Belly Dance Art & Culture

Music & Oriental Dance

It is well known today that Egyptian music takes the lead as being the most recognized and popular choice of music used for oriental dancing, due its variations of rhythms and quality that allows for different dance interpretations.

Turkish music has simple compositions using fewer instruments, variations and alternations, affecting the dancer to use different movement variations and techniques. Similarly, Greek music uses the same instruments and compositions but the dance moves are more stationary with an emphasis on increased feminine attitude.

The common instruments predominantly used then and today for oriental dancing are the oud, nay, qanun, violin, riq, daff, tabla and zills (cymbals). In modern times, drums, guitar, and piano are also used.

Egyptian oriental dance music has a variety of rhythms such as baladi, malfif, maksum, zaffa, etc; and has a large range of time signatures including ⁴/₄, ⁸/₄, ²/₄, and ¹⁰/₈, etc.

Movement, Technique & Facial Expressions

Hip actions are the strongest focus points in oriental dancing and exude sensuality. Chest actions are related to the female superiority. Flatters and undulations (belly area) are tricks and gain the attention and admiration of the audience. Shoulder movements are typically used to flirt with the audience. All of the above are dependent to the speed of music, the lyrics, and the instruments. Most movements are soft and appear soft even when they are intensive. Another feature that specifies the quality and can enhance the emotion is the accents during these movements which potentially can increase or decrease the severity of the emotion.

The main focus of technique is on the hips, the upper part of the body, arms, and of course the belly. Different variations on pelvic movements such as hip actions, shimmies, circles, and "figure eights" occur and are dependent on the bend proportion of the knees and the weight distribution over the feet. Oriental dancing is traditionally danced with bare feet.

Facial expressions are of significant importance and a necessary characteristic to emotively express the meaning of the lyrics.

Note: All of the above differ from region to region.

Costume & Make-up

Costumes are significantly important and a recognizable characteristic associated with oriental dance. Costumes and make-up can be conservative or provocative, depending on the dancer's local, social and cultural requirements and expectations. Conservative costumes include covering the dancer's face and wearing a full body costume. More relaxed and provocative costumes can include more revealing and/or colorful clothing, more make-up and excessive jewelry.