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Props for Belly Dancing

Drum (Solo) Dumbeks

The Dumbek drum is played in North Africa - from Morocco to to Egypt, throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and from Greece to Persia. They come in a variety of materials from ceramic, nickel-plated brass, aluminum, and wood. They are skinned with goat skin, calf skin, and fish skin.

While not a prop per se, as it is hard to dance while playing the drum, dances like the drum solo could not take place without a drummer, so we feel like we should include it in this list.

Sagat - Zills - Finger Cymbals

With the advent of the Bronze Age, the musical quality of metals naturally became an important tonal addition to the existing instrumentality. Derived from the Greek word "Kymbala", cymbals were the most beautiful and versatile of these rhythm accessories.

The use of cymbals actually affixed to the thumbs and middle fingers of dancers' hands was recorded as early as 500 A.D. Today, Finger Cymbals (Arabic: "Sagat" or "Sunouj;" Turkish: "Zills"; Persian: "Zang") are popularly played by dancers on both the cabaret and the concert stage. The intricate musical patterns they create and their sparkling sound quality make the cymbals indispensable to Middle Eastern music.
(Source: www.saroyanzils. com/history/)


(Excerpt from spoondance.secession. at/e_learning/index_e.html)

The dance was/is danced in various regions of Greece, but mainly originates from Cappadocia [Southern Central Turkey], here from the regions around Farassa, Silli, and Ikonio. There is a wide breadth of variety of the dance: how and when it is danced and who dances it. In the spoon dance, each dancer dances with a pair of wooden spoons in each hand, in that they clap out a rhythm supplemental to the music, while the feet dance a different step rhythm (which is very confusing at first for those learning the spoon dance). Since the melody in the foreground does not repeat the rhythmic motif clapped by the spoons, the dancers are, so to speak, musicians, who, in the background, clarify the music being played. The dancers dance freely in the room in pairs comprised of the opposite or the same sex. The couples relate to one another and together they make various turns to the music.

Turkish dance spoons

In some cases it is danced only by women, which is usually the case, or by men (whereby in these particular regions it was considered immoral for women to dance with spoons), or in other cases both men and women danced together, sometimes even married couples. It was danced on different occasions: engagements, weddings, carnivals, and religious festivals. Spoons were widespread as instruments in Cappadocia, and often dances were accompanied only by song and spoon rhythms.

Tambourines (aka. Kanjira, Deff)

The Deff drum is a circular frame drum. The frame is often decorated. Frame drums are among the oldest and most versatile of drums. Many cultures have frame drums: the Egyptian rik, the Brazilian pandeiro, the middle eastern tar and bendir, and native American versions. (www.aninstrumentshome. com/deffs.html)

Not typically used by belly dancers, but might be used by someone doing a gypsy style dance.


(www.shira. net/styles2.htm)
Some americans make their entrance with the veil tucked into their costume.Veil wraps vary according to the dancer's individual taste, but many dancers wrap their veils in a way that completely covers the torso, and often the bottom edges of the veil also hide the belt. That way, when the dancer eventually removes her veil, the costume underneath is a bit of a surprise for the audience. It effectively gives two different costume variations in a single dance. At the very beginning of the dance, the dancer (still fully veiled) might do some soft, graceful movements with her arms, hip sways, undulations, etc. She then transitions from those to removing one side of the veil, often while spinning and using her eyes and movement of her free hand to direct attention away from the hand that's peeling off the veil. She might dance with half the veil thus free and half the veil still tucked in, or she might then proceed to remove the other side--whatever inspires her at the moment.

For the duration of the slow number, she uses the veil as a primary element of her dance. It might be a frame for a beautiful undulation. It might flow freely as she spins. She might wrap it around her body, then undulate fully wrapped, then unwrap it while dancing. Many American dancers have come up with beautiful innovations on what to do with the veil. As the rhumba draws to a close, the dancer gracefully discards the veil--sometimes by wrapping it around the head of a male audience member like a turban, sometimes just dropping it where it will be out of the way. This veil work generally lasts about 3 minutes altogether, and usually (but not always) the dancer uses the veil the full time, not discarding it until that song ends.


(www.shira. net/styles2.htm)

Used for the Dahiya - the Egyptian Scarf Dance
Sometimes Egyptian Oriental dancers enter carrying "a piece of fabric" to music that is very fast and dramatic. While Americans refer to this piece of fabric as a "veil", it's important to note that Egyptians do not link the fabric prop to the hijjab (Muslim attire). Therefore, it's not exactly correct to refer to the prop carried by Egyptian Oriental dancers as a "veil" because that's not how they view it, culturally speaking. Egyptian Oriental dancers usually swirl their piece of fabric around a couple of times with very simple moves during the opening songs, and discard it within 30 to 60 seconds of entering. The veil is not incorporated much into the dance. They then continue their opening fast/medium song doing typical fast/medium moves. Egyptians see the "piece of fabric" sort of veil as a shawl, a garment to wear. From their cultural perspective, American-style "conceal and reveal" veil work looks like stripping.

Of course, exceptions have existed. In particular, Samia Gamal, did some beautiful, swirling veil dances. However, such dancers are definitely the minority in Egypt. There is a type of character dance done by Egypt's folk troupes known as melaya lef which uses a shawl-type of garment known as a melaya as a prop. In the melaya lef folkloric dance, the dancer plays the role of a mischievous young woman who flirtatiously plays a "conceal and reveal" game with her wrap. In Egypt, an Oriental dancer might use the melaya lef dance for the folkloric part of her show, but she doesn't do so wearing her Oriental costume. In the U.S., since most Americans doing Egyptian style dances don't have the opportunity to do a costume change after the Oriental set and come back out in folkloric costume, they rarely use the melaya lef in their Oriental performances.


Canes are used for the Saidi - Raks Assaya - Cane dance. In Upper Egypt there is a more complex dance called Saidi which is more competitive and is sometimes danced with a stick. The women use the stick in imitation of the men's stick dance which is very martial, and make it more flirtatious.

www.pinkgypsy. com/questions3.htm:
The large sticks for the men represented weapons, so the dance is strong and forceful. In direct opposition to this, women dance with delicate canes, with a lighthearted, sassy emphasis. I do believe it is Saiidi in derivation, reflecting in the music rhythm (called Saiidi), as well as the geographical location, the Saiidi port in Egypt.

Candle dance

www.pinkgypsy. com/questions3.htm:
Serena was known as the dancer with candles. Years ago I [Zahraa] thought she picked up the dance in the Greek night clubs she performed in. Yet, recently I asked Rip (her husband) how Serena came to dance with candles. He told me that when they were young they saw a Filipino dancer perform with candles in his hands and balance them on his feet. Rip said to Serena "why don't you try that?" Hence, she became famous for her beautiful candle dance where she would flutter them on her belly.

Moreover, I [Zahraa] am a Greek folk dancer (and belly dancer) and know that candle dancing is native to Metalini Greece (bordering on Asia Minor--Turkey). This dance is a traditional folk dance performed with candles in ones hands to a Sirto rhythm. The name of the dance means "fire" in Greek. Steps are simple consisting of a step-back crossing step in a triplet pattern.

Moreover, the dancer will turn with this step. Candles are held and spiraled in a circular manner. Also they are brought into the dancer's chest and out to the audience. Sometimes the dancer twists the candles in a figure eight over the head and down to the body (in the same way American belly dancers do!!).

We at Nazeem Allayl use candles as props for our Pharonic Dance.


We refuse to promote the dancing with snakes.

Props for Balancing:


(Source: www.calacademy. org/research/anthropology/tap/ARCHIVE/2003/2003-04--bellydancing.html)

Sword dancing, or Raks al sayf, was not a widespread dance style in the Middle East. Men in Egypt performed a dance called el ard, a martial arts dance involving upraised swords, but women were not widely known to use swords as props during their dancing. Here in America and in other western countries, sword dancing is much more common and—due to its dramatic nature—very captivating. Dancing with a sword illustrates the strength and power of a woman, as well as her poise and balance.

www.pinkgypsy. com/questions3.htm:
In regards to the sword, I have never seen or read of an Arabic woman dancing with a sword. Once I saw an Arabic woman dance with two small daggers, which could have been a personal statement rather than a cultural tradition, and that is the closet to sword dance in the Middle East that I have witnessed. I have seen men In North Africa perform dances with swords in mock battles.

Note: Belly dance swords must be specially balanced and are usually dull to protect the audience.


(Source: www.sakti-international. com/candelabra.html):

Candles have had a place in Middle Eastern rituals for hundreds of years. Like many other aspects of oriental dance, the origins of Raks Shamadan are not clear. Mahmoud Reda has stated that Turkish court dancers of Egypt’s Ottoman rulers introduced the candelabra dance to Egypt.

Originally the shamadan had no headband to support them, the dancers of the past had to practice for years to perfect the technique. While I was living in Egypt I had an opportunity to see a tent show outside of Cairo that featured a dancer with this type of shamadan.

The Zeffah al-arusah is the bridal procession, and in Egypt the shamadan plays an important role. It is a tradition that at least one shamadan crowned dancer leads the bridal party. The Zeffah today often takes place in a hotel in the banquet hall or at the military clubs in their private banquet room. I was fortunate to perform for many of these wedding parties in hotels as well as the officers clubs. I also received a medal from the Egyptian Officer Club in 1993 to show their thanks and appreciation for my art.

In former times it was an outdoor processional that accompanied the bride to her new home. The shamadan bearing dancer lit the way through the dark street in the days before electricity, and the candle served as an announcement that a wedding had taken place.

Basket and Water Jug

performed by Moria Chappell
The “basket dance” derives its inspiration from several sources, including the dance styles of Bedouin and Tunisian women, who balance baskets and pots on their heads during dances and everyday life, and line-dancing, based on traditional dances, such as those from ‘Asir, in Arabia.

performed by Ziah (c) and Moria Chappell (r)
with permission of Ziah and Moria Chappell of Awalim Dance Company of Atlanta, GA