Saidi Dance is an ancient folkloric dance form Upper Egypt. It combines martial arts movements (known as tahteeb) performed with a staff or cane (assaya). Traditionally, men perform tahteeb, as the ancient Egyptians used it as combat training for battle. The women perform a more theatrical style of tahteeb, called raqs assaya, celebrating the specialized combat skills, which was popularized by Mahmoud Reda, an Egyptian choreographer. They dance with lighter weight canes, and flaunt the ease of maneuvering them with lots of twils, sometimes dancing with two canes simultaneously. Footwork in this dance often mimics the majestic white Egyptian horses. Traditionally, a loose fitting galabiyaa is worn both by men and women when performing, with a turban or headscarf. Women will also wear a scarf tied around their hips to showcase the movement.
Sources: Torkom Moysesiyan, Ashraf Hassan
Fellahi & Melaya Leff
Fellahi dance is inspired by the farmers (Fellahin means Farmers in Arabic) of Egypt. The dance and movement styles vary depending upon which Arabic speaking country the dancers are drawing inspiration; Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon Fellahi Dances will all look slightly different. The concept of a Fellahi dance is the same however, it depicts the everyday work of the farmers; tasks dealing with irrigation and agriculture such as collecting water in jugs or gathering the harvest into baskets. It is a playful dance, with lots of interaction between the dancers. The costuming for this folkloric dance is a loose fitting dress, mimicking a smock type dress the farmers would wear to do their work. Dancers also perform Fellahi in a more narrow cut dress, sometimes referred to as a gallabyia or baladi dress.
Sources: Shira.net, Al-Massraweya Folkloric Dance
Melaya Leff is a stylized dance inspired by the Alexandrian people of the port city in Egypt. The melaya was a popular clothing item in the 1930’s - 1960’s; it is a cloak, or piece of fabric that is wrapped (leff) around the body. This cheeky, playful, comedic dance is a social commentary of how the local men (usually fishermen) and women interact with one another.
This meditative, hypnotic dance takes its roots from the Sufi and Turkish whirling dervishes. Tanoura, in Arabic, translates to skirt, which is why this dance style is also known as “dance of the skirt” The dancer wears several layers of colorful skirts and spins in a counterclockwise direction, imitating the rotation of the earth.
One hand is raised with the palm up and the other arm lowered with the palm down, allowing an energy flow from above, through the body, and into the earth. The dancer will lift the skirt above their head in a symbolic gesture of showering those below with blessing from above.
This dance style has become quite a popular tourist “must see” for those visiting Egypt. It has now transformed into a more performative style with some dancers using tambourines, drums, and LED lights.
This is usually danced as a solo but can be a group dance. If more than 1 tanoura dancer is performing, the main dancer will spin in a stationary spot, representing the sun, while the other dancers spin around them like the planets.
The skirts are heavy, weighing anywhere from 30-40 lbs and dancers train for a long time to be able to spin for long periods of time while maneuvering the skirts.