Eastern Delight

Middle Eastern Dance

This is a very ancient dance which has its origins in North Africa, it is a beautiful art form, its movements simple, fluid and natural.  It is common to many countries in the Arab world, from Morocco, Turkey and Iran to Afghanistan and Egypt.  Originally connected with religious worship, as the more primitive religions died out, the dance became more secular and part of everyday life with women performing it in the home to entertain each other. By the beginning of the twentieth century, as a dance form it had been exported to the West, at this point it changed, becoming more of a cabaret style performance, with glamorous costumes, inspired by Hollywood.

Its continued popularity is much to do with the fact that it can be danced by people of any age, gender or ability, which makes it easily accessible.  Weddings and other family celebrations are often an opportunity for people to express their joy by dancing together and in Middle Eastern countries the same simple moves are used with slight changes depending on the region the dance has originated from.

In Arabic, this dance is called “raks sharki” or “Eastern or Oriental dance”. For those performing Middle Eastern dance, there is a strong sense of grounding and connection to the earth. The movement begins at the dancer’s centre of gravity, for a woman this would be the belly and hip area. The whole body, soul and spirit connect in creating a beautiful, live expression.

It takes the dancer many years to perfect the movement isolation which enables her to dance with the grace, elegance and poise of a professional.  In cities such as Cairo and Istanbul this dance continues to flourish with many dancers performing in night clubs, hotels and restaurants or at weddings. People dance to express a wide variety of emotions and many Westerners are now finding Middle Eastern dance a liberating experience which provides a sense of freedom that they are unable to find in other art or dance forms.