The Difference Between Series
I’ve decided to add a new category to my videos: The Difference Between series. The reason why is there are so many moves and styles that closely resemble each other but have significant differences. In that spirit, I’ve decided to do a post on the difference between Belly Dance styles, and the different types of Hip Hop styles.
Of course, this post is concerned with the difference between belly dance styles because these days I primarily teach belly dance. But never fear hip hop lovers, the second installation (different hip hop styles) won’t be too terribly far behind.
Different Belly Dance Styles
So let’s go over the major different types of belly dance. The first note I want to make is that belly dance, much like hip hop, is not a rule-heavy dance. Of course there are major components of different styles that do indeed change, however, there’s a lot of bastardization. A lot of flavoring. Much like when you watch Dancing With The Stars and Len complains that there wasn’t enough samba in a samba routine, there are a lot of dancers that incorporate their own style and different styles into most performances and sometimes a specific style just gets watered down. But this is the take home message: Few belly dancers use one style and one style only.
There are several major types of belly dance you are likely to see and some dances that have kind of morphed from, alongside, or into belly dance. And I want to talk about them as well. These dances include: Cabaret, Turkish, Egyptian, American Tribal Style, and Fusion. Similar dances include Khaligi, Shamadan, Baladi, and Bollywood. Additionally, you can have styles that are heavily influenced by a geographical location such as Lebanese style, Nubian (Southern Egyptian), Saidi (Northern Egyptian), Iranian, Morrocon, and Saudi styles of belly dance which often incorporate folk dance moves into the belly dance, or are so far from what Americans have come to expect from belly dance that in the U.S., we no longer recognize it as belly dance.
For example, this is a Saidi Cane Dance:
And this is a similar dance but with more belly dance-like costumes:
As you can see, there’s definitely some crossover between belly dance and the Saidi Dance in the second video, but you’d be hard pressed to label it “belly dance” or “Saidi”. It really is a fusion dance that’s also added on some impressive cane tricks. That happens a lot in belly dance, because it’s evolved from and with and around other folk dances from different regions. So just be aware that different areas have their own style and that style may or may not be part of the original belly dance style the dancers are performing.
You may also hear terms like Baladi and Shaabi thrown around. These usually refer to a type of musical style. Baladi (also known as Beledi) can be type of dance with a specific costume, but the word can also refer to the style of the music. I just want to make sure everyone’s good and confused before launching into the main styles of belly dance you are likely to see in America. :D
Turkish Belly Dance
Turkish belly dance (shockingly) originated in and around Turkey. Turkish style is usually pretty ‘jumpy’ and ‘throwy’. That’s the best way I know how to explain it. There’s hoping, hair throwing, hitting the pelvis, drops, bouncing, jumping, and hard and fast shimmying. It’s often very energetic. Turkish style has been influenced by Roma styles and also often incorporates steps from a folk dance rhythm; the Karsilama. A good representation of what Turkish style looks like is the video below:
Although the belly dancers don’t dance until about the 2:50 mark and there is clearly a modern flavor, you can see the jumpiness, the hitting, the sharp edges of the dance. This is a Turkish/Gypsy crossover with some modern moves, but it’s a good representation of what you can expect to see from Turkish belly dancers. Notable Turkish dancers include Eva Cernik and Artemis Mourat. Another famous belly dancer today is Didem, a modern belly dancer in Turkey. Another thing to note is that Turkish belly dance is very fun. It’s not usually a serious dance in the sense that it’s almost never performed to convey a strong serious tone, but rather it’s usually performed with a smile, lightheartedness, and again, lots of jumping around. It is almost always a ‘happy’ dance. Often, a celebratory dance.
Egyptian Belly Dance
There are many kinds of Egyptian Belly Dance. Egypt can rightly be said to be the heart of belly dancing. As you can see, Egyptian Style of Belly Dance is usually done wearing nothing like what we, as Westerners, have come to associate belly dance with; mainly scantily clad women. That’s just not what Egyptian style is about. It’s very folkloric, it’s usually fully dressed, and it’s particular about what rhythm you’re using. Egyptian style can cover such a wide variety, that it’s usually best to use the subset names; Saidi, Baladi, Shamadan, Shaabi, etc.
Some of the most popular styles include the Baladi style:
Saidi Style (which is pretty much synonymous with cane dancing):
Egyptian Shamadan (which is a headdress dance)
A highly stylized version of the Shamadan:
Which sometimes crosses over into a Fallahi rhythm:
And Ghawazee (also spelled Gawazi, Ghawazi, etc.) which is originally a Doma (not to be confused with Roma) style of dance that’s mixed into Egyptian dance:
Here is another Ghawazee performance with a less traditional outfit:
Cabaret Style Belly Dance
Now this is the style we’ve come to associate with belly dancers. Cabaret has come to be synonymous with scantily clad women undulating their chests off. It uses elements of Egyptian and Turkish styles, but pretty much most cabaret (although not all) will show off quite a bit of skin. Like Turkish, it’s dancers sometimes interact with the audience. Usually it is performed as a choreographed routine and it’s mostly performed as a solo. There are usually no troops in cabaret style. So just to recap: if you’re watching a solo performance with a western flavor performed by a scantily clad woman who’s clearly performing a choreographed piece, there’s a good chance that what you’re watching is cabaret style belly dance.
American Tribal Style (ATS)
ATS has some components that differ greatly from other belly dance. It is almost always performed in troops, and often not choreographed, plus there’s a very specific costume associated with ATS; large flowing skirts (called ’25-yard skirts’), coin bras, or cholis. The way that American Tribal Style dancers can perform together without looking totally lost and without choreographing is with a series of verbal cues and visual cues. A leader turns their wrist a certain way and it signals the other dancers that it’s time to turn, for example.
Fusion Belly Dance
Then there’s fusion. Tribal fusion takes some of the stylistic aspects of ATS, like performing mostly in groups, and adds in a LOT of modern flare. Elements from Jazz and Modern, Hip Hop, Locking, Popping, Waving, etc. show up in a lot of fusion.
There is so much fusion out there, you could peruse the Internet forever looking up stuff. It is very, very popular, and for good reason; it makes adding your own flavoring to belly dance acceptable. Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice live in a land somewhere between steampunk and belly dance, while dancers like Anasma have added so much hip hop, waving, and modern into their routine, it’s like a completely new dance.
An example of Tribal Fusion by dancers Kami Liddle and Zoe Jakes:
There’s also gothic fusion which is essentially a lot like tribal fusion but with more dressing up like Helena Bonham Carter on Halloween.
Other fusion includes the fusion of bollywood and belly dance (often shortened to “bellywood”):
And then of course, my favorite type of fusion, Hip Hop Fusion: