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Egypt and a Guide to Egyptian Styles of Dance
The Egyptian style of dance places a stronger emphasis on the finer movements of the human body and is far more conservative than Turkish dances, although they have a similarity to the Lebanese dance styles. The basic dance vocabulary of all belly dance styles is very similar, with for example hip figures of eight, shimmies and the like.

However, in Egyptian style there is no floor work (which is frowned upon in Egypt), the emphasis is more on hip movements with accents on the down rather then the up part of the movement and also overall Turkish style is a lot more ‘acrobatic’ then Egyptian.

The fact that Egyptian style is more conservative than Turkish or Lebanese styles is also reflected on the costumes. Although some Egyptian belly dancers wear the two piece cabaret bra and skirt costume, they usually have to wear at least a sort of stocking type of fabric to cover their bellies, for decency reasons. Also, in Egypt whole dresses that cover the torso are common, especially in folkloric styles.

Farmers from Upper Egypt perform a dance known as the ‘Saidi’, which is one of the few Egyptian dances that involve the use of the ‘sagat’ or finger cymbals that are held by the dancers. The dancers use either one or two bamboo sticks, and the dance is of two types, namely the Raks Assaya and Tahtib. Another popular Egyptian style of dance is the Shamadan (candelabra dance), commonly referred to as the ‘candle dance.’ This Egyptian style of dance is seen at weddings and derives its name from the candelabra that the dancers are worn on the head. The Hagallah, another wedding dance, is acted out by the Bedouin from Western Egypt.

The Raqs Sharqi (Oriental dance) is an Egyptian dance which has its roots in a folk style of dance (‘Baladi’) that originates from the Arab Tribes settled in Northern Egypt. In the early 20th century, this style of dance was performed in cabarets, in a formal setting for the first time and, although it maintained some elements of its origin, the dancers were influenced by western dances, such as ballet.

Hence, Egyptian raqs sharki developed as a new style within the Egyptian tradition. The three styles of Egyptian dance traditionally linked to the belly dance include the Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and the Sharqi. Other dances include performances by the Ghawazee who are professional dancers from Egypt, the Melaya Leff which is a character dance using a shawl, and the Zar, a dance of Sudanese origin, that is performed by Egyptians to drive away evil spirits.
About the Author
Paul helps out with organising Belly Dance events and writes about Egyptian Dance.
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