Baladi – The Blues Of Egypt

As a dance style, Baladi (or Beledy) represents the dance of the Egyptian people that was originally performed by the Awalim (urban gypsies or Ghawazee). Hence the term Baladi means “native”, “indigenous”, “of the country” or “rural” in the Arabic language – similar to the English word “folk”. The dancers would traditionally wear a Galabiya (or Jellybiya, a traditional Egyptian garment), many bracelets, big earrings and a headscarf or bandanna as well as a scarf around the hips.

Baladi has its musical roots in the rhythms, forms and songs of the Egyptian folk music. Even though the basic structure of the Baladi has become more complex over time, there are certain elements that can be clearly identified:

  • Awadi (or Awwady)

    This introductory part usually starts with an instrumental solo of the the Oud (= lute), in modern pieces solos of the accordion, saxophone or keyboard can be found. It ends with the same tonality it has begun with.

    The dancer can interpret the mood of the music by dancing on the spot using small movements. Short tones can be accentuated with tender shimmies, long tones can be emphasized with slow undulations, hip circles or figure 8s.

  • Me-Attaa

    (= broken pieces of music and rhythm)

    The drum will open this part with a “question and answer” theme which will be repeated four or eight times before the main rhythm starts.

    An accomplished dancer can play here by highlighting some drum beats and lingering on others. She can open up to the audience by stepping forward and withdraw by moving backwards – in the sense of “question” and “answer”.

  • Main Rhythmic Part

    A steady rhythm is introduced in this part which commonly starts with the

  • Awadi Taqasim

    Repeating the Awadi theme from the beginning.

Inside these basic structures, the music as well as the dance are improvised. The changes from woeful, melancholic passages to fast and ecstatic rhythms make the Baladi a sophisticated form of art that is sometimes referred to as the Blues Of Egypt. This wonderful and expressive dance can not be conquered merely by learning the steps, but instead takes some inside work on the dancer’s self-expressive qualities to be able to fully embrace and embody her femininity and bring her feelings into every movement.

There is no better strategy to get a feeling for the Baladi dance style than to look at how the masters dance it. Check out these two fine Baladi interpretations by Nagua Fouad and Mona El Said!

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