A traditional dance production often includes the always
popular Raks al Sharki, translated from Arabic, means "dance
of the Orient" or simply, "Oriental Dance".
Much of what we know about the dance comes from
descriptions of Europeans traveling in Egypt during the
nineteenth century. Those travelers dubbed the dance "danse
du ventre", or belly dance, in reference to the unaccustomed
movements of the torso and pelvis which were nonexistent in
Oriental dance is thought to be one of the world's oldest
dance forms. The dance combines elements from many different
countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Although the dance exists in various forms throughout the
Middle East, it is mostly in Egypt that Raks Sharki has
survived and developed in recent times.
Oriental dance actually uses the whole body, including
movements of the head, shoulders, arms, and hands, with hip
movements being far more predominant than isolated movements
of the midriff.
Middle Eastern dance the majority of basic body movement and
dance technique is exactly the same. The divergences are
characterized mainly by musical selection and
interpretation, costume selection, and venue. The
association of the dancer using full orchestral compositions
wearing fancy "bedlah" or glittery and beaded "beledi"
costume is most often labeled "cabaret".
This is the style of dance that is most often recognized
in Western culture and is referred to as "belly dance".
Though popular throughout the world, it is most often seen
today in the clubs and hotels of Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt,
The name "cabaret" was coined, again in the west, to
differentiate the urban style from the country folkloric
While the word "Oriental" may seem misleading
geographically, in the 18th century Asia, the Near East, Far
East, and the Middle East were all considered extensions of
the Orient. For instance, while most people might construe
that Oriental dance comes from Japan or China, none would
question the fact that Oriental carpets are made in the