Egyptian Style Belly Dance
What is Egyptian Style Belly Dance?
Egyptian style belly dance is also called “Raks Sharqi”- an Arabic term meaning “Dance of the East” or “Dance of the Orient”. When people think of belly dance, it’s likely they have a picture in their minds of this style. Raks Sharqi, or Egyptian style belly dance, is the most popular style of belly dance today and is the style most commonly taught and performed around the world.
It has had the greatest impact and influence on belly dance and is considered by many to be the “authentic “style of belly dance. What many people recognize as the classic belly dance movements come from Egyptian style of belly dance. Belly dance in Egypt underwent significant transformation throughout the years, from being essentially a folkloric style of dance to being in mainstream cinema, in nightclubs and on the professional stage.
As you will see from the section on the history of belly dance, Raqs Sharqi developed from the folkloric style of dance of the common Egyptian performed in everyday life, called “beledi” style dance, to the refined artistic dance form called “Raqs Sharqi” which was fit for the stage and was theatrical with strong influences from classical ballet.
Egyptian dance is characterized by its elegance and refinement with an emphasis on feeling. Compared to other belly dance styles, the movements are characterized by being smaller, more controlled, refined and “interior”, using deep internal muscles.
Classical Egyptian dancers place a great emphasis on feeling-deeply feeling the music and expressing the emotions of the music through their body movements. Because modern Egyptian dance is also heavily influenced by classical balletic movements, there is a strong element of graceful arms, floating movements and an emphasis on fully utilizing the stage space.
Finger cymbals, or “sagat” are not used in Egyptian style dance because dancers typically perform with a band that already has a sagat player. Floor work is never performed (at least in Egypt) as it is considered inappropriate and is actually prohibited by law.
Raqs Sharqi can be either improvised or choreographed depending on the setting in which it is performed. If it is being performed in a nightclub or hotel, it is usually improvised, while if it is being performed on stage it is usually choreographed. Whether it is improvised or choreographed, the overall feeling is that of one movement flowing seamlessly to the next, intense emotional expression of the music and great technical skill of all the belly dance movements.