December 11, 2009

Saidi Cane Dance

I'm learning Saidi cane dancing at the moment with my beautiful bellydance teacher Melusina, and I'm enjoying it more than I expected to. I never knew what the significance of the cane was until she explained its origins, and showed us some of the ways that it's used in the context of traditional Saidi dance movements, which are actually folkloric in style. I always thought the cane belonged in the more western, cabaret style bellydance but in fact the Saidi people and their dancing are considered disctinctly bogan by the majority of  Egyptians which makes them more appealing to me.

So as it turns out, the use of the cane in bellydance comes from a traditional martial art from Upper Egypt named Tahtib, which is a fusion of aesthetic dance and combat training much like Brazilian Capoeira. In Tahtib, two men perform a mock fight, accompanied by music, with large bamboo sticks as a demonstration of strength, skill and agility. In a manner that appears deliberately emasculating, the Saidi bellydancer utilises the stick with lightly feminine and flirtatious movements, poking fun at the men's proud display of bravado and communicating a clear message that they don't hold all the power.

I was lucky enough to find this amazing clip of a dancer performing a gorgeous and lively Saidi cane dance, and an example of two men performing Tahtib to the very same piece of music, which I believe is "Shashkin" from the awesome album "Mystical Garden" by sufi-styled musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek. I can't get enough of that mizmar.

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