Bellydance Styles

Not all bellydancers are made alike, and in fact, there are many, many different styles and variations of bellydance and Middle-Eastern Dance. There is much we do not & cannot know about historical styles of bellydance, and much of the information available to us was written by travelling “westerners”, so their bias must be taken into account.

The following is very, very brief and covers only the dance styles we focus on in our school. These descriptions should not be taken as “definitive” as it would take pages to describe all styles in detail.

Folkloric styling can be described as earthy (flat footed), grounded, big & brassy as well as small & controlled. Whilst there are many folk dances from Egypt & other parts of the Middle-East that we learn and perform, there is a whole lot more on offer! 😀

Ghawazee attitude is joyful, earthy & proud. Lots of hip & shoulder shimmies, swaying hips, travelling movements, high arms & lots of finger cymbal playing. Below is Daniella’s Group from Russia in Banat Mazin ‘Luxor’ beaded dresses.

Baladi attitude is entirely dependant upon the mood of the music, and of the performer. Traditionally, Baladi follows a progression encompassing various moods & speeds of music & movement. From slow, controlled & intricate to accented, cheeky, fast & fun! Below is Maria Aya performing her famous “Kitchen Baladi”.

Sha’abi styling is an urban style, like baladi, often with more relaxed, less “polished-looking” movements. The cheeky, sassy, rough and light-hearted attitude makes it a dance “of the people”. As fashions and dance change, so does sha’abi. Here is a modern sha’abi piece from the Nymph Oriental Dance Company.

Classical, or Raks Sharqi, styling is more controlled, more intricate, and often more ‘balletic’ in nature, with long arms and smooth, flowing lines. It often includes props such as veil.

Vintage (or Golden Age) styling sits between Baladi/Ghawazee and Classical. It has flowing arms, cheeky moves and lots of emotion. Below is Golden Age great, Tahia Carioca.

Folkloric Fusion also has several moods, depending upon the music and the traditional elements involved. The fusion, for us, often occurs through combining traditional movements and dances with modern music. Here is TABLA bellydance performing a folkloric fusion piece.

New Fusions including Steampunk and DubStep give bellydance movement a whole new flavour. Below is Luna Rouge performing a DubStep fusion.

The folkloric flavour of our dance styles is stylistic rather than wholly focused on the Red-style folkloric dances. We are stylistically more “flat-footed” than many of our cabaret sisters, and more explorative in fusion than some of our more traditional sisters in dance. We explore alternative styles and fusions with much knowledge and respect to the traditional styles.

There are several different “folkloric dances” including (but not limited to):

Shamadan [with candelabra] as below by the Egyptian National Folkloric Troupe

Hagallah, as below in Mahmoud Reda’s ‘El Hagalla’

Saidi (including dancing with a Cane or Stick) in Caroline Labrie’s Saidi Salamat.

The “invented for the stage” Melaya Leff, here by the Mahmoud Reda Troupe

Fallahin [farmers] dances, also invented-for-stage. Here by the Enan Egyptian Troupe.


At Ghawazee Moon Bellydance, we take as our inspiration the practices of bellydance as a form of community celebration and sharing. We rely on teachings passed down, and the truth in the rhythms and music, to create dances which respond on a folkloric level. We aspire to honest interpretations with thoughts of the culture from which these dances came and the traditions which surround them.

The grace and fluidity of the Classical styles, the fiery, proud and earthy movements of the Ghawazee, and the intricate and internalised movements of Baladi create a huge diversity of movement. Add to that fusion styles and specific folkloric dances, and we know you will love the variety of styles danced at Ghawazee Moon Bellydance as much as we do!

Do you have a favourite bellydance, or ME Dance, Style? Let us know!

In Search of Rhythm Guides

Sometimes it’s difficult to learn the names of the rhythm patterns we use in class. The more often you hear the rhythms, the easier it is to dance to them, and to play them on your finger cymbals, zills, or sagat (which ever style you’re using, or term you prefer). So, I’ve put together a few links for students, to help you source CDs and other resources.

Matt Stonehouse has a CD that I use a lot. Different rhythms and played a different speeds. It’s really useful to practice along to, both fast and slow.

Andy Busuttil has his Pulse of the Pyramids CDs available from his website. These are great for hearing rhythms played with and without zills/segat, and also have a sample of music using the rhythms.

Mas’ud al-Sha’ir has a great resource called the Quick & Dirty Guide to Doumbek Rhythms. Rythms are written down with open (skeleton),  simple, standard, busy and closed (filled) versions – great for visual/logical learners. There are also sound bites (these are not only useful, but make you smile when you can hear his dog barking along … musical puppy!). 🙂

The Middle Eastern Dance site has some good break downs of zill patterns, including hands (R-L) sounds (R-D-T-C) and spoken word. Again, great for visual/logical learners.

Shira has a listing of rhythms and zill patterns (including hands for right and left handed players). It also includes musical notation and spoken counts for each of the patterns listed. She also has a website jam packed full of information, so make sure you have a couple of hours free if you decide to go browsing there!

Zills on Fire has downloadable files, sound bites and more (inlcuding a CD). Very useful.

Solace’s Rhythm of the Dance has beledi, chifte-telli, masmoudi, saidi, kashlima, zar, moroccan, shoush and laz. to practice along with.

Let me know in the comments of any other great rhythm resources out there!

Dancing with Swords

With some sword dancing in our future. This is a very, very brief overview of dancing with swords for our students.

“Belly dancing with a scimitar can only legitimately be traced back to American roots. It became popular in the United States in the 1970’s. Jamila Salimpour‘s troupe, Bal Anat, used them as a prop balanced on their head as part of their routines for the California Renaissance Fair. Jamila is reported to have gotten the idea from the famous (at least among belly dancers) painting of a Ghawazee by Jean Leon Gerome. This caught on with many soloists and troupes who continued to perform and teach Sword Dances … ”

Read more about the history of bellydancing with swords on Middle Eastern Dance

> Sword Tips from Shira

> Sword Tip, Tricks & Guidelines from Shems

Sword & Balancing Dances from Shems

Here are a few videos showing a variety of sword styles for your enjoyment, contemplation and inspiration 🙂

Below is Irina Akulenko’s “Justice” from “Tarot – Fantasy Belly Dance”. You should also check out some of Isidora Bushkovski’s other Videos.

Below is the Suhaila Dance Company performing the Sheherezade Sword (choreography by Suhaila Salimpour). This is one of my all-time favourite group sword dances … there’s a video somewhere of them performing this wearing cabaret heels … very impressive!

Again, the Suhaila Dance Company. This time performing the Renaissance Faire Sword in 1999 at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. Choreographed by Suhaila Salimpour.

Below is Bellydance Soulfire who are one of my favourite performance troupes. They are performing a tribal style double sword with scimitars from Brenda Gorski at Rakkasah.

Lastly, this is Shems (whose articles are linked above) performing sword at BellyPalooza 2010 in Baltimore. This is a beutifully smooth classical/cabaret styled performance.

There are lots of great videos of belly dancing with swords out there. Hopefully this small taste has got your creative juices flowing, and you’re inspired to get your sword out and practice!