Foreigners shake up Egypt’s stomach dancing scene

Egypt’s stomach dancing scene thrived past century, when icons like Samia Gamal and Tahya Carioca rose to fame on the silver screen. But researchers say Egyptian modern society has mainly observed the dance as enjoyment, to be watched but hardly ever taken up as a profession.

FILE: Moroccan belly dancer Maya Dbaich dances at a marriage in Egypt’s money Cairo. Picture: AFP

CAIRO – At a Cairo marriage ceremony hall, Russian stomach dancer Anastasia Biserova shimmied to the dance flooring in a vivid, higher-slit skirt and an elaborately sequined bra leading.

She swirled her diaphanous pink shawl and glided by way of the corridor as a band pumped out tunes, whilst the group broke into rapturous applause – all captured in a online video posted on the web.

“There is no region close to the earth that appreciates belly dancing like Egypt,” she afterwards told AFP.

“Listed here, there is a rising craze to invite foreign stomach dancers to weddings, nightclubs and other gatherings.”

Biserova came to Cairo additional than four decades ago and has constructed a good name for herself.

Stomach dancers from Jap Europe, Russia, Latin America and in other places have dominated the scene in latest several years in Egypt – long regarded as the birthplace of belly dancing.

But the North African country has witnessed its local community of homegrown dancers shrink, mainly due to the profession’s rising notoriety as the state has become extra conservative over the last 50 %-century – and to a broadening crackdown on freedoms.

The profession took a additional hit as Egypt’s novel coronavirus outbreak forced the temporary suspension of substantial weddings and the shuttering of nightclubs – although several dancers continued to enthrall audiences with on the net video clips.


Tummy dancer Maria Lurdiana Alves Tejas reported it took her some time to arrive to terms with Egyptians’ conflicted view of her profession.

The Brazilian, recognised as Lurdiana, explained she experienced carried out to enthusiastic crowds at weddings and nightclubs, and had even taught at gymnasium courses.

“But there are some who do not see me as a specialist – or (who believe) that I did not have a suitable training and am only carrying out this to clearly show my entire body for dollars,” she claimed.

“It was really complicated and unhappy simply because I spent yrs finding out.”

Egypt’s belly-dancing scene thrived very last century, when icons like Samia Gamal and Tahya Carioca rose to fame on the silver monitor.

But scientists say Egyptian modern society has mainly observed the dance as leisure, to be viewed but never taken up as a job.

“This perspective was bolstered by well-liked tradition, and videos which depicted tummy dancers as coquettes, prostitutes or homewreckers,” claimed Shaza Yehia, creator of a 2019 ebook on the history of the dance.

Arabic conditions for dancers – raqasat and awalem – now often bear offensive and racy connotations.

Recently, authorities have specific dancers, pop divas and social media influencers who have posted video clips on the internet.

Typically loosely worded rates versus them have provided violating “spouse and children values” or “community decency”.

Foreigners have not been spared in the crackdown.

In 2018, Russian tummy dancer Ekaterina Andreeva – regarded as Johara – was briefly arrested for donning a costume deemed way too revealing, just after a video of her general performance circulated commonly.


In accordance to Yehia and other researchers, stomach dancing in Egypt is believed to have particularly flourished in the course of the 19th century.

“Performers at the time were being known as ‘awalem’, or the professional, in reference to their enough understanding in the arts of singing and dancing,” Yehia said.

Its contemporary-day manifestation was in portion shaped by Westerners through colonial instances, she extra.

Some even argue that the time period “tummy dance”, or “danse du ventre”, was originally coined by the French.

“International writers and painters portrayed their personal fantasies about Eastern stomach dancers,” Yehia mentioned.

“These views stirred imaginations in the West, which later sought to transform them into actuality.”

Global dance moves were incorporated into the Oriental dance, and costumes altered to attraction to well known tastes.

Now, conservatives and traditionalists view belly dancers’ gauzy skirts and glittery bra tops as much too revealing, and normally accuse them of currently being “vulgar” and “overtly sexual”.

Dancers accomplishing to classical Arabic tunes have also turn out to be a rarity, as a substitute generally preferring well known electro avenue music, known as mahraganat – a genre with speedy beats and improvised vocals that purists watch as overstepping ethical boundaries.

Irrespective of the apparent contradictions, international belly dancers in Egypt say coming to the state was the proper choice.

“Foreigners have to occur in this article to completely fully grasp, complete and observe,” reported Ukrainian tummy dancer Alla Kushnir.

“Egypt is merely the land of tummy dancing.”

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