Egyptian vs. Arabic style of dancing

topic posted Sun, April 6, 2008 - 12:51 PM by  Apadana
Why is that some belly dancers call their style "Arabic style" but distinquish it from the Egyptian style? But Egypt is considered Arabic. One time I was corrected by an instructor, Egyptian dancer, when I asked her to teach us some Arabic moves.

posted by:
Los Angeles
  • In MECDAs Instructor's Directory Jillina indicates her teaching styles: Arabic, Egyptian and Lebanese. Many of the instructors list their styles like Jillina in this directory. I thought Egypt is an Arabic country.
    • Natives of EGYPT are called EGYPTIAN and speak EGYPTIAN arabic.
      Egyptian styles are really different from Lebanese (arabic styles) as from TURKISH style. EGYPTIAN style dancers/instructors like Shareen EL Safy, Zahra ZUhair, Sahra Saeeda and Tamrahenna dances differently than MARGO, CASSANDRA and KAREN Barbee which suposedly arabic M.E. style. EVA CERNICK, is TURKISH styles.
      Thats why when I invited instructors to do workshops for me,I do so according to thier expertised ( dance styles)
      TAAJ, you teach/perform EGYPTIAN style, correct?
      BACK to EGYPT- it is but different ( arabic country, like MAROC). not as restrictive as others. ARABIC styles of dancing- I think debke, khaleegy etc.
      I got few videos of different dances; still trying to learn the differences between styles which I love both. Cant wait what KARIM will offer this week-end- EGYPTIAN- arabic :).
      • I understand the distinctions between Arabic (being more encompassing) and Egyptian (being more specific), but I have never heard it referred to in that way. If someone teaches Lebanese, they usually just say they do Lebanese.

        • Hi Taaj,

          That is why I have always been confused how dancers distinquish themselves as being being an Arabic dancer. A Lebanese dancer is from Lebanon- an Arabic country. Yes, I have heard that the Egyptian style dance is more "precise" than other forms of belly dancing.

          Yesterday I was shopping at the mall and stopped to purchase something from a vendor cart. The owner was Egyptian and I told him I was a dancer. He was confused why I would distinquish the difference between Arabic style vs. Egyptian.

          Still confused...

          • lol. I think that for Egyptians, all authentic belly dance is Egyptian. They are strange. They see belly dancing as naughty, but they are very proud of it in a lot of ways and idolize their favorite dancers.

            "Raks sharki" is the term that they use over there. It means Oriental dance. That encompasses a large area, so they don't distinguish the styles as we do, so they dont say "egyptian style belly dance" or 'lebanese style belly dance." Obviously, there is a difference, but it's really only a big deal (in my experience) over here. If I go to an Egyptian party, they want Egyptian style dancing. If I go to a Turkish party... well, they usually want Arab music too (lol), but I will offer Turkish as it's very different and I wouldn't want them expecting one thing and me doing another.

  • I posted this question on BHUZ and got this interesting response from SuhaDeeb:


    From an Arab perspective: When I say my moves are 'Arabic' I'm not just referring to geography - it's a concept of movement and an approach that's different to that of the West. I say that my style is Arabic because I'm old-school, and don't have Western influences or a Western approach to dance. The biggest examples of this that I can point out without being able to physically demonstrate -

    Westerners often talk about 'layering' - but many times it looks like they are 'stacking' unrelated movements on top of each other. The Arabic approach to layering is different. An Arabic dancer might acknowledge something rhythmic with the 'main' movement, and add subtle layers to acknowledge some of the other instruments and what they are saying. A Westerner is more likely to do one hip circle, then 'stack' a head-slide on top of that. The movements are incongruous to someone who thinks like an Arabic dancer.

    Westerners can seem uncomfortable with asymmetry! I don't know why this is, but I see many Western belly dancers do four steps this way, four steps that way, two of this, two of that. They seem afraid to dance outside a framework that's not so mathematically correct!

    I also hear many Westerners pay a lot of lip-service to internalized technique and muscular movement, but they don't do it to the extent that the old-schoolers did - especially if they have taken Reda-style which isn't Arabic in concept or approach. Rather, it is Western dancing that has been 'Arabized.'

    Arabic dancers pick up on the smaller cues, whereas Westerners often look for the more obvious musical cues. I think this has to do with the worry that they will look like they're not dancing to the rhythm. Again, it's the comfort-zone factor in dealing with music that's alien to their ears. More experienced dancers get better at interpreting music.
    • Okay, i get what she's saying, but I wouldn't necessarily classify that as "Arabic" as it's more broad and general than that. I think what she says can be applied to any Middle Eastern culture. Even those that aren't Arab.

      • Hi Taaj,

        I think I got a response that finally satifies my question- from Artemis' website:

        Once the few but determined American dancers were established in the New York clubs in the 1960s and 1970s, they wanted to learn more. The American dancers were crossing the pond. They mostly visited Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and other Arabic countries to learn and dance. It is extremely important to note that Egypt was only one of the places where they went. These Americans from the second generation brought back what they had learned. What emerged from this, in East coast America, were two types of dance: Turkish and Arabic. Nobody did what people call "modern Egyptian style" but rather, it was referred to as "Arabic styleā€¯ back then.

        The 1st person I ever heard the term "Arabic" style was from Marta Schill- a 70's performer.

Recent topics in "Asian Belly Dancers"