How relevant is Egypt to Modern Belly Dance

Dev

New member
Hello Group! How relevant is the Ancient History Of Belly Dance to the Modern Belly Dancing (Last 100 years) If we look at the History of Belly Dance , Its origin travelled from one country to the other country, Started in India travelled all the way to the Middle East, (Excuse me if I am wrong) Do you think Belly Dancing has now gripped the Western culture ? Belly Dancing now gets mainly ignored in Egypt, Probably they lost the essence of it, and the west has got it. What are your thoughts? Do you think Egypt is just a spiritual connection for the dancer but nothing else
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Egypt, etc.

Dear Dipali,
What has led you to the conclusion that belly dance gets mainly ignored in Egypt? Why do you think the dance started in India and why do you think it has lost its Egyptian essence? I do hope that you will respond to these questions because I am really interested in how you have come to believe what you believe about the dance.
Belly dance is in fact alive and well in Egypt, and though there are now dancers in the west, this does not mean that the "west has gripped the dance" and forced out all of the Eygptian; only that they are developing new and different forms of dance here in the west that has some movement structures that borrow from belly dance as well as other forms. Egyptian belly dance does retain its essence. It is in every fibor of the native dancers, and there are some western dancers who also do it justice. The same can be said for the Lebanese and Turkish dancers, who regardless of costuming, musical changes, even new dance movements, still retain their ethnic and cultural flavor and spirit, which is after all, the real meaning and feeling of any dance form. People who have studied a dance style for a long time can often tell you if a dancer is a native of Egypt/Lebanon/Turkey, because of the essence of the dance, and the approach to the music and the movement. I could tell immediately that Esmahan is not Egyptian and that Randa is, for example, merely by the way they dealt with the music emotionally. That was without knowing a thing about either of them. Essence is alive and well and easy to spot. It is not easy to explain in words, but it is a truth of the dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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chryssanthi sahar

New member
Dear Dipali.

It is not easy to specify the origin of belly dancing in ancient times. There are different theories about it and there are quite some books presenting those different opinions. Some researches say, belly dancing has its origin in the birth rituals of Black Africa, others say, it comes from the Astarte (Ishtar) rites of Middle East, others again say, it has it's origin in the ancient Greek rituals for Aphrodite (Venus) (I like this version the most, since I am Greek;) ). Nevertheless, we cannot not know for sure.
As about Egypt, it is definitely the mother of the contemporary belly dance and still the most important belly dance country. It is not true, that belly dance is ignored in Egypt today. It is in a more difficult position, than it used to be 20 years ago, because of the growing Islamic fundamentalism, but Egypt is still the source for the art of belly dancing. On the other hand, it depends, what you call belly dancing. As you know (or at least, I hope you know), there have developed different styles of belly dancing in the past 40 years, but some of them are so different from the original Egyptian/Arabian style, that I'm not sure, if one can still call them "belly dance". If you want to know more about the styles, have a look at the forum "Dance Styles" http://forum.orientaldancer.net/forumdisplay.php?f=5

Regards
Chryssanthi
 

Dev

New member
Dear Dipali,
What has led you to the conclusion that belly dance gets mainly ignored in Egypt? Why do you think the dance started in India and why do you think it has lost its Egyptian essence? I do hope that you will respond to these questions because I am really interested in how you have come to believe what you believe about the dance.

Regards,
A'isha
Dear A'isha Azar. Its always nice to read your post/s, Why do I think ? Belly Dance started in India, No I don’t think I am 100% correct, (Lets assume I have used one certain Belly dance historians thought) after reading so many articles about the origin of Belly Dance I am still not sure where Belly dance actually originated. But we know that the dance style travelled through many countries in many different forms, (again I could be wrong) Regarding loosing its essence in Egypt, Well numerous articles -News clips (I believe quite a few articles were published on this website .) it tells the story of the current situation of Belly Dance culture in Egypt, Either I am reading all the negative stories or its just the truth, Dear Aisha, I am not very educated in Belly Dancing. I have not gone through every detail of its past and present but am trying to learn, I am always willing to ask if I have any questions and want to know about it. And personally I thank you all for replying to my queries.:)
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Relevance, etc.

Dear Dipali,
Unfortunately, you are gong to read a lot of things about belly dance that have no basis in reality. However,do not despair! With time and experience, we learn to reason out what has the ring of truth and what is mythology or made up for someone's marketing mix. Learn to watch the dancers from the countries of origin very closely. Look for what it is that makes them have something in common with other dancers from the same country even when their dances might appear to be different. This is one key to learning about the essence of the dance.
Learn to read and weed out what does not seem realistic for people to be able to know. For example, the term "ancient" as applied to belly dance: What are the proofs people offer? How can they determine that what was done 10,000 or even 1,000 years ago was "belly dance"? What are the proofs that the dance is a more modern development? Why might it or might it not have been an "ancient birth" or "ancient fertility" ritual? What qualities do rituals have that one does or does not usually see in an authentic ethnic belly dance performance? These are just a few of the questions about the dance that we all find ourselves asking if we are interested in understanding the dance. And as long as we dance there are opportunities to learn more!!
Best wishes,
A'isha
 

Salome

Administrator
My personal thoughts on the matter is that ancient history isn't really so relevant. But the contemporary history is relevant to what is going on today and 'we' have access to oral histories, film, traditions, photo's, and other articles to help us learn about the folk dances that gave birth to today's Oriental dance.
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Egypt

How relavant is Egypt to Raks Sharki today? For people who are into fusion, Tribal and gothic, perhaps there is not so much a concern, however, for those of us who are practitioners of classical and contemporary Raks Sharki, keeping that connection is not only important, but essential.

It is true that the professional expression is currently in a state of decline today but that is a far different thing than saying its dead! There are still dancers who are striving there, not to mention extreemly gifted choreographers. Even if the performance venues were to close there, these people will still be traveling around the world sharing their culture with us.

My favorite is Rakia Hassan. Yes, her name is on everyone's lips and regardless of whether you love her or hate her, you think the Festival is a cash cow or cultural event, she is undeniably a creative dynamo. Just when I've thought I've seen every movement, done every combination, Rakia will pull something out of her hat that's totally amazing, yet so simple that you slap yourself for not thinking about it yourself.

During the Italian Renaissance there were a lot of artists, architects and scientists who received opposition from the Church and their work was often censored or surpressed, (some had their heart beats surpressed):eek: , however, could anyone deny the relavance of Italy to art, science and architecture during that time? same applies here. This dance is more than fancy costumes and wiggles. It is the product of a culture. Without keeping that connection, it will fade and become lost.
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Dear A'isha Azar. Its always nice to read your post/s, Why do I think ? Belly Dance started in India, No I don’t think I am 100% correct, (Lets assume I have used one certain Belly dance historians thought) after reading so many articles about the origin of Belly Dance I am still not sure where Belly dance actually originated. But we know that the dance style travelled through many countries in many different forms, (again I could be wrong) Regarding loosing its essence in Egypt, Well numerous articles -News clips (I believe quite a few articles were published on this website .) it tells the story of the current situation of Belly Dance culture in Egypt, Either I am reading all the negative stories or its just the truth, Dear Aisha, I am not very educated in Belly Dancing. I have not gone through every detail of its past and present but am trying to learn, I am always willing to ask if I have any questions and want to know about it. And personally I thank you all for replying to my queries.:)
Hey Dipali:
I understand your confusion. as Aisha pointed out, you have to be deserning with the sources and claims. Raks Sharki as we know it today was developed in the early 20th century. This is well documented. The movement vocabulary is based primarily on the traditional social dance called Raks Baladi. Exactly how old is Raks Baladi? No one can really say. There are descriptions of dances involving shaking of the hips being done in the region by Roman observers, but a closer look at the movement suggests that it is an amalgamation of different movement traditions.

The hip movements are definately African. This can be seen by the fact that many of the movements are identical to those done all across the continent. The movements of the arms and hands are definately of Central Asiatic origin, as can be seen by the fact that those movements are identical to the movenents still being done in those areas today.

A basic study of India's history will show that for most of their history, they were isolated from the rest of the continent. They never lead any conquests into Western Asia, however, Northern India was repeatedly invaded by Central Asian cultures, Afghans, Persians, and Mongols. This is why the music, languages and dances, unlike Southern Indan, have a lot of Persian, Arabic and Afghani influences. On the other hand, India did have a very significant influence on the religion, foods, arts and dance of South East Asia. Even to the untrained eye the dances of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia all have a very strong Indian flavor. This was due to centuries of trade and settlements in those areas from the Indian Sub Continent.

Tarik
 

Dev

New member
Dear chryssanthi sahar,
Yes i liked the idea OF bellydance originated in India , Probably because i am from India, But i knew its not true, probably the theory came from the Gypsys that travelled arround all the way to middle east from northern India,But agree probably the dance has its origin in the birth rituals of Black Africa,
 

Dev

New member
How relavant is Egypt to Raks Sharki today? For people who are into fusion, Tribal and gothic, perhaps there is not so much a concern, however, for those of us who are practitioners of classical and contemporary Raks Sharki, keeping that connection is not only important, but essential..
That was my question? How many dancers really think or know that Bellydance is an art form with such a cultural background, And how important it is to know about it all for the dancers? My arguments about Egypt just a spritual connection for the dancers is still there... Belly Dance is not any more a restricted dance style, or probably never was ,As Tarik Sultan stated For people who are into fusion, Tribal and gothic, perhaps noT MUCH a
concern about the History and importance of Egypt and its influence ,
 

Moon

New member
Dipali said:
Yes i liked the idea OF bellydance originated in India , Probably because i am from India
Do you speak Hindi? I'm trying to learn some, but it's difficult.

Ok sorry for going off topic. I've also read somewhere that there are theories that bellydance originated from India, because certain arm movements are very similar.
 

Dev

New member
Do you speak Hindi? I'm trying to learn some, but it's difficult.
I can understand perfectly, but i have problems with writing and speaking, In india we have a popular dialect , specially amongs the younger generation , its call hinglish, its a mixture of English and Hindi,I am good at that, :) Its just easy to speak hindi with few english words, I do understand Urdu, but cant read or write,
oops off topic, lol...
 
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Tarik Sultan

New member
That was my question? How many dancers really think or know that Bellydance is an art form with such a cultural background, And how important it is to know about it all for the dancers?
Unfortunately there are still far too many who don't know anything about it. They think its just about wearing a two piece costume and being sexy and that's it!

My arguments about Egypt just a spritual connection for the dancers is still there... Belly Dance is not any more a restricted dance style, or probably never was ,As Tarik Sultan stated For people who are into fusion, Tribal and gothic, perhaps noT MUCH a
concern about the History and importance of Egypt and its influence ,
The problem is that right from the beginning there was a separation from the culture. The fact that we as a community STILL for some reason have a problem using the culturally correct name for the dance is one aspect of this. Once we started calling it belly dance, rather than using the cultural name Raks Sharki, or Raks Baladi, we said that the culture doesn't matter. We were more concerned with the costume and the "mystique", rather than the reality of the culture. There is no other ethnic dance form in the world that had to be renamed, or translated into another language. Indian dances are referred to by their real names. No one feels the need to rename or translate Bharatanatyam or Katak. No one needs to rename or translate Flamenco. However, we it comes to us, we need to rename it translate it and find every excusse in the book to not honor it by using the culturally correct name.

To not use the correct name is to take one step away from the cultural roots. It became more about an image. It was marketed as an exotic girlie show by impersarios and club owners, a way to attract the attention of husbands and boyfriends, (make your husband a sultan), by dancers looking for an angle to make some extra bucks, an expression of feminine power and sexuality by feminists, a way to loose weight, reclaim your sexuality, express your sexuality. With each step it moved further and further away from the reality of being an expression of joy from a particular culture.

Very few people made an effort to learn about the real culture, like there are now. The problem is that by the time those of us who cared about the real thing came along there were al ready all of these of shoots. Don't get me wrong, I think good dance is good dance, however, we need to be clear what we are talking about. I really do not like this term belly dance for all of the reasons mentioned and many more that I won't go into.

Tribal is Tribal. It is inspired by many different elements. It is its own thing. In the 50's and 60's a style developed in the ethnic clubs that was a mixture of Turkish, Lebanese and Egyptian styles. It is American. I would call it American style Raks. Then there is the classiccal Egyptian style, Why can't we call it Classical Raks Sharki? Then there is the contemporary Raks Sharki, just as there is contemporary Ballet.

Another problem with calling everything belly dance, is that it lumps us all together as if we are all the same and we are not! I don't belly dance, I do Raks Sharki, Raks Baladi and Shabbi and when I teach I make the students aware of the differences. People may disagree with me, but to get back to your question, those other styles are not connected to the culture. They have borrowed bits and pieces from the original movement vocabulary, but because everyone is SOOO hung up on the visuals, any time someone runs out in a costume with a bare midrift it gets labled belly dance.
For those of us who practice the authentic art of Raks Sharki and its related cultural forms, the connectin to the Egyptian culture is essential. You can not do Classical or contemporary Raks Sharki to Rap music or Rock music, nor in my opinion Pop or Rock music sung in Arabic, that is a form of fusion. You can not do Classical Sharki and add Modern or Jazz or Ballet or Indian Dance, that would also be a form of fusion.

Classical Raks has a very definate movement vocabulary, is done to classical Arabic music, while contemoprasry Raks uses the same vocabulary and is done to conteporary Arabic music. Therefore, it is essential to be knowledgable and connected to the culture in order to retain the essence and identity of the dance.
 

taheya

New member
Has anyone got any videos of traditional raks sharki? Alternatively can you point me in the direction of where i can see some. I would really like to see the difference.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Egyptian, etc.

Unfortunately there are still far too many who don't know anything about it. They think its just about wearing a two piece costume and being sexy and that's it!



The fact that we as a community STILL for some reason have a problem using the culturally correct name for the dance is one aspect of this. Once we started calling it belly dance, rather than using the cultural name Raks Sharki, or Raks Baladi, we said that the culture doesn't matter.


We were more concerned with the costume and the "mystique", rather than the reality of the culture. There is no other ethnic dance form in the world that had to be renamed, or translated into another language. Indian dances are referred to by their real names. No one feels the need to rename or translate Bharatanatyam or Katak. No one needs to rename or translate Flamenco. However, we it comes to us, we need to rename it translate it and find every excusse in the book to not honor it by using the culturally correct name.

To not use the correct name is to take one step away from the cultural roots. It became more about an image. It was marketed as an exotic girlie show by impersarios and club owners, a way to attract the attention of husbands and boyfriends, (make your husband a sultan), by dancers looking for an angle to make some extra bucks, an expression of feminine power and sexuality by feminists, a way to loose weight, reclaim your sexuality, express your sexuality. With each step it moved further and further away from the reality of being an expression of joy from a particular culture.

Very few people made an effort to learn about the real culture, like there are now. The problem is that by the time those of us who cared about the real thing came along there were al ready all of these of shoots. Don't get me wrong, I think good dance is good dance, however, we need to be clear what we are talking about. I really do not like this term belly dance for all of the reasons mentioned and many more that I won't go into.

Tribal is Tribal. It is inspired by many different elements. It is its own thing. In the 50's and 60's a style developed in the ethnic clubs that was a mixture of Turkish, Lebanese and Egyptian styles. It is American. I would call it American style Raks. Then there is the classiccal Egyptian style, Why can't we call it Classical Raks Sharki? Then there is the contemporary Raks Sharki, just as there is contemporary Ballet.

Another problem with calling everything belly dance, is that it lumps us all together as if we are all the same and we are not! I don't belly dance, I do Raks Sharki, Raks Baladi and Shabbi and when I teach I make the students aware of the differences. People may disagree with me, but to get back to your question, those other styles are not connected to the culture. They have borrowed bits and pieces from the original movement vocabulary, but because everyone is SOOO hung up on the visuals, any time someone runs out in a costume with a bare midrift it gets labled belly dance.
For those of us who practice the authentic art of Raks Sharki and its related cultural forms, the connectin to the Egyptian culture is essential. You can not do Classical or contemporary Raks Sharki to Rap music or Rock music, nor in my opinion Pop or Rock music sung in Arabic, that is a form of fusion. You can not do Classical Sharki and add Modern or Jazz or Ballet or Indian Dance, that would also be a form of fusion.

Classical Raks has a very definate movement vocabulary, is done to classical Arabic music, while contemoprasry Raks uses the same vocabulary and is done to conteporary Arabic music. Therefore, it is essential to be knowledgable and connected to the culture in order to retain the essence and identity of the dance.




Dear Tarik,
I am in complete agreement that there are far too many dancers who do not know or care about the dance and the cultures from which it springs.
While I do agree with you in many instances, there are things that you say here that are not quite accurate.

I care very much about the dance as a cultural dance, and I do not wear the costume just to look sexy. Nevertheless, I understand that the average American knows my dance by the name "belly dance". For him or her, this name implies that it is the dance that I do. The words "Raqs Sharghi", are meaningless until I take the time to exlain that this is the name of the dance in Arabic, and give him/her its correct translation. Bharata Natyam and other such dances have not aready been labeled as something else that the American understands it to be in English, and for that matter, I do not think "Bollywood" is a Hindi word, though I could be wrong. " Belly dance" is not the least bit offensive to me, or to the Arabs that I know either. In fact, no one has ever complained. They see it as the English translation, not in words but in meaning. And by using the words, "belly dance", I am not implying in the least that the "culture doesn't matter". In fact, in the way that I use the term, it matters implicitly. I would say I care about the culture as much as you or anyone else does.
In its native countries, the dance has not "been marketed' very much differently than what you describe above. Belly dance and Raqs Sharghi are the same dance, translated from one country to the next. The dance, under any name in the east or the west, is still a dance that is not really done on stage by "nice girls". Belly dance is a very apt description and English name for the dance. I like it!

Regards,
A'isha
 

Aziyade

New member
Taheya,
You might check out Aisha Ali's dvds -- she has two that are strictly her performing various dances from Egypt and North Africa.

http://www.aisha-ali.com/araf/index.html

She performs a version of "Sumbati Ghawazee" dance, which she credits in the notes as being the mother of modern Sharki. That looks kind of like what I've seen referred to as "Mohammed Ali Street style," without much obvious influence from ballet and ballroom like you see in "golden era" Sharki.

I don't know -- do we call that style "Baladi" ? I grew up calling it the folkloric style, which people keep pointing out to me is NOT the proper terminology. However that's what Shareen el Safy calls it, so there. :)

There's a pretty obvious difference (to me) between Sohair Zaki and Nadia Hamdi. But as for what to call it, I don't know.
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Dear Tarik,
I am in complete agreement that there are far too many dancers who do not know or care about the dance and the cultures from which it springs.
While I do agree with you in many instances, there are things that you say here that are not quite accurate.

I care very much about the dance as a cultural dance, and I do not wear the costume just to look sexy.
You don't, but we all know there are far too many people who take one class and then want to know where they can buy a costume....like..what do you think you're going to do with it after one class?

Nevertheless, I understand that the average American knows my dance by the name "belly dance". For him or her, this name implies that it is the dance that I do. The words "Raqs Sharghi", are meaningless until I take the time to exlain that this is the name of the dance in Arabic, and give him/her its correct translation.
Which is what I also do. The big bug up my a** are the people who THINK they know what it is, like the ones I described who think anyone doing anything in a two piece costume is belly dancing. Usually they think its something like stripping or exotic dancing and can't tell the difference between an Indian and an Arab. I can't help it, but the ignorance makes me want to go balistic!:mad: In the mean time, I educate people as much as I can. I explain what the real name is. Eventually, I think we'll get to the point where we can say Raks and people will know what we mean, but that means that we have to do our part to educate the public and not whine about having to do so either.

Bharata Natyam and other such dances have not aready been labeled as something else that the American understands it to be in English, and for that matter, I do not think "Bollywood" is a Hindi word, though I could be wrong.
This is my point exactly. From the beginning, why couln't the culturally correct term have been used. It was because the concept that "third World" cultures deserved respect wasn't even a consideration. So now, here we are some hundred and something yeas later dealing with the baggage of the past, having to educate the public.

" Belly dance" is not the least bit offensive to me, or to the Arabs that I know either. In fact, no one has ever complained. They see it as the English translation, not in words but in meaning.
Its not a matter of being offencive, or if they are offended or not. Its about acknowledging the culture. Its about authenticity. I remember running into Halla at Ahlan Wa Sahlan two years ago. She had brought her neice with her. The girl loved it, but was confused by all these signs saying belly dance, so she asked Halla what it was. She replied, that's what they call our dance in English, to which the girl asked, "why do they call our dance an belly dance"? Some of them may mind it, others may not, but the point that I'm making is that the first step away from it's cultural context came when it was renamed. Carnivals all across the country all had a belly dance, or hootchie kootchi dance by some chick doing god only knows what all, to any old type of tune. As long as she showed her belly they were good to go!

And by using the words, "belly dance", I am not implying in the least that the "culture doesn't matter". In fact, in the way that I use the term, it matters implicitly. I would say I care about the culture as much as you or anyone else does.
They way YOU use it. YOU care about the culture. YOU go out of your way to educate yourself. None of these statements are true about a lot of people out there. That's why sometimes we see something that is dead on correct but so many times we have to suffer through stuff that aint nothing but a concecrated mess!:eek:
I don't know, maybe I'm having male menoupause but I tired of going to show after show and asking myself "what the %^$## is this!? No culturally correct music, no movement vocabulary, just a two piece costume a whole lot of props and some weird ass music, WHAT THE$%%# is that. And I know all of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

In its native countries, the dance has not "been marketed' very much differently than what you describe above.
I know, don't even get me started on that, I just might start truning green and splitting my pants!

Belly dance and Raqs Sharghi are the same dance, translated from one country to the next. The dance, under any name in the east or the west, is still a dance that is not really done on stage by "nice girls". Belly dance is a very apt description and English name for the dance. I like it!

Regards,
A'isha
You know I love you, and on most points we see eye to eye but we both know there are times when we just have to agree to disagree and this is one of them. I can't for the life of me see by calling the dance a belly anything is an apt description for a dance that involves the entire body, music and emotions to be done correctly. I tolerate the term and use it only as a stepping stone to educate people as to the correct term, as you can tell from the way I label my video clips, but I really hate being called a belly dancer, but it doesn't mean I hate you for using it:p
I'll just use the Margarette Cho method and stick my fingers in my ear and go LA, LA, LA, LA, LA:D
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Belly dance etc.

Dear Tarik,
I think Margaret would be saying "La La La" into your belly button, Darling, she is ssooo much shorter than you ( Don't you LOVE her and Fran Lebowitz... they are both Queens in disguise!!)

I personally am tired of everything under the sun being labeled as belly dance. As far as educating people. I never do a show where the correct name of the dance is not announced and literally translated, so people do get their education from me as well. Meanwhile, I have to get their attention with something they are familiar with before I can teach them the Arabic!!

Yeah, we will agree to disagree and the day we finally meet in person I am planning on laying one huge soul kiss on you, because I think you are intelligent, beautiful, sensitive, humorous, and every other good thing a man should be. (UUMMM do you cook??)
Hugs,
A'isha
 
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