Exploring the magic world of Middle Eastern Dance!

E-Newsletters 2011

December 2011:  This month’s topic: Moulids!  Middle Eastern Holiday Celebrations

December is a month we in the States associate with holidays:  in particular, with Christmas and Hanukkah, which are religious holidays in origin with lots of secular spillover, including feasting and partying.  The perfect time, I thought, to take a look at how holidays celebrated in the Middle East.   I will leave the particulars of Ramadan for another article – but I would like to introduce you to moulids.

The word “moulid” means birthday in arabic, and also refers also to holidays that celebrate the birthdays of,  in particular, Mohammed and several noteworthy religious leaders since.  Like some of our western holidays, there is religious activity associated with the holidays, as well as out and out celebratory events, special foods, lots of music, and participatory events that often run several days.  Sometimes there are even carnivals. In  places like Cairo, moulids take the form of gigantic outdoor festivals, with preparations weeks & months in advance, and stores laden all kinds of special festive sweets.  Mosques are decorated profusely with lots of bright colored lights, huge tents may be set up, vendors stock up, and people come from all over, especially for the biggest holidays.

For a good description of moulids, here’s a great article by Lara Iskander, explaining some background and traditions that are important.  Note that while Lara refers to “ritual dance,” it is more ritual than dance, as you will see in the following selection of short videos I found on the web to give you a glimpse at the festivities. Lara’s article: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/moulid.htm

Some clips from actual moulids


November 2011:  This month’s topic:  Undulations: Origins and Origination

My class is ongoing, every FRIDAY  6:30 – 8PM at CAP 21, 18 West 18th Street, Manhattan

Since we’ve been working a lot on our undulations (camels) in class, I thought it would be useful to take a deeper look at this quintessential raqs sharqi movement. Yes, undulation is an advanced move, but like all of our advanced vocabulary, it is included in our warm-up from day one so that you can develop your muscles in the proper way to do the movement successfully eventually.

Western dance is about externals:  steps and arm placement, leaps and turns,  traveling, striking poses, defying gravity, challenging the limits of how the human body can move. In many ways, Eastern dance is opposite:  it is grounded and earthy, it is subtle and centered, and most importantly, it arises from internal energy that finds expression mostly in the torso, not the limbs, almost bubbling forth to be visible.   Much as a covered boiling pot makes the lid rattle:  the energy comes from within.  There is no better movement to use as an example than the undulation. While it is difficult to understand a movement from a verbal description, think how we do this in class to get a visual with the words.  The movement begins with a forward rocking motion of the lower torso.  At this point, think in terms of the energy of your life center – womb- (or where your womb would be, if you’re a guy) pushing itself forward.  Then as you slightly relax your knees (anticipating a sit), your diaphragm starts to contract, which allows your life center to return to neutral position, followed by the pelvis.  This sequence creates a lower torso body wave.

Is it a coincidence that the movement recalls the Lamaze technique?  It turns out that this is a movement that appears to have originated intraditional birthing ceremonies.  Morocco (the dancer) has an amazing article about how she tracked down a birthing ceremony in Morocco (the country), and what she saw.  Check it out on her web site: http://www.casbahdance.org/ Click on “Articles” and then on “Giving to Light” For those of you who have not yet heard, Morocco’s long awaited book is due to be released shortly.  Contact Morocco directly at morocco@casbahdance.org, if you are interested in getting your own, autographed copy!!!


October 2011: This month’s topic:  Music I use in Class

My class is ongoing, every FRIDAY  6:30 – 8PM at CAP 21, 18 West 18th Street, Manhattan:  

Except for the warm-up music, which is always the same, the music I use in class includes a variety of pop, shaabi, and standards from across North Africa & the Levant.  Just a few current favorites below (a few w/links to Youtube to see videos or translations).   Enjoy!

Cheb Mami “Halili” The original:

(English translation:

“Gaya bil Salama”

Nawal al Zoghbi

“Law Wakhed Balak”


Shereen Ahmed

“Sabri Aleel”

Nancy Ajram

Funky modern fusion from Nickodemus “Cleopatra in NY”

Drum music A lot of the drum music I use is from Turkish Percussion Group Harem, mostly from their first CD, as later CD’s got very techno/disco.  Also  notable is Passion for Percussion.  Both have numerous cd’s out.

Instrumental music Instrumental music I use in class includes instrumental versions of old Farid al Atrache, Om Khoultoum music, and other classics.

Other artists to explore:  Hakim, Elissa, Amr Diab, Saad el Saghir, Mustafa Amar, Tarkan, Sabr Rebai, Sameera Said, Warda, Compilations are a good way to try different artists to see who you like, and they often include the most popular songs.  The older compilations have more traditional & regular pop stuff.  Some more recent compilations are heavy on disco & techno.  But the variety will allow you to zero in on the artists you like.

Or surf Youtube: if you can find it on Youtube, it’s a great way to check out music before you buy.


September 2011: This month’s topic:  Turkish Dance

My class is ongoing, every FRIDAY  6:30 – 8PM at CAP 21, 18 West 18th Street, Manhattan    

This month, we explore Turkey, which is an amazing place for dance! For starters, Turks are very proud of their own regional folk dances, and the government supports not only teaching these dances in the schools, but promotes competitions for the best school.  So the folk dance that you can see in Turkey is superb.  However, these folk dances are not Oriental dance.

There is also a large Roma population, especially in Istanbul, and they have maintained many of their own music and dance traditions, much of which has made its way into Oriental dancers’ routines, but which still remain a distinctly different dance.

Oriental dance itself, in Turkey, with greater influence from the east (Persia, etc), embodies more upper torso movements than typical North African movement vocabulary.

Enjoy these samplings of Turkish dance:

Turkish Folk Dance Belediyesi Baris Manco Kultur Egitim Merkezi’, from Buyukcekmece, Turkey

From VI Interetno Festival at Senta (note the nonconfrontational way the ladies put hands on hips, as we discussed in class)

Turkish Roman Dance


Reyhan on a TV show

Ozgen – currently very popular male dancer.  I’ve seen him in person – he’s marvelous!

Don’t know the provenance of this one, but this young girl appears to be the real thing. They do learn this in the family growing up.  Stick it out for better front views of her dance toward the end.

One of my current favorite Oriental Dancers in Turkey:


Tulay Caraca, a famous Turkish dancer of the 80’s & 90’s

Tulay does Roman 9/8


The pervert is part of the staged show….

And just for fun- challenging notions of the concept of “dance” : Click on Danca Turca, if the link doesn’t go straight to it.


August 2011:  Music Videos as Cultural Reference

Hello, Dance Fans* If you wish to be on my monthly E-Newsletter alert list, email me at karimanadira@verizon.net! My class is ongoing, every FRIDAY  6:30 – 8PM at CAP 21, 18 West 18th Street, Manhattan:   in  room 605.

I hope you like my new website!    Future monthly newsletters to your email box will simply be an alert that the new newletter is up on the site, with the link, so you’re inbox won’t be so cluttered.  Would love to hear your feedback on the new site (parts of which are still under construction)!

In class this month, we will continue to hone our expressive skills with an eye towards understanding what makes our movements “middle eastern.”  When one learns a new spoken language, no matter the level of skill, one often retains an “accent” left over from our primary language, which alerts the listener that we are “foreign” speakers.  In dance, one also often retains movement habits and patterns from Western or other dance, as well as from our movement patterns in our daily lives, making the new learned patterns less distinct and less recognizable by people for whom the same movement is second nature.

On top of this, it is also often difficult to get a sense of what a culture is like, and how that may have shaped their choice of movement,  by the available representations of Middle Eastern cultures here in the west.  Unfortunately, stereotypes in print and video media predominate, and our exposure to real aspects of their cultures are limited.  It becomes a real challenge to properly calibrate our interpretations to evoke and respect that culture.   Just think of the mass of material the rest of the world has to interpret our culture by:   Dallas, Loveboat, Baywatch, etc, plus music videos, movies,  printed images, and, lord only knows what’s on youtube,  out there representing us.   Imagine what impressions THEY have of YOUR lifestyle!  In the same way that many of these representations are not true to our own culture, neither are many of the representations we get from other cultures. Movies, music and theater are very good examples of arenas where lots of liberties are taken (artistic license, anyone?), and as a result,  there’s lots of fantasy, hyperbole, and things done for effect not truth, obscuring what one might actually find as a real life style in one of those cultures.  Add our own Hollywood stereotypes & things get really confused really fast.  Often things that are portrayed are not acceptable behavior in=culture.

Keeping all this in mind, here are some recent music videos from Egypt & environs, that on the one hand, give us some cultural information, but on the other hand, misrepresent what real lives are like in these cultures.  It is left to us, most of the time, to sort the real from the theatrical.  Also keep in mind that, for the most part, with the exception of big cities, the Middle East is still a VERY conservative place (getting more so in Egypt!- in case you missed the HUGE rally the Muslim Brotherhood had in Tahrir Square recently).

This is Hakim in his popular “Habosoo” Appears to be filmed in one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Cairo.  The bicycle bread seller with the tray of bread on his head is ubiquitous in Cairo, and in some shots you will see mosque minarets in the background.

Here’s Hakim again in “Efred”.  This one’s filmed in the Khan el Khalili, the Grand Bazaar in Cairo.  Notice all the vendor booths and some of the shots of the ancient arches & walls.  Note also that while the women are generally conservatively dressed, most women there are actually more covered than these ladies, usually including their hair.  And unfortunately, the girl staying behind at the end is likely just fantasy.  That would not be considered proper behavior for a girl in Egypt,

Here’s Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram in Ah We Noss,  a very cute video giving a little sense of rural life (though her interaction with this boy would not likely be considered proper).

Another Nancy tune, which some of you may recognize  from class. ( This was likely filmed in  Lebenon, where the buses are much newer than Cairo)

Nancy, Yay Sehr Ouyounoo

Egyptian sha’abi singer Sa’d El Soghayar

Now for a little fun!  Some cross-cultural FUSION! Hakim & James Brown – Leila

ENJOY! Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Yours in Dance, Karima Nadira

*KarimaClassNews is a monthly update that informs you of any changes to our Basic Technique Class schedules,  rate changes, cancellations or relocations of classes, upcoming seminars, and upcoming performance and other events of interest to the local dance community. For lots more information about Oriental Dance,  and lots of informative articles, see Morocco’s website at http://www.casbahdance.org/


JULY 2011: Kuwaiti & Gulf Dancing

Hello, Dance Fans* Hope you’ve been enjoying the video links!  (Feel free to provide feedback or suggestions!)

In class this month, after the regular warmup, we will continue to explore how various  Middle Easterners from different countries interpret the movement vocabulary we have been studying.  We will use the same movements we have learned, but in new ways, as we modify them to do the folk movements we have seen in the videos.

One specific group of movements we will visit is Khaleegy, or Gulf region dance, as done by women.  Some of the Kuwaiti videos below, and the Gulf girl’s dance will give you an idea of what we will be playing with. SO, for your viewing fun during the month, and to help clarify what I am referencing in class, here are some links to dance videos: The following women’s dances all appear to be Kuwaiti in production origin; though whether they are presenting a selection of regional dances or only doing their own traditions is not clear.  (Note: Kuwait used to be part of the country now known as Iraq.)

Note the exuberant hair tossing toward the end

Large stage productions in Kuwait; second number in the first video also includes hair tossing

Must be a Gulf girl!  Home video;  no costume, so you can see the actual movements much better.  Includes hair tossing.

Men’s Dance Doha-Qatar

A really short clip of Qatari sword dance

which looks very much like: “Tradition Saudi Wedding Dance” (notice there are men only in the room)

This next one:  Hey, I couldn’t find the original with the original music, but the traditional movements are great, and the dubbing over of Smooth Criminal is funny….  Who says you have to invent new moves to be modern?

This is probably what the original music sounds like:

Moving north, and east: Kurdish dance: the Kurdish people are spread over several countries:  chiefly Turkey, Iraq, and Iran Kurdish video/ dance:  looks like a music video but dance scenes are interesting

(dance scenes might not have been made to this music;  it looks like they were patched in & don’t quite match the music.)

Check out how the Kurdish ladies are dressed in the 2nd  opening photo of this one;  the music is nice, but most of the rest of the pix are not useful….

What the line dancing might look like at a party.

Persian Scarf dance (Lori)

ENJOY! Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Yours in Dance, Karima Nadira


JUNE 2011:  Syrian & Yemeni Dance with Excellent Knife Dance

Hello, Dance Fans* My class is ongoing, every FRIDAY at 6:30 – 8PM at CAP 21, 18 West 18th Street, Manhattan.

Don’t forget to scroll down & check the video links for the month. The movement vocabulary we review in the warmup each class is widely used in the entire Middle East and North Africa.  There may be, however, some differences in how these movements are interpreted or used, depending on their local traditions. In class this month, we will explore how various  Middle Easterners from different countries interpret this movement vocabulary.  While honing our technique (and of course, our shimmies), we’ll also play with some folk versions of the movements.

For your viewing fun during the month, and to help clarify what I am referencing in class, here are some links to dancing in Syria & Yemen.  (more to come next month) Syria Folk dancers at Syrian wedding:  looks like this is from a movie or music video, so it is difficult to know how accurate the folk dance is, but notice the movements of the solo (non-troupe) women.  Also the man’s sword play is likely from a men’s dance.  Note the groom’s reaction when the bride wants to dance….

Assyrian Folk Dance

Latakia Syria

Dance troupe, Syrian in dubai

Yemen: Possibly an old movie clip: stick with this one – it really heats up about half way thru! (Note:   a lot of the men’s dances tend to be forms of martial arts)

A more sedate choreographed version:

Outside barefoot in the sand

Women’s dance  (not many women in the audience)

Women with the guys: dance troupe

A man & a woman together

Yemeni jewish dance

ENJOY! Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Yours in Dance, Karima Nadira


MAY 2011:  Non-dancers Doing Great Choreography: OK GO

Hello, Dance Fans For May, we will be working further on developing our shimmies, as well as continuing to work on relaxing into the movement instead of holding on to tension. If you have been checking out the video links I’ve been including, you may have noticed that the dancers are a joy to watch, even when, like the North African folk dancers, they are doing repetitive movements, or working with a limited vocabulary.  Oriental dance is grounded in such folk roots, and the movements are body friendly, because these dances are done by ordinary people at community celebrations.  Essentially these are social dances done by non-professionally trained dancers. Even in a professional performance, it is not necessary to throw in every move you ever learned.  The best professionals are aware that it is the interpretation of the spirit of the music that communicates to the audience.  Technical mastery can enhance the ability and range of such communication, but it is that communication that sets a watchable dancer apart.

Just for fun, I thought you might like to see that ordinary movements by non-dancers, with a simple choreography, can be very entertaining, in the context of Western pop. (Sorry about the ads at the start of each video.  That’s what happens when the corporate guys get involved)

OK Go – A Million Ways

I especially like the ending, given the title…

OK GO -Here it Goes Again

Note:  I did not say that they did not practice!  😉

ENJOY! Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Yours in Dance, Karima Nadira



APRIL 2011: Kabyle & Other N. African Dances

Hello, Dance Fans For April, we  will continue to work with  the lovely song by Warda, “Batwanes Beek, and we will put more emphasis on faster hipwork, focusing in  particular on our RR-LL hips.  Our drills will focus on developing this particular movement and gradually controlling it so that the hips will eventually shimmy automatically from this base move!  Remember our focus on the importance of  letting go of tension, which is a barrier to expression, both emotional and physical, and to achieving relaxed control. Relaxed control is the key to fluidity,  and will enhance the clarity and quality of  your movement.

This time I’ve selected a few videos of North African folk dance, particularly Kabyle (Berber), which shows the relaxed NON-STOP HIPS in action. Also, for those of you with whom I’ve been talking about men dancing, note that there are men dancing in these videos as well. While watching the following videos, look for : How relaxed the upper body remains while the hips are busy. How effortless (NO tension, totally relaxed) the movements appear. Use of direction changes, scarf twirling, and other devices to add variety to the basic hip movements. Note that the ones made as “re-mixes” and/or music videos sometimes use dance footage from elsewhere to fit their soundtrack -so it might not be the original music the dancers are dancing to.    Even if it is the same music, it is likely dubbed in later. Once in a while, you see the women vibrating their hands over their mouths – they are zaghareeting- the shrill, high pitched trill they make in the back of their throats. (you can clearly hear it on more than one of these videos.

Choreographed music video (much of this kind of dancing is ordinarily unscripted line dancing)





Kabyle Dance -solo with full range of movement variation & use of scarf


Clips of a wedding between the singer & dancer clips, with zaghareeting at the end


See if you can watch these without wanting to jump up & dance! ENJOY!

Looking forward to seeing you in class!

Yours in Dance, Karima Nadira


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