There is a saying, “Everything old is new again.” Trends in Middle Eastern belly dance concur.
Belly dance is ever-evolving. Demographics, ethnicity, music and age all play a part in change. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the dance style most frequently performed was American Cabaret. In the 1990’s, Egyptian style was the preferred choice. With the dawn of the 21st Century, American Tribal and its sub-group, Fusion, took hold.
The belly dance world is moving full circle. The latest trend isn’t new. It’s the return of American Cabaret.
American Cabaret is not authentic belly dance but probably the form most familiar to American audiences. This is the type of dance most often found in American clubs, restaurants and hookah lounges. It is also found at private parties and special events. It’s the type of dance American audiences consider belly dance.
A beaded, fringed bedla (separate bra and hip band) with slit chiffon skirt and chiffon veil is the costume of choice. Dancers either wear heels or dance barefoot (more modern). They perform a 4-5 part routine. The four or five part routine is the heart of American Cabaret. It’s putting all of the pieces of Middle Eastern belly dance into one performance, highlighting the dancer’s skill. It educates and engages the audience.
1. The Entrance
As the music begins, the dancer awaits backstage. Music playing first heightens audience anticipation. The dancer enters draped in her veil. The fabric is tucked strategically in her costume, hiding her costume and adding a bit of mystery. She plays brass finger cymbals (zils, zagat), announcing her entrance and adding rhythm in time with the music to her dance. Her entrance dance is spirited, lively with traveling steps. This is the moment where she introduces herself to her audience and grabs their attention.
As the music slows, the dancer removes her veil, unwrapping it slowly and deliberately while dancing in slow, undulating movements. She “plays” with her veil, using it as a frame to her sensual dance movements. This is artistry in motion. At the end, she creatively discards it.
3. Floorwork/props/serpentine movements
The music slows and the dancer becomes serpentine. She may drop or descend to the floor to dance. She may do a backbend, hip work, undulations while at floor level. She may do this while balancing a sword. She may also choose to stand and dance slowly with undulations, belly rolls, flutters, arm and head moves.
4. Drum solo (optional)
The dancer will dance to the beat of the drum. This is the time for locks and pops and intricate, sharp movement.
The music picks up and the dance moves to a faster tempo. The dancer is more flirty and fun. This is the time for traveling steps, dancing around tables in the audience, spinning, shimmying and having fun. It gets the audience involved before the performance draws to a close.
The dancer leaves her audience wanting more!