top of page

Folkloric Middle Eastern Dance and its influence on American Bellydance

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

By Rachel Morris

What we know today as American style Bellydance is primarily influenced by Egyptian

Raqs Sharqi, and Turkish Romani styles of dance. Though at first glance these 2 styles appear similar, they are not.

Egyptian style dance is more internal in its small isolated movements - especially during taxims (instrumental solos) in the music when the ney (flute) takes the fore front or during a drum solo when the hips are sharp and quick.

Turkish style is more external, being full of big passionate hip gyrations, knee kicks, spinning, and emotional gestures.

You can also tell the difference when listening to the music being used. Egyptian music tends to have more ney, doumbek (drum), and some violin.

Turkish / Balkan music tends to be heavy on the violin, accordion, and klezmer (clarinet).

A traditional Egyptian style routine will consist of a veil intro, a folkloric suite, and a drum solo.

By folkloric suite I mean a break in the musical composition where a drum or folkloric rhythm takes the focus and the dancer performs a choreography of movements associated with that particular stylization.

Some examples of these folkloric suites would be:

Saidi: Saidi is a region in upper Egypt. Some of the dance steps from, and associated with, this style and rhythm are the Tawala, a shallow heel hop side to side (imitating a horse), a leaning forward and back with a knee up, and double shoulder bounces. Often an asaya (cane) is used to imitate the Tahtyb, which is a large stick used in battle. If performing a full Saidi routine the costuming typically worn is a slim fitting Saidi or B

aladi type dress with a coined hip wrap.

Khaleegy: Khaleegy refers to dances of the Persian Gulf coast. Gestures and dance movements associated with this style and rhythm are exaggerated hair tosses, a gliding “pony” step, and cupping the hand behind the ear as though listening to the ocean thru a sea shell. Costuming for this style of dance is a large loose dress called a Throbe (similar to a Kaftan). Sometimes a cabaret outfit is worn underneath for a flirtier nuance.

Though traditional Turkish routines may still have a veil intro they will likely not have a folkloric suite, but instead will have a section of the song that lends itself to skirt work, floor work or heavy zills.

For more reading visit:

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page