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Also known as the “Ghawazi style” is an African dance form called Raqs Sharqi. This “belly dance” is said to have originated from Egypt during the beginning of the 20th century. Heavily influenced by the Russian ballet and a few Latin dances, this style of dancing is said to have been performed mainly in cabarets, and used extensively in Egyptian cinema. Furthermore, as of today a majority of the Raqs Sharqi dancers are foreigners (not locals) since this dance form is not considered to be a respectable profession in the Egyptian society.

a. History/origin of Raqs Sharqi:

It was due to the presence of Egyptian dancers such as Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, and Naima Akef during what is termed as the “Golden period” in Egyptian cinema that this dance style was developed. Over the years, this form of dance has evolved with dancers such has Nelly Mazloum and Mahmoud Reda also adding elements from the ballet and thereby giving it a whole new look to it.

b. Costumes used in the Raqs Sharqi:

The costume worn by the performers (mainly female) is extremely sensual and includes a long tight one piece gown made from lycra, and a belt rarely used as an accessory worn around the waist. In addition, at times a separate bra and a skirt may also be worn. Furthermore, although traditionally this dance is supposed to be performed using bare feet, these days the performer regularly uses shoes including those which have high heels.

c. Music involved in the Raqs Sharqi:

“Cabaret music” is basically what is used in this dance form. So the musical instruments involved include, the tabla, nay, kanoun, trumpet, violin, and the accordion. In addition, in today’s modern world instruments such as electronic keyboards are also used.

d. Training availability and the technique involved in the Raqs Sharqi:

In terms of technique, this dance essentially involves the use of a few body movements. They are as follows:

  1. Arms: Usually rather gracefully lifted while performing.
  2. Upper Body: The ribcage usually “lifts and drops” rhythmically to the beats of the music. In addition, the shoulder moves “forward or backward”. Furthermore, the dancer may even rhythmically shake the shoulder or the entire ribcage. “Inward or outward” movement of the stomach can also be observed.
  3. Lower Body: “Intricate and delicate” is the best way to describe the hip movements involved in this dance. Furthermore, in case of the pelvis, movements that mainly occur include minor undulations, backward releases and downward locks.
  4. Footwork: Used essentially include sideways movements accompanied by pelvic undulation and a pelvic drop.

As for training schools/centres, there are number of them available throughout the world as of today, since this “sensuous” dance style has gained popularity over a period of time.

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