Back(forth) to The Essential*


Tahia Carioca

‘As in bullfighting, the essence of the classic Arab belly dancer’s art is not how much, but how little the artist moves’, Said wrote, further adding that ‘Only the novices and the deplorable Greek and American imitators go in for the appalling wiggling and jumping around that passes for “sexiness”’.

Edward Said

(Quote shared by Justine Riekena)

There´s a LOT of important truth in this statement, though I´m far from agreeing with everything Edward Said says. The fact that a non-dancer presumes to understand dance in depth makes me cringe – no one can know a subject, in depth, if he/she doesn´t practice it for a consistent amount of time and with seriousness and education. Even professional, experienced, well educated dancers, have doubts about their craft – it´s only weird*, to say the least, that a person who is not a dancer is so full of convictions about a craft he knows nearly nothing about. This attitude, in itself, exposes ignorance and arrogance, traits I´m not particularly fond of.

But, back to THIS particular statement: “Arab belly dancer’s art is not how muchgiorgia-astrid, but how little the artist moves’ is ALMOST right.

I´ve mentioned it on my first book – “The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond”. I´ve called it Stillness, Silence, avoiding the plague of Do-Do-Do.

Edward Said mentions it here and the reason why I say he´s almost* right is that in Oriental Dance, there´s a “mot juste” – the appropriate/exact/fair word. Not to long, not to short, not empty; not too fast, not to slow; not to much and not too little.

The amount of movement applied must be measured by an inner clock/balance which is personal and it changes according to the music and the personal state the dancer finds her/himself in. It´s never a question of doing “nothing”, or not moving, but knowning – instinctively and through conscious experience – when to move, when to stop and for how long and why*.

I´ll repeat what I´ve mentioned many times: if you understand Egyptian Dance as a Language, you know there must be breathing spaces, words that linger, pauses that simmer or get interruped by an unexpected word, connection between words, text and sub-text (what is not stated but is, nonetheless, expressed through emotion/energy and so forth.

It´s all about COMMUNICATING – FROM BODY, MIND, HEART AND SOUL – EFFICIENTLY. How much physical/external movement and how much pause (and with which contents) are required for that communication. That* skill is at the essence of Sharki and, perhaps, Life.

In relation to the reference to “bull fighting”, I can see why he makes this comparison.

I´ve watched many bull fights, in Portugal and Spain, during my childhood and adolescence and I see the connection. The main difference is: in bull fighting, the “torero” aims at conquering the bull and, ultimately, killing it; in dance, the “rakkasah” aims at surrendering to the music & moment and bringing them to life on a human & divine scale.

Book cover Ana SamuelTo know more about this subject feel welcome to sink into

“The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond” by Joana Saahirah:


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