Folkloric dances are characterized as
having been inspired by activities of both the men as
well as women, and as with most of the traditional
Middle Eastern dances, emerged from one of the activities
of daily life for the typical villager.
Raks Assaya or "cane dance" is a
personal favorite of the troupe's choreographer.
It is the female version of the tahtib, which
comes from the Arabic word for stick or staff, even
though the dance is usually done with the cane instead
of the staff.
Tahtib is the men's stick dance that
evolved out of a display of skill in combat with a
bamboo staff. Strongly rooted in the lifestyle of the
fellaheen (rural or village people) the tahtib is
recognized in the Arab world as Egyptian in origin, very
similar to the martial art of Akido. Theatrical
presentations involve a mock battle as the protagonists
dance, Saiidi style, holding the stick in one or
both hands swinging it around above their heads striking
it on the ground or against each other's staff in
Raks Assaya, the female version,
is coy and flirtatious. The movements have been softened
and stylized while still retaining an air of
exhibitionism. According to researchers Raks Assaya is
the epitome of female charm and one of the most popular
dances in Middle Eastern entertainment. It is a common
occurrence at weddings, circumcisions, births, and in
the floor shows of Oriental dancers.
Eastern and Mediterranean folkloric dances often reflect
the activities of everyday life such as fishing, sifting
grain, or carrying water. Everyday objects associated
with these activities become props in sometimes
elaborate, stylized dances.