What Is Egyptian Style Belly Dance?

Belly dance is an umbrella term for a lot of different dance styles that have a hip and belly focused movement vocabulary.

In Egypt, belly dance is called Raqs Sharki. This means Oriental Dancing. You could say that belly dance is a term that has been coined by Non-Middle Eastern people to describe the way the dance looks. I watched a discussion hosted by an Egyptian musician and dancer named, Karim Nagi where he said calling the dance belly dance is like calling a car a moving box with wheels. It was a memorable analogy! However, we continue to call Raqs Sharki belly dance because this is how the art and business is recognized in Canada.

In Egypt, belly dance is a social dance that most women who have been raised in the culture will have seen and experienced with friends and family in a casual, non-performance environment. There are nightclubs and famous belly dancers in Egypt of course, but the majority of women use this dance to have fun with their friends and family. If an Egyptian woman wants to be a dancer in Egypt one option is to join the Reda Troupe. This is a theatrical interpretation of folk dances from Egypt. It’s a re-imagining of how these women would act and dress in their homeland. Many dancers start here.  The Reda style has balletic influences and many Egyptian trained dancers get a lot of ballet training in their dance classes (like all of our arm positions and arabesques in class!) or they take ballet separately, to complement their belly dancing.

The Egyptian style can be described as flirty and coquettish; soft, elegant and not as busy when compared to other styles. This means there isn’t as much complex layering. The art is making the dance look and feel relaxed. There is a huge emphasis on feeling the music and improvisation (usually to live music…and the live music is improvised too!) Middle Eastern music is seriously complex! There are hundreds of rhythms and thousands of variations on those rhythms and there are maqams; this is comparable to a mode, and it tells the dancer and other musicians the feeling or tone of the music being played so that it can be interpreted accordingly. (i.e. a sad, celebratory, folky etc song) Sometimes a dancer will dance to a famous and beloved singer such as Om Kalthoum and will express the lyrics and essence of the song through her dance. Knowing the moves, songs, singers, composers, lyric translation and how to interpret it all through your body is a big part of the Egyptian style.

It seems like a lot and it is, but it all comes together eventually!

Even every instrument will give the dancer a direction. The ney (like a flute) may speak to longing and the movements may be more reaching , long and dramatic. This will differ to if the musician is playing an accordion and then the dancer will use more juicy hip and belly movements and the dance will have a more earthy and sensual feel. Or the drum, which is by far the most popular. The dancer will be sure to use her isolation technique, personality and bring a ton of energy to the audience!

In short, musicality and emotion is very important to the Egyptian style. As a general consensus, a middle eastern audience would likely enjoy a belly dancer more that knows the classic songs and has great musicality rather than a dancer that  only has great technique. When a Saidi song comes on (a folk dance style) the dancer may be expected to give a nod to this region with a dance move from Upper Egypt (actually the south of Egypt so it is similar to Saint John calling their downtown Uptown!) Of course a combination of musicality and technique is the ultimate goal!

The Egyptian style has evolved dramatically over the years. I will leave you with two videos and this is something one of my Egyptian folk dance teachers did for me years back. Please watch these two videos. One is of a very famous Egyptian dancer named Soheir Zaki  (this video is from the 70’s) and the other is a famous modern Egyptian dancer named Dina (video is relatively recent and she is dancing to live music!). This also shows how this is a very personal dance. No two dancers look the same even when they know the same songs and a similar movement vocabulary. The Egyptian style is incredibly unique to the individual and it makes it a very personalized and creative art form to learn.

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Does Belly Dance Make you Lose Weight?

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From overweight, to underweight to feeling beautiful and confident at any weight, thanks to belly dance!

I get asked this question a lot! Short answer is, it can but here’s a better response to why belly dance is the ideal activity for women’s health and fitness.

I (Kaleena) have been a certified personal trainer for over a decade and lost 50lbs with diet and exercise but it wasn’t until I started to belly dance that I truly loved my body and felt confident in my own skin.

Belly Dance is one of the BEST Exercises for Women 

    • Work your Abs
      Belly dance is earthy, centered and grounded. To learn this dance you use your core. This is an exercise that strengthens your abdominal muscles in a low impact way, and having strong abs and good posture (we go through posture every class) not only prevents falls and injuries by improving your balance but it will make you appear taller, and slimmer (and proud! Rawr!).
    • Full Body Toning
      Despite being called belly dance this is an art form that uses the arms and traveling steps frequently. You will find that you work muscles you didn’t even know existed, and you will be moving and burning calories, while toning your entire body.
    • Gain Confidence
      This is THE MOST IMPORTANT benefit to belly dance as far as I’m concerned. What good is weight loss if you are still not accepting your body? After losing weight I was underweight and felt even more self-conscious than ever before. Belly dance taught me to LOVE my curves, embrace the jiggle and recognize that every body is beautiful!
    • Be Elegant and Graceful
      With belly dance you will learn how to move with elegance and grace. You feel like a queen even when you are walking down the grocery aisle. You will be stunned with how these qualities are IN YOU ALREADY! Belly dance just brings them out. When I started I felt like I had two left feet and no coordination. If I can do it, trust me, so can you!
  • Stop Caring About Weight Loss
    You will never believe it’s possible because as women we always want to improve our appearance and this equates to losing weight but belly dance truly helps us to get past this obsession with weight loss. When you accept your body, start to see “imperfections” as what makes you unique and see that every body type is moving beautifully in class, you will stop caring about whether or not you will lose weight because you will be too busy reveling in the other benefits (many more I didn’t write about here!) and you will  free yourself up for more important aspects of personal development, creativity, and making your entire being strong and healthy.

Visit our studio at 162 Union Street in Saint John and try your first class free.

LUNA Belly Dance 

Say YES to Belly Dance!

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Our belly dance classes are perfect for beginners and offer a supportive and friendly environment at 162 Union Street, Second Floor. 

Are you nervous to belly dance? GOOD! You need to do what scares you to change yourself: mind, body and soul.

YES means CHANGE. I’m a certified personal trainer and nutritionist but before I said yes to walking 5 minutes on the treadmill I was 50 lbs overweight and would get winded walking up a flight of stairs. Yes to walking 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, 20 minutes and yes yes yes turned into a career, 50 lbs weight loss, running a half marathon and doing multiple segments on CBC.

I said yes to the gift of belly dance (birthday gift from my Mother). I had never danced before and I was really bad at it (trust me I watch the beginners I teach and you are all more coordinated than I was) but I kept at it. I said yes to going to class. It cured my shyness and social anxiety, it gave me so much creativity, and the CONFIDENCE, SELF-ESTEEM and POSITIVE BODY IMAGE to go after what I want and need in this life!

YES is one of the most powerful words when it comes to your personal development and happiness. So if you are on the fence about these dance class, or heck, anything in your life, and especially if you have a tendency to say no..make it a YES and watch your world change!

Check out the Schedule and come in to try a class.

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Many women entered our contest! We had 3 winners as promised and everyone that entered receives a free week of classes if redeemed before Feb 28! Say YES to this offer 🙂 

 

Belly Dance Classes in Saint John on 162 Union Street!

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Luna Belly Dance Classes at 162 Union Street in Uptown Saint John

We are now officially open!!! Luna Belly Dance hosted our first open house last night in our studio at 162 Union Street, second floor in Uptown Saint John. We want to thank everyone that made it possible; family, friends, neighbours, CBC Radio for interviewing us, Uptown Saint John for being supportive and empowering and of course to our attendees and new students! We are so looking forward to having you in our classes!

We will also be adding a class to the schedule on Saturdays at 1pm

It’s truly amazing how belly dance is an inclusive environment. We loved to see our guests last night having fun with one another! This is a great form of exercise and creativity for women of all ages, shapes and walks of life.

We are still hosting one more open house tomorrow, Saturday February 4 from 1-3pm! This is a free event with classes, prizes, snacks and performances. Come on out!

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Why Belly Dance?

When I started belly dancing it was my Mom’s idea, and I had no clue what I was doing! I was very shy and self-conscious. Throughout my life I had been overweight and underweight and none of it made me happy!

I was fortunate enough to always have teachers that were patient and took it very slow. They recognized what I needed and worked with me on an individual basis. Most of all they made it so fun that I didn’t even realize that every new move, step and turn was a small accomplishment that was working its way toward something much, much bigger.

Over time, I connected with my body. Being able to make it move how I wanted brought out a strong sense of control that I never had before. It gave strength to being a woman I had never really considered or thought possible. It made me comfortable with who I am.

Saying yes to new experiences, meeting strong and confident women were all little pieces to my puzzle that started to bring me out of my shell. Eventually, I trained to perform and was taught how to carry myself, how to have a strong presence, and how to do everything like that was my plan all along.

Imagine how being comfortable with your body, how to walk with confidence, how to enter a room, and how to “own” everything you do, can translate into everyday life?

I started to feel like the impossible was possible, being a woman was a pretty amazing thing, and going for, and achieving goals was absolutely within reach. Plus, at a minimum I had some great dance moves for parties and weddings. Overall belly dance made me finally happy with my body and confident in my life.

Our studio and classes are a reflection of this process. We believe you can dance for a number of reasons from being active and wellness, meeting new friends, developing new skills, none, or all of the above. You don’t need to want a huge transformation or have any expectation at all. I didn’t. Guaranteed you will have fun and gain new experiences but likely, belly dance will give you something unexpected, will awaken something you needed but didn’t realize was missing, and you will benefit.

Classes are fun and no-pressure. You will learn the basics from the ground-up. There is no expectation. You don’t need to be a dancer or want to be a dancer.

Our goal is to bring out the best of what belly dance has to offer for the individual.

We’re so excited to launch LUNA Belly Dance classes in Saint John and we hope to see you at the open house on February 2 from 6-8pm and February 4 from 1-3pm at 162 Union Street.

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Studio Launch and Open House

The studio is coming together and we can’t wait to unveil LUNA Belly Dance Studio on February 2 + 4 with an open house! Our belly dance classes are at 162 Union Street in Saint John, New Brunswick. We have had so much support and encouragement along the way from family, friends and everyone that has helped us to make this happen. Every aspect of the studio from the mirror delivery, finding the space, to the other artsy studio owners has been great and this is just the beginning!

We hope to see you there!

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Belly Dance Resources

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I wanted to offer a list of resources for belly dancers.

Shira.net 

A vast collection of articles about EVERYTHING belly dance. This is the first site many students visit first when they start to want to know more about belly dance.

George Sawa

I have taken classes with George Sawa and performed once to his exquisite live quanun (this is an Arabic instrument that looks like an exposed piano) He is a music teacher and this is his study guide. It’s available in a number of languages.

Kisses from Kairo 

If you want to know more about belly dancing professionally, and in Cairo, no less, this American has been living and working in Egypt for quite a number of years and has a unique perspective.

Arabic Song Translation 

If you hear a song and want to know what it’s all about check out these translations. Also helpful to find new music!

Karim Nagi

If you are interested in an intense finger cymbal DVD try Karim Nagi’s instructional DVD. He also sells additional music and instruction.

 

My Teachers (please try a class if you are in Toronto) 

Om Laila Studio

I studied holistic belly dance, music and Arabic song with Roula Said. I also worked here as a teacher and assistant. Belly dance can truly be authentic movement that is uplifting and soulful. I studied here 3 years.

Egyptian Dance Academy 

I started out learning Egyptian folklore with Nada el Masriya from Egypt. She teaches modern Egyptian style. I studied here 3 years.

Habeeba’s Dance

I learned classic Egyptian from Habeeba. She specializes in the classic Egyptian Style. I studied here 1 year.

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Merry Christmas Eve from Saint John, New Brunswick! I have living here for almost 4 months and I couldn’t be happier. This first quarter has absolutely been about taking it slow and settling in, and I’m so pleased that I had the time to revel in my new surroundings and work on my art with peace and privacy but also I have met and performed with other talented and hardworking belly dancers in Saint John and Moncton. I’m so truly grateful for it all.

Here’s a video of me performing at Maritime Tribal’s Holiday Hafla to Nomadica’s Tehtil Shibbak. Choreography and finger cymbal composition by me. I had so much fun working on this piece for 4 weeks straight!

So what’s up for the New Year? Well, I’m not entirely sure. I know I do want to get some classes running!  Any teaching I do has to be 100% enjoyable and because I truly want to share the gift of belly dance. It really is life changing! I guess what I’m saying is that I’m in no hurry and when it happens it will be because it feels absolutely right!

That being said, if you’re reading this and want to learn Egyptian Belly Dance in or around Saint john, send me a message. I would be happy to give lessons to small groups or for birthdays, bachelorette parties or wedding/baby showers. Any time women gather to celebrate is the perfect time to learn belly dance.

Until then I will continue to work on my dance and take more classes and workshops when I can. Seriously considering doing Shimmy Mob with Barbara Aubie in Moncton!

Okay folks, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season! ❤

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Photo by Eve Beals