When I ask other dancers what fascinates them most about belly dance, their most prevalent answer is that it allows them to express themselves more freely than any other dance form. I couldn’t agree with that more because that is exactly how I feel about belly dance.
The traditional Egyptian belly dance is commonly improvised, as the live Arabic music does not support the structured nature of choreography. Since the 1920s, when belly dance became a popular element of stage shows in Egyptian night clubs and cabarets, more and more professional belly dancers have started to choreograph their performances in advance.
This same trend can be observed throughout the modern belly dance world. Most contemporary Western belly dancers prefer to dance a choreographed style in order to appear more technically skilled and creative.
While this may partly be due to the missing familiarity of Western dancers with the Arabic music and culture, it also seems to me that in our culture we are so much more trained to live in our brains. We are used to accept only processes and techniques that can be controlled and governed by our rational mind. And improvisational belly dance certainly does require the ability to let go of our thoughts, feel the music and intuitively move with it.
Once we practice belly dancing “in the moment”, however, we discover that it becomes an exciting experience for us and that we feel much more alive and present while we dance. In my opinion, it is this joyful presence of a dancer that ultimately gives a belly dance performance that “magic touch” that will fascinate her audience.
If you have been belly dancing for a while following the choreographies your teachers have laid out for you and you feel ready to move to the next (fun) level, I strongly recommend that you take a look into improvisational belly dance.
According to my philosophy to always learn from the real masters, I suggest that you watch the performances of the renowned dancer Suheir Saki.
Born in 1944 in Mansour, Eygpt, Suheir Saki is considered one of the most famous belly dancers in the world. Her style of dance is absolutely unique – she is one of the icons of classic Egyptian belly dance. Even though she retreated from dancing at the top of her career in the 1980s, until today she is considered the unrivaled legend in her field.
Suheir dances the improvised, intuitive, and pure Arabic belly dance. Throughout her career she has always danced alone without choreographers or fancy costume equipment. The precision of her musical interpretation is inimitable – and so is her cosmic smile.
You will find many of her performance videos on the internet and they are a true treasure trove of inspiration. This is one of my favorite videos: