Raqs Sharqi – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Styles Glossary

I. What is Raqs Sharqi?

Raqs Sharqi, also known as Oriental dance or belly dance, is a traditional Middle Eastern dance form that originated in Egypt. The term “Raqs Sharqi” translates to “Eastern dance” in Arabic and is a popular form of dance that is characterized by fluid movements of the hips, torso, and arms. Raqs Sharqi is often performed at weddings, parties, and other social gatherings in the Middle East and has gained popularity worldwide as a form of entertainment and expression.

II. History of Raqs Sharqi

The history of Raqs Sharqi dates back to ancient times, with roots in various Middle Eastern and North African cultures. The dance form has been influenced by a variety of traditions, including Egyptian, Turkish, Persian, and Indian dance styles. Raqs Sharqi became popular in the West during the 19th and 20th centuries, with dancers such as Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca gaining international fame for their performances.

III. Characteristics of Raqs Sharqi

Raqs Sharqi is characterized by fluid and graceful movements of the body, with an emphasis on isolating different parts of the body such as the hips, chest, and arms. Dancers often use their hands and fingers to create intricate movements, and the use of props such as veils, swords, and finger cymbals is common in Raqs Sharqi performances. The dance form is known for its sensuality and expressiveness, with dancers often using facial expressions and eye movements to convey emotion.

IV. Costumes and Props in Raqs Sharqi

Costumes and props play a significant role in Raqs Sharqi performances, with dancers wearing elaborate and colorful outfits that accentuate their movements. Traditional Raqs Sharqi costumes often include a bedlah (a bra and belt set), a skirt or harem pants, and accessories such as jewelry, coins, and sequins. Dancers may also use props such as veils, swords, and finger cymbals to enhance their performances and add visual interest.

V. Music and Instruments used in Raqs Sharqi

Music is an essential component of Raqs Sharqi performances, with dancers often performing to live or recorded music that features traditional Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud, qanun, tabla, and flute. The music used in Raqs Sharqi is typically rhythmic and melodic, with different styles and rhythms corresponding to different movements and moods in the dance. Dancers may also use finger cymbals, known as zills, to accentuate the music and add percussive elements to their performances.

VI. Modern Interpretations of Raqs Sharqi

In recent years, Raqs Sharqi has undergone a revival and transformation, with modern interpretations of the dance form incorporating elements of contemporary dance, fusion styles, and theatrical performances. Dancers are experimenting with new movements, music, and costumes to create innovative and dynamic performances that appeal to a wider audience. Raqs Sharqi is also gaining recognition as a form of artistic expression and empowerment for women, with dancers using the dance form to explore themes of identity, culture, and femininity.