Sahlala Bellydance Style
Bellydance, Oriental Dance, Raqs Sharqui, Raks Sharki…whatever name you’ve heard it called, is one of the oldest forms of dance. It is such an old artform, it’s exact origins are undetermined. Anthropologists trace its roots back to various ancient cultures of North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and India. The history of bellydance has a rich and diverse complexity that would take a lifetime to discuss!
In the Sahlala Dance Company, we perform primarily Modern Egyptian Cabaret style. This style is elegant, refined and controlled which takes years of training and dedication to achieve. Our dancers pride themselves on their commitment to the artistry, and always remain classy, mindful, and respectful of cultural authenticity.
Our show format is influenced by the American Cabaret style of the Arabic nightclubs that were popular in Los Angeles, San Francisco, NYC, and Chicago in the 1950’s - late 1970’s. Our show opens with a high energy routine, usually incorporating a prop (see below for further examples of veils, shamadans, isis wings and fan veils) and ends with a strong, drum solo finale. We usually incorporate some folkloric dances, zills and/or swords to create a memorable and engaging show for our guests.
This flashy, dazzling, Las Vegas inspired prop creates a theatrical aesthetic to modern bellydance.
Though it has no actual ties to traditional middle eastern dance, the artistic similarities to the Egyptian goddess Isis, known as the goddess of creation and magic, have inspired dancers to evolve the art form of bellydance with this prop.
These wings give an imaginative, dramatic effect as the dancers spin and shimmy on stage creating a visual feast for the eyes.
It is our most popular requested dance by clients! Great for photo opps and ambiance background dancing for galas, henna parties, birthdays, baby showers, corporate and holiday parties.
Raks al Shamadan originates from Egypt and was traditionally used to walk the newly wedded bride at night through the streets from her parents home to her new home she'll share with her husband. Musicians and singers accompany the bride, followed by her family and friends.
As weddings modernized, the reception party moved to hotels and the grand entrance (known as a zeffa) ushers the couple into the party introducing them as a married couple.
Now the Shamadan dance has evolved into more elaborate choreography and movements, which include floor work with splits, shimmy and undulations. This spectacular dance is a great addition for engagement parties, sweet 16 birthdays, retirement parties, baby showers.
Though sword dancing may conjure up origin ideas from 1001 Arabian NIghts, bellydancing with this prop is a uniquely American rooted style. The first dancers to perform with swords (and there are several who lay claim) took inspiration from many sources such as circus acts, orientalist paintings from the late 19th century and the Al-Ardha of Saudi Arabia.
It became a popular act in nightclubs during the 1960’s and 70’s. Bellydancing with a sword shows off the impressive skills of control, balance and flexibility. In our company, we perform with scimitars, the largest and heaviest swords that can be used in this style.
Sources: Saudi Arabesque, Babayaga Music, Shira.net
It is undetermined what brought on the popularity of dancing with veils in bellydance, though it is one of the most commonly associated props with the genre. Veils have been worn by both men and women throughout history: as garments used to protect the skin from the sun, as a sign of social status, used in religious practice and sometimes used for dancing.
Some of the many inspirations could be Oscar Wilde’s play, Salome, and the famed “Dance of the Seven Veils”. Or Samia Gamal, one of the most popular Egyptian dancers, used veils in her entrance on stage to help improve her posture and lengthen her arms, adding grace and poise to her movements.
The inspirations are endless as this prop allows the dancer to fuse different styles and elements together. American Cabaret Bellydancers have created the most diversity with veils, using double veils, half circle veils, poi veils, and fan veils. The dancer can frame her body with the veil to enhance and draw attention to specific movements The veils move softly in the hands of the dancer, floating in the air around her in an endless flow of movement.
Fan veils are a much loved fusion prop. Dancing with fans is not historical of any Middle Eastern dances, but is commonly seen in many other cultures. Traditional Asian and Chinese dances use both a short fan and what is known as the Mulan Fan; a silk fan that has a long tail flowing from the top, creating a veil shape. These mulan fans became known as fan veils. Combining traditional fan work with the American style veil movements, this prop is used as an extension of the arms controlling the fan veils to continue floating in the air even after the dancer has stopped moving. Fan veils flitter and ripple in streams as the dancers move them in waves of constant motion, creating a breathtaking visual effect. Contemporary fan veils now have LED lights on them, which our audiences request frequently.
Drums & Zills
Percussion instruments like the finger cymbals (zills) and tabla are the backbone of bellydance. There are many rich and diverse rhythms in arabic music that an experienced bellydancer should know: a lively malfouf to enter the stage, the well loved saidi from the baladi family to get her audience up and dancing with her, a chiftatelli to slow things down or a powerful ayoubb to end her dance with excitement.
We work with the top professional drummers in Southern California if you would like to have a live musician accompany our dancer.