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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Egyptian Dance

I’ve been reading on the internet that I am “a ballerina who made a belly dance video,” or that I no longer perform traditional bellydance.  This is not so!  Here’s a video of a performance of mine from earlier this year. 

This performance was filmed on April 24, 2010, at Je’Bon in New York City.  I danced as part of a showcase, “Disco Al Sharq: Al Rabia,” hosted by Mark Balahadia and Leela.

For students, critics, and others who want to learn more, production notes follow.

The dance in this video is an upbeat interpretation of raqs sharqi, Egyptian belly dance.  Although it has a folklore feeling, it is a mixture of both traditional and modern.   I designed this piece for venues where the audience has some distractions, such as parties, or for when the audience is simply less of a “belly dance” crowd, less attuned to softness or subtlety, and best able to appreciate high energy and a feeling of fun. 

The music is Saidi, and the lively footwork and use of the cane are playfully borrowed, in a softened and more flirtatious form, from the region’s folklore.  (There is said to be no pure tradition of women’s dance from the Said,  a conservative area where women do not perform.) The heel-bouncing steps of this style suggest the prancing of horses, which play an important role in the history and culture of the Said; in the music, too, one occasionally hears a “whinnying” sound.  The twirling cane imitates the heavy staffs used by men in Tahtieb, a regional martial art which may also be staged with music. 

I had originally set out to do an entirely traditional Saidi piece, but I couldn’t resist the exuberant feeling of using finger cymbals, a prop more often associated with baladi dance, in the opening.  My dress, too, is baladi.  Because the earthiness of folkloric vocabulary is always more exciting against an elegant counterpoint, I added Oriental moves as well.  A few of the stylistic touches are wholly “Autumnal;” in particular, my use of arms and quick transitions are unlike what is seen in mainstream Egyptian style.  So, while the dance has a lot of traditional influences, my personality and my stamp as both a choreographer and performer come through in the style mixing, dynamics, and my creative touches.

The music is “Saidi Routine,” from the CD Sahra Saeeda.  (Available for purchase here.)  The second half of this track is an arrangement of the song “Ala Nar” with saidi instrumentation.  (Another version of Ala Nar that I like, and have frequently used in the classroom, is on Beata and Horacio’s Oriental Fantasy Volume One. )  "Ala Nar" means "I am on fire."

In this performance I’m playing finger cymbals from Turquoise International, in the “Size B Oriental - 2 ½" diameter” model.

The cane was handed down to me by a retiring dancer many years ago.  I don’t know its provenance.

My galibeyah is by Hanan Mahmoud , with a slight modification—I shortened the sleeves, and used the extra pieces to make my hairband.  The hipscarf has been in my costume closet for more than ten years, but I originally purchased it from Scheherezade Imports.   
Other Videos
Fans of this video may also enjoy Hanady.

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