Belly Dance Props

There are a variety of props used in raqs sharqi, some are “traditional” and some have only been used for the last few decades, years or months!

Some of the more “traditional” (I am putting this in brackets as traditional dance is such a big topic that what a lot of people think of as traditional is not at all – see Morocco’s book “You asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi)  zills (finger symbols also known as zagat or sagat),

The cane or Assaya is a traditional prop used in Raqs Shaabi, mainly from the Upper Egypt or Saiidi region.

the cane or stick (Assaya) was used only by the men in a “fighting dance” and was taken on by women and turned into a playful, joyful dance, they are essentially saying “I take your weapon and use it for fun!” so it is quite cheeky. Swords and knives were traditionally used , once again by man as a mock fighting dance, and women used them in a playful manner, balancing it on their heads. However, the manner in which a sword is used can be quite modern with balances on the chest or with laybacks being only done in Western culture. The ever popular “veil” is a tricky one. While it is documented that kerchiefs and flowing pieces of material were held while dancing, however, the long flowing piece of material that is used either as an entrance prop and then discarded, or as a whole piece using “veilwork”

Charni from Belly dance Lessons Online Performing with a Double Veil

this is a totally modern and American invention. Since then it has evolved to be quite showy with beautiful spins and wraps, and also a very tricky double veil (holding and dancing with two equal sized pieces of material).

Props considered traditional are: the candelabra (known as shamadan) tea-tray (seneyya) which often has lit candles on it balances on the head. In reality no record has been found of these dances being a part of traditional Middle Eastern dance, and in fact there is account of the first dancer Zouba in the 1890’s who danced with a lantern on her head which became such a hit that she made it her signature, and others copied it.

Very modern Western props used nowadays include: Isis Wings (Brightly coloured concertinad shiny material with a loop around the throat and sticks in the hands), Poi (silk scarves on balls attached to the hand with a string and twirled and swung around), fan veils (chinese or spanish fans with a length of silk extending out, so can by fluttered and swirled), snakes (yes some dancers have a snake for dramatic value – it essentially stays wrapped around their body while they dance). You will also find the odd gimmicky prop used by somebody for dramatic effect, here is a video of a dancer using hula hoops!! I’m not quite convinced that it will catch on!


33 thoughts on “Belly Dance Props

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  6. What a great blog, congratulations! It’s got a great mix of funny, serious and educational…and so colorful. I just wish I was in Melbourne, so I could come to your lessons…oh well, it will have to be the online option. Thanks Heaps and keep up the great work!!

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