Maya Sapera performing an Oriental Dance

© tropicalidad.be

Oriental Dance

"Ancient dances, new vibes"

Oriental dance is not easy to define in a few words. This genre covers a very large spectrum of different substyles of the Arabic world, or even the Islamic world, all with their very own representative characteristics. In short, we could state that oriental dance is a mixture of the traditional dances from the Middle East, North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia, even encompassing some elements from the Balkan and South Asia. Next to the typical folk-traditions, Oriental dance is also influenced by the more popular culture from the same regions. Especially the influence of Egypt should not be underestimated.

Maya SaperaA term frequently used by Westerners to indicate Oriental Dance, is Belly Dance. The latter is in fact a style based on traditional Egyptian dance also denoted as Raqs Sharqi, which was developed during the interbellum period for professional performance in cabarets and the early Egyptian film industry. Yet, in the West, the term Raqs Sharqihas a different connotation than in Egypt. More specifically, in the West,Raqs Sharqiis used to define a more refined form of the Belly Dance. The latter is supposed to be more down to earth.

Nowadays Oriental Dance, and Bellydance in particular, have spread all over the world, many schools have been established and co-operation between West and East is flourishing. Through these evolutions, new styles are created, such as Tribal Dance (new style originated in the U.S.) and Hilal Dance (contemporary Egyptian dance, developed by Soraya Hilal). 

Her first steps into the world of dance came at the age of five when Maya Sapera took started following a Belly Dance course. Some time later, mastering multiple traditional styles from various backgrounds such as Northern Africa, the Middle-East and Asia and having gained experience joining the National Folkloric Group in Cairo as well as many workshops, she decided the time had come to create her own dance style. Combining elements from her traditional dance formation with some of her more recently developed skills, she was able to establish her particular style.

Most of the movements involve isolating different parts of the body (hips, shoulders, chest, belly, etc.). In most oriental dance styles, the focus is on the hip and pelvic area.
Important techniques are:

Shimmy
A shimmering vibration of the hips. This vibration is usually layered onto other movements. It may be created by moving the knees past each other at high speed, or by contractions of the glutes or thighs. It can also be achieved by using the muscles of the lower back. In fact, the movement can take place in different directions, as it is possible to create this vibration moving the hips alternately up and down, side-to-side, or in a forward and back swinging motion. The same move can be carried out using the shoulders and is sometimes called a “shoulder shimmy”.

Hip hits
A staccato movement of the hips away from the body. This can also be carried out using other body parts such as the shoulders or chest. The movement is usually pulled off by a quick shifting of the weight from one leg to the other and creates the impression of a swinging pelvis.

Undulations
Fluid movements of the hips, chest or torso in a circular or rotating fashion. There are a wide variety of movements of this kind, of which the most well known is probably the rotating movement of the chest forward, up, back and down to create the impression of riding a camel.