PD Photo: A version of the original Arab dance, Raqs Sharqi, performed by two female bellydancers on a Nile Cruise ship.
The photo features two dancers performing what the western world initially (and later the rest of the world) called Belly Dance (or Bellydance). It is actually the traditional ‘Middle Eastern’ dance, Raqs Sharqi, which is also known as Arabic dance or known as çiftetelli, the Greco-Turkish name. Unlike the name belly dance suggests, the dancer has to involve all parts of the body for the true performance of this dance, not merely belly, though the most visible movement can be seen around the hips.
Belly dance can have various styles, costumes, etc., depending on the region or country where it is performed or where such varied forms of dance evolved. As with every branch of performing arts, and dance, new styles, improvements and innovations keep on changing this form of dance too.
Raqs sharqi, in Arabic language literally means ‘Dance of the Near East’ and it is the dance form usually identified as belly dance by westerners. And new styles have evolved in the West as its popularity has spread globally. And it is the style that is usually performed on stage, cabarets and in restaurants. Though mostly female performers are seen performing is such places, originally the dance form was meant for both the sexes, and it is performed even now by male dancers. Also, though it is often seen as a solo dance performance, the dance form is meant for also groups of men and women and can be choreographed for more than one dancer.
Te folk dance form, performed by the common people in the Middle East countries and in North Africa, usually at festive, or social occasions such as weddings, is called Raqs baladi, which in Arabic means ‘dance of the country’ or ‘folk dance’.
The dance form is believed to have evolved in Egypt among Arab tribes who initially settled there. However, belly dancers are not well regarded as many Egyptians do not treat it as a respectable profession. So, most belly dancers performing for tourists in Cruise ships (as in the photo), or at restaurants in present times are non-Egyptians. This fact can be evident from the fact that the traditional Egyptian Sharqi costumes are designed to cover most of the body.