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Sara dancing at the Out of Africa festival in Carnaby Street, 2005



‘Raqs’ meaning dance and ‘Sharqi’ meaning East, is the term given to a style of dance thought to have originated in Egypt, but performed all through the Middle East. It’s most revered and well known performers are those who performed in Egyptian films in the 1950’s such as Tahia Karioka, Samia Gamal and Naima Akif.

It is characterised by intricate and isolated movements of the hips, a ‘floating’ spine and delicate graceful movements of the arms and hands. It contains elements of African, Indian and Flamenco dance and is thought to have been influenced, or even perhaps brought to Egypt, by gypsies.

Raqs Sharqi has developed alongside Egyptian music and is intrinsically related to it. The dance is in many ways a visual representation of the music. Like Egyptian music there are three main styles of dance:

  • Shaabi or Folk style, the dance of rural communities and the Ghawazi, the gypsies of upper Egypt
  • Baladi an urban folk and popular style
  • Sharqi or Classical which includes a courtly style and a more expansive Western influenced style.

Each of these dance styles has a characteristic costume and the music has characteristic instruments, as for example the accordion and saxaphone in Baladi. The violin and oud in Classical.

The Raqs Sharqi Society now works to maintain and develop education, performance and a standard of excellence in Egyptian dance in Britain and Europe.



Raqs Sharqi