’t Just for Women
Anymore” (Sultan), 92
Orientalists, 19
Ottoman Empire, 56
oud, 44, 63
Ouled Naïl dancers, 28–31,
76
P
pagan customs, 43
Paris Exposition of 1889,
15
Pee, Emine Adalet, 76
Pennisic Wars, 101
Persian Palace of Eros,
20–21
pilgrimages, 50
Portland, Oregon, 99
power, Blue People and, 46
pregnancy, 48
priestesses, 48–49
Putnam, F.W., 18
Q
Qatar, 60
Qur’an, 43, 44
R
ragtime, 17
Raks Masri, 66. See also
Belly dancing
Raks Sharq’i, 66. See also
Belly dancing
Ramadan, 39
raqs assaya, 36, 87
raqs na’shaar, 61–63
raqs nasha’at, 60, 61–63,
87
raqs Saidi, 87
raqs sha’abi, 34
raqs shamadan, 87
raqs sharqi, 34
raqs tanbur, 44
ras, 55
rebaba, 34
reed futes, 43
Rees, Jef, 99
Rees-Denis, Paulette, 99
religious dances
A’aza, 50–52
guedra, 45–48
Sufsm and, 42–45
Whirling Dervishes
and, 38–41
zar, 48–49, 52–53
Renaissance Pleasure Faire,
94
Reverse Taxeem step, 97
Ringling Brothers’ Circus,
94
Rostum, Hind, 73
Rumi, Mevlana Jalaluddin,
38, 39–41
“the runs”, 12–13
S
sacrifces, 52
sagat, 76
Saidi dances, 35–37, 87
saints, 43
Salimpour, Ardeshir, 101
Salimpour, Jamila, 93–95,
98, 101
Salimpour, Suhalia, 98,
101–102
Salome, 70–72
samra (samri), 61–63
San Francisco, California,
93, 98
San Francisco Classic
Dance Troupe, 95
Saudi Arabia, 60, 63–65
Saudi dance, 61–63
Saudi music, 63
SCA. See Society of
Creative Anachronism
(SCA)
scandals, 21–22
Scheherazade, 72, 102
Seif, Tito, 92
semâ, 43–44
Shams, 40
Sharif, Aza, 73
Sharif, Omar, 73
Sharm el Sheikh, 92
Shawn, Ted, 31
sheikha, 48
Shia Muslims, 50–52
Shimmy step, 97
shoes, 73
shoulders, 107
shrines, 43
127 Index
shrouds, 43
Silly’s Dinner, 22
Society of Creative
Anachronism (SCA), 101
Somalia, 48
souls, 47
spins, 107
St. Denis, Ruth, 31, 72
stage names, 21
standing position, 107
sticks, 59–60
striptease, 76
Sudan, 48
sufering, ritual of, 50–52
Sufsm, 38, 42–45
Suhalia Salimpour Dance
Company, 102
Suhalia Salimpour Format,
101–102
Suhalia Salimpour School
of Dance, 102
Sultan, Evrim, 92
Sultan, Tarik, 92
SUNY-Purchase, 82
sword dance, 63–65
swords, 51
T
tabla beledi, 34
table, 53
tableh drums, 58
tahtib, 35–36
takhmirs, 60
tambourines, 53, 60
tanbur, 44
Tanyeli, 76
tar, 53
tatbeer, 51
tattooing, 30, 85, 97
tavols, 36
Taxeem step, 97
t’bal, 46
Tebrizi, Mehmet
Semseddin, 40
tekke, 42
Tekneci, Saliha, 76
television, 102
Tempest, 98
TerriAnne, 98
thobe neshal, 60, 62
thobes, 59
Tombstone, Arizona, 21
Topkapi, Nesrin, 76
trance dances
guedra, 45–48
zar, 52–53
Tribal Basics video, 97
tribal belly dancing,
93–102
Tribal Bible (Dandekar),
98–99
Te Tribal Bible: Exploring
the Phenomenon Tat
Is American Tribal Style
Bellydance (Djoumahna),
98
Tribal Fest, 98
tribal fusion, 99
Tribal Quest NorthWest,
99
Tribal Vision: A Celebration
of Life through Belly
Dance (Rees-Denis), 99
Tuareg Berber tribes,
45–46
turbans, 97
Turkbas, Ozel, 76
Turkish belly dancing,
75–77, 91
Turkish hip thrusts, 105
turning, 107
Tutankhamen (King Tut),
70
Twain, Mark, 23
U
umiya, 48
undulations, 105
United Arab Emirates, 60,
61, 64
United Nations General
Assembly, 81–82
United States, belly
dancing in, 77–87,
93–102
urban tribal dancers, 99
V
Valley of the Kings, 73
vaudeville, 77
veils
American belly dancing
and, 85–86
Blue People and, 46, 47
dabkeh and, 107
development of cabaret
dancing and, 72
Ouled Naïl dancers and,
30, 31
Veled, Sultan, 40
videos, 105
voodoo, 48
W
Wabe, Ashea, 22
whirling, 107
Whirling Dervishes,
38–41, 43–44
wishem, 85
women, role of, 46, 68
Woodward’s Gardens, 15
World’s Fair (Chicago), 16
worship, dancing and, 68
Y
Yazid, 50
Yemen, 60
Yildiz, Sema, 76
Z
Zaghareet Magazine, 84
zaghroota, 63
Zaki, Suhair, 73–75
zar, 48–49, 52–53
Zikr ceremony, 43–44
zilz, 76
zippers, 23
128
aBout the author
and ConsultInG edItor
Author Penni alzayer is an arts educator who has traveled extensively
in the Middle East and Europe and lived in the Arabian Gulf region for 13
years. She is married to a Saudi professor (an artist and actor) and is the
mother of four. When she is not in Riyadh, she resides in McArthur, Ohio,
where she hopes to continue to dance and share the gif of Middle Eastern
dance for many more years.
Consulting editor elizabeth a. hanley is Associate Professor Emerita
of Kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University. She holds a BS in Physi-
cal Education from the University of Maryland and an MS in Physical Edu-
cation from Penn State, where she taught such courses as modern dance,
fgure skating, international folk dance, square and contra dance, and ball-
room dance. She is the founder and former director of the Penn State In-
ternational Dance Ensemble and has served as the coordinator of the dance
workshop at the International Olympic Academy, in Olympia, Greece.

=Wor d of Dance < Wor

Middle Eastern Dance
Second edition

World of Dance
African Dance, Second Edition Asian Dance, Second Edition Ballet, Second Edition European Dance: Ireland, Poland, Spain, and Greece, Second Edition Latin and Caribbean Dance Middle Eastern Dance, Second Edition Modern Dance, Second Edition Popular Dance: From Ballroom to Hip-Hop

Penn State University Foreword by Jacques d’Amboise. Hanley. Associate Professor emerita of Kinesiology. Founder of the national dance institute .=Wor d of Dance < Wor Middle Eastern Dance Second edition Penni AlZayer consulting editor: elizabeth A.

I. Date printed: March 2010 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper. . ISBN 978-1-60413-482-7 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4381-3256-3 (e-book) 1. Penni. Title. Dance—Arab Countries.World of Dance: Middle Eastern Dance. cm. Book printed and bound by Bang Printing. some addresses and links may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. Includes bibliographical references and index. including photocopying. Brainerd. without permission in writing from the publisher. electronic or mechanical. institutions. contact: Chelsea House An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data AlZayer. Brainerd. Minn. Minn. recording. 2.com Text design by Kerry Casey Cover design by Alicia Post Composition by EJB Publishing Services Cover printed by Bang Printing. Middle Eastern dance / Penni AlZayer. Dance—Middle East. Because of the dynamic nature of the Web.A52 2010 793. — 2nd ed. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755. p. You can find Chelsea House on the World Wide Web at http://www.3’1953—dc22 2009041333 Chelsea House books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses. For information. Second Edition Copyright © 2010 by Infobase Publishing All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means.chelseahouse. associations. or by any information storage or retrieval systems. GV1704. or sales promotions. All links and Web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication.

Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology. Hanley.Contents Introduction by Consulting Editor Elizabeth A. Pennsylvania State University 7 Foreword by Jacques D’Amboise. Founder of the National Dance Institute 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America North African Dances Religious Dancing Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant Dances of the Arabian Gulf Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements 15 28 38 54 59 66 88 93 103 .

Chronology Glossary Bibliography Further Resources Picture Credits Index About the Author and Consulting Editor 110 115 118 119 122 123 128 .

This new form of dance rose quickly in popularity and remains so today. not limited to the genres noted above. The richness of cultural traditions observed in the ethnic. It has been an integral part of celebrations and rituals. Modern dance was interested in the 7 . From these quaint beginnings of traditional dance. insight into the customs. to the classical ballet and modern dance genres popular today. Originally passed on from one generation to the next. aerobics. tap. and religious nature of a particular people. The term dance is broad and. or folk. The genre of ethnic. a new genre emerged as a way to appeal to the upper level of society: ballet. The joy derived from participating in dance of any genre and the physical activity required provide the opportunity for the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in today’s world. In the twenty-first century. jazz. dances continue to evolve as our civilization and society change. many ethnic. dress. or folk. it was not readily accepted as an art form. and a basic source of enjoyment and beauty. dance genre offers the participant. or folk. particularly in large cities. Dance is a fundamental element of human behavior and has evolved over the years from primitive movement of the earliest civilizations to traditional ethnic or folk styles. dance continues to be an important part of ethnic communities throughout the United States. When the era of modern dance emerged as a contrast and a challenge to the rigorously structured world of ballet. as well as the spectator. geography. therefore.IntroduC on IntroduCtIon The world of dance is yours to enjoy! Dance has existed from time immemorial. dance includes ballroom. a means of communication with gods and among humans. and a myriad of other movement activities.

No dance form is permanent. present. however. a form of communication. or folk. While belly dance may be one of the region’s best-known exports. mostly with regard to belly dance. The one fact that each reader should remember is that dance has always been. as well as the art forms of ballet and modern dance. She includes in her discussion the dances of North Africa. and religious influences on these dances. in the final section. their dance steps and movements. or ultimate. and always will be. One need only recall that dance needs neither common race nor common language for communication. as well as uninhibited movement—not through the academic tradition of ballet masters. definitive. found its aficionados and is a popular art form today. This is its legacy to the world. The World of Dance series provides a starting point for readers interested in learning about ethnic. from a historical perspective to a practical one.8 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE communication of emotional experiences—through basic movement. examples of Middle Eastern dance movements for the reader to explore on his/her own. Highlighting specific cultures. AlZayer demonstrates that the Middle East has a wide array of other vibrant dances. and potential future of each dance form. but the basic element of dance endures. AlZayer also provides. and remains. giving the reader a comprehensive knowledge of their past. Ballet and modern dance—more recent artistic dance genres—are explored in detail as well. dances of world cultures. Changes occur. a universal means of communication. This series features an overview of the development of these dance genres. as well as the Western “Orientalist” interpretation of Middle Eastern dance and its inaccuracies. Dance is for all people. some with religious significance . *** Author Penni AlZayer delves into the fascinating history of the Middle East. Modern dance. native dances of the area. it has been. AlZayer notes that the Middle East is a region with some of the oldest and richest civilizations of the world and that many of the dances associated with the region have endured for centuries. and their customs and traditions underscores the importance of these fundamental elements for the reader.

g. and music associated with each dance tradition. costumes...Introduction 9 (e. Hanley Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University . she sheds light on the legends and mystery surrounding the region once known as “the Orient. AlZayer takes great care to highlight the purpose.” —Elizabeth A. the dabkeh of the Levant). and in so doing. the dance of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey) and some that are secular (e. Throughout this book.g.

Or a rousing jig or mazurka will have your foot tapping in an accompanying rhythm. . dancing. He forgets how to walk and speak and is on the way into flying into the air. There are melodies that. —Friedrich Nietzsche In a conversation with George Balanchine [one of the twentieth century’s most famous choreographers and the cofounder of the New York City Ballet] discussing the definition of dance. Dance is profound. Every time we shake someone’s hand. for dating and mating. His very gestures express enchantment.” Dance is central to the human being’s expression of emotion. . contacted through music. How many millions of couples through the ages have said.foreword In song and dance. “We met at a 10 . tearfully swaying and holding hands at a wake. lift a glass in a toast. and dance is an art form invented by human beings to express and convey emotions. We live in a universe of time and space. The emotions. wave good-bye. or applaud a performer. Our bodies have just been programmed to express emotions. for entertainment. for celebrating weddings. using the control of movement and gesture to communicate. We dance for many reasons: for religious rituals from the most ancient times. spur the body to react physically. when played. joyfully spinning in circles. for dealing with sadness. seemingly beyond your control. . we are doing a form of dance. will cause your heart to droop with sadness for no known reason. we evolved the following description: “Dance is an expression of time and space. man expresses himself as a member of a higher community.

One young boy. “Oh. One of the supervisors of the school rushed over to me and said. and otherwise disruptive behavior supplied by his fellow classmates. trim. he witnessed his father shooting his mother. I built and developed choreography for Michael and his classmates. the father killed himself. No one had ever heard him speak. This was a tough class. His lips were clamped in a rigid. The boarding school children had been traumatized in frightening and mind-boggling ways. ages 9 through 16. The orphaned Michael disappeared into the foster care system. noise. You’re great! What’s your name?” Those blue eyes didn’t blink. superbly proportioned. He never took his eyes off of me for the 35 minutes of the dance class. but he doesn’t speak. his name is Michael. There were a dozen students in my class. sitting in his own filth. Then he parted his rigid lips and bared his teeth in a grimace that may have been a smile. they were scheduled to dance in a spectacular NDI show called The Event of the Year. The dehydrated and starving little boy was stuck in his playpen. we dance for joy. the JOY OF DANCE! I was teaching dance at a boarding school for emotionally disturbed children. In the spring. and they were blazing blue eyes—electric. He’s very intelligent. can you dance. and the average attention span may have been 15 seconds—which made for a raucous bunch. determined line as he learned and executed every dance step with amazing skill.” I heard Michael’s story from the supervisor. an 11-year-old. set in a chalk-white face. was an exception. His concentration was intense despite the wild cavorting. They were participating with 20 other schools in the National Dance Institute’s (NDI) year-round program. I covered my shock and didn’t let it show. when he was a toddler in his playpen. Apparently. I went up to him and said.Foreword 11 dance”? But most of all. He had a big hole where his front teeth should be. Both top and bottom incisors had been worn away by his continual grinding and rubbing of them together. His body was slim. At the . then putting the gun to his own head. In the ensuing weeks of dance class. “How I love to dance!” Oh. and he stood arrow-straight. eventually ending up in the boarding school. At the end of class. “Wow. It was close to three days before the neighbors broke in to find the dead and swollen bodies of his parents. often exclaiming.

We had scheduled one shot to rehearse the opening. little by little over the months. we add various colored lines as tracks. ready to make their entrance. safely pulling into their allotted spaces. Then. I used Michael as the leader and as a model for the others and began welding all of the kids together. and Native American Indian drummers.000 dancing children on stage for the opening number. I gave the cue to start the number. There would be more than 2. or we would have to repeat everything. but they were coming together. It took awhile.” It’s as if a couple of dozen trains coming from different places and traveling on different tracks all arrived at a station at the same time. narrators. a chorus. And through all that time. where they explode into the opening dance number. starting offstage and leading to the boxes. and stagehands all commenced on cue. a jazz orchestra. The dancers line up in the wings. That would mean going into overtime at a great expense. But even before starting. The foremost challenge was how to get 2. running and leaping and following their colored tracks to their respective boxes.000 dancers.” First. and the avalanche of 2. it would take us almost an hour just to get the dancers lined up in the correct holding areas offstage.000 children was let loose on their tracks. the best in the class—the determined and concentrating Michael—never spoke. That spring. hallways. Each outlined box holds a class from one of the schools. making a mosaic of patterns and shapes on the stage floor. which consists of 15 to 30 children.12 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE boarding school. It had to work the first time. At NDI. dancers from the 22 different schools with which the NDI had dance programs were scheduled to come together at Madison Square Garden for The Event of the Year. singers. We had less than three minutes to accomplish “the runs. inventing a vigorous and energetic dance to utilize their explosive energy. a symphony orchestra. “The runs” had begun! . they burst onto the stage. with only one day of rehearsal. we divide the stage into a grid with colored lines making the outlines of box shapes. There was scenery that was the length of an entire city block and visiting guest children from six foreign countries coming to dance with our New York City children. we have developed a system called “the runs. The orchestra. All of these elements had to come together and fit into a spectacular performance. lights. Broadway stars. At the end of the overture. and various holding areas on either side of the stage.

(We went into overtime. and children were colliding into each other and bunching up behind some obstacle. our mouths open in wonder. Jacques! Oh. Inspiring his dancing buddies. and legs and arms spinning in dance movements like an eggbeater—yelled out. stunned into silence. winner of an Academy Award for He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’. as close to the audience as he could get. it’s so good! I am so happy!” I backed off. but so what!) —Jacques D’Amboise Author of Teaching the Magic of Dance. There was a big pileup on stage left. yelling. they were a crew of leaping. The spirit of dance had taken over Michael and his classmates.Foreword 13 After about a minute. I ran over to discover the source of the problem: Michael and his classmates. I realized something was wrong. teachers. I rushed up to them. He had ignored everything and led the group from his school right up front. “Oh. and Founder of the National Dance Institute . but blocking some 600 other dancers trying to get through. No one danced better or with more passion in the whole show that night and with Michael leading the way—the JOY OF DANCE was at work. “You’re in the wrong place! Back up! Back up!” Michael—with his eyes blazing. mouth open. contorting demons—dancing up a storm. and chaperones from Michael’s school. I sat down in the first row of the audience and was joined by several of the supervisors. I am so happy! I am so happy! Thank you.

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He was not quite sure how he would showcase the dance troupe. but he felt certain that if he could bring them—or even the entire exhibit—to the United States. Bloom negotiated with 15 1 . and his first stop was the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. he could make a fortune with it. he had established a business of his own and was already wealthy. “Sol” Bloom decided to tour the world to further his education. The son of Polish immigrants. he was subsequently educated at home by his mother in San Francisco. He was a regular visitor to Woodward’s Gardens. history. Bloom produced a play and even built his own theater by the time he was 17 years old. Although he was intrigued by all that he saw. and culture. where he also began working in a brush factory at the age of seven. By the age of 16. which he considered a valuable source of instruction. On the exposition grounds. San Francisco’s first museum. anthropology. The one exhibit that really captured his imagination was that of an Algerian village. art. industry.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America Solomon Bloom attended school for only one day because his parents could not afford to buy him books. it was the women’s traditional dancing that fascinated him most. he saw incredible exhibits from throughout the world that showcased the wonders of science. At the age of 19.

Just a few months earlier.000. the area that contained all the amusement concessions of the fair. the commissioners offered the ambitious 21-year-old the position of manager of the Midway Plaisance.16 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE their manger and. Other important seeds of change were sown at the exposition as well. The chief contender to host the large international fair was the city of Chicago. he realized that if he accepted the job. his greatest ambition had been to contract a spot on the Midway. he would have to relocate to Chicago. Much to his amazement. When asked to name the salary that he required. and the whitewashed exteriors of all the buildings caused some to name them the “White City. The architecture of the Columbian Exposition was spectacular.” Japan’s pavilions introduced its traditional style of architecture to the Midwest. the agent for the commissioners agreed. he asked for $1. or World’s Fair. when President Benjamin Harrison signed the exposition bill into law. fully expecting to be refused. Bloom learned of plans for the World’s Columbian Exposition. leaving his family and home as well as his successful San Francisco businesses in the hands of others. the MIdway PlaIsanCe In the days before television. for a fee of about $1. When he seriously reflected upon the offer. which later influenced the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The following day. It was awarded the international exhibition rights in 1890. Early in their planning. events such as these international expositions brought millions of people together in an important new way of sharing and exchanging ideas and experiences.000 per week. Historians agree that the Chicago fair changed the world in many ways. Hershey purchased an entire chocolate-making assembly . Milton S. which would commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World. Now he would be managing it—and at a salary that equaled that of the president of the United States!—all at the tender age of 21. Bloom knew that he had a lot to consider and asked for one night to think about it. Shortly after his return to the United States. obtained the right to negotiate a contract to exhibit them in North and South America.

The dome of the Moorish Palace can be seen in the far distance. Every state and territory of the Union and 19 foreign countries constructed buildings of their own. liberal arts. enabling him to mass-produce the first affordable chocolate bars. When planners decided upon a separate amusement and exhibition area. called Midway Plaisance. It was also there that a shocked America first encountered what would become known as the hootchykootchy dance. There were also formal discussions of medicine.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 17 This painting of the World’s Columbian Exposition by T. About 200 separate buildings were constructed for the fair. manufacturing. On the right is the Dahomey Village. while the Austrian Village is behind it. finance. de Thulstrup shows the main thoroughfare. machinery. forestry. fisheries. and art. at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. mines. The first motion pictures and even the invention of the zipper have been associated with the fair. electricity. stocks. they had expected that this . Musicians from the South introduced the world to the catchy new rhythms that would eventually become known as ragtime. line he saw displayed there. with exhibitions about agriculture. and women. education. evolution. religion.

Ireland. it probably would have taken weeks and much walking to view everything. and amused themselves. Turkey. a Chinese joss house. Java. but it seems that one exhibit attracted more visitors than any other. The Midway Plaisance was built on a strip of land 600 feet wide and almost a mile long. The national economy was faltering. It was thought that the cold spring weather. the exhibits in that area were supposed to be collected from regions throughout the world and to show the progress and development of human civilization. a Dahomeyan settlement. expensive railroad fares to Chicago. Cairo Street was a model of how the people of Cairo lived. An Egyptian street in Cairo (usually referred to simply as Cairo Street). Putnam and the exposition’s Department of Ethnology. With so much to see. Austria. CaIro street Attracting more than 2 million visitors in six months’ time. The most bold and daring visitors could see the fair in its entirety from high above the ground in the balloon ride. In addition to a replica of the Luxor Temple and . Sol Bloom was brought in by the commissioners to work on creating an impressive show that would draw crowds and make money. but the most otherworldly area was the Midway Plaisance. and Lapland. transacted business. an Eskimo camp. a Samoan settlement. and a group of Jahore bungalows rounded out the view of the world available to fairgoers. and a number of banks had failed. ticket sales to the World’s Fair were disappointing.18 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE area would pay for the huge expenses of the event and make the fair more popular with working-class people. There was also some controversy about the fair being open on Sundays. This was to be achieved by building models of working villages complete with natives of the countries they were meant to represent. Germany. but in the end. it was generally accepted that it was the only day the majority of the working class could attend.W. The foreign world created by the international concessions included villages representing Algeria. Under the direction of Harvard professor F. In the first few months. and the harvest (which prevented rural folk from traveling until after its conclusion) were all adverse factors. a Hungarian Orpheum (restaurant and music hall).

Jean-Léon Gérôme. Bloom’s melody may well have been based upon one that was authentic. including snake charmers. even though they were performed on Western stages. Their costumes and appearance must have intrigued the men as Bloom introduced them. most notably danse du ventre—French for “dance of the stomach. Sol Bloom escorted his dancers to a press conference where they were to give reporters a preview of their art. this was not the case everywhere on the Midway. By presenting the dancers in this manner. and a variety of percussion instruments. and these performances contrasted sharply with those at the Persian Palace. as they were accustomed to doing. Tunisian. and movies to support many exotic themes. and there is some evidence that suggests that it was the familiar tune that has come to be identified with hootchykootchy. In the Cairo Street Theatre. Bloom personally sat down at the piano.” There were at least 12 female dancers who accompanied themselves with tiny cymbals attached to their fingers. or belly dance. . including reed flutes. They were joined by male musicians who played traditional instruments. Just before the official opening of the exposition. thereby perpetuating the myths. and Turkish villages also gave performances that were intended to be authentic portrayals of music and dance from their respective countries. and Gustave Moreau. television. The Algerian. Using only one finger. and is still frequently used in cartoons. performers usually called “dancing girls” had their performances labeled by a number of names. Sol Bloom joined the company of many artists and writers of his day whose work reflected what they imagined (and wished) Eastern culture to be—rather than what it really was. and Victor Hugo were among those who contributed to this style of art and literature. Known as the Orientalists. Artists who felt disappointed when the appearance of real Middle Eastern women was not what they had imagined frequently chose beautiful Caucasian women dressed in fantasy versions of Arabic clothing to pose for their Oriental paintings and photographs. Gustave Flaubert.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 19 a mosque. painters such as Eugène Delacroix. Sadly. It has endured for more than 100 years. and writers such as Lord Byron. there were more than 60 shops. he improvised what he imagined to be a Middle Eastern tune. Rather than have them dance accompanied by their fellow countrymen on traditional instruments. oud (the original lute).

Some of the male athletes with huge clubs performed demonstrations to the music of flute and drum. the Persian Palace of Eros originally included a company of Persian men who displayed athletic skills. and a grossly distorted picture of Persian dance was presented to the masses.20 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Many Western artists. Images of Middle Eastern women. the French dancers attracted huge crowds. gem cutting. depicted the Middle East in a romantic—and often inaccurate—way in their paintings. carpet weaving. so the management decided to change the program. such as those in Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (above). were often embellished and made to look Caucasian by Western artists. They hired a troupe of female dancers from Paris to perform Faux-Oriental dance in skimpy costumes for male audiences. but this entertainment failed to excite fairgoers. the public sadly seemed to have preferred the Orientalist fantasies . and other traditions of their country. Not surprisingly. the PersIan PalaCe An impressive structure with towering minarets and domes. Though the Midway Plaisance was an amazing spectacle in its own right. such as Eugène Delacroix.

a bullet-scarred oil painting of an Oriental dancer still hangs above the bar of the former outlaw hangout. Louis. and just as many that are obviously not.” A grandson of the famous circus showman . Since the French dancers in fantasy costumes had been so successful during the fair at the Persian Palace. and the few people who tried to object were ignored. Nashville. One of the more interesting places claiming to have employed the talents of Little Egypt is a popular tourist site called the Birdcage Theater. which was now nearly always referred to as the hootchy-cootchy. A performer known as Madame Ruth was featured in the 1894 kinetograph Dance du Ventre. The most popular name was Little Egypt. and circuses began to cash in on the popularity of the Middle Eastern entertainment from the Midway Plaisance. and regardless of the performers’ real nationalities. As soon as Chicago’s 1893 fair closed. some of them with costumes and poses that look genuine. carnivals. there were so many entertainers using that name that it became synonymous with that type of performance. A plaque at the bottom of the portrait names the subject as Fatima. and St. their names usually evoked the Middle East. amusement parks. later known as Little Egypt. This was hardly surprising. Nonwhite Americans were not included in planning the fair. though. New York. Buffalo. who played the Birdcage in 1881—12 years prior to the Chicago World’s Fair. it was not surprising that other non–Middle Eastern women were brought in to perform the danse du ventre. the villagers were generally looked upon as inferior. Oriental sideshows were also featured in the later international expositions in San Francisco. If that information is accurate. Located in the infamous Arizona Territory town of Tombstone. because in spite of a few reformers’ lofty speeches about uplifting humanity. though one day was observed for people of color. These new dancing girls commonly used stage names. is entitled Fatima’s Dance. The incident that really brought the Little Egypt persona to the attention of the public was a scandal that has come to be known as the “Awful Seeley Dinner.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 21 to the real thing. A surviving film of a truly authentic-looking performance from around 1897 at Coney Island. Native Americans were portrayed as savages. Fatima may well have been the first belly dancer to perform in the United States. Atlanta. and at one point. Many old photographs of sideshow dancers still exist.

the captain. When the scandal broke. Fourteen different witnesses gave depositions that they had seen her perform at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. and no arrests were made that night. and that her midsection had never been seen uncovered. Although the dancer—who called herself “Little Egypt”—was hidden away until the policeman had left. That is probably because the young woman who performed at both the infamous bachelor party and at the Olympia Theater was a petite Algerian named Ashea Wabe. Oscar Hammerstein—the Broadway producer and grandfather of one-half of the famous Broadway writing team of Rodgers and Hammerstein—took advantage of the publicity and created a burlesque spectacle called Silly’s Dinner.22 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE P. Shortly before her death. That was the first time a current event became the basis for a show in a music hall. Barnum gave a bachelor party for his brother in a fashionable New York City restaurant. It is generally accepted that she performed on the Midway Plaisance and was part of the surrounding controversy.T. and many others were required to testify before the police board. the charges were all dropped several months later. Little Egypt. Farida Mahzar probably did dance at the fair. Farida Mahzar died of a heart attack before her lawsuit came to trial. she sued the makers of the 1936 motion picture The Great Ziegfeld because they presented Little Egypt as a lewd character. none of those reports suggested that Little Egypt had danced at the Midway Plaisance. Mahzar continued performing occasionally. Although several indictments were handed down. It ran for two months at the Olympia Theatre at 44th and Broadway and starred the same Little Egypt and other entertainers who had appeared at the real dinner. all swearing that her performances were skilled and never lewd. and there is no evidence that Wabe had anything to do with the World’s Fair. reporters jumped on the story. it is believed that she was Syrian and that she had learned to dance in Cairo. . as this was quite scandalous in 1906. Chapman turned up to investigate a tip that indecent dancing was the planned entertainment. Although the details of her life and career are shrouded in mystery. but she eventually married a Greek restaurateur and became a devoted wife. but in a conservative manner unlike that of her many imitators. Captain George S. though the newspapers extensively reported both the Awful Seeley Dinner and the Silly’s Dinner comedy. However. and her obituary noted that she claimed to be the original Little Egypt. Egypt. In the ensuing investigation.

It could not have been Mahzar. and snake charmers. the kinetoscope. but it was definitely the dancing girls that intrigued the public most of all. Others who knew him well felt sure that he would have enjoyed claiming the acquaintance of the real “Little Egypt. It seems that they equally repulsed and fascinated fairgoers. Cairo Street was indisputably the most awe-inspiring spectacle there. though. It is highly doubtful that either story is true. Congressman Bloom was considered an authority on amusements at the fair. Others claimed that the newly invented electric Ferris wheel and the sideshow featuring the belly dancer Little Egypt caused the world’s first zipper to be ignored. it would almost certainly have been front-page news. Some think that perhaps he was embarrassed to admit to ever having known a performer of such notoriety. It has been said that it enabled her to change costumes more quickly during her performances in Chicago. because Twain was ill while he was in Chicago and never set foot on the fairgrounds. Any woman who performed in public was automatically assumed to be of low moral character. It is possible that the dancing of someone else who used the name Little Egypt may have caused Twain to have a heart attack. He further added that there was a riding camel by that name in Cairo Street. he had intended to display his new motion picture camera. American women were still tightly laced into corsets. Probably the strangest thing attributed to Little Egypt was that she helped launch the invention of the zipper. the famous author Mark Twain suffered a coronary upon seeing her dance. As for Edison. and Thomas Edison’s film of her performance caused the motion picture camera to become an instant success. By 1948. If the famous inventor had made a moving picture of one of the infamous dancers at the fair. It should be remembered that in the late nineteenth century.” . Crowds enjoyed the fortune-telling. yet he denied that there was ever a dancer called Little Egypt on the Midway. In spite of the controversy. but technical difficulties kept him from completing it in time for the exhibition. camel and donkey rides. and the sight of a female ankle (even in thick stockings) was considered risqué. It is hardly surprising that the costumes and movements of the female dancers who entertained fairgoers caused quite a stir.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 23 According to popular legend. Sol Bloom had become a member of Congress and chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

24 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Sol Bloom (left. Bloom denied that there ever was a performer named Little Egypt at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. . with fellow congressman Charles Eaton) is pictured shortly after becoming chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1948.

The hard evidence that has survived in the form of photographs. the real MIddle east The Middle East has often been called the Cradle of Civilization. some of the more enterprising people of the East soon learned that their foreign visitors provided a lucrative new market for their talents. .Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 25 There is no conclusive evidence regarding who the original Little Egypt really was. Among the curiosity-seeking Europeans. it seems clear that all the documented references to her as a specific dancer at the 1893 exposition were written long after the event. even though many different women have claimed that title during the past 100 years. Her true identity. For their part. playbills. and even farewell poems to the Midway dancers published in the local newspapers and other forms of memorabilia never mention her. However. it was not until the nineteenth century that the Middle East (often called the Orient) became a fashionable destination for wealthy travelers. and dance books. Although many photos of dancing girls from the fair have survived. advertisements. many still stubbornly cling to the belief that Little Egypt of Columbian Exposition fame was America’s first notable belly dancer. The birthplace of Judaism. her dance. Though there were a few bold travelers to the region as early as the Middle Ages. and later occupations by colonial armies. word quickly spread that the dancers were one of the region’s most interesting attractions. and has become a popular legend. Christianity. Throughout its long history. at the same time. and Islam. it is an area whose influence has also deeply impacted the disciplines of science. and thus began the West’s love-hate relationship with Middle Eastern dance. reference. In spite of the lack of historical evidence. and even whether she ever existed remain a mystery. it has continued to fascinate and. appall audiences everywhere it has been seen. architecture. Writers and painters flocked to the Middle East and North Africa for inspiration. medicine. and certainly music and dance. not a single one is verifiable as Little Egypt. or even when or where she first appeared. She lives on in our history.

Sadly. Though it has no clearly defined boundaries. In .26 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE A F R I C A Known as the Cradle of Civilization. many folk dance forms have become less popular in their homelands due to a number of factors. the region is loosely defined as stretching from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east and Turkey in the north to Yemen in the south. genuine ethnic/historical dance is not easily documented. as well as the increasing in uence and outright oppression by conservative elements and fundamentalist religious sects. many customs and traditions of that vast and diversi ed part of the world are viewed and judged with as little understanding or appreciation of their ancient roots today as they were in the past. the Middle East has always fascinated Westerners. including governmental policies and interference. but due in part to the growing Western interest. many important Middle Eastern dances have been documented and recorded before they were entirely extinguished. In the best of circumstances. Since the nineteenth century.

It is a creative and unifying force among people wherever it is practiced. despite all the odds. . with its many and varied forms. The mysterious art. has crossed the seas and found acceptance and appreciation in many countries around the world. Middle Eastern dance has survived for thousands of years.Middle Eastern Dance Comes to America 27 recent years. as political tensions and turmoil have increased. the cultures of the East and West have collided in new ways. Though it still receives mixed reviews. due in part to the West’s dependence on the oil supplies of the East.

They would spend as long as 15 years working there. Traditionally. Algeria provided familiar images of the exotic East to the Western world in the nineteenth century. the girls of the tribe began training not only in dance. How well they married generally depended upon how much money they had been able to save. they became good wives and mothers. earning money until they finally returned to their desert homes to marry. Through paintings of the Orientalists and later through photographs of the tribes’ elaborately dressed dancers. they left their desert towns and villages for larger cities where they began to practice their trade when they were as young as 12. The first Ouled Naïl dancers to perform in the United States arrived in 1893 as part of the group of Middle Eastern entertainers that Sol Bloom imported for the Chicago World’s Fair. When they were very young. but also in the art of pleasing men.2 North African Dances the ouled naïl The Ouled Naïl (pronounced OO-led nile) are a prosperous people from the desert and mountain regions of Algeria. but once they retired and married. 28 . using their savings as a dowry.

are known for their belly dancing. young girls of the tribe leave their villages to earn money by dancing in larger towns and cities. Pictured here is an Ouled Naïl woman in Algiers circa 1900. .North African Dances 29 Residents of the desert and mountain regions of Algeria. From an early age. the Ouled Naïl.

After their retirement. Even at a time when almost all other women in North Africa were veiled. The costumes have evolved somewhat. . One of the most interesting types of jewelry worn by the girls was a large bracelet with long. later go behind a screen and remove most of their costumes. and although they still have the same general look. some dancers would first perform in their traditional costumes and. and some dancers completely cover their faces with a transparent veil. however. (Sadly. because many of the girls were attacked and even murdered by would-be suitors. upon request. This display sometimes took the form of long necklaces made of coins. and necklaces.30 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Historically. The twisting hip movements common to many North African dances were accompanied by shoulder shimmies. earrings. They dressed in long. Their oiled. and their hard-earned wealth was stolen from them. and their ability to earn money both accepted and condoned. including bracelets. and continue to dance. Much of the material used in making the costumes is synthetic. and snakelike arm movements. They wore heavy black eye makeup and practiced facial tattooing. In times past. have always been valued by their own tribes. return. strong muscular movements of the belly. this protection was sometimes insufficient. or coins fastened directly to their clothing or decorating their headdresses. dancers who perform publicly have been looked upon with suspicion and disapproval in the Middle East and generally have been assumed to be disreputable. The dance style is heavy and earthy. the rich natural fabrics and real silver and gold coins of yesteryear are rarely seen today.) They also wore the money they had earned as decoration and as tangible proof of their personal wealth and success at their trade. The dancing women of the Ouled Naïl. full skirts and shawls with very elaborate headdresses and wore a tremendous amount of jewelry (made of real silver and gold). the dancers of the Ouled Naïl were not. sharp studs and spikes that protected them from unwanted attention from men. black hair was worn in looped-up braids and then covered with decorated veils. not only the dancers themselves but also their husbands and families are given great respect and can always take pride in their accomplishments and success. Those who are able to sing as well as dance are able to earn more money and can generally work to ages older than they did in the past. wearing only the headdress and jewelry.

Bou Saada is home to the best-known troupe of contemporary musicians and dancers. Contemporary women’s performances are probably more similar to the typical belly dance in appearance than that of the traditional dance of yesteryear. especially their mouths. he was probably offended by their appearance and body language. many other witnesses of the time admitted to amazement and even grudging admiration for the mastery these women demonstrated over parts of the body for which most people have no control.North African Dances 31 A famous American dancer named Ted Shawn (husband of the legendary dancer Ruth St. However. tribes continue to gather and set up their tents for festivals and holidays when the Ouled Naïl entertain informally for those who attend. shouting. Although it was their habit to adopt (at . Most performances now begin with a procession led by the musicians with all participants clapping. Being a typical white tourist of the day. Many of them became traveling entertainers. and tourists still sometimes visit that area of Algeria. The men of the tribe also perform and are well known for a dance incorporating their rifles. frequently accompanied by demonstrations of their famous skill in horseback riding. Many varieties of images document performances of this type. and soloists and groups are alternated. The purpose of the dance performances is still to attract potential patrons for the dancers. the increase in Islamic fundamentalism has no doubt caused it to be viewed in an extremely unfavorable light. some towns became famous because of the presence of Ouled Naïl dancers and are notorious for that reason today. Denis) saw the Ouled Naïl dancers in the early 1900s and found them disgusting. In the past. the Ghawazee It is believed that Gypsy tribes moved into the Middle East—probably from northern India—as early as the fifth century a. Although there are still some young women who follow this historical practice of their tribes. it is not as common as it once was. and engaged in general merrymaking.d. They typically wrap part of their head to veil the lower portion of their faces. A performance is typically done to live music. From time to time. and would likely have disapproved of them morally as well.

the earliest known descriptions of Egyptian dancers were written by Europeans who were traveling in the Middle East as early as the 1600s. preferred to believe the fantasy of the decadent exotic . Traveling from city to city. and thrown into the Nile in sacks. When Napoleon led the first organized expedition to Egypt in 1798. By the late nineteenth century. even after the advent of Islam. Although it is well documented in tomb paintings that professional dancers have worked in Egypt since Pharaonic times. what they were called.32 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE least on a superficial level) the religion of their host countries. beheaded. Egypt had become a common part of the fashionable “Grand Tour” of Europe often taken by wealthy people from Western countries. He was accompanied by scholars who produced excellent documents recording what they learned about the country. Most of them. while the men accompanied them on instruments. 400 of the Ghawazee were captured. or what their dances were like. The dancers were forced to be checked regularly by doctors and also to pay taxes on their earnings. the Gypsy dancers of Egypt. There were many entertainers who lived in Cairo and along the banks of the Nile. The few elite Egyptians who were able to write kept no written record of their dancers to describe what they wore. and it was there that the French soldiers first saw the Ghawazee (meaning “thieves of the heart”). the Ghawazee traditionally preferred female babies over male. he was trying to find an alternate route to India. solo or in small groups. dancing was neither an important nor respectable profession. Therefore. A few of those early travelers made a real effort to understand the native people and their culture and customs. Unlike most other Middle Eastern peoples. Therefore. probably because of their ability to earn money. The French officials then forced those who remained to live together in houses for the convenience and comfort of their soldiers. and under the orders of one of Napoleon’s generals. they were still considered to be outsiders. however. the women danced in the streets. Those who settled in Egypt came to be known as the Ghawazee. they were not subject to the same restrictions as the local Islamic population. the generals disapproved of them. Although they were popular with the soldiers.

Egypt. gauzy materials worn by most belly dancers even today. world of the East that was such a stark contrast to their own very restricted Victorian societies. which then hung loose from the elbow down. Both men and women blackened the rims of their eyes with kohl and . the Ghawazee costumes were usually made of heavier fabrics and did not allow as much freedom of movement. The Gypsy women in Eastern Europe were wearing very similar clothing at the time. They often wore fairly sheer blouses underneath and either very full pants that fit at the ankle (often called harem pants) or full skirts underneath. In contrast to the often revealing costumes of delicate. A scarf tied around the hips was a standard item. it did not become well documented in Egypt until Europeans came to the region in the 1600s. dance has been an important part of Egyptian culture for millennia. fitted vests or longer tunics. However. Early pictures of the Ghawazee women show them wearing lowcut.North African Dances 33 As evidenced by these tomb reliefs in Saqqara. usually with sleeves fitted to the elbow.

” and its sound is approximated by the following syllables: DUM DUM ticky tack DUM ticky tack ticky DUM DUM ticky tack DUM ticky tack ticky. and so forth. (While hip shimmies are common to many Middle Eastern dances.34 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE used henna on their hands and feet. Known as Banat Mazin (“the daughters of Mazin”). has begun teaching privately. The Ghawazee danced to traditional folk music that had a distinctive and primitive sound. However. they are more typically a vertical up/ down hip movement. side-to-side motion of the hips performed to very fast music.” but is widely understood to mean belly dancing. She even allows students to videotape. The use of finger cymbals seems to have been a standard feature of the dance. The instruments used include the mizmar (similar to a very loud oboe) and tabla beledi (simple drum). and that they perform to a more varied and classical form of Middle Eastern music. meaning “folk dance. is recognized to be the Ghawazee’s legitimate descendants.) They also incorporated back bends and sometimes floor work and head slides into their performance. told jokes. The dancers also sang. Islamic fundamentalism and its disapproval of such entertainments chief among them. using a greater variety of movements (particularly of the arms). The Mazin family of Luxor. Egypt. much like other Egyptians of the middle and upper classes. Today. the custom of hiring the descendents of the Ghawazee to dance at weddings and other village celebrations is fading away due to a number of factors. . it has often been observed that belly dancers move around more than the Ghawazee. and engaged in light banter with their audience. and sometimes also the rebaba (the one-stringed predecessor of the violin). Fortunately.” as opposed to the more familiar raqs sharqi. The main movement of the dance of the Ghawazee has been described as a rapid vibrating. thus ensuring that there are accurate records of her ancient style of dance. they call their dance raqs sha’abi. rather than twisted forward and backward. which translates to “dance of the East/Orient. The rhythm commonly associated with the Ghawazee is often simply called “Beledi. one member of the Mazin family still performs occasionally and. and record her performance. in recent years. photograph. Much of the character of belly dancing as we know it today has probably come to us from the Ghawazee. or shimmying.

walking. is approximately 4 feet (1 m) long. The stick.North African Dances 35 saIdI Many styles of popular Egyptian folk dance are loosely labeled “Saidi” (sigh-EE-dee) dance because they come from southern Egypt. but they usually divide into pairs for the combat movements that The region of Said. Tahtib is extremely masculine and dramatic and has the high energy shared by most Saidi dances.5 m) long. Here. and protection. tahtib demonstrates skill with the thick. but the original was used from horseback and was closer to 12 feet (3. It is sometimes performed by a fairly large group. or finger cymbals. A battle dance that includes some of the thrusting and swinging movements of real combat. solid bamboo staff that Saidi men originally carried and used for herding. has produced many styles of folk dance. One of the best types of Saidi dance is known as tahtib. a woman in Luxor dances to the accompaniment of a variety of wind instruments while she plays the sagat. and paintings on monuments and tombs in the beautiful old city of Luxor document its ancient origins. which is also called Upper Egypt or simply the “Said” (sigh-EED). or Upper Egypt. . usually seen as a prop in dance performances.

The men circle one another in search of an opening for attack while maintaining defensive postures and frequently exchange mock blows. a buttoned vest is usually worn underneath. and then kicking them back up in the air.” Most Saidi music is played on these traditional instruments and might also include the rebaba. The standard dress of a Saidi man is a galabiya (GAL uh BAY uh). one common step gives the dancer the characteristic bobbing motion seen when a man rides and is even called “the horse. . Tahtib music is fairly primitive and features a double-sided bass drum called a tavol. and often twirl their canes over their heads and off to the sides. Some of the women’s movements echo the tahtib. The canes are also balanced on the head and other parts of the body. If only one is worn. To create the look of battle fought from horseback. scarflike strip of cloth is worn loosely around the neck and tossed back over one shoulder. and parry in time with the music. as they have done since Pharaonic times. and a flute with a shrill tone. He’ll sometimes wear two—one over the other and often in contrasting colors (one dark and one light). is softer and much more feminine and graceful. Raqs assaya. It utilizes smaller. the Egyptian galabiyas are very loose and wide with round necks and loose sleeves. lighter sticks that are often glitzy and colorful and can be either straight or hooked. and many of them protect their eyes from the harsh sun with kohl. but they are not nearly as strong and militant in appearance. Women handle their stick in a more delicate way. white cotton pants underneath and either short boots or sandals on their feet. which is worn strapped to the shoulders so that it hangs in front of the drummer. Yet another variation of the caftan-type garment that is so popular in hot desert countries. the women’s version of the tahtib. sometimes lowering them.36 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE are integral to the dance form. they also feint. Most men also wear long. All Saidi men wear mustaches as a point of masculine pride.” There is much strutting and posturing as they show off their strength. Another long. He uses the stick in his right hand to beat out the heavy “dooms” (rhythm like a heartbeat) and a lighter stick in the left hand to produce very quick “tahs. A long strip of cloth is wrapped around the head into a fairly close-fitting turban with one end left hanging free. the mizmar. attack. and used to frame undulations and other more typical belly-dance-type movements.

otherwise the movements of the body would be completely hidden in the fullness of the fabric. loose dresses (some with a ruffle around the hemline) and cover their hair with a scarf tied in the back. and heavy coin necklaces. This style of dancing is done either barefoot or in flat slippers and should never be done in heels. For this and many other dances. are often worn by performers. including bangles on both arms. Gold jewelry. occasionally decorated with small.North African Dances 37 Saidi women wear long. but many older Saidi women actually wear very heavy-looking silver bangles (not fully enclosed) on their ankles. brightly colored pom-poms. chandelier-type earrings. shawls or scarves are tied around the hips. .

is the last and greatest of 38 . or medicine men. and all Sufis are Muslims. but not all Muslims are Sufis.3 Religious Dancing the whIrlInG dervIshes Known in the West as Whirling Dervishes. the men who try to connect with God through dance belong to an order that was founded by the Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (known to the English-speaking world as “Rumi”). Whirling (spinning in circles) is thought to have originated with central Asian shamans. though it has been delivered by many messengers who have come to every group of people on Earth at some time in history. who reached altered states of consciousness through its practice long before the time of Rumi. Muslims believe that Muhammad. Dervishes are Sufis. the founder of their faith. Islam considers itself the continuation of the Judeo-Christian tradition and accepts the Hebrew prophets. as well as Jesus and Mary. Muslims believe that attributing divinity to a human being is the primary error of Christianity. Muslims believe that only one religion has truly ever been given. They believe that God is the source of all life and cannot be described or compared to anything but only known through the spiritual qualities that are manifest in the world and in the human heart.

or “whirls. Traditionally. among other essential elements. By Rumi’s time and in his world. the human prophets who brought the message of God’s love. In his mother tongue—Persian. Egypt. and love of God. The average person performed regular ablutions (ritual washing) and prayed five times a day. an entertainer performs a simplified version of the dance at the Al-Ghouri Mausoleum in Cairo. of the authentic Sufi ceremonial ritual. Islam was well established. When the whirling is a performance.Religious Dancing 39 The whirling dervish is an example of religious ceremony transcending into performance art. rather than a religious ritual. the language of . Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh. Above. fasted from food and drink during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam with a central doctrine that promotes tolerance. who use the dance to show their devotion to God. piety. rather than following the exactly prescribed sequence of movements and ceremonial removal of cloaks.” endlessly while manipulating skirts in a colorful display. the performer turns. the dance is performed by Sufi Muslims. and closely followed a code that emphasized the continual remembrance of God. which is part of Afghanistan today.

Then he met Mehmet Semseddin Tebrizi. and his compositions were collected in a large volume called the Divan-i Kabir. Rumi’s family eventually left Balkh and moved to Konya. though. Turkey. Burhaneddin finally felt he had met his obligation and that he was free to retire and spend the rest of his own life in seclusion. and just as Burhaneddin had predicted. Highly educated by then. became a prominent religious teacher at the university and also undertook his son’s spiritual education. Shams vanished without explanation not once but twice.40 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Iran—mevlâna means “guide. Rumi’s son. so he decided that he should move to Konya to take over the education of Rumi. who encouraged him to make a written record of his beautiful poetry. Rumi became a gifted poet. Rumi’s education was taken up by Seyyid Burhaneddin. and it is believed that he was probably killed by Rumi’s own followers. The second time he was never found. including religion. Rumi had become a religious leader and mystic with a following of his own. he tutored the young man in a wide variety of subjects. meditation. Rumi was so devastated by the loss of his friend that he withdrew from the world to meditate. For the next nine years. who resented and feared his influence on their master.” Because of danger from Mongol invaders.” and rumi means “from the Sultanate of Rum. After his father died. searched for him and located him in Damascus after his first disappearance. and it was during that period that he wrote his greatest work. Burhaneddin claimed to have sensed his friend’s death. also known as Shams. and fasting. he prophesied to Rumi that another great friend would come to him and that they would be like two halves of a whole. with a smile. where his father. Before going. Rumi also shared a deeply spiritual friendship with Husameddin Chelebi. the Mathnawi. It is said that one day. Bahauddin. he pulled a scrap of writing containing the opening lines of his Mathnawi from the folds of his . sharing the greatest friendship the world had ever known. Sultan Veled. because he had shared all of his knowledge with Rumi. Under the influence of Shams. one of his father’s friends. During the same period. Although he was still living in their old hometown of Balkh. Rumi spent several years in Aleppo and Damascus studying with other great religious minds of the time. As close as the friends were. the two men became great friends and companions.

his father. because it tells a tale and sings of separation. popularly referred to as the night of his wedding with Allah (the Arabic word for God). and his son are all buried is considered a shrine and visited by many pilgrims who come bearing food. but also for the freedom of thought (and fanaticism) it encourages within the framework of Islamic belief. and geography. Rumi agreed that if his friend would be his scribe. As each section was completed. Chelebi would read it back to the poet so that he could correct any mistakes. The brotherhood of Whirling Dervishes known as the Mevlevi was formally founded by his son. and money. Located in Konya. It is a tourist attraction to others and a fascinating part of Turkey’s history. gifts. and other times they stopped completely for as long as two years. history. The dervishes were very influential during the Ottoman period. but Kamal Ataturk destroyed their orders early in the twentieth century and made museums of their monasteries. This approach is focused upon spiritual love that is attained by a combination of music and dance through which the practitioner expresses devotion and attains ecstasy. Turkey. It also addresses everyday life in both the physical and spiritual sense and is somewhat of a marvel because it is so complete. he would recite for him.Religious Dancing 41 turban. the tomb where Rumi. Today. Rumi died in December 1273. when they were again allowed to operate openly in order to preserve a historic tradition of Turkey. It speaks about every aspect of life on Earth and discusses all human traits and character. It began by saying that one should listen to the “reed” (probably meaning a flute of some type). . Many of the dervish orders continued to practice secretly until 1957. Chelebi is said to have wept for joy and begged him to continue with his writing. Sometimes the recitations came rapidly for days at a time. as well as nature. The order that has sprung from his practice and belief is unusual not only for its rites. poet and philosopher Rumi is recognized as a literary and spiritual figure of great importance by people of many different religions throughout the world. Some say that the Mathnawi is the greatest spiritual masterpiece ever written by a single human being. more than seven centuries after his death. the Mevlana Festival features performances of the whirling ceremony and celebrates the anniversary of Rumi’s death. Culminating on December 17. Konya is also the home of the country’s largest festival.

From roughly the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries. who is God. undyed wool (suf). because the early members of the order wore rough robes like Christian monks. . and its own form of devotional and ritual practices to lead members into direct experience with the Beloved. sufIsM Most major religions have some members who believe that an emotional relationship with God is more important than following rules. others were hermits. called a tekke. Their name comes from the Arabic word for rough. loving relationship with God. Each order still has its own gathering place. Many of the earliest Sufis wandered from village to village living on charity. those individuals are called Sufis. new Sufi orders continued to be established. All of them rejected possessions and wealth as part of their search for a rich spiritual life and a close. and within Islam.42 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Turkey’s largest festival takes place annually each December in the town of Konya. The Mevlana Festival features performances of the whirling ceremony (pictured here) and celebrates the anniversary of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s death.

Religious Dancing 43 Eventually, some of the Sufi orders began to introduce saints and make shrines of their tombs. Mainstream Muslims felt that this was counter to the beliefs set forth by the Qur’an, which says that no prophet will come after Muhammad. Although it was considered the duty of a Muslim to marry and have children, some Sufis began to practice celibacy (refraining from any type of sexual activity) and engage in pagan customs such as glass eating and fire walking. There was also strong disapproval when they introduced music and a whirling dance to seek communion with God. Sufism became widespread and popular in its many forms. Some recognized it as a legitimate outlet for religious fervor, but others were deeply concerned that Islam should be preserved and thought that the teachings of the Sufis deviated too far from the original form. The orthodox element quietly tried to solve the problem by taking control of the educational system throughout the Islamic world, thus ensuring that students would not be permitted to study subjects that might lead to confusion. Nonetheless, Sufism played an important part in bringing Islam from the Middle East to other parts of the world, including India, Africa, and Southeast Asia. For example, it played a significant role in establishing Muslim political power in India to the extent that the Punjab remains a Muslim area to this day. Sufism appealed to Hindus and Buddhists who lived in the region because they already associated singing, dancing, and even whirling with attaining oneness with God. It also offered a new equality for the lower classes, which reduced some political tensions that existed there because of the caste system. That is why dervishes can still be found in many countries around the world, even though they are most closely associated with Turkey. The whirling ritual, called semâ, is part of the Zikr ceremony. It begins with chanted prayers, followed by the beating of a kettledrum symbolizing the Divine order, after which a musical improvisation is played on a reed flute to represent the breath of life. The dervishes wear tall, cone-shaped hats made of felt to symbolize tombstones, and their long, full-skirted white robes represent their shrouds (burial clothes). They wear very full black cloaks over the robes to represent tombs. This costume is meant to show the death of their egos. The leader of the ceremony leads the dervishes around the perimeter of the room, and as

44 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE they pass the main ceremonial position in the room, they bow to each other to show respect for the soul inside of each person. Upon completion of three circles, the dervishes drop their black cloaks to show that they have given up their attachment to the world. Folding their arms across their chests, the dervishes approach the master one at a time, bow, kiss his hand, and begin to spin. Opening their arms wide, they raise their right arms and palms upward to receive blessings while their left palms and arms are held down to transfer that blessing to the earth. They always whirl counterclockwise (right to left, toward the heart). Eventually, all the dervishes are whirling at once until they slow down or stop as a group, kneel or pause slightly, and then rise to spin again for four repetitions. When they have completed the ritual, the leader reads a verse from the Qur’an reminding everyone that all directions belong to God, so wherever one turns, His face is there. The semâ is concluded by praying for the peace of the souls of all prophets and believers. The whirling dancers of today are accompanied by poetry from the Mathnawi of Mevlana, set to traditional secular art music from the Ottoman period and sung. The musicians are usually trained professionals or composers who are part of the order, but they do not try to enter a trance state while making music. Traditional instruments used include the ney (flute), kanun (a plucked zither), kemenja (a lute played with a bow), tanbur (a plucked lute with frets), oud (fretless plucked lute), and kudum (pair of small kettledrums). While authentic semâ still exists, the many imitations that are performed as secular entertainment today should never be confused with the devotional dancing of the Sufi mystics. Performed for tourists in many Middle Eastern countries, that type of dancing is an impressive display of balance and agility. For secular performances, the dancers wear one or more wide, brightly colored, gored skirts with weighted hemlines. When the dancers whirl, the skirts rise and undulate in a breathtaking kaleidoscope of movement and color. They sometimes separate the skirts, leaving one to whirl at the waistline while the other is lifted to spin in the air above the head, and sometimes further lifted to spin from one hand. Some performers also thrill their audiences further by including amazing manipulations of several tambourines in their acts. In Egypt, the secular form of the dance is called raqs tanbur.

Religious Dancing 45 The music of the dervishes is both beautiful and haunting, and recordings of it are readily available today, but it should be remembered that the chants are prayers. It would be absolutely inappropriate to use it for a belly dance performance of any kind. The music of the Sufis, like all sacred music, should be treated with respect.

Guedra
One of the most fascinating dances of the Middle East is a joyful kneeling trance dance called the guedra, which is attributed to the Blue People of the nomadic Tuareg Berber tribes of southwestern Morocco. They are

The Blue People of the nomadic Tuareg Berber tribes of North Africa are known for a number of traditional dances, including the t’bal and guedra (performed only by a female). Here, a Tuareg man performs a traditional dance as members of the tribe chant and clap their hands to the rhythm of the dance.

Traditional clothing has always affected how people are able to move. as it is considered to be attractive. If the dance is performed standing or even begun in a standing position. but she is occasionally joined by others. One of the most unusual features of the Blue People is the amount of power held by the females of the tribe. dah DAH dum duh DAH). Some even believe that the mystical drum rhythm can attract a mate from far away. or the community. Most serious dancers make a great effort to emulate the look and feeling of authentic . they are unable to bathe regularly. The blue tint serves as a cosmetic. One of the most unusual features of the dance is that it is normally performed entirely on the knees. such as friends. the most basic rhythm of life (dah DAH dum dah DAH. Unlike most Islamic societies. and gradually and steadily increases in speed throughout the dance. Spectators are also participants as they chant and clap their hands to the hypnotic rhythm. All the Blue People belong to the Tuareg tribes. Guedra means “pot” in Arabic.46 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE known as the Blue People because. and its beat mimics the heartbeat. but there are other Tuaregs who do not wear these blue robes and therefore are not Blue People. a CereMony of BlessInG The guedra is a ritual dance that is meant either to deliver blessings and peace to others. It is traditionally the only instrument used in the performance of this dance. married people. as desert dwellers. and the powdered dye used for their shiny blue robes stains their skin and makes them appear blue. and the drum really is made from a common kitchen pot with goatskin stretched over its top. it is called t’bal. The women are not required to veil. so it has greatly influenced many ethnic dances. and the men cover their noses and mouths with the tail ends of their gauzy turbans. A genuine guedra is usually danced by one woman at night by firelight or inside a tent with a circle of onlookers around her. because it is believed that they are divinely protected as life givers who are able to give birth to children. the women are unveiled. or for the dancer to submit herself to God. because it is believed that djinn (evil spirits) can invade the body through the mouth and nostrils. but the dye is also a natural moisturizer and sunscreen.

and she begins by saluting the four directions (north. She gestures to her own abdomen. They also contain a wire frame that is held in place by the hair that is wrapped and woven over it. but it also keeps the women cooler in the heat and warmer in the cold. Since the rest of her body is still concealed. As the momentum of the drumming.Religious Dancing 47 garments in their choice of costumes. coral. and so have the Blue People. That cloth is held in place at the neck with elaborate fasteners and decorated with long chains. shells. hands. Leftover fabric is left flowing free but can be pulled up to cover the head if needed for protection from the weather. . This is meant to signify the darkness of the unknown. her breathing becomes heavier. The women. wear an outer cloth wrapped around the body somewhat like an Indian sari. She continues undulating and leaning forward and into back bends until the haik falls away. and chanting builds. Many Middle Eastern peoples have built their national dress around some type of flowing robe. and the rib cage can be lifted and dropped heavily in rhythm with the music for emphasis. and head and then flicks her fingers toward the spectators to bless them from the depth of her being. Movements of the head can be incorporated. becomes visible. clapping. air. and others are covered by the leftover blue fabric from their outer garments. and arms. The dancer’s hands. fire. heart. so it is held separately from the others. and west) and the elements (earth. and the dancer. Not only does this look amazing. eyes closed. The waistline is belted so that the hem is just above the top of the foot. It is believed that the essence of the soul is exuded through a particular finger. south. east. like those in a number of other African cultures. are seen first as they emerge shyly from the veil’s sides. tall headdresses that are decorated with ornaments of silver. turquoise. the movement of her hands takes on great importance. The women wear elaborate. decorated with henna. and other items considered to look attractive. Constructing this remarkable hairdo is so time consuming and complicated that it is often left in place for a month or longer before being redone. Some dancers begin completely covered by a black veil called a haik. especially in the fingers. and water). She might walk or shuffle on her knees while keeping all movement above the waist still.

observers are drawn in so deeply that they begin to imitate the movements of the dancer. in sudden silence. . while many others believe that it is a means of calming and satisfying the possessing spirit so that the person can live with it. they loosen them with a quick and subtle movement so that they hang free and swing to emphasize the swaying movements. Some dancers begin the dance with artificial braids and ornaments hidden in their hair or headpieces. where it is more commonly practiced. The ritual has a leader. or making offerings to the possessing spirit. The rhythm finally rises to a crescendo. and Somalia. Some say that the ceremony is a kind of exorcism. zar tranCe The zar is thought to be a kind of religious dancing that has its roots in the worship of pre-Islamic African deities. Details of the ceremony vary widely from one area to another. Ethiopia. sheikha. the ritual slaughter of animals for sacrifice. Because of its association with older pagan religions. who could be called hadjia. or priestess. umiya. soon to be followed by another. it is prohibited by Islam. Zar is especially prevalent in Upper (southern) Egypt.48 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE As the ritual increases in intensity. it is often private and even conducted secretly. the zar is danced primarily for relaxation and spiritual healing. and the audience becomes louder and even more enthusiastic. It is particularly popular with pregnant women who hope to ensure a safe birth. where the people have had less outside influence and are in closer proximity to the Sudan. perhaps as a distant variation of what the West knows as voodoo. Most leaders and participants of the zar are women. often not realizing that they are doing so. or a number of other names denoting respect depending upon the region. Then. though in some instances men have been permitted to help with drumming. Midway through the dance. It was once believed that she was possessed by a spirit herself but was able to help others because she had learned to pacify or control her spirit. Today. Older women have traditionally filled this role because unmarried younger females have not been considered worthy. the dancer collapses to the ground in a faint. Although the zar ceremony can be held publicly.

though it is practiced as far south as Sudan. The Zar trans religious ceremony. is performed across Egypt. (continues on page 52) .Religious Dancing 49 Zar musicians and healers perform their ritual in Cairo in June 2006. The ritual is prohibited by Islam as a pagan practice. which uses drumming and dancing to cure an illness thought to be caused by a demon. but it continues to be part of Egypt’s popular culture. the leader of the ceremony is able to identify the type of the troubling spirit and also understand how best to manage it. By singing directly to the inhabiting spirits and seeing which one reacts.

The annual Shia pilgrimage to Karbala was still allowed during the time of the Sunni-dominated government of Saddam Hussein. grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. This ritual is also observed in connection with other Shia imams (there are 12 of them) and also in remembrance of the death of Fatima. Many of the men were obviously bruised and even bleeding. but the public rituals involving chanting and flagellation were banned. The presence of his tomb has made Karbala a holy city and the popular destination of Shia pilgrims. Iraq. Although it may appear to be some sort of dance. who was martyred in the seventh century. but though the ritual is violent in appearance. . However. emotional demonstrations were suppressed. but in groups. those who wished to keep this tradition alive continued to practice it secretly. drumlike thump as the men slapped themselves across their chests in unison. ranging in number from just a few men to hundreds in one circle. the Western world was confronted with images of chanting Shia Muslim men gathered in circles. serious injury is unusual. A’aza is a ritual of suffering practiced solely by the Shia to honor the Imam Hussein. as all gatherings that could potentially become large. and first aid is usually available nearby for all those who participate. because he refused to submit to the authority of the caliph Yazid. the daughter of Muhammad. rhythmically thrusting their arms into the air and then whipping them back with a loud.50 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE A’A zA: A RituAl of SuffERiNg During the time of the most recent war with Iraq. Their faces were often highly charged with emotion based in religious fervor. A’aza is not performed alone. He was killed and beheaded in a battle that occurred in the vicinity of Karbala.

In one style seen in Iraq. some groups chanted about the fall of the regime and the hope of a new Iraq. A few pioneers have even added music. Some Persian Gulf countries are more progressive than others. and finally strike their heads. and though most of the youngest participants admit that mature men are stronger and can make a louder slap or thump. and though very moderate sheikhs (holy men) accept that practice. Just a few men chanting slowly can begin the A’aza. There are a number of variations on this form. until he eventually steps aside and another leader begins. Several circles can chant concurrently.” Most recently. There is controversy as to which elements of the practice are too extreme and about the exact form the chanting should take. However. they boast that the youths have more stamina. there are others who object strongly. A procession often travels very (continues) . and a few are considerably more extreme. Some men beat their own backs with whips made of chains. Perhaps the most common one is “We will not forget. cut their heads with long knives. in the act of tatbeer. and. others usually join them. and periodically change the rhythm of the chants to create variety and a more musical sound. but as the fervor builds. and the others follow the pace and rhythm he sets. The synchronization of the movement and the chanting is considered very important.Religious Dancing 51 Each group has a leader. strike their heads with swords. and each group might have its own lyrics chanted in either a local dialect or in classical Arabic. several other regions take great pride in their distinctive local styles. The Iraqi style is the most dominant form of the A’aza and is considered almost classical. There is an element of friendly competition. however. participants first strike their hearts with their right hands. then strike their chests with both hands.

when women gather in a special house called the Husseineya. A’aza is not performed solely to mark religious occasions. This space is usually separate from the living quarters. but also used to show solidarity among the Shia about situations and events that impact the Islamic world. they often watch from the side of the road and sometimes gently hit themselves or just tap their foreheads and cheeks in rhythm with the men. and chanting.52 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE (continued) long distances in extreme heat and can last for days until it reaches the tomb of Hussein. However. (continued from page 49) The zar is usually danced in an area containing an altar. Animal sacrifice—ranging from a chicken or pigeon to a sheep or camel—was . There are times. A round tray piled with offerings of nuts and dried fruits is placed in the center of the room. The ritual is especially associated with Ashura. The leader and her musicians are on one side of the room. and the participants fill the rest of the space. and lately Iraq. Kashmir. and it is known that she will be willing to provide charity to women in the community when they have need. Everyone is expected to make a financial donation to the leader. Those rituals of mourning are also highly emotional and culminate in rhythmic jumping. where they tell stories of the martyrs—even stories of Jesus that focus on how Mary suffered as a mother and a woman because of how her son was treated. Although women do not participate in A’aza. especially during the month of Muharrem. hitting the chest. such as the plight of the Palestinian people and political upheaval and outside intervention in places such as Afghanistan. which occurs on the tenth day of the month of Muharrem on the Islamic calendar.

. These cosmetics along with perfumes or incense (bokhur in Arabic) are thought to please the spirits. Providing some kind of food and beverage as a shared meal for the participants usually concludes the ceremony. The dance is still done in its original context but also as a performance that has the appearance of a real ceremony. and in some areas. The basic rhythm is very simple (DUM da-da DUM da. The opening movements can be just tiny. is flinging the upper body—or only the head and hair—from side to side. however. DUM da-da DUM da.Religious Dancing 53 once a standard element of the zar but is no longer included in all ceremonies. red garments are preferred. rhythmic jerks. It is not uncommon for the participants to change clothes to accommodate different spirits. though they vary widely as each woman responds to the music as she feels it. What is most commonly associated with the dance. As people in the West are becoming more interested in alternative methods of treating depression and illness. both materials that are believed to be blessed. etc.) beginning fairly slowly and gradually and steadily increasing in speed. there is more experimentation with this and other types of “trance” dancing. The woman who is being treated frequently wears some sort of loose white clothing and decorates her hands with henna and lines her eyes with kohl. Sometimes both arms are raised but kept relaxed so that they can rise and fall to follow the sway of the body in increasingly wild abandon until total collapse occurs. The percussion instruments used to provide rhythm could include a variation of the tambourine (tar) and a drum (tabla).

Those who are adept at the dance slightly rock forward and back with the crossover steps. Amazingly energetic and tiring. and rather than 54 . and coastal Syria.4 Dabkeh: Dance of the levant Nearly all countries have traditional line and/or circle dances in which many people join hands and dance together all at one time in a uniform pattern of steps and figures. It is a line dance associated particularly with the Levant. Although at first glance it may appear to be rather monotonous and repetitious. and one of its most popular and best-known dances is the dabkeh (DUB kee). Lebanon. an old name for the region made up of Israel. on closer examination it is somewhat complex. and Palestinians. This dance is currently performed by many professional troupes at festivals and dance exhibitions. Palestine. Considered the national dance of Lebanon. It is exciting and fun for those who participate and is usually accompanied by much shouting and laughter. and by ordinary people of all ages at celebrations of all kinds. The Middle East is no exception. Jordan. Jordanians. but it gradually becomes quite intricate and syncopated. the dance sometimes begins as a straight march and stamp. it is also much beloved by Syrians. it also is sometimes danced in Iraq.

and then he or she may break away from the line and demonstrate personal skill and style by adding leaps.Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant 55 Dabkeh is a popular social dance practiced throughout the Levant. more intricate footwork. The ras begins by getting the line of dancers moving along well. and other embellishments. punctuating the knee bends and kicks with a simple stamp. Here. The person who leads the dance. quick turns. At this point. He or she is always at the right end (top) of the line and determines the pattern of the dance as he or she twirls a handkerchief or small scarf (over the head in the right hand) in time with the music. Jordan. the ras. experienced dancer in the group. is usually the most talented. and coastal areas of Syria. or attempt to outdo his or her improvisation. match. shoulder shimmies. they beat out a quick rhythm with one foot to punctuate the figure. the Palestinian Territories. . with elbows out. Lebanon. The ras sometimes moves up and down the semicircular line and challenges other dancers to join. Palestinian children dance the dabkeh in Gaza City in 2007. the region composed of Israel. the ras might put hands on the hips.

the traditional costume favored by many professional performers is heavily influenced by nineteenth-century Turkish fashion. and nightclubs where it often ends a happy evening. parties. and as soon as it is heard. and for some formations. While the style of costume certainly varies from one place to another. and flat shoes or boots to emphasize . and Turkey has retained several folk dances that have a very similar appearance. hIstory and orIGIns The earliest form of the dabkeh may have been introduced by the Turks during the time of the Ottoman Empire when they ruled much of the Middle East. only one man or woman needs to start dancing before others will soon join. The line. This dance is currently performed by many professional troupes at festivals and dance exhibitions. it is based upon the native dress of the inhabitants. may break off into smaller formations. Professional troupes often wear costumes that are similar or identical in design. Dancers usually join hands. Dabkeh music has a distinctive sound. the dancers could be wearing anything. belted or sashed at the waists. or in mixed formation. shoulder to shoulder. patterns. as it so often does.56 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE This dance can be done by men only. and by ordinary people of all ages at most weddings. Historically. Certainly. giving the dance a very interesting and distinctive appearance as they lean and sway their bodies in sync while performing uniform footwork. or types of material to add visual interest. stamping the feet on the ground also connects the people to their mother. women only. the hands are clasped at hip level with the arms held ramrod straight. Men often wear full Turkish pants (tight at the ankle) with loose shirts. but in different colors. perhaps because it is a way of bonding a group of people together. According to folk tradition. If the dancing occurs at a wedding or party. all doing the same steps. especially if it is long. the earth. Each area might have certain features of the costume that would distinctively identify it as being from that particular place. Others deliberately vary the designs to present the appearance of village folk. the dabkeh has played a significant role in village life.

and hip scarves. southeast of Beirut. with the aforementioned full Turkish pants sometimes worn underneath. traditionally trimmed with heavy gold embroidery.” “Aa Nadda. There is a particular kind of music used for performing dabkeh. women can wear belted tunics or overdresses. Pillbox hats are also common. Lebanon. sashes at the waist. a professional troupe performs the dabkeh in the mountain village of Deir al-Qamar. .” and “Al Houwara” are other Lebanese songs For the people of the Levant. They sometimes wear headscarves (tied either behind the head or under the chin) and perhaps embroidered vests or jackets over the blouses. dabkeh is an integral part of their culture. decorated with coins and veils that can either hang from the back or be draped under the chin and fastened on the other side. Women frequently wear peasant-style blouses with full skirts. and several of her recordings contain good dabkeh music. Here.Dabkeh: Dance of the Levant 57 the stamping steps. Alternately. “The Dal’ouna. The most famous and popular female singer to come from Lebanon is probably Feyrouz.

The dabkeh symbolizes the will and strength of the people of the mountain villages who are accustomed to a tough way of life. . a person playing the ney (flute) sometimes participates in the dance while playing.) When there is live music. (Modern pieces typically have fairly even rhythms. in a continuing show of solidarity and love of their heritage. The much larger tableh drum is also frequently used. and even those who are from the cities take pride in its performance.58 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE that are synonymous with this dance. Traditional dabkeh music has six beats to the measure. but most modern pieces are written eight beats to the measure though they are still danced in six-beat patterns. so this is not very difficult to do. the people of the Levant will be found dancing everywhere in the world. As often as they gather. It is enjoyed by everyone. wherever they make their homes. and a very skilled drummer (derbeki) might also be able to combine dance while drumming.

echoing the swaying movement of the rows of bodies. Even those who are unable to comprehend the language can 59 5 . It is generally believed that traders from Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) and other parts of Africa came to the present-day United Arab Emirates in ancient times. reciting tales of legendary bravery in battle and stirring strong feelings of love and patriotism in the dancers. bringing their music and dance with them. Over the passage of time. and finally become a cherished part of local tradition to be passed from one generation to the next. The rhythm of drums remains steady and constant throughout. and against that backdrop. these dances have gradually changed. The vision of rows of men uniformly swaying to a steady drumbeat in their white thobes has caused some to liken their appearance to the white crests of waves in the sea. which may have indeed been one of the influences on the development of the dance. The ayyalah is a battle dance performed with sticks by men ranging in age from the young to the very old.Dances of the Arabian gulf A fascinating dance often seen by visitors to the Gulf is the ayyalah. the voices continuously rise and fall. One person leads the singing. adapted.

Bahrain. the woMen’s “haIr” danCe The Middle Eastern countries in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula are collectively called the Gulf States and include Saudi Arabia. Often with the support and encouragement of the government. and Oman. the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps because of the harshness of desert climates. dance. Two long rows of dancers (at least 30 in each row.) In Arabic. many Middle Eastern people are inclined to nap and rest during the afternoon to . although Iranians are Persians. (Some would include Iraq and Iran. bending forward and pointing the stick down to represent defeat. and clothing from that area are all loosely referred to as Khaliji (kha LEEJ ee). Performers of ayyalah are accompanied by a very large bass drum (al ras) and three smaller drums called takhmirs as well as small cymbals and a tambourine. often many more) move forward and backward. Qatar. Those who showed the most talent eventually trained with teachers and finally formed their own professional groups. Occasionally. and the music. or combinations of instruments.60 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE nearly always understand and be moved by the feeling and the mood created when the ayyalah is performed. Most of these men began dancing in childhood. a third row of female dancers is present and attired in the traditional thobe neshal (described in the next section). Kuwait. many of today’s professional dancers participate in educational projects to pass their art along to a new generation. not Arabs. in a mock battle. while each row sings challenges to the opposite side. and bending back and pointing the stick skyward to signify victory. The ayyalah is most often performed by professional dancers today and is only one in an extensive repertoire of dances from the region. Yemen. are associated with each dance. learning from tribal elders or their own fathers. they cheer the warriors by performing the famous raqs nasha’at (the Hair Dance). Particular instruments. Some feel that because there are more distractions for modern youth. there is less enthusiasm for traditional dancing than in times past. this area is called the Khalij (kha LEEJ).

is often seen at weddings and social functions that are celebratory in nature. for example. Saudi dance. escape temperatures that can be exceedingly high. like other folk dances. refined women’s dance that. and telling stories are ways that women strengthen those relationships and entertain themselves as well as preserve their rich heritage. and the women share warm. they are even more inclined to entertain and socialize well into the wee hours of the morning when the weather is more pleasant. . It is known by a number of different names. and to outsiders it is usually identified as Khaliji dance. women swing their hair in rhythm to the music being played during a festival in Muscat. Singing. Extended family is extremely important in Gulf countries. in Kuwait it is sometimes called samra or samri. As a result. or raqs na’shaar (“dance of the hair”). One of the notable dances of this area is the gentle.Dances of the Arabian Gulf 61 The women’s hair dance is a popular form of cultural expression throughout the Persian Gulf region. Oman. dancing. close relationships—perhaps even more so because many societies there continue to segregate men and women. in the United Arab Emirates it is known as raqs nasha’at. Here.

women bring their folded neshals with them in hand but do not wear them until they are going to dance. Because they are quite sheer as well as very long and loose. rectangular caftan-type garment that is usually made of brightly colored silky fabric. Certainly. There are also steps that deliberately give a very smooth. The neshals are pulled on over the head and worn right over the clothes. a wide vertical panel runs all the way down the front of the dress. The enormous sleeves have huge arm openings both at the shoulder and the wrist. gliding illusion. Some of the motion of the dance originates from the shoulders and can range from relaxed accents alternating between the left and right shoulders to delicate shimmies. along with all the edges (sleeves. and hem) are heavily embroidered in gold or silver and often embellished with beads and sequins. Although it has become fairly common for modern Arabic women to cut their hair. the sight of rows of women with long hair performing this dance in their splendid costumes is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable spectacle. and one or both sleeves can be draped over the head to form a veil that also creates attractive folds. One of the most striking features of raqs nasha’at is the garment associated with it. . It gives a sort of hopping or limping look as the dancers bob along together in time with the music. which is locked into place just behind the flat foot that leads forward. as the dancer takes small steps forward on the flat of one foot while staying on the ball of the other foot. The thobe neshal is a very long. long hair has always been a symbol of female beauty in the Middle East and is still greatly admired. figure eights. That panel. neckline. From the keyhole-shaped neck opening to the hem. The footwork is fairly simple.62 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE The most famous and universally recognized movement of this dance is the hair being swung and tossed in time with the music. Those who are most revered are skilled dancers with hair that reaches at least to the waist. a decoration that also adds considerable weight to the garment. especially since the feet and legs are entirely hidden from view. who are able to send their tresses flying in breathtaking arcs. This is done first with one foot leading. and circles in perfect rhythm with the music. one that is worn for no other purpose. or even to the knees and below. then reversed so that the opposite foot leads.

but the men’s sword dance. no sort of hip scarf or belt is ever worn. is probably the most familiar and is recognized both nationally and internationally in its association with Saudi Arabia. of course. and. It is common for the audience to sing along. in varying pitches and rhythms. especially weddings. A live band is not always available. the zaghroota. of course. the percussion is rich. Each region has its own style of music and dance. otherwise she would trip on it since the back of it trails onto the floor. but rather by their ability to touch and move their audiences on an emotional level. layered. and those who sing the chorus play several different percussion instruments. shout encouragement. Though a number of songs are associated with the women’s dance. and syncopated. clap. engage in the ever-present ululation. al ardhah The music and dance of Saudi Arabia find their roots in the chants and melodies of poets and singing swordsmen of the country’s ancient Bedouin past. Considered the dance of the Najd. the most famous one is entitled “Aba’ad” and usually called simply “Leila Leila. al Ardhah. or central region of the vast .” Written by a Kuwaiti composer (Yousif Mehana) and made popular by prominent Saudi singer Mohammed Abdou. Usually. it is almost synonymous with this dance throughout the Middle East. so women also enjoy dancing to the recorded music of many popular Arabic singers. The women who provide music of this type are not generally judged by particular musical standards or criteria as they might be in Western countries. often rhythmically swinging it from side to side. the leader (mutribah) plays the oud and sings the main melody. the women often have all-female bands to play at their parties. The Khaliji music has a unique sound and is often known as Saudi music in Western countries. As most social gatherings in the Gulf States are still segregated. The dancer manipulates the weighted fabric. The dancer holds much of her garment up with her hands. Women have their own variation of it. While the melodies are typically very simple.Dances of the Arabian Gulf 63 Hip movements are very subtle and mirror the shoulder movements as the dancers move gracefully around the floor.

Here. or al Ardhah. dancers. Men carrying swords stand shoulder to shoulder in two long lines that face each other.64 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE In Saudi Arabia. and women participated by holding swords to encourage the men to show their strength and courage in battle. Also positioned near the middle is the poet/narrator who begins by singing a verse or a short melody (horabah) to prepare the men for battle. it shares some features with the ayyalah of the United Arab Emirates in that it uses singers. near Riyadh in 2007. the men’s sword dance. it is performed at important ceremonies. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz (center) holds his sword during the al Ardhah at the Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture. and a narrator/poet. Today. another two facing lines of men hold drums (tubul). is one of the nation’s most recognized dances. desert kingdom. At the center of one of the lines of swordsmen. and that verse is echoed by the chorus of men who repeat it. Long ago. normally toward the north and south. but women are no longer normally present either as spectators or participants. On the eastern and western sides. it was a war dance. one man holds a flag. After .

Prominent members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia have regularly been seen joining the dance at important public events in the kingdom. stately rhythm. Crane was the first American to officially visit the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. . advancing and retreating. He was intrigued when the son of King Abdul Aziz (often simply called Ibn Saud) performed in his honor. Indeed. in 1931. joined their countrymen in gesturing high with their flashing swords. wealthy and prominent Chicago philanthropist Charles R.Dances of the Arabian Gulf 65 several repetitions of the horabah. and finally the dance begins. In recent years. Defense Minister Prince Sultan and Prince Abdul Majeed. the current king (who was then Crown Prince Abdullah) and his brothers. the drummers begin to beat out the slow. with the lines taking turns. The dance sometimes lasts for hours with each dancer having the opportunity to show his personal ability but all the while being part of the group. The flagman accompanies the leader (usually a prince or other dignitary or guest of honor) forward to the middle of the square so that his dancing is showcased. much to the delight and enthusiastic applause of onlookers. the Governor of Medina.

” Belly dancing is probably one of the oldest surviving dances. French soldiers who were stationed in North Africa—as long ago as the time of Napoleon—labeled it danse du ventre.6 Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo The dance most often associated with the Middle East is certainly that which is commonly referred to as the “belly dance. Some call it danse orientale. and yet others claim it is a corruption of the Arabic word beledi. and though its purest form may have been lost. which also means “dance of the East.” a name that conjures up images of dancers dressed in the costumes that most Americans and Europeans have always imagined to have been worn by the women of the harem. In Arabic. which generally refers to folk dance. but rather Raks Sharq’i. which translates to “dance of the east.” It is also known as Raks Masri— Egyptian Dance.” Other sources credit the French name for the dance to Sol Bloom. meaning “dance of the stomach. it is never called belly dance. One of the more popular theories of the origins of that name is that upon seeing it for the first time. it undoubtedly retains some 66 .

Titled Oriental Dancers (Les Almées). of its original elements. primarily to enhance the swaying. the painting shows a harem of belly dancers dancing for their sultan. much of it from ancient sources. . with the legs and arms being used in a subtle way. shaking. An abundance of evidence is found in artwork and written descriptions of the dance that have survived. and undulating movements of the torso and hips. What is unique about the belly dance is that its movements are focused in the abdomen.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 67 This romantic rendition of belly dance by Paul Louis Bouchard is typical of how many Westerners perceived danse orientale in the 1800s. rotating.

goddess worship was suppressed. Virtually all dancing is believed to have begun as a part of worship. the people in the mountain and desert villages often quietly adapted the strict rules of Islam to suit their lives because women were needed to help with the flocks and in the fields. and later Christianity. It is not surprising that dances performed in worship of these earthy goddesses would have had a strong sexual and reproductive content. By the time Islam became a powerful religion in the Middle East. and social dancing among women in the home was tolerated. Public dancing was another matter. and they and many other female deities were often represented in the figures of mothers. Astarte. Women lost much of the status and power they had formerly enjoyed as newly patriarchal (male-dominated) societies began to dictate what activities were appropriate for females in society. It was impossible for their societies to function properly if the women were always closed up in their houses. and Aphrodite are just a few prominent figures. The highly polished and educated entertainers who were maintained by royalty and . the spontaneous improvisations of street performers were done by Gypsies and other minorities or the lower classes. so the mysterious ability of women to give birth was thought to be a kind of magic. the temples destroyed. The pervasiveness of goddess worship in the ancient Near East is well known. However. human beings related it to every part of their lives. dance was not closely connected to worship in the new religions and began to evolve into a social pastime to be performed in the home by women who wanted to entertain themselves and each other. and although professionals were hired to entertain for certain types of social events. entirely separate from the men. Isis. but lived on in others. Because of this. and the freedoms of women restricted more than ever before. the few remaining goddess-oriented faiths were abolished. Although it was not absolutely forbidden. The female abdominal dance eventually died out in many parts of the world. It should also be remembered that the role played by men in the creation of life was not fully understood at that time.68 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE anCIent roots Since religion was once an important part of daily activity. women were treated with some degree of fear and respect. With the advent of Judaism.

There are many occasions for women to get together to relax and socialize. Singing with the music. female abdominal dancing ranges from self-expression for enjoyment in the home—and only among the women—to a popular form of professional public entertainment. smiling. participants dance as soloists or in pairs. Even in modern times. Scarves and shawls are still frequently tied around the hips in the home or in social gatherings when people dance. There is no clear division between audience and performer because they take turns dancing. enjoyed a certain respectability and status. . as in other places in the world. It is somewhat unusual for everyone to dance at once. Though we now associate particular costumes with belly dancing. There is admiration for those who show greater skill or grace. is a means for expressing human emotion. What they tied around their hips to emphasize and enhance movement were probably functional items made of substantial material. people originally danced in their everyday clothes. and uttering encouraging words and sounds to excite the dancers are a natural part of it all. Belly danCInG In MIddle eastern soCIety Dancing in Middle Eastern society. Those who are clever are often singled out to perform for the adults. drumming (either on a percussion instrument or any object at hand). A unique dance form has evolved from the old. The area most closely associated with this type of dancing is still the Arab-Islamic world of its birth. each woman has her own style that shows her personality as well as how she carries herself. and though there is some technique. Everyone is encouraged to participate. and more commonly. such as shawls or head coverings. clapping. The original purpose of the veil was to modestly cover the woman and was certainly never intended to be removed in a suggestive manner. however.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 69 the wealthy in their harems and palaces. and it is there that children learn to imitate the dancing without conscious effort.

” which was the most popular dance of the day. She has also fascinated writers and artists since the Middle Ages. an idea that was later further developed by Hollywood. Although there were also many male performers. As photographers began to document their performances. a Biblical character. The spangled net dresses of Egypt created a fashion fad—they were the perfect garments for flappers to wear to perform “the shimmy.” incorporating that same old snake-charmer tune Sol Bloom claimed to have composed when he presented his dancing girls to the press. It was at the height of Salome’s popularity in the Roaring Twenties that . the exotic entertainers from the East. but especially for the past 100 years or so. the American public was well aware of belly dancing. That perpetuated the Orientalist myth of belly dancers as seductive ladies of the harem dancing for the sultan.70 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE This activity is by no means only for the young. Salome. Just after World War I. the composer Irving Berlin took up the theme in his “Harem Nights. so different from Western dances of the day. In fact. some well into their sixties. One of the earliest characters to be closely associated with belly dancing in this country was the consummate femme fatale. for in dancing a woman can celebrate her entire life experience—her maturity adding beauty to the performance. The tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut) was discovered around that time. Audiences disapproved of. a postcard trade of “forbidden” women posing in suggestive costumes eventually developed. and were at the same time fascinated by. The role of Salome has been danced on the professional stage with amazing frequency. but still knew nothing of its history or social context in the countries where it had long been part of the culture. and it created quite a sensation. western PerCePtIons of Belly danCInG Following the 1893 World’s Fair. it was the women who captured the imaginations of Americans. many of the most revered professional dancers in the Middle East today are well past youth and continue working until the age of 40 or 50.

but its content will be forever shrouded in mystery with no scholarly evidence to indicate whether it was of the abdominal genre or not. If Salome performed a dance. Some of the most notable women to interpret the role of Salome and the mythical “dance of the seven veils” include Maud Allan. she was later accused of being a German spy and was executed. it would undeniably have been Middle Eastern. or Margareta Gertruida Zelle. Gertrude . was probably the most famous woman to dance the role of Salome. Pictured here in Paris in 1905. she and her dance became the ultimate symbol of sin and sex.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 71 Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari.

in that culture. Middle Eastern countries have long restricted dancers from showing their navels. with matching jewelry worn over sheer or semisheer skirts showing a lot of leg. . rather than focusing solely on the hips as was customary in more traditional Egyptian dance. the develoPMent of CaBaret danCInG The style of dancing often referred to in this country as cabaret was developed in the 1920s in Middle Eastern nightclubs. and dancing was incorporated into the story line of nearly all early Egyptian movies. and body stockings have all developed in response to that rule. Although this type of costume is particularly associated with Egypt. she was finally executed by the French during World War I. In a bizarre and surprising turn of events. special theatrical costumes did not originate in the Arab world but were a product of Hollywood. the dancers who were featured in these films adopted a fantasy-style of dance costuming. they were only a prop. Jewels in the navel. most often composed of a heavily beaded and sequined bra and belt (bedleh). Denis. As the veil was a garment of modesty in the region. and Theda Bara. It was in this same period that the dance began to incorporate more movement in the upper torso and use the arms in new ways. for a dancer to remove the covering publicly would have had serious implications. Even when veils were used as part of the act in Egypt. Egypt had also established itself as the center of the entertainment and film industry in the region. Other twentieth-century stereotypes sprang from the many theatrical productions of two other shows with Middle Eastern themes: Kismet and the ballet Scheherazade. all of them negative. generally briefly manipulated in a pretty way and then discarded after being carried in the dancers’ hands but never worn to cover the body. Ruth St. An exotic dancer who was accused of being a German spy. Perhaps the most infamous of all the women to dance the role was Mata Hari.72 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Hoffman. strips of fabric running from the center of the bra to the skirt. where the performances probably began in response to foreign audiences’ demands for this type of entertainment.

Carioca gained quite a lot of weight. Hind Rostum. Samia Gamal was another young and beautiful dancer who achieved fame through her film association (and offscreen romance) with legendary Egyptian singer and actor Farid al-Atrache. Farida Fahmi. her shoes gave a new and different look to the dance by changing the center of gravity. Hayatem. but Gamal’s innovation of dancing in high-heeled shoes gave her an elegant appearance. She danced well into old age. but also worldwide. Another of the brightest and best-loved stars who danced in Egyptian films was the beautiful Faten Hamama. were the most prominent dancers of their day and were especially highprofile because they were featured in Egyptian films. played to continually packed houses and created the first mass market for Arabic music and dance in the United States. Although the real reason she wore the shoes was merely to show that she could afford them. starring Turkish dancer Nejla Ates and Egyptian pop singer/musician Mohammed El Bakkar. and was much sought after for as long as she performed. Generally considered to have been the first to introduce Egyptian belly dance to Egyptian films and movies was the late. Gamal starred in Valley of the Kings in the 1950s—the first American film to feature authentic Egyptian music and dance. She eventually married a wealthy Texan and came to the United States. In her later years. the Broadway production of Fanny. Since then. and . Other dancers who achieved a high level of fame were Nagua Fouad. but her public stayed loyal and loved every inch of her. Aza Sharif. Even today she is remembered with admiration and respect.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 73 In the 1950s. One of the most honored and respected of all the belly dancers has been Suhair Zaki. dancers had traditionally either gone barefoot or worn flat slippers to protect their feet. along with Badia Masabni and Nagua Fouad. She was best known for dancing in the more traditional beledi. as well as Lucy and Dina. and Nelly. Up to that time. great Tahia Carioca. who was at one time married to actor Omar Sharif. Middle Eastern music and dance have been found in nightclubs and restaurants of major cities not only in the United States. her name synonymous with belly dancing in many Middle Eastern countries. Fifi Abdo. with movements that were heavy and earthy. Known for her fine technical skill and subtlety. Carioca and Gamal. or folk style.

Her innocent and sweet facial expressions made her appear rather reserved compared with other dancers of her era. Yet her ability to connect with . She would go on to star in dozens of Egyptian films and was later named the National Dancer of Egypt by King Farouk. Zaki was also admired for her ability to perform a great variety of movement in a very small space. pictured here in 1952.74 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Egyptian dancer Samia Gamal. for the precision of her hip work. first studied under Tahia Carioca but quickly gained a reputation for being a talented solo performer.

the other broad style of belly dancing recognized in most Western countries is Turkish. They frequently close their performance to music with an irregular beat called karsilama. One innovation was that rather than remaining in the performance space. Many countries other than Egypt pride themselves on their own traditions of belly dancing. even risqué costuming and staging. dancers would move right out into the audience. she was often called “Bint el Baled” or “daughter of the country. Though many cultures have influenced the oriental dance as it is performed today—and even claim it as their own—its essential characteristics have probably been best retained in Egypt. she never used choreographers or incorporated props of any kind into her shows. which awed her audiences and left them breathless with admiration. but officially came out of retirement in 2001 to teach at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo. one of several musical influences that likely originated with the Gypsies. Indeed. which is still considered by most people to be the home of belly dancing. the new leader.” She retired in the early 1990s while still at the height of her career. most Turkish dancers are very agile and athletic. Some believe that the highly developed rippling muscular movements of the abdomen—sometimes called belly rolls—originated with Turkish dancers . though there is evidence that Turkish belly dancing had already been in existence for at least 500 years. Dancing in public was just one of the bold new freedoms that women could enjoy. though.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 75 and interpret her music had a huge emotional impact. In a time when most other popular performers relied heavily upon elaborate. When the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923. but remained the ultimate natural dancer. Exhibiting a faster and wilder style. created a more secular society to distance the country from the infamy of the Ottomans. Kemal Ataturk. Generally speaking. She has appeared at the festival several times since. turkIsh Belly danCInG There are not only differences in the styles of individual belly dancers. but particular characteristics that vary from country to country.

Emine Adalet Pee and Nergis Mogol were among the first famous belly dancers in the newly formed Republic of Turkey. and many other dancers starred in movies and had songs written in their honor. In the following decade. Asena. In recent years. Ozel Turkbas immigrated to the United States. Many of the floor shows also feature several types of traditional Turkish folk dances and also include multilingual singers who delight visitors and provide a wonderfully varied show for their patrons. . rather than the more typical 20-minute shows danced by others. and stunningly high-energy performances that typically lasted for a full hour. often extremely revealing compared to those worn by dancers of other nationalities. using props such as canes and candelabras that were once only seen in Egypt. that many of them dance to Arabic rather than Turkish music. Burcin Orhon. Ayse Nana shocked Istanbul by adding striptease to her dance. the daughter of one of Turkey’s most famous and beloved composers.) Indeed. Milike Cermai. and Elcin. beauty. Although dancers from many Middle Eastern countries use finger cymbals—called sagat in Arabic.76 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE who have never been required to cover their navels. is one of the biggest stars of contemporary belly dance.C. It is interesting. including Nimet Alp. many upscale restaurants and nightclubs in Turkey have begun to feature beautifully costumed Oriental dance performances of a very high standard. A few other currently popular Turkish belly dancers are Didem. Sema Yildiz and Inci Birol were famous throughout the Middle East. D. physical strength. where she fascinated American audiences and students alike with her magnetic personality. and they were followed by many others in the 1950s. however. for many years. they have achieved certain notoriety for their beautiful costumes. attribute this type of movement to the Ouled Naïl. Turkish dancer Ates Altiok was the featured dancer at “The Astor” in Washington. and zilz in Turkish—Turkish performers are famous for playing them with great skill and dexterity and would not be considered to be good dancers without that ability.. and during the belly dance fad of the 1970s she produced a series of successful how-to books and music. however. (Many others. and Saliha Tekneci. At the end of the 1950s. Tanyeli. Nesrin Topkapi and Princess Banu were two of the most popular dancers.

carnivals. a dancer shows her flexibility while performing in Istanbul. though. However. beginning with the Dance of Fatima. which was shot by Thomas Edison himself. many of whom had ballet and jazz training. the first American dancers were a few daring women who imitated the native performances they had seen at the World’s Fair for vaudeville. the majority of those first American dancers. They presented personal interpretations of belly dancing. it was not only American men but also . fell prey to the Orientalist visions of exotic harem beauties.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 77 Turkish belly dancers are noted for their athleticism. MIddle eastern danCe In the unIted states After Middle Eastern dance made its 1893 debut in the United States. Belly dancers found their way into our very earliest films. Here. and the like. along with a faster and wilder style. Unfortunately. stage shows. most of which were far from authentic.

they inspired a generation of American women to don hip scarves and finger cymbals. albeit secretly. Representing a cross-section of all social. racial. that the United States experienced a sort of cultural revolution. even those who had always. Donning a costume for class or performance—even on the smallest of scales—gives the participant something that has become increasingly limited over recent years because of Western society’s ever more casual mode of dress: the opportunity to dress up. One of the most appealing things about belly dancing was and is its accessibility. and economic groups. This was a dance for all women. though. often allowing the emphasis to be placed on the movements of the hips. which eventually led to something new: the American belly dancer. Both as performers and teachers. which included an upsurge in interest in the arts of other cultures. . mysterious. Ethnic restaurants and clubs in large cities finally began to showcase the genuine article: belly dancers from the Middle East who had learned traditionally by watching female friends and family members. Not a dance only for the slim.78 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE American women who were intrigued by this mysterious dance of the East that was so unlike Western dancing. Many women are delighted to discover that fuller figures are frequently considered more feminine and attractive in Middle Eastern cultures than the very thin body types so often preferred in modern Western cultures. and profound. and yet many have sensed that what they were experiencing was natural. wanted to dance but not had the body type or physical ability demanded by traditional Western forms of dance such as ballet. belly dancing also suits heavier body types. Wearing exotic clothing made of rich fabrics while embellished with jewelry and makeup makes many women feel more feminine and attractive. Though in many cases they had little else in common. This dance tradition with its natural acceptance of all kinds of bodies redefines the meaning of female beauty. belly dancers could suddenly be found performing at every conceivable venue. Classes were available in most cities and even offered as courses in colleges and universities. the women who joined the classes shared a love of expressing their unique femininity through dance. It was not until the late 1960s. Many American belly dancers are completely unaware of the ancient roots of their dance.

and others have retired because the di culties have become too great. teachers. it has continued to develop and improve in quality in other places. Many of America’s most successful Middle Eastern dancers are not only extremely intelligent. as they were once inspired. public performance in those countries continues to become increasingly controversial as certain segments of society adhere to very conservative interpretations of Islam. ey continue to inspire. and books. dances continue to (continues on page 85) . and sons). Few of them are able to support themselves by dancing alone. At the same time. Argentina. however. the United States. but also a wide range of traditional ethnic dance forms. and they are frequently replaced by non-Muslim dancers from countries such as Russia. and other Western countries. As religious fundamentalism continues to grow in the lands that gave birth to this unique form of female dance. instructional and performance videos. ose beliefs demand that women should be veiled and covered from the view of all men except those who are either their husbands or other immediate family members (brothers. and rarely achieve the kind of respect a orded other kinds of dance professionals. New dancers everywhere value and are working hard to preserve not only belly dancing. they o en have other full-time jobs in completely unrelated elds. but also highly educated women who would never consider giving up their dancing because of their love for the art. It is known that many of the most famous Egyptian dancers were at one point forced to surround themselves with entourages of bodyguards to ensure their personal safety. e number of less famous dancers who used to be paid for performing at weddings and less prestigious nightclubs has declined. and students of belly dancing in the United States than anywhere else in the world. A huge global dance community has formed and is thriving and constantly growing on the Internet. overworked. both in performing and teaching as they pass the torch of their art on to a new generation of dancers. there are probably more performers. Fortunately. and American dancers have reached the world via seminars. workshops.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 79 Most American women who dance professionally are underpaid. ere have been unfortunate reports of violence against dancers who have refused to conform to these very strict standards. fathers. while the dance environment in the Middle East has been repressed. At this time.

valuable concert . Needing a break from the intensity of her intellectual pursuits. especially in the Near and Middle East and North Africa. She is credited with opening many new doors for Middle Eastern dancers and for being a leading force in elevating their status. A member of MENSA (a national organization of individuals with very high IQs). Shortly after returning from her 10-week tour with Espanol Ximenez-Vargas. she was hired to dance at a new Arabic club in New York’s Greektown section. This understanding has also helped her become more familiar with folk forms in an all-encompassing cultural context. and her eventual excellence at that dance form led her to tour with the Ballet Espanol Ximenez-Vargas.80 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE MoRoCCo of NEW YoRk Morocco is the stage name that was given long ago to Carolina Varga Dinicu. Morocco began college by age 14. She feels that her courses in political science helped immensely in her understanding of the social/political climate of the various countries in which she conducts her dance research. Morocco holds a BA in Modern Languages and an MA in Political Science. Middle Eastern dance is recognized as a valid. not only in the United States but also internationally. and her acute awareness of the many factors that impact a country’s dances has led to her concentrate on the authenticity of the dance forms. She learned Middle Eastern dances on the fly and perfected her art through many hours of practice and immersing herself in Arabic culture. she has become a highly respected performer and authority in the field of Middle Eastern and North African dance. In her many years on the dance scene. she took a class in flamenco. Although she ultimately decided to devote herself to a career in the dance world. Thanks largely to her endeavors.

form worthy of being presented in churches. the United Nations General (continues) . as well as in other prestigious settings. museums. libraries.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 81 Morocco (real name: Carolina Varga Dinicu) has been one of the main proponents of preserving Middle Eastern dance. and schools. Also an accomplished performer. Morocco has won numerous lifetime achievement awards. including the Lincoln Center.

until recently. the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Through these connections and friendships. This has given Morocco the opportunity to carefully record what has been changed. Syria. all of which are venues where she and her troupe have performed. Her research has largely been based upon firsthand observation and interviews of indigenous peoples during a period of more than 50 years. Jordan. She has been equally successful as a performer. Turkey. an important liaison that also led to an acquaintance with like-minded individuals in Egypt. where she later danced). Lebanon. the Delacorte Dance Festival. or modernized and has given her a basis for comparison and commentary on trends. In addition to her many lecture/performances. . had remained unchanged for centuries. Before the 1964 World’s Fair. even internationally. at workshops throughout the world. including Tunisia. Iraq. Morocco has also enjoyed a hugely successful career as an instructor and has taught at SUNY Purchase and Amas Repertory Theater. Morocco made the acquaintance of the former minister of culture of Morocco (one of the two men in charge of the Moroccan Pavilion. she was permitted to visit areas not open to tourists of any kind. where much of life. and at her own academy in New York City. the Statue of Liberty. lost. Her travels have taken her to many other countries as well. Algeria. developments. Morocco has written for a number of publications in her eld. Iran. Azerbaijan. and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Columbia University. and feminist publications. medical.82 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE (continued) Assembly. and her work has been reprinted in dance. but she has considered that aspect of her career secondary to her most important life’s work: the preservation and presentation of dances that are quickly disappearing from the global artistic landscape. and influences. the Dag Hammarskjold Theater.

Greece. She feels there is room for all sorts of creativity and artistry in dance performance.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 83 Uzbekistan. there exists the only true record of these virtually forgotten ethnic folk dances. It is well known that there are those who now seek to suppress or even eliminate dance—and even those who create them—but Morocco feels that dance and all other forms of art are of immeasurable value and must be saved from extinction. because all of the performers in the footage are either dead or too old to perform anymore. Showing positive aspects of Middle Eastern cultures is more important than ever. which is invaluable. she believes that fantasy and romanticized dances should be identified as what they are and not be presented as authentic ethnic dance. and the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. Because of her work. but what sets Morocco apart is her ability to differentiate between what is real and what is not. Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan. To that end. she has been able to capture a number of exceptional and breathtaking dances on film. according to Morocco. Armenia. because this can build bridges between peoples. and an interview with her was commissioned by the Dance Division of the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts in New York to be placed in its Oral History Archives for future (continues) . Morocco has also led many highly successful dance/culture tours to these regions. There are many skilled and learned dancers in the United States. Kirghizia. In addition. Her research video series was presented with the Giza Award in 2000. Georgia. but that dancers—and their audiences—should know what it is they are seeing. misfortune and economic necessity have led to the breakup of the communal infrastructures that have preserved some dance traditions. Tajikistan. However.

. was also twice named Best Troupe of the Year by the same publication. Morocco was also voted Ethnic Dancer of the Year in 1997 and Instructor of the Year in 1998. While many serious Middle Eastern dancers still shudder about the way Sol Bloom initially marketed his “hootchy-kootchy girls.84 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE (continued) researchers. She was one of the first dancers to be inducted into the American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (AAMED) Hall of Fame. her myriad of talent.” In 2006. her troupe. the Isis Foundation gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award in Ethnic Dance from the Near and Middle East. and given the Lifetime Achievement award in 2002 by Zaghareet Magazine. with the designation “World Class” for “International proliferation of her art. In 2005. there are likely millions of people who have been made aware of a music and dance tradition from another area of the world due in part to Bloom. Morocco was appointed grand marshal of New York’s Dance Parade. the Casbah Dance Experience. and for her untiring pioneering in this. her chosen field of ethnic dance.” Morocco points out that we must not forget that in spite of how it was presented. the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association (MECDA) awarded her its Humanitarian Award for her “body of work over a lifetime in furthering and enriching Near and Mid-Eastern music and dance. She was nominated for the Dance Heritage Coalition’s list of “America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” as well. Morocco has acquired a stunning array of accolades from her peers. In 2009.” She was named 1997 Instructor of the Year by the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED) and was also honored as Best Dancer and Best Instructor two years running by Mideastern Dancer magazine. In addition.

It is to be hoped that dancers from around the world will continue to give new life and meaning to this precious gift from the past. as did her sisters of yesteryear. The veil is gracefully removed and manipulated in a dreamy way. Dancers who opt for this look often prefer more primitive music. This is commonly called a cabaret costume. and perhaps cover her hair with a scarf or veil to complete the tribal look.Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 85 (continued from page 79) evolve as many experiment with using the ancient movements in new ways. apply a temporary facial tattoo (wishem). using acoustic instruments instead of electronic. before it is finally discarded. The typical performance in American nightclubs today is divided into distinct sections. and a skirt is worn at the bikini line and held in place by a matching belt. The most familiar costumes are still modeled on earlier Hollywood styles. today’s dancer mesmerizes her audience with a unique display of femininity and grace. and tremendous stamina. and her costume is often partially or even fully covered by a veil draped around her body in an attractive way. The costume frequently incorporates a large veil. yet creating that illusion requires good technique. which provides interest at a point during which much of the beauty of the costume is still hidden. often while spinning. and might dance flat-footed rather than on the balls of the feet. The dancer normally enters to lively music. Many dancers also wear and play finger cymbals from the beginning of the performance. A good performer moves in a manner that appears to be effortless. as the dancer whirls it around in an amazing variety of movements. each lasting roughly three minutes. with a beaded fringe to accentuate the movements of the dancer. Some dancers use this time to engage . which generally involve a bra-type top that is heavily decorated with glittering sequins and beads. The second section is usually performed to slower music. more ethnic fabrics and decorated with coins and tassels. With enduring charm. and the dancer often enters with it draped around her in such a way that her body is fully covered. It is as demanding as most other forms of dance. A dancer who is attempting this look might also incorporate henna decoration on her hands and feet. but then later removes it as part of the dance. Variations on these costumes are sometimes made with heavier. The midriff is generally left bare. great muscle control.

The performance culminates in a short. (Because the veil is a garment of modesty worn by Muslim women around the world. the most energy being concentrated in her hips. Live music usually makes for the most exciting show. but a very skilled dancer can come close. and dancers who choose to move out into the audience to seek tips do so at this time. choosing a “victim” and wrapping the veil around his head into a turban. Many of the most successful dancers have their own orchestras . Egyptian dancers do not wear any kind of veils wrapped around their bodies. Dancers who use canes. perhaps flowing behind them. It is difficult to duplicate this energy with taped music. or other props for balancing as part of their acts usually incorporate those items at this point in the dance.86 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE in playful teasing with a member of the audience. or some type of flesh-colored material to match their costumes. manipulate them very briefly. Some dancers improvise undulations on their feet at this point. for example. Their dances do not usually have transitions from one section to the next. trays of lighted candles. the music speeds up again and is then followed by the slowest pace in the entire performance. swords. usually made of fine mesh or net. At the end of that section. just toss them aside. or simply unceremoniously drop them. because the drummer comes right out onto the floor and either stands or sits near the dancer. The music again speeds up. Other dancers carry their veils on. and exits the performance area. though the pace and mood of the music sometimes builds in intensity. What follows is an exciting improvised duet in which they work as a team. fast finale during which the dancer acknowledges her audience and the musicians. then dancing in front of him. The dancer and the rhythm become one as she follows the beats with her body. this is a sensitive issue in Egypt.) Egyptian dancers have long been legally prohibited from showing their bare abdomens. That section is followed by one of the most interesting features: the drum solo. but always carry a length of flowing fabric behind themselves for drama during their entrance. Because it would look as if they are removing their clothing. and they wear body stockings. It is usually quickly discarded. This differs somewhat from the performance of dancers in Egypt. and others drop to the floor where they might do belly rolls and flutters (called “floor work”).

. Lebanon. There are professional American dancers who speak Arabic. their performances often have an added dimension of authenticity and feeling. also known as raqs Khaliji). there is usually some variation in tempo. Those who understand the dance and have seen native dancers perform in Turkey. they often have an inborn ease and acceptance of their own bodies. finesse. it could be argued that although dancers from Middle Eastern countries sometimes lack the polish. allowing a variety of movements. which most Western women lack. Morocco. the dancer dons a glittering. Almost all Egyptian dancers finally exit to change to a theatrical version of an appropriate ethnic dress and return to the stage to incorporate some sort of folk dance into their performance. they have gone to great lengths to learn about and understand the culture from which their art form has sprung. Many American dancers are very talented and highly dedicated and trained. an earthy country dance (raqs Saidi).Belly Dancing: The Evolution of the Woman’s Solo 87 that compose an entire piece of music just for their performance. and hold degrees in related fields of Middle Eastern studies. Algeria. and technique of their American imitators. Within that piece. and other countries in the Middle East might also make that observation. candles fully ablaze. beautifully embroidered caftan and performs the famous woman’s hair dance of the Gulf States (raqs nasha’at. In another popular finale. Because of their love and appreciation of this beautiful dance. This might include a cane dance (raqs assaya). balanced on her head (raqs shamadan). A large number have visited the Middle East through tours that are organized especially for dancers. play traditional instruments. Having the added advantage of an innate affinity with and understanding of their own music. or an impressive show in which the dancer amazes the audience by dancing with a heavy candelabra. Still. but the dancer stays on her feet at all times.

Middle Eastern men are generally very masculine. Perhaps one reason for this is that no people want their cultures and traditions to be misrepresented. strong. male cabaret dancing is very similar to the female style. and proud. and perhaps that is why they are so offended when Westerners (masquerading as Middle Eastern men) present themselves in a way that might be interpreted as effeminate. Men’s CaBaret In Western countries. there is a considerable body of evidence that there have been many periods in history when men in the Middle East did dance professionally. Yet. especially when they are being presented as authentic. There is likely concern that the undesirable perception of female soloists over their long history might well cause male soloists to be perceived in the same light. in particular.7 A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo The subject of men performing dance solos in public is surprisingly sensitive and has occasionally been the target of harsh and angry criticism by men from Middle Eastern countries. borrowing costuming elements such as glitzy fabrics and beaded 88 . even as soloists.

This is a trend that is likely to continue. In many Middle Eastern countries. is Mousbah Baalbaki. canes. They often use finger cymbals and incorporate balancing swords. Lebanon. some of them originally from Middle Eastern countries and others not. belly dancing is regarded as a female endeavor and is often frowned upon when males participate in the dance. but their numbers have increased significantly since that time. Most Western audiences thoroughly enjoy this sort of show. or trays of lit candles on their heads. Pictured here performing in Beirut. while dancing in a way that is very similar to that of the women. and most likely never even give a thought to its authenticity or historical precedents.A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo 89 or coin belts. There are numerous men in the United States today. throughout the world. a turban. The first modern male belly dancers were seen in the United States in the late 1960s and 1970s. . who is one of the few professional male belly dancers in the Middle East. Male dancers often incorporate some sort of vest with harem pants. who dance beautifully and have been very successful as teachers and performers. and perhaps a cape.

they often join the featured dancer. He performed well past his youth. It may or may not have been a factor that Farrah actually was of Middle Eastern descent. on some deep level. and that he was a mature and sophisticated person. but even tying something around their hips for emphasis. and other social situations when the type of music that usually initiates belly dancing is played. a line that is often invisible to Western dancers and their audiences. One point of importance seems to be that the male dancer should in no way appear feminine. or they dance with their own friends. Furthermore. not only using most of the same movements that women do. it is not at all unusual for Middle Eastern men to dance. The difference may also lie in whether it is perceived that the dancing is a bit of a spoof on how women dance or whether the dancer is really presenting himself as a woman. Indeed. and donning a costume and appearing as the featured performer. Both in their home countries and when they are visiting or living in Western countries. It is an apparent mystery that many of those who would normally object to men dancing in this way accepted and appreciated his performances. It seems that there is a very fine line between what constitutes an acceptable and unacceptable performance. whether T-shirts and jeans or galabiyas. This type of impromptu performance generally gets a great round of applause from the audience. although men may accept a woman dancing in a seductive manner. whether the “expert” is male or female.90 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE In nightclubs and at parties. there is a great difference between dancing in their own street clothes. weddings. . Perhaps where or in what situation the dance is performed as well as how the dancer is costumed and how he deports himself has some bearing on how his dancing is perceived. Western and Eastern. He was a highly respected leader and teacher who did much to promote the art form on many levels. However. if several people are dancing in this manner and one of them happens to be exceptionally good. the late Ibrahim Farrah danced solo in all sorts of situations and generally was exceedingly well received and highly esteemed by many kinds of audiences. This may also be related to the old prejudices about dancers in general. the others often back off to watch. male and female. they are embarrassed and unhappy if it is perceived that a man is dancing to entice other men. especially if it has been presented as representative of Middle Eastern culture.

played finger cymbals. In the coffeehouses of eighteenth-century Istanbul. They filled the void that was left when Muhammed Ali banned the Ghawazee dancers from Cairo. Many of them allowed their hair to grow long and wore it braided. and surviving photographs. kept their faces free of hair. postcards. dressed rather convincingly as women. irrefutable evidence survives in a souvenir book published by the fair. the Kocheks were popular performers. They kept their hair short and wore caps that were known to be masculine. It should also be remembered and taken into account that in most of these countries. did indeed dance professionally in many Middle Eastern countries in the past. they were overlooked. (Some believe that they may even have been the same Kocheks who had been banished from Turkey. though they admittedly look entirely masculine and usually dance in their street clothes. Although their costumes were somewhat feminine. but there is no question as to their presence. newspaper accounts of the day. most of their public realized that they were male and not female. Some of the foremost contemporary authorities on Middle Eastern dance have visited the West and have seemed surprised but not offended by seeing other men perform cabaret-type . at one time or another. However. and some of those offer compelling evidence that young boys. but their clothing strongly resembled what was worn by females of the time. male dancers have performed in this country. and paintings of male dancers have survived. as evidenced by the writings of Western travelers who visited the country early in the nineteenth century. there is no doubt that Egypt also had some male dancers (khawals) who impersonated women. and were hired to entertain for the same sort of events. women were forbidden to dance in public. Perhaps because their female counterparts caused so much public excitement. Since Middle Eastern dance made its North American debut at the Chicago World’s Fair.A Controversial Dance: The Man’s Solo 91 However. There is an additional body of evidence in older movies and videos from the Middle East that contain footage of men who seem to be belly dancing. they were so popular with the Turkish military personnel (the Janissaries) that they sometimes fought over the Kocheks until the Sultan finally tired of the continual chaos and banished them. many photographs. and even applied kohl to their eyes and henna to their hands like women.) They danced in the manner of the Ghawazee. Certainly.

New York dancer Tarik Sultan has made significant contributions in documenting the history of the male role in Middle Eastern dance. with a scarf tied around his hips so that his movements can be seen.92 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE solos. Perhaps the most famous Egyptian man to perform as a professional belly dancer is Tito Seif. His article “Oriental Dance. of the movements that comprise the genre we have labeled belly dancing are as natural as breathing. if not all. Most. While belly dancing is firmly entrenched in Egyptian culture. Sultan is also much sought after as a performer. It Isn’t Just for Women Anymore” is a great source on the history and culture of Middle Eastern dance.com/watch?v=6autbeh_tUk. natural dancing done by almost everyone: men and women.) Regardless of their ancient origins. and however often they are misinterpreted. he is just one of several popular performers who have been featured on television. from every part of the world. young and old alike. . Many of those who have opportunities to spend time in Middle Eastern countries or even in the company of people from that part of the world have had the experience of witnessing the spontaneous. but well liked in modern Turkey. (A 2005 recording of him performing in Giza can be seen on YouTube at http:// www. who enjoys great popularity when he performs in Egypt’s popular resort town Sharm el Sheikh in the Sinai. He is also much in demand for weddings and special events in other major cities. Male dancers are not only tolerated. where Evrim Sultan is an award-winning dancer. his dancing is powerful and clearly masculine. the movements articulated by belly dancers can be a wonderful expression of joy for all people. Although he uses the same dance vocabulary as his female counterparts. Seif performs in the traditional loose-fitting galabiya. there aren’t many acclaimed performers. Seif gives a wonderful representation of the very best of authentic dance and demonstrates great technical skill as well as a contagious joy.youtube. and for all of time.

it is a fusion of ethnic styles. 8 A NEW TYPE OF BELLY DANCE Jamila Salimpour was the rst to bring this new style of belly dance to the public’s attention in a signi cant way. and/ or American tribal style (ATS). belly dance. While serving in Egypt with the Sicilian military. uniquely American incarnation of belly dance. choices of music. the San Francisco Bay Area has become the epicenter of a relatively new. It is the birthplace of what has been called California tribal. but colored by American innovations in costuming. and manners of presentation. and it is she who is widely acknowledged to have begun the belly dance revival in the United States. clearly Middle Eastern in appearance and feeling. It impressed him deeply.e Evolution of American Tribal Style Be ly Dance During the past 50 years. Unlike the more traditional Egyptian cabaret style. her father had seen Ghawazee dancers perform. and it was his 93 .

Tunisian pot dances. Bal-Anat. sword dances. which she articulated and passed on to students in an organized manner. Her newly formed group. they looked as though they were indeed members of a tribal village and were so believable that audiences were often confused and thought what they were seeing was true Middle Eastern dance. With their performances. with all performers wearing costuming appropriate to the region and dance they were representing. something no one had ever done before. She is widely credited with being the first to actually name the movements and develop a real vocabulary for this style of dance. who was another excellent source of firsthand information. sequential performances representing old-style dancing from many areas of the Middle East. However. she had formed an entirely new kind of troupe that was well suited to outdoor performance at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in northern California.94 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE descriptions of what he saw that first made her aware of the dance form. Algerian water glass dances. Salimpour attempted to create the look of an Arabian variety show as she imagined it might look at a festival or a souk. where she had the opportunity to observe and question dancers hired from different countries in the Middle East. Although Salimpour initially taught the cabaret-style dance typically seen in Middle Eastern nightclubs. What they created was so impressive that their style of performance and dress was soon being . musicians who played the music were also part of her troupe. All these experiences gave her access to a vast amount of information. by 1968. The troupe was identified to their audiences as American tribal in an attempt to make it clear that these dancers were Americans and that they were modifying their dancing to suit the expectations of fairgoers. tray dances performed by men. mask dances. Ouled Naïl. Salimpour began performing herself in the 1960s and eventually became the owner of the Bagdad Cabaret on Broadway. The entire troupe appeared onstage together. Salimpour was further exposed to Middle Eastern dancing in movies she watched with her Egyptian landlady. They were presented alongside the more typical female solo. and even magicians were all part of the show. followed a format Salimpour had learned during her teen years as an acrobat with the Ringling Brothers’ Circus. snake dances. then engaged in a series of short.

fatChanCeBellydanCe Carolena Nericcio. although to most Americans. She felt the dance was timeless—that it was so lovely. her costume choices were far more eclectic than those of the earlier tribal dancers. and that was a factor in allowing them to develop a very new look. is a dancer who began her journey with Masha Archer. Archer was unwilling to perform in bars and restaurants and undoubtedly raised awareness that belly dance can be presented as theater and in venues where people go with an expectation of seeing respectable performance art. even though most of their imitators—like those who saw their performances—did not realize that Bal-Anat’s performances were not entirely authentic. Her attitude toward music was much the same. which existed for 14 years. Nericcio and her dancers were isolated from the influences of others for a time. and worthy of respect that her nonauthentic innovations were forgivable. she experimented with using a variety of types of music. Her background as a painter and a sculptor perhaps contributed to her taking inspiration from the traditional dance.The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance 95 widely imitated throughout the United States. Archer believed that because of the mixed or even negative attitudes Middle Eastern people had toward the dance and the women who perform it. Likewise. they appeared to be authentic because of her use of real tribal jewelry and antique pieces. She founded the San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe. rather than confining her choices to the usual popular and traditional selections. To some extent. She originally began teaching so that she could have dance partners after Archer’s San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe disbanded. . special. Masha Archer was a former student of Salimpour’s who put her own stamp on the new style by not distinguishing between the regions and simply identifying it all as belly dance. but she was not opposed to altering it in whatever manner felt right to her. belly dance deserved to be adopted by the American women who loved and honored it so much. and it was she who ultimately created a truly modern and standardized style of “tribal” dance. director of FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD).

The end result was a performance that appeared to be carefully choreographed and rehearsed. so dancers angled slightly left in order to see and follow the lead dancer. there was uniformity among the dancers . Nericcio has also taught her students to respect the wisdom and generosity of their teachers and to respect and take pleasure from dancing with one another. The cues were subtle changes in arm or head positions that could easily be seen by those who were following her or another dancer designated as leader. All steps began with gestures to the right. but it was in fact improvised. Although Nericcio and her troupe favored the heavy costuming used by Jamila Salimpour.96 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE FatChanceBellyDance was founded by Carolena Nericcio (seen here performing in 2008) in the late 1980s in San Francisco. California. Nericcio created cues for particular steps or combinations of steps. The ATS dancers are known for their posture and dignified and graceful style of movement.

and it . Nericcio and her dancers became a visible presence at tattoo shows and conventions in the Bay Area. but primitive body adornment was becoming fashionable on the West Coast. slide other foot to meet. Those steps are detailed on their Tribal Basics video.” It was something that set the troupe apart from what was traditional among those who performed belly dance in the United States and among indigenous belly dancers. and mirrored. accent on the down) Shimmy (3/4 shimmy. some of them quite heavily. Their costuming is constantly evolving. and a triplet count 1-2-3-rest) Arabic (Camel: full-body undulation leading with the chest— like a full-body figure eight) The group strongly favors North African and Middle Eastern folkloric music. Nericcio and FCBD have kept their movements within the standard belly dance repertoire. decorated with flowers and antique jewelry. Another innovation Nericcio brought to the new style was body art. and tasseled belts worn over layers of very full “fluffy” skirts over pantaloons. to the extent that this also became an important element in the ATS “look. she believes that American Tribal Style is here to stay. coin bras worn over cholis. but ATS dancers are widely associated with heavy turbans. While Nericcio acknowledges the cultural context of the dance. accent on the up) Reverse Taxeem (Maia: a vertical figure eight with the hips. There is heavy use of authentic ethnic fabrics and antique jewelry. hip up. and include the following: ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ Basic Egyptian (Step Touch with a hips swivel forward and back) Choo-choo (Sliding Hip Lift—slide foot out on demi-pointe. fringed. hips to neutral) Taxeem (Vertical figure eight with the hips.The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance 97 more akin to Archer’s style. as well as a distinctive style of makeup that includes facial tattooing modeled after real tribal markings. By chance in some cases. choice in others. Because of this. It was perhaps initially coincidence. and Nericcio was tattooed. alternating hips up. many of those who joined her were tattooed as well.

98 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE will continue to evolve to meet the expectations of the audience—as it always has done.

other trIBal danCe GrouPs
There are many highly successful and distinctive teachers and troupes, and each group brings its own touches and innovations to the dance, but there are several particularly noteworthy proponents of tribal style of dance. Hahbi ‘Ru is another Bay Area troupe of Middle Eastern dancers and musicians with tribal leanings. Codirectors John Compton and Rita Alderucci were also once students of Jamila Salimpour and also soloists with her troupe Bal-Anat during the early years. Because they have been influenced by the music and dances of many others, they also borrowed their name from the Bedouin tribes who once wandered the deserts taking what they wanted from those they encountered in their travels. They have been performing together and adding their own unique flavor to the folkloric style since 1991. Located in Hawaii, Black Sheep Belly Dance was founded by Kajira Djoumahna, the author of one of the best sources on ATS, The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon That Is American Tribal Style Bellydance. Djoumahna is able to perform many traditional dance forms but has devoted her career to the proliferation of ATS belly dance. She was drawn to it because of its unlimited possibilities as a modern take on ancient dance, but even more, for its ability to develop community among dancers, which builds self-esteem among dancers—not through competition but through cooperation as they work together to perform improvisational dancing. Djoumahna studied with Carolena Nericcio of FCBD and spent eight years as a student and member of her various performance troupes. Other teachers who influenced her greatly include Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, Delilah, Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour, TerriAnne, Deanne Adams, Tempest, Rachel Brice, Laurel Victoria Gray, Morocco, and Sarala Dandekar. She and her husband, Chuck, are coproducers of the award-winning Tribal Fest, the first, and likely still the largest, five-day dance event for ATS. Perhaps her most notable achievement has been authoring the informative Tribal Bible, a book that has been so successful that all three of its printings have rapidly sold out. It

The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance 99 is currently the most complete and comprehensive documentation of the tribal movement in print, filled with interviews with major dancers, history of the dance, and details about textiles, jewelry, music, and movements, all illustrated with more than 300 photographs. Paulette Rees-Denis, director of the Gypsy Caravan, is widely acknowledged to have brought tribal belly dance to the Pacific Northwest. She has been teaching and performing in Portland, Oregon, since 1991, and in 2000, she opened Caravan Studio—A World of Dance, along with her husband and fellow group member, Jeff Rees. Rees-Denis directs Tribal Quest NorthWest, a five-day festival of tribal-inspired music and dance in Portland, and also publishes a quarterly international journal, Caravan Trails, with art, interviews, reviews, and more about tribal and related dance styles. She is also the author of Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life through Tribal Belly Dance. Gypsy Caravan—and its offshoot, Mizna—is not only composed of dancers, but the group also includes musicians of diverse backgrounds who perform original compositions, which are a blend of music from North Africa, Spain, India, and the Middle and Near East, using a variety of instruments. They have several popular CDs on the market and are much in demand for a variety of performances. Yet another manifestation of the tribal movement in the United States is known as tribal fusion. This category includes dancers who draw from the ATS style but do not necessarily improvise their performances and often perform as soloists as well as in groups. While the inspiration is clearly belly dance, fusion dancers show more individuality in their costuming and choices of music, and often heavily incorporate influences from other forms of dance and fashion. Indian, flamenco, and African dance are often fused with Middle Eastern in this style. Another popular and relatively new trend involves the incorporation of elements of modern, hip-hop, and funk stylings into movement and costuming. Those who are following these fashions are often labeled urban tribal dancers. One of the most recent variations of this particular genre has been spearheaded by Rachel Brice and her troupe, the Indigo Belly Dance Company. Using world fusion and industrial music, as well as more traditional accompaniments, the dramatically costumed dancers utilize extremely slow, controlled undulations of the torso and arms punctuated

100 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE

One of the most innovative tribal fusion style belly dancers is Rachel Brice of San Francisco. In 2003, she founded the Indigo Belly Dance Company, which performs throughout the United States.

and it seems to evolve at a more rapid pace than most other fusion dances. so has it continued to grow and evolve in similar venues all the way to the East Coast. Although Suhaila Salimpour does not fit neatly into the tribal category. and creativity to build a very successful business. where it is still very often found at Society of Creative Anachronism events. vision. Salimpour feels that for this dance form to continue to grow and thrive. Not surprisingly. not only in the United States. She has also founded a highly acclaimed certification program called the Suhaila Salimpour Format. She is a second-generation belly dancer. Her intention is to give her students such a strong dance foundation that those who study with her will be equipped to take their dancing in many directions.The Evolution of American Tribal Style Belly Dance 101 by pop and lock movements. it is somewhat controversial among more traditional dancers. Salimpour is a much sought-after performer and teacher who has used talent. terminology is constantly developing and can vary greatly from one area to another. a significant number of high-profile tribal dancers have done at least some of their training with the second-generation belly dancer. and a common language. she has created an organized and progressive system for teaching that integrates Middle Eastern dance with modern forms. but through choreography rather than improvisation. sometimes even deliberately detached and expressionless. . but throughout the world. and ballet as well as modern forms such as hip-hop. dancers throughout the United States have steadily been developing other tribal styles and often achieve the same sort of look. such as the Pennsic Wars. a format. To facilitate this. tap. it must have a solid technique. a Persian drummer. While the tribal belly dance movement is rooted in and driven from the West Coast. though. This is an edgy style with many new adherents. while their faces remain relatively sober. Like her mother before her. Many dancers of this ilk favor industrial and Gothic fashion expressions. She was already working as an instructor and professional performer by the age of 14. it seems clear that this new American cousin of the ancient dance is becoming an important genre. the daughter of dance pioneer Jamila Salimpour and Ardeshir Salimpour. including jazz. Because this is the newest incarnation of belly dancing. Just as the tribal movement was born in a West Coast renaissance fair. Suhaila began her dance training with her mother at the age of 2 and later also studied other forms of dance.

Salimpour has appeared on several American television series.102 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE She has very successfully used technology to make online dance classes available worldwide and has produced many instructional. fitness. and performance videos. and films for the Belly Dance Superstars and has featured her and her work in his movie The American Belly Dancer. Max Headroom. In addition. for six years. and an ABC pilot entitled Harem. including Fame. where she was very warmly received. in Los Angeles. Salimpour’s goal is to see Middle Eastern dance achieve the same respect and loyalty that other dance forms have achieved and to continue to prepare her students to be dancers for life. Salimpour has toured Canada and Europe as well as the Middle East. Producer Miles Copeland has worked with Salimpour in a series of performances. she directs the Suhaila Salimpour School of Dance and the Suhaila Dance Company and has created a new incarnation of her mother’s famous tribal dance company. In addition. BalAnat. She was the featured dancer at the prestigious Arabic nightclub Byblos. . she was artistic director and producer of the dance show Sheherezade. and her performance in that glittering theatrical production netted her a nomination for a prestigious Izzy Award (named for modern dancer Isadora Duncan). she was also the first belly dancer featured by Arab American Television. videos.

The speed of the dance is determined by the speed of the music. always moving to the right. of origin. slightly behind the left foot that has just crossed in front of it. The steps are sometimes named accordingly—for example. and weight on the right foot. or even family. Left foot crosses in front of right foot. Left foot crosses in front of right foot. bodies close together. 103 9 . hands clasped and arms ramrod straight. Right foot steps right. or Al-Shmaliah for the people from the north. or region. One of the most basic and simple six-beat figures would be: With knees slightly flexed.two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements There are endless variations of the dabkeh that are based on the country. Al-Baalbakieh for the people of Baalbeck in eastern Lebanon.

This might also be written as step(l).104 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Right foot steps right. kick(l)/hop(r) at the same time. Dancing on the flat of the foot is usually considered folkloric. the names of these movements are not yet entirely regulated and can vary from one place to another. step(r). Some have been able to . especially depending upon where and from which teacher they have been learned. though the legs and feet are used to help create the illusion of fluidity and are rarely the focus of attention as is usual in other forms of dance. The many movements that are combined to make up this fascinating dance are best learned by watching good performers and taking lessons. stomp(l) quick-step(r) repeat Belly danCe Oriental (belly) dance has a general vocabulary of movements that are used by most dancers. Although there are currently several teachers and schools that are making real progress toward standardizing the dance vocabulary and making it more uniform. slightly behind the left foot that has just crossed in front of it. step(r). Stamp (or stamps) with left foot (but then quickly take weight off left foot and put it back onto the right foot as sequence will repeat and left foot will again cross in front of right). Repeat. Low kick with left foot while sort of hopping onto right foot to bear weight. Every part of the body can be used. while classical danse orientale is normally performed on the balls of the feet. step(l).

In one common movement. Most movements can be classified as either isolations or undulations. Hip movements can also twist and circle and roll. either horizontally or vertically. wavelike motion. they are likewise commonly labeled Arabic. but not always. in a smooth and pretty way. students lose the opportunity of having the teacher actually observe what they are doing and make corrections. but others emphasize one hip exclusively. There are now some excellent courses available online as well. a movement that can also be executed while turning in a slow circle or simply standing in place. and when they focus on downward movement. or moving around the performance space. where the emphasis is often either on upward or downward thrusts. though this requires a mastery of muscles that is usually best acquired through a combination of instruction and practice. Some skilled performers are able to combine this with raising and lowering the rib cage to allow fluid and alternating movement between the diaphragm and the lower abdomen to create the look of a belly roll. Figure eights can also be traced.Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements 105 learn from watching videos. they are often. Perhaps the most easily recognized family of movements would be those that are concentrated in the area of the hips. When one part of the body is moved separately. referred to as Turkish. or remaining in one spot in a fixed . Nearly any part of the body can move in both isolated and undulated figures. often combined with both large and small hip circles. with the hips lagging slightly behind. it is isolated. An undulation generally involves several parts of the body moving in a smooth. Undulations are probably most closely associated with the dance. Nearly all movements can be executed while traveling. though a true belly roll requires alternately contracting and releasing the upper and lower abdominal muscles in a continuous movement that can roll top to bottom. when the hips thrust or pop up. In many circles. the dancer actually creates the look of the rolling gait of the camel by gently swaying the entire torso front to back. and they can include rapid vibrations called shimmies. though in studying in this fashion. and the rest of the body is still so that attention is focused on the moving part(s). or vice versa. and they can be performed either side to side or front to back. while walking. Most common movements alternate between hips.

106 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE

A variety of interesting and beautiful movements of the hands and arms comprise the dance vocabulary of belly dance. Author Penni AlZayer is pictured here dancing in a typical Saidi costume.

Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements 107 position. Being able to travel around the space can be important, especially because dancers often perform surrounded by their audiences, rather than just to the front as in a theatrical venue. Many dancers also incorporate much turning into their performances, and this can range from slow simple turns to more complicated high-speed whirling, and some circle the floor with a foot pattern that takes them in one direction while their bodies are spinning in the opposite direction. This is particularly effective if the dancer is carrying a cape or veil, as it can be made to whirl in an endless variety of configurations. Most movements are done standing on the feet, whether still or traveling, but it is also possible to do both types of movements from other positions. Some dancers make the transition from the fast segment of the dance preceding floor work by executing a very fast spin, and then collapsing onto their backs or by making a whirling descent to land in a facedown position. When the slower music begins, they move from the landing position often to the knees, dancing all the while until they finally gradually rise and return to the standing position. Many performers choose to incorporate tricks such as belly rolls and flutters while lying on their backs, and others balance swords or trays of lighted candles on their heads at this point. Floor work is illegal in some Middle Eastern countries, so performers who are striving for authenticity often eliminate it from their repertoire. Floor work can be performed with grace and elegance, but it can also look suggestive if not executed carefully and tastefully. There are a variety of interesting and beautiful movements of the hands and arms in the dance vocabulary, and also of the shoulders and rib cage. In most cases, the arms are kept soft and held out and away from or above the body. They can either frame or draw attention to the moving area, such as the hips, or become the moving area. The hands sometimes move in an extension of that rippling or framing effect, or they may be occupied with finger cymbals. The shoulders can be used, both for subtle shimmies and shakes, sometimes in rhythm to emphasize a particular feature in the music. The rib cage is sometimes forcefully pushed up or slammed down in movements likely borrowed from folk forms but used very effectively to accent rhythm.

108 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Facial expression can be very important in establishing the mood of the dance, and many performers use cosmetics to draw attention to the eyes and give them the black-rimmed exotic look that has been associated with the Middle East since Pharaonic times. It is common for dancers to slide their faces and/or their eyes side to side, sometimes rhythmically and often with exaggerated fluttering eyelashes, especially when using veils in the performance. A dancer can also draw attention to the most subtle of movements, such as a belly roll or tummy flutter, or even an isolated vibrating hip, by staring at it, even feigning surprise— an effect that is sometimes used for humor. A very simple hip movement would involve bumping the hip in one direction. Keeping the hands soft, raise the left arm straight up over the head, and extend the right arm straight out to the right side (horizontal to the floor) with the palm facing up. Standing on the balls of the feet, with the weight on the left foot, and knees relaxed, step to the right with the right foot, and bump the right hip to the right, as though you are using your hip to close a drawer. Quickly bring the left foot over to meet the right in its new position, and repeat this movement eight times. This can be accentuated by looking to the right or even down at your right hip, and the right hand can also be rotated at the wrist with each flip. That entire sequence can then be reversed and repeated to the left. Another simple movement that could be added would be to lead with the right foot and turn to the right for three counts and shake the shoulders on the fourth count, then reverse the sequence and repeat it to the left, leading with the left foot. The arms should be held out and away from the body during the turns. Raising both arms above the head in a relaxed position with soft hands, and with weight on the flat left foot, bend the right knee and put the toe of the left foot right beside it. This will cause the right hip to be in a raised position. Slam the right hip down toward the floor, quickly raise it back up, and repeat another three times. As the strong downward movement is emphasized, what is seen will be four right hip drops. That move should then be reversed and repeated four times on the left hip, then once again on the right and again on the left. A slightly more difficult sequence would be to put both arms up and hands behind the head, and with weight on the flat left foot, slightly rock forward onto the right tiptoe. When shifting the weight from the left to

.Two Examples of Middle Eastern Dance Movements 109 right foot. and with practice. or the direction of the body to form a very simple dance. lift the rib cage up and out. The knees and back should be kept very relaxed. This can be combined with slowly turning to the right with each step onto the right tiptoe until a full circle is made to eight counts. weight is shifted back onto the left foot. and there is a slight rocking movement back as the rib cage comes down and back to its original position. this becomes a rolling. undulating sort of motion. the emphasis of the hips. After that. The aforementioned three sequences can be combined into many combinations of movements that can be slightly altered and rearranged by changing the position of the arms.

Dancing is an integral part of predominant goddess worship in the Near East.) Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi dies. 110 600 1273 1650 1720 . 32 Salome dances before Herod Antipas at her mother’s request and is rewarded with the head of John the Baptist. Male dancers (Kocheks) entertain in coffeehouses in Istanbul. (In Egypt. and the brotherhood of Whirling Dervishes is formally founded by his son. Christianity. 1500 Miriam. where they become famous as traveling street entertainers. a trend that lessened with the advent of Judaism.d.ChronoloGy b.c. and Islam. Gypsy tribes likely move from northern India into the Middle East. a. dances to celebrate the destruction of the Egyptians. Wealthy travelers to the Middle East make written records describing Egyptian dancers. they are called Ghawazee. the sister of Moses.

1800 1881 1888 1889 1893 1894 1897 1903 1906 . Male dancers (khawals) are seen in Egypt by Western travelers. An authentic-looking performance entitled Fatima’s Dance is filmed at Coney Island. Sol Bloom first sees Middle Eastern dancers at the Paris Exposition Universelle. The Chicago World’s Fair/Columbian Exposition. after which 400 of them are executed and others confined and controlled by the French army. an orchestral suite called Sheherazade. based upon the legendary collection of Middle Eastern fairy tales called A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. A dancer who calls herself “Little Egypt” is associated with a scandalous performance at the Awful Seeley Dinner that ends in a police investigation and is later parodied by Oscar Hammerstein on Broadway in a burlesque show called Silly’s Dinner. Arizona. and soldiers and historians encounter the Ghawazee. Rimsky-Korsakov composes his most famous work. New York. A dancer who calls herself Fatima plays the Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone. Maud Allan makes her acting and dancing debut in Vision of Salome.Chronology 111 1798 Napoleon leads expedition to Egypt. where the American public first sees authentic Middle Eastern dancers. A performer called Madame Ruth is featured in a kinetograph entitled Dance du Ventre. is held. Attractive French dancers perform at the Persian Palace wearing skimpy costumes and draw huge crowds to see a fantasy version of Oriental dance.

Ted Shawn. Denis. Chicago philanthropist Charles Crane officially visits the newly formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Due to his reforms. Congressman Sol Bloom denies that there was ever a dancer called Little Egypt at the Chicago World’s Fair. and a new wave of interest in all things Middle Eastern begins. The play Kismet is adapted and opens as a hugely popular Broadway musical featuring Whirling Dervishes and belly dancers. performs the al Ardhah in his honor. Kemal Ataturk abolishes the dervish orders and turns their monasteries into museums as part of his plan to modernize Turkey and distance it from the Ottoman Empire. The Middle Eastern play Kismet is written by Edward Knoblock. Theda Bara fabricates a Middle Eastern background and image and eventually stars in silent films such as Salome and Cleopatra. where the son of the first ruler. Samia Gamal stars in Valley of the Kings. women are now permitted to dance in public. Little Egypt is presented as a lewd character in the motion picture The Great Ziegfeld. the first American film to feature authentic Middle Eastern music and dance.112 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE 1907 1910 1911 1915 Gertrude Hoffman’s show is stopped because of her “indecent” dancing in the role of Salome. The tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut) is discovered by archaeologists. first sees the dancers of the Ouled Naïl. 1922 1925 1931 1936 1948 1953 1954 . King Abdul Aziz. husband of legendary dancer Ruth St.

the Internet. Jamila Salimpour creates Bal-Anat and brings the American version of tribal style costuming and dance to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in northern California. The American tribal revolution begins in earnest. she forms a school of 1996 . Suhaila Salimpour continues the work of her mother. which blends the costuming and stage formats of her teachers. including Middle Eastern dance and music. Turkish dancer Ozel Turkbas immigrates to the United States and produces how-to books and music in response to the belly dance fad. seminars and organizations for dancers. Jamila. The cultural revolution begins and awakens a revival of interest in all things ethnic. Ibrahim Farrah publishes the first issue of the highly respected Middle Eastern dance magazine Arabesque. ongoing workshops. 1958 1960 Ayse Nana shocks Istanbul by adding striptease to her dance.Chronology 113 The dervish orders are again permitted to practice openly in order to preserve a historic tradition of Turkey. 1968 1970 1975 1987 Carolena Nericcio forms FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD) and American tribal style. Masha Archer and Jamila Salimpour. and most recently. Fanny opens at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway and features Turkish belly dancer Necla Ates and Egyptian musician Mohammed El Bakkar. An international dance community begins to grow and continues to flourish via many excellent publications.

Brice’s dance troupe. The second edition of The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon That Is American Tribal Style Bellydance quickly sells out and is now out of print. 1999 Kajira Djoumahna publishes The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon That Is American Tribal Style Bellydance. bringing a distinctly American take on belly dance in many incarnations to the mainstream throughout the world. which is presented by producer Miles Copeland. a professional American belly dance troupe that has toured North America. is featured in its first full-length touring show. That ban is reversed a year later with the result that many foreign dancers. Miles Copeland forms the Bellydance Superstars. 2007 .114 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE belly dance and implements the first formal certification program in Middle Eastern dance. Indigo Belly Dance Company is founded by Rachel Brice. one of several lifetime achievement awards earned by Morocco. Very expensive copies of the book can occasionally be purchased used. The Ministry of Manpower and Immigration bans non-Egyptians from obtaining belly dancing licenses. Europe. the first edition includes more than 300 photographs and quickly sells out. 2002 2003 2006 Isis Foundation presents Morocco with its Lifetime Achievement Award in Ethnic Dance from the Near and Middle East. and Asia. A definitive history of the dance in the United States. Indigo Belly Dance Company. especially Russians. Le Serpent Rouge. are now working in Egypt.

it is clearly Middle Eastern in origin. round hand drum Literally “dance of the stomach” in French daff or duff darbuka dishdasha Emirates djinn galabiya Ghawazee ghutra guedra danse du ventre Goblet-shaped hand drum Long. floor-length robe worn in Egypt Egyptian dancers of Gypsy origins (singular Ghaziya) Cloth used for covering men’s heads in the Gulf countries A simple kitchen pot. music choice. It is performed by Carolena Nericcio and FatChanceBellyDance. awalem ayyalah Learned woman (singular almeh) Men’s battle dance from the Arabian Gulf countries bisht Outer garment worn on formal occasions by men in the Gulf countries bokhur dabkeh Incense or perfume made from aromatic gums Famous line dance of the Levant Flat.Glossary al ardhah al ras Men’s battle dance of Saudi Arabia A very large bass drum american tribal style (ats) A style of belly dancing that includes a fusion of ethnic styles (not just Egyptian cabaret style). and presentation style. but there are American influences in costumes. sometimes used as a drum 115 . flowing caftan-like garment of the United Arab Middle Eastern fairies (singular djini. or “genie” in English) Loose.

usually performed by women Women’s dance from the Gulf countries. also called the Persian Saidi dance of the countryside (southern or Upper Egypt) raqs al beledi raqs assaya raqs al khawanem raqs nasha’at hair dance . Jordan. Palestine. and Syria Middle Eastern horn with a whiny sound. Lebanon. similar to an oboe Leader of female band who usually plays oud and sings Bamboo Arabic flute From the East.116 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE haram harem henna times iqal Forbidden Area where women and children are secluded A paste used for cosmetic/medicinal purposes since ancient A verse or short melody to prepare men for battle horabah Coils worn to hold male head coverings in place kanun A plucked stringed instrument that is the predecessor of the harp and piano karsilama kemenja khaliji khawal kohl kudum kufiyah levant mizmar mutribah nay or ney oriental A 9/8 Turkish rhythm of Gypsy origin A bowed fretless lute Adjective meaning from the Arabian Gulf (noun Khalij) A boy who imitates the women’s dance A pair of small kettledrums A small. white crocheted cap (also called taghiyah) Area comprised of Israel. often understood as Middle Eastern Oil of antimony used as eyeliner since ancient times orientalists Artists and writers whose work represented fantasies of Middle Eastern people and cultures oud lute raqs Arabic stringed instrument without frets and the predecessor of the Iranian Arabic for “dance of the people” or “of the country” Arabic for “dance of the ladies” Egyptian stick dance.

single-stringed instrument with a coconut shell body Finger cymbals (Arabic) From Upper (southern) Egypt From Saudi Arabia The whirling dance of the dervishes A rapid vibrating up-and-down or side-to-side motion Bazaar or market A simple drum A small. white crocheted cap (also called kufiyah) Drum used in ayyalah A lute with frets Battle dance of Egyptian men taghiyah taqsim Musical improvisation.Glossary 117 raqs sha’abi raqs sharqi raqs tanbur ras rebaba sagat saidi saudi semâ souk tabla tahtib takhmir tanbur shimmy Folk dance Dance of the East or Orient Egyptian secular form of the whirling dance The person who leads the dabkeh A bowed. usually either a solo or featuring one instrument tar Tambourine Garment traditionally worn by men in the Gulf countries Decorative garment worn for performance of raqs thobe thobe neshal nasha’at tubul Drum zar A dance performed in Egypt that involves achieving an ecstatic trancelike state zhagareet zikr zilz Ululating sound of joy or approval The ceremony performed by the Whirling Dervishes Finger cymbals (Turkish) .

Orientalism. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Ore. The Whirling Dervishes. Grandmother’s Secrets—The Ancient and Healing Power of Belly Dancing.: Cultivator Press. Serpent of the Nile—Women and Dance in the Arab World. Flute of Sand—Experiences with the Mysterious Ouled Naïl.: Kajira Djoumahna/ BlackSheep BellyDance. New York: Interlink Books. Rees-Denis. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Doug. 1980.BIBlIoGraPhy Adams. 1998. Morgan. 1992. N. 1999. Appelbaum. The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon That Is American Tribal Style Bellydance. Santa Rosa. Shems. Said. World History of the Dance. Bloomington. Calif. 1993. Donna. Ind. Wendy. Rosina-Fawzia. Djoumahna. 1978. Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life through Tribal Belly Dance. Curt. London: Allen & Unwin. 2008 Sachs. New York: Interlink Books. Lawrence. Edward.: IDD Books. 118 . 1994. New York: Dover Publications Inc. Kajira. Looking for Little Egypt. Stanley. Buonaventura. Albany.Y. Paulette. 2003 Friedlander. 1938.: State University of New York Press. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company. Dance as Religious Studies. Portland. London: Odhams Press Limited. 1956.. and Diane Apoltolos-Cappadona. Carlton. Al-Rawi.

Includes very early (1897) footage of a dancer.FURTHER RESOURCES V Authentic Dance Adam Basma Middle Eastern Dance Co. Arabic. 56 minutes. the Lebanese dancer Nadia Gamal Authentic Dance Performance in an American Movie Valley of the Kings A 1954 movie starring Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker.: Live In Concert Great example of dabkeh performance Fi Abdo Concert in al Esmailia Performance by a very famous Egyptian belly dancer Hahbi ‘Ru Live! Folkloric-style belly dancing and line dances Iraqi Variety Folk Dances A large folkloric troupe performing Iraqi dances Mezdeke Show and Super Oriental Turkish belly dance performances Rare Glimpses by Ibrahim Farrah. 1994. includes a brief dance performance by Samia Gamal with real Egyptian music and dancers Instructional Videos Amaya’s Gypsy Fire! e connections among Gypsy. prod. and Flamenco dances 119 . a real Guedra. by Andrea Breeman.

youtube. Morocco’s #1 Video and Folk Dances of Egypt.120 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE American Tribal Style Belly Dance. Volume 1 Instructional video taught by Kajira Djoumahn Balancing Act Sword and candle dancing taught by Mezdulene Bellydance Live. Authentic Dance on YouTube http://www.net/ is Web site includes information on frequently asked questions. Nubia. Part 1—Introduction to Music & Rhythms Instructional video taught by Keti Sharif W S e Art of Middle Eastern Dance by Shira http://www. and links to teachers and performers throughout the world. an introduction to belly dancing. Volume 1 Advanced level—Jamilla Al-Wahid Floor Work Made Simple Instructional video taught by Mahisha How to Play Finger Cymbals with Mesmera Instructional video taught by Mesmera Morocco & the Casbah Dance Experience: Riverside Dance Festival. Morocco’s #6 Video e Dancer’s Toolkit Instructional video taught by Bàraka Tribal Basics Volume 1: Dance Fundamentals (Revised) Instructional video taught by Carolena Nericcio Veil and Arm Dancing by Amaya Instructional video taught by Amaya Middle Eastern Instruments and Rhythms Bellydance Live. Part 3—Folkloric Dance Instructional video taught by Keti Sharif Bellydance! Magical Motion Instructional video taught by Atéa Egyptian Drum Solo Choreography.shira. books and videos. reviews.com . and the Sudan.

Yasmina’s Joy of Bellydancing http://www. with forums. certification information. Aziza Sa’id’s Mid-Eastern Belly Dance Site http://www. directory. books and videos.org IAMED is an international association of belly dancers. events. news.Further Resources 121 This site includes vintage footage of many of the major dance stars mentioned in this book—as well as performances of countless other wonderful dancers.bellydance. and reviews. Belly Dance Directory http://www. and links. online dance lessons.discoverbellydance. choreographers. books. and workshops.bhuz. . Official site of dancer. a newsletter. The site includes DVDs for sale. belly dance classes.com Here is a comprehensive Web site that includes information on the history of belly dancing. links. videos. and instructor Suhaila Salimpour http://www.joyofbellydancing. costumes.suhailainternational.com This Web site that includes information for beginners.ZillTech. The International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance http://www. belly dance instructors. and links. and blogs. videos. photographs. and musicians dedicated to promoting belly dancing. and instructor information. choreographer. Discover Belly Dance http://www.com/ This site features online classes. events.com This is the largest online belly dance community.com This Web site includes costumes.

NY 71: © Adoc-photos/ Art Resource. NY 24: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 26: © Infobase Publishing 29: © Getty Images 33: © Picture Contact/Alamy 35: © Sylvain Grandadam 39: © Upperhall Ltd/Robert Harding 42: INSADCO Photography/ Alamy 45: © Win Initiative 49: © AFP/Getty Images 55: © AFP/Getty Images 57: © AFP/Getty Images 61: © National Geographic/ Getty Images 64: © AFP/Getty Images 67: © Erich Lessing/ Art Resource. NY 74: © Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images 77: © David Sutherland/Corbis 81: Kathy Chueng of Liverpool. England 89: © Jamal Saidi/Reuters/ Corbis 96: © Michelle Hoover 100: © Jupiterimages/Brand X/ Corbis 106: By permission of Penni AlZayer 122 .PICTURE CREDITS P 17: © Getty Images 20: © Erich Lessing/ Art Resource.

93–102 animal sacri ces. Ates. 63 Abdullah (Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia). 94–95 Bahauddin. 71 Alp. 75. 102 American tribal style (ATS) belly dancing. 75–77 in United States. Abdul. 59–60. 73 ATS belly dancing. 97 B battle dances. 66–67 roots of. 103 altars. 40 Bahrain. 95 al Ardhah. 98 African dance. 102 Arabic hip thrusts. 52 ankles. 68–69 tribal style. eda. 34 Belly Dance Superstars.INDEX “Aa Nadda”. 73 Beledi rhythm. 76 Bara. 76 Amas Repertory eater. 72–75 FatChanceBellyDance. 41. 39 accessibility. 60 Bakkar. Farid al-. 75 al Ardhah. 76 Ashura. Deanne. Nimet. 63–65 “Al Houwara”. 28–31. 102 Balanchine. 76 Black Sheep Belly Dance. 105. 34 bangles. Irving. Mohammed El. 76 Al-Shmaliah. 57 Al-Baalbakieh. 78 Adams. 84 e American Belly Dancer. 37 Banu. 102 belly dancing development of cabaret dancing and. Fi . 75 Ates. 63 Abdo. 75 Birdcage eater. Nejla. Princess. 97 Archer. 107 Beloved. 88–92 in Middle Eastern society. 77–87. 21 Birol. 70 Bint el Baled. 91. 93–102 Turkish. 35–36. 21–22 ayyalah. 93–102 western perceptions of. 72 Basic Egyptian step. 68 A Arab American Television. Rita. 10 ballet. 68 “ e Astor”. 98. 63–65 arm gestures. 59–60 bedleh. George. 107 Asena. 98 Allan. Maud. 50–52 “Aba’ad”. 23 Aphrodite. Mohammed. 95–98 Ghawazee dancers and. 42 Berlin. 93 by men. 69–70 movements of. 72 beledi. 73 Atrache. See American tribal style (ATS) belly dancing “Awful Seeley Dinner” scandal. 65 bachelor party scandal. 94–95. 70–72 belly rolls. 99 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival. 80 Banat Mazin. 73 Bal-Anat. 52 Altiok. 64 Azziz. Kemal. 104–109 Ouled Naïl dancers and. Masha. 98 123 . 76 Ataturk. 105 Arabic step. 22 Bagdad Cabaret. 76 overview of. 82 American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance. 66. Inci. 52 Astarte. 57 A’aza. 65 ablutions. 103 Alderucci. 31–34. 73 Abdou.

Solomon Chicago World’s Fair and. 87 cane dance. Chuck. See also Belly dancing danse orientale. 73 Farrah. 95–98 Fatima. 59 development of cabaret dancing and. 105 cameras. Gustave. Thomas. 45–46. 53 Bou Saada. 31 Brice. 96–97. 108 costumes. 54–58. Charles R. 98 Dandekar. 43. 98 derbeki. Eugène. 53 D ecstasy. See also Belly dancing Delacorte Dance Festival. See also Belly dancing Elcin. 77 Egypt ayyalah and. 68 circle dances. 73 Fame. 18–20. 23 California tribal belly dancing. 58 trance dances and. 85 cabaret dancing. 99 Carioca. 108 Fahmi. Carolina Varga. 57 figure eights. 97 Christianity. 77 Casbah Dance Experience. 40 djinn. 99–101 Buddhism. 103–104 Dag Hammarskjold Theater. 84 Little Egypt and. 73 carnivals. 43 Burhaneddin.A World of Dance. 50 Fatima’s Dance. 101 Cradle of Civilization. 16 chocolate. 21. 83 fire walking. 82 Delacroix. 46 Djoumahna. 76 Chapman. 86 drums. 77 Dandekar. 76 capes. 41 Fanny. 64–65 ayyalah and. 43 Cermai. 102 circuses. 86. 34. Farida. 18.124 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE Bloom. 15–16. dance as expression of. 97 bokhur. 57 Dance du Ventre. Milike. 97 Choo-choo step.. 60 dabkeh and. 23. 66. 98. 19 importance of. 73 Ferris wheels. 64–65 flamenco. 23 Feyrouz. 33–34. 99 Caravan Trails. 104 Columbian Exposition. 80–84 Divan-i Kabir. 11–13 eyelash fluttering. Tahia. 58 Didem. 108 E facial expressions. 80 Ethiopia. 65 cymbals. 76 Dina. 76 emotion. 98 Cooer-Hewitt Museum. 84 Dance of Fatima. 99 Flaubert. 40 Byblos. 70 naming of belly dancing and. 66. 46 cabaret costume. 88–92 Cairo Street. 91 raqs tanbur and. 25 Crane. 76. 66 Blue People. 52 Chelebi. 54–58 C dabkeh.. 87 canes. 16 Compton. 19. 21 Dance Heritage Coalition. Sarala. 97. 78 classic danse orientale. 98–99 danse du ventre. Kajira. 40–41 Chicago World’s Fair. Seyyid. 23 music and. 76. 31–34 male belly dancers and. 23 candelabras. 93–102 camel gait. 90 FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD). 66. 21 feet. John. Rachel. 22 charity. 47 body art. 82 “The Dal’ouna”. 73 Dinicu. 82 corsets. 30. 105 film. 21. 35–37 Egyptian Dance. Husameddin. See also Kettledrums al Ardhah and. 78. 23 cosmetics. 72–75 Ghawazee dancers and. 16–17 cholis. 102 fanaticism. 69 Espanol Ximenez-Vargas. 36. 48 The Event of the Year. 72–75. 85. George S. 38. 98 drum solos. 21. 19 F . 43 flagellation. 50 flagmen. 84 celibacy. 90. 60. 78 Whirling Dervishes and. 44 Saidi dances and. Ibrahim. 21 classes. 104. 19 Delilah. 107 Caravan Studio. 41 Edison. 101.

63 khawals. 68 J kanun. 99 hip movements. 45–48 Gulf dances. 52 Masabni. 91 kohl. 84 Iraq. 22–23 Majeed. 21–25 Lucy. 31–34 G hadjia. 25–27 Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association. 70 harems. 45. 53 India. 34. Iraq. 80 Mevlana Festival. 19 Hussein. 72 Mathnawi. 99 Gypsy dancers of Egypt. 102 “Harem Nights”. 91. 47. Nagua. 108 martyrs. 36. 47 Hair Dance (raqs nasha’at). 73 headdresses. 48 henna. 43 goddess worship. 31. 60. 51 Kocheks. 65 imams. Laurel Victoria. 18 L Janissaries. 31–34. 47 knives. 99 Hoffman. 75 kemenja. 43 Indian dance. 44 Kuwait. 105. 103 “Leila Leila”. 98 The Great Ziegfeld. 43. 33–34. 41 Mevlevi brotherhood of Whirling Dervishes. 16–17 Hinduism. 34. 65 makeup. 36. 50–51. 68. 68 Isis Foundation. 87 hairstyles. 92 Gamal. 23 Kismet. 72 hoochy-koochy dance. 84 Midway Plaisance. 22 hand gestures. 72 knees. 57. 73 Gérôme. 77 Hari. 17. 57 Hugo. 33. 81. 101 “Grand Tour” of Europe. 97. 44 kettledrums. 60–61 Khaliji dance. 68 Gypsy Caravan. 102 Mazin family. 86. 64–65 “Al Houwara”. 54–58 Little Egypt. 99 Indigo Belly Dance Company. 44 Max Headroom. 22 mizmar. 19 Ghawazee dancers. 40–41. 54 Lincoln Center. 98 haik. 102 I Lebanon. 34 Mehana. 72 Harrison. 60. 30. 34. Oscar. 105 Istanbul. 50 karsilama. 91 K Mahzar. 108 hip-hop. 11–13 Middle East. 73 Luxor Temple. 63 men’s solos. 41 kudum. 47. 34. 99 M . 44 Karbala. 83 glass eating. 53. 91 jewelry. Faten. 91 Izzy Awards. 61–63 Khaliju music. See also Belly dancing horabah. 32 Gray. Mata. 98 Hayatem. 22 guedra. 104 Fouad. 93 Giza Award. Badia. 99–101 International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance. 46. 73 Hammerstein.. 31. 84 Mideastern Dancer magazine. 50 Husseineya. 79 funk. 107 Harem. Abdul. 44 Khaliji. 54. 97 folkloric dance. Gertrude. 88–92 MENSA. 90. 68 Gothic fashion. 48. 79 isolations. 61–63. 34 Mizna. 48 Hahbi ‘Ru. Turkey. 48 Hamama. 50 incense. 70. 73 Mata Hari. 85 Hershey. 21. Saddam. 83 line dances. 60 Isis. 30 Judaism. Jean-Léon. 43. 84 Islam. Benjamin. 107 folk music. 59–65 Gypsies. Farida. 52 kinetoscope. 41 Michael (student). Milton S. Samia. Yousif. 63 Levant people. 16 Hawaii. Victor. See also Muslims Islamic fundamentalism. 73 fundamentalism. 16–18. 47.Index 125 floor work. overview of. 47. 43 H Ibn Saud. 19. 61 galabiya. 36 Konya.

76 Whirling Dervishes and. 98 motion picture cameras. Carolena. 43 Paris Exposition of 1889. 93. 52 Muslims. Paulette. 73 Sharif. Jeff. 60. 72. 102 Seif. Elizabeth Artemis. 34 reed flutes. 95–97. 52–53 Renaissance Pleasure Faire. 98 San Francisco Classic Dance Troupe. 17 Raks Masri. 39–41 “the runs”. 97 shoes. 43. 61–63 San Francisco. 87 raqs na’shaar. Oregon. 82 Morocco. 87 raqs Saidi. 61–63 Saudi music. 55 rebaba. 63 SCA. 28–31. 44 ras. 99 Mogol. 87 raqs sha’abi. Emine Adalet. 43 S . 18 P Qatar. 43 Salimpour. 61–63. 97 Ringling Brothers’ Circus. 70–72 samra (samri). Gustave. 73 Sharm el Sheikh. 38. 34 raqs tanbur. 15 Pee. 31 sheikha. 98 New York City. 50–52. Suhalia. 63 Ouled Naïl dancers. 76 Saidi dances. 43. Ayse. See Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) scandals. Ted. Nergis. 94 Reverse Taxeem step. 76 Moreau. 94 Rostum. 43–44 Shams. 76 Napoleon Bonaparte. Omar. 20–21 pilgrimages. 61–63 raqs nasha’at. 50 Portland. 36. 45–46. 23 Mourat. 57 Najd. 50–52 Shimmy step. 48–49 Putnam. It Isn’t Just for Women Anymore” (Sultan). 66 National Dance Institute. 66. 45–48 Sufism and. 73 shoulders. 60 Qur’an. 50–52 guedra. See also Islam mustaches. 92 Shawn. California. 60. 63–64 Nana. 87 raqs sharqi. 35–37 N pagan customs. 82 ney. Aza. 43 Rees.126 MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE modern dance. 38–41 zar. 93–95. 19 Moroccan Pavilion. 91. 98 Muhammad. 44 Q R Olympia Theater. 66. Mevlana Jalaluddin. Tito. 60 online studies. 21–22 Scheherazade. 35–37. 105 Oregon. 40 Sharif. 99 religious dances A’aza. 44. See also Belly dancing Raks Sharq’i. 38. 99 power. 34 raqs shamadan. 46 pregnancy.. 19 O ragtime. 92 Orientalists. 11–13 navels. 31–34. 50 Muharrem. 22 Oman. 99 Rees-Denis. 101 Salimpour. 48 priestesses. 56 oud. F. 73 Nericcio. 63 Ottoman Empire. 36 mutribah. Blue People and. Burcin. 101 Persian Palace of Eros. 48–49. 96 Ouled Naïl dancers and. 44. Hind. See also Belly dancing Ramadan. 101–102 Salome. 73 Rumi. 42–45 sacrifices. 43. 38–39. 99 Orhon. 52 sagat. 80–84. 58 Northern African dances Ghawazee dancers and. 39 raqs assaya. 95 Saudi Arabia. Jamila. 92 semâ. 87 saints. 12–13 “Aa Nadda”. 76 “Oriental Dance. 72. 76 Nelly. 32.W. 98. 28–31 Saidi. 101 Salimpour. 63–65 Saudi dance. 48 Shia Muslims. Ardeshir. 98. 76 Pennisic Wars. 107 shrines.

Mehmet Semseddin. 59 Tombstone. 48 suffering. 84 zaghroota. 99 Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life through Belly Dance (Rees-Denis). 51 tattooing. 23 Z . 36 Taxeem step. 22 Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA). 101 Somalia. 102 Sultan. 76 Y umiya. 60 Yildiz. dancing and. 47 spins. Tarik. 85–86 Blue People and. 85. 75–77. 53 tableh drums. 77 veils American belly dancing and. 76 zippers. 44 Tanyeli. 105 turning. 47 dabkeh and. 38–41. 102 Tempest. 53. 82 sword dance. 31. 51 television. 38. 98–99 The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon That Is American Tribal Style Bellydance (Djoumahna). 102 Suhalia Salimpour Format. 59–60 striptease. 43 Silly’s Dinner. Arizona. Ozel. 97 tavols. 99 Tuareg Berber tribes. 43–44 zilz. 76 Turkish belly dancing. role of. 73–75 zar. 31 Veled. 60 tambourines. 98 tribal fusion. 45–48 zar. belly dancing in. 61. 46. 68 Woodward’s Gardens. 101–102 Suhalia Salimpour School of Dance. 46. 64 United Nations General Assembly. 40 videos. 53 tatbeer. 22 whirling. Saliha. 34 table. 97 tribal belly dancing. Sema. 98 Tribal Fest. 92 SUNY-Purchase. 48 V tabla beledi. Mark. 62 thobes. ritual of. 105 voodoo. 63–65 swords. 77–87. 92 Sultan. Evrim. Ruth. 42–45 Suhalia Salimpour Dance Company. 42 Tekneci. 105 United Arab Emirates. 58 tahtib. 50 Yemen. 73 vaudeville. 40 tekke. 107 development of cabaret dancing and. Sultan. 48–49. 46 Tebrizi. Ashea. 98 thobe neshal. 72 stage names. 76 T Wabe. 97 Turkbas. 63 Zaki. 52–53 Tribal Basics video. 43–44 wishem. 60. 50–52 Sufism. Denis. 107 St. 70 Twain. 98 TerriAnne. 107 Whirling Dervishes. 99 Valley of the Kings. 91 Turkish hip thrusts. 76 tar. 52–53 Zikr ceremony. 21 Topkapi. 72 Ouled Naïl dancers and. 48 undulations. 107 sticks. Suhair. 35–36 takhmirs. 21 standing position. 68 W Yazid. 15 World’s Fair (Chicago). 16 worship. 30.Index 127 shrouds. Nesrin. 93–102 Tribal Bible (Dandekar). 60. 81–82 U Zaghareet Magazine. 60 tanbur. 45–46 turbans. 76 trance dances guedra. 107 Tutankhamen (King Tut). 30. 48 souls. 97 t’bal. 93–102 urban tribal dancers. 23 United States. 76 Sudan. 85 women. 99 Tribal Quest NorthWest.

When she is not in Riyadh. where she hopes to continue to dance and share the gift of Middle Eastern dance for many more years. Greece. She holds a BS in Physical Education from the University of Maryland and an MS in Physical Education from Penn State. international folk dance. square and contra dance. figure skating.aBout the author and ConsultInG edItor Author Penni alzayer is an arts educator who has traveled extensively in the Middle East and Europe and lived in the Arabian Gulf region for 13 years. She is married to a Saudi professor (an artist and actor) and is the mother of four. Ohio. Consulting editor elizabeth a. in Olympia. hanley is Associate Professor Emerita of Kinesiology at the Pennsylvania State University. and ballroom dance. where she taught such courses as modern dance. she resides in McArthur. She is the founder and former director of the Penn State International Dance Ensemble and has served as the coordinator of the dance workshop at the International Olympic Academy. 128 .

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