Characteristics of the different styles of BD?

gisela

Super Moderator
Hi, i don't know if this is maybe a stupid question but... I want to learn more about the characteristics of the different styles of BD. Does anyone here want to help me? Whats special for the egyptian style? How does it stand out from turkish or lebanese style. (I'm thinking of oriental routines or cabaret or similar as baladi, saidi etc are easily recognised.) If I can get some pointers on what to look for it might be easier to see the differences in the videos.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Style characteristics

Dear Gisela,
Egyptian style belly dance has the specific characteristic of relying on internalization of most movements in order to creat the style. This usually means that the stomach mucleses and/or the muslces in the pelvis and butt are held a little bit tightly in order to keep the movement to a certain balance point not too far outside the range of centeredness of the body ( if that makes sense...I am much better at explaining movement with my body as a demonstrator tool). Egyptian style dance also is usually charcterized by a lot of vertical movement ( LAYERING) in reponse to more than one musical instrument playing at the same time. It is also not based so much in an intellectual response to the music, so that the dancer's emotional and vicseral response to the music is as important as the movement vocabulary.
I could also explain Turkish and Lebanese, but I think there are people here who are more qualified than I to explain these styles.
REgards,
A'isha
 

Irene

New member
Different styles

This is my understanding so far:

Turkish: lots of snakey movements and belly rolls, more use of floorwork, the dancer gives more attention to the melody (well, Turkish music leads to that too...).
Lebanese: travels more, more airy, usually quicker
Egyptian: more earthy, smaller movements, less use of space, the hips have to take into account everything the percussion does and the torso-shoulders-arms take care of the melody. Each and every beat and stop of the percussion has to be acknowledged. Smaller movements. Small hip circles are not so frequent, big hip circles almost only for accents, once or twice. Generally, more powerful and dynamic.

Others may add to it.
 

gisela

Super Moderator
thanks, that's some nice explanations. I can already better understand some of the things I've seen so far. It's hard in the beginning, when u haven't seen so much, to know if it's the dancers personal style or a more general thing to do a move in a certain way. Although I'm not a woman of words and rather express myself through art, dance, music I find it enlightening to put precise words on the art. Thanks for helping. More descriptions are most welcome.:)
 

Aziyade

New member
From what I've seen of modern (last decade) Turkish, it looks almost as if they're trying to imitate what they're seeing in Egypt. They're using music with a more Egyptian sound, which necessitates a different physical interpretation than the "old school" Turkish.

From the video available, I'm not seeing ANYTHING that looks like old school Turkish anymore. (Tulay Karaca was one of my fave old school dancers, and you just don't see that anymore.) Most of the compare/contrast articles on the internet deal with Turkish dance as it was done in the 80s and before, and it just doesn't look like that anymore.

And on the folk/folkloric angle:

As I understand it, both Turkish and Egyptian borrow a lot from the folk dance forms. A'isha, let me know if this doesn't match your experience, but from what I've seen, Egyptian folk dance has more in common with indigenous dance of West and North Africa, than it does with Persian/Turkic/Central Asian. And Turkish folk dance has more in common with Balkan/Persian dance than it does North African.

Egyptian/African folk dance seems to focus more on pelvic articulations to the rhythm. Turkish/Balkan dance focuses more on footwork. Also, I've never seen Egyptian or African dance use an 8 count step in a 4/4 piece of music, but I see this a lot in Turkish/Greek/Persian -- where say a 6-count step is repeated inside an 8 count rhythm.

Suhaila told us Lebanese dance in the 80's and 90's was highly influenced by jazz and theatrical dance. But again from what I understand it's hard to say WHAT Lebanese dance looks like now, since the performers in Lebanon seem to be less concerned about actual dance technique and more about showing off what's for sale. (!)
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Characteristics etc.

And on the folk/folkloric angle:

As I understand it, both Turkish and Egyptian borrow a lot from the folk dance forms. A'isha, let me know if this doesn't match your experience, but from what I've seen, Egyptian folk dance has more in common with indigenous dance of West and North Africa, than it does with Persian/Turkic/Central Asian. And Turkish folk dance has more in common with Balkan/Persian dance than it does North African.

Egyptian/African folk dance seems to focus more on pelvic articulations to the rhythm. Turkish/Balkan dance focuses more on footwork. Also, I've never seen Egyptian or African dance use an 8 count step in a 4/4 piece of music, but I see this a lot in Turkish/Greek/Persian -- where say a 6-count step is repeated inside an 8 count rhythm.



Dear Aziyade,
I would say that in a very general sense that would be a good explanation, though of course there are Sudani Egyptian dances, for example, that are based more on foot work. (Doesn't it seem like for every rule there is a thing that will disprove it??)

Suhaila told us Lebanese dance in the 80's and 90's was highly influenced by jazz and theatrical dance. But again from what I understand it's hard to say WHAT Lebanese dance looks like now, since the performers in Lebanon seem to be less concerned about actual dance technique and more about showing off what's for sale. (!)

I have to say that I am not sure I agree with Suhaila in this. Suhaila's personal style at the time was becoming more jazz oriented... but I can't say I saw that in Lebanese bellydancers. Lebanese theatre did begin to incorporate more dance and that did get theatric. I am trying to think of the name of one of the famous plays, but it escapes me. I NEED MORE COFFEE!!!!!!!

Regards,
A'isha
 

Aziyade

New member
Feyrouz plays? One of my Lebanese kids gave me a stack of CDs of musical theatre that either Feyrouz sang in, or the Rahbani brothers wrote. Nothing was named of course -- but he did sit with me a while and translate. I'd love to have seen the original productions.

The only Lebanese dance I've seen has been the Ya Bab al Shabab shows (which are apparently pretty bad) and Amani and Nadia, neither of which are considered "strictly" Lebanese style.

Could you count Bobby Farrah as Lebanese style?I wouldn't think so, since his choreographies always seemed so infused with ballet/modern dance. I never saw HIM dance, though -- just photos.



I have to say that I am not sure I agree with Suhaila in this. Suhaila's personal style at the time was becoming more jazz oriented... but I can't say I saw that in Lebanese bellydancers. Lebanese theatre did begin to incorporate more dance and that did get theatric. I am trying to think of the name of one of the famous plays, but it escapes me. I NEED MORE COFFEE!!!!!!!

Regards,
A'isha
 

Moon

New member
I found information on the Dutch site www.bellydancing.nl, and tried to translate it as best as I can:

American style
The American style is an assembly of Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian and a great dose Orientalism (romantic fantasy about how things would be like in the Middle East) and American show elements.
Because of that, the following elements can be recognised in this style: spead, atletic abilities, big isolations, floorwork, dancing with zills, veils, swords or snakes. The happy, mysterious appearance of the dancer appeals to the 1001-nights feeling which is often appreciated by Western audience when watching a bellydance performance. The fast variation of movements will make sure the audience won't get bored for a second. The 'routines', especially composed for these performances, consist of quick successive pieces of music, make sure the dancer can keep up with the speed and variation. However, all this causes the American style to have more 'appearence' than 'contents'.

Baladi
In the beginning of the 20th century, many Egyptians who came from the country moved to the city Cairo, looking for a better way of living. Even now, many families who have been living in the city for generations, still have a connection with the area or the village from which they originated. Baladi means "my country" or "from the country". It also stands for the dance style which represents the soul of the Egyptian, the Egyptian who is still homesick for the country. It is the dance of the "ordinary" Egyptian. That's why they often say the most beautiful baladi dance can be seen at home.
The baladi is a dance style which is sensual and not choreographed, it is improvised and danced on the square meter. The hip movements are earthy. The music is characteristic and has fixed compounds (which are not always in the same order). Often, the music starts with a taqsim (improvisation) of the accordeon ore the saxophone (this used to be the oud) on which the dancer follows the sound of the music instrument with her hips and makes fluent movements with her arms close to her body. Then, a short "question and answer game" from the percussionist follows, the me-atta, which sounds as prr tac e doom tac and often repeats itself 4 times. On this, the dancer makes small hip or shoulder movements. Then, the instrument which had started the music continues, but now accompanied by a maqsoum rhythm. The dancer makes larger hip movements. Often, another me-atta follows on which the speed of the rhythm will increase and changes in the fellahin rhythm and the dancer will start dancing in a more expressive way. Often, the music ends with a taqsi on which the dancer will dance slower again. The dancer is dressed in a baladi dress and not in a 2-piece cabaret costume. Every Egyptian professional dancer has baladi in her repetoire. Famous baladi dancers were/are Suheir Saki, Nelly Fouad, Mona Said and Lucy.

Classical Egyptian style
There are different opinions about the origen of the classical Egyptian style. There are authors who say this style originates in the dances which were performed centuries ago at the Arabian courts, but this can't be proved. There is often said that this style originates in the 40's and 50's when there was a great Egyptian film industry, many dancers danced in these movies and this dance had an aura of refinement and courtliness. "Film dance" is an often used synonim for this dance style.
The classical Egyptian style is influenced by dance styles from the West: elements from ballet like an increased usage of space, arabesques, larger arm movements and especially a strongly improved posture which made it possible to do more refined isolations with the body. The energy of the classical dancer is higher and less earthy than that of the baladi dancer. The baladi dancer represents the "country woman", while the classical dancer represents the princess or moviestar. That's why this dance is called Raqs el Hawanim (dance of the ladies) by the Egyptians. The lightliness, wide arm movements, fine hand movements and often small isolations give the classical style an elegant, but often (from the first sight) not very spectacular appearence. However the body control is very difficult.
The music from those days is complex and influenced by Western music by the big orchestras and number of instruments used. Not seldomly, componists found their inspiration in Western music, but also in Latin-American music.
There are still many films available from the 40's-60's of dancers like Samya Gamal, Taheya Carioca, Naima Akef, Houda Shamsheddin, Zeinat Olwi and many others.
Nowadays, the classical style is hardly visible on Egyptian dancers, but they translated the "classical" movements into their own dance.

Ghawazee
The Ghawazee are probably a community which does not originate in Egypt, but has moved to Egypt more than 1000 years ago. There are different theories about their origin. Often it is said they originate from the romany. The Ghawazee often had an important function in the community, namely being musician, entertainer, dancer on weddings and parties. Also, there has always been a connection between femal Ghawazee and prostitution.
Ghawazee are dancers who have been described in travel stories from the 18th and 19th centuries, when Europian travelers came to Egypt. Some writers, like the Frenchman Gustave Flaubert, were obsessed by these dancers. Nowadays, most Ghawazee live in the area around Luxor. However, the Ghawazee dance is fast disappearing. Often, this dance was performed by 2 or more sisters. Well known dancers are the Banaat Maazin (doughters of Maazin) from which one of them, Khariya Maazin, still teaches the Ghawazee style.
The Ghawazee style can be classified in Shaabi and is characterised by earthy basal hip movements, certain steps, isolated head movements and simple arm movements. The dancers almost continuously play the sagat (zills) and make ground patterns by for example standing back to back.
Originally, the dance was performed in some kind of shirt with long sleeves, a skirt, a head piece and shoes. Later, this was substituted by a baladi dress with beads. The Ghawazee orchestra has similarities with the saaidi orchestra.

Lebanese style
Geographically, Lebanon is located between Egypt and Turkey. Technically, the Lebanese style lies between Turkish and Egyptian style: much speed, earthiness but also more upward hip and pelvis movements, floorwerk and many show elements. One could say that Lebanese bellydance is Turkish bellydance in an Egyptian way, or Egyptian bellydance in a Turkish way. Lebanese (and Turkish) dancers have had a great influence on the development of bellydance in America. The lebanese style is the most Western-like bellydance style, also the music is often Western-oriented.
Well-known Lebanese style dancers are Nadia Gamal (1939-1990), Samara and Amani.

Saaidi
Saaidi dances originate from the area between Luxor and Assuan and are derived from the cane "fight"dances done by men. Women took over this dance and gave it a feminine essence in which they ridicule the male abilities.
Saaidi dances can be classified in Shaabi, the overall name for dances originating from the country. The music is often happy and uncomplicated. The saaidi rhythm makes the dance earthy and light at the same time. The dubble "doom" at the end of the bar provides lightness and the dancer will do upward hip movements and little jumps. The music instruments are characteristic: the rababa (a stringed instrument with horse hair strings), the mizmar (some kind of horn), the ney (reed flute), the arghul (blow instrument) and several percussion instruments like the baladi or saaidi drum. Modern, commercial saaidi music with electronical instruments is also available. The men are traditionally dressed in 2 galabiejas over each other and have a hat or shawl on the head. The women wear a beledi dress and a shawl in the hair. They don't wear a 2 piece cabaret costume.
Egyptian dances often have a saaidi piece in their repetoire.

Turkish styles
The Turkish bellydance differs from Egyptian bellydance by less earthiness, more upward movements with the pelvis and hips, more turns and floorwork. Technically spoken, the greater speed, many turns and acrobatic floorwork probably originate from Central Azian dances.
Roughly, 3 bellydance styles can be recognised in Turkey:
1. The Arabeske style,. This is the Turkish version of Arabian bellydance and contains the earlier mentioned elements. Often there is danced with zills. Unfortunately, this style is disappearing and substituted with both the more Arabic style and the more Europian style. The traditionally Turkish-like Arabian music more often is substituted by Arabian pop music. In the worst case, bellydance is transformed in some kind of frisking which can be seen in tourist areas.
2. The Roman style. Traditionally performed by Roman dancers on the irregular 9/8 rhythm. But skilled Turkish dancers are also familiar with this style, which is characterised by rough hip movements, little jumps and representations of all-day practices.
3. Bellyfolk. This is the dance which is most often danced on parties. It is a combination of movements from the Arabesk style and folkloric steps.
 

sedoniaraqs

New member
One of the problems that makes a comparison of Egyptian, Lebanese, and Turkish difficult is the relative lack of good examples or opportunities to study the latter two, either via videography or live performances. If you want to understand what Egyptian dance is, you can buy any number of videos featuring great Egyptian dancers -- Fifi, Mona, Souhair, Nagua, etc. Or you can go to Cairo and see good dancers and attend workshops with some of them.

My knowledge of Lebanese is much more limited, and highly influenced by Nadia Gamal and Amani, who I am told are not necessarily representative (for various reasons). However, one characteristic of Lebanese relating to musicality is that Lebanese music tends to emphasize the upbeats rather than downbeats, and Lebanese dancers tend to emphasize these upbeats with upward hip movements.

My knowledge of Turkish is largely based on American teachers who teach Turkish. O.K. really only one, Artemis Mourat. I saw Eva Cernik in performance once but not enough to really study her style. And as far as current Turkish dancers, I have heard that most of them are attempting to emulate Egyptian dancers, and use mostly Arabic music. I have heard that old style American belly dance (like from the 60' and 70's) is highly influenced by Turkish, but without seeing representative dancers that can't really be demonstrated.

However, if you want to understand the difference between, say, Egyptian dancers and American dancers, just watch videos of them. Spend some time watching just Egyptian dance videos over and over. It is difficult, as A'isha said to just make a list of "steps" or "movements" because these alone don't define the styles -- its overall technique, attitude, cultural framework, musicality, etc.

Sedonia
 
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