Phoenix Belly Dance

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Belly Dance
by Moira Ingham

Belly Dance (believed to come from the French term; danse du ventre, meaning dance of the stomach)

Belly dance in its present form, is enjoyed throughout the world and is taught in almost every country.  Belly dance creates self-confidence as well as creating an instant community of women of all ages.  For many women, it is a journey of self discovery  and can be a great source of exercise as well as a means of socialisation.

It is believed that Belly Dance was taken to America back in the late 1800’s by a dancer known as “Little Egypt” and who performed at the Chicago World Fair.  Americans were fascinated by the dance and rhythms of the orient and of course when Hollywood got on the band wagon, it created an exotic dance of self-expression with glamorous costumes to match.  Immigrants from Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Algeria and many more places, brought their own style of dance as part of their culture.  In Turkey, this form of dance is called Oriyanatal Dans or Oriyantal Dansi and in Arabic speaking countries, it is called Raqs Sharqi but the meaning is the same “Dance of the Orient”.


Music, props and styling all combine to offer a spectacular performance for the dancers but in this particular piece, I want to concentrate on the Sagat or Zills or Finger Cymbals which are the most versatile and beautiful accessory of the rhythm section.

Zills  are commonly made of brass and consist of four cymbals, two for each hand.  They are fastened to the thumbs and middle fingers of dancers’ hands, by elastic, and are usually about 5cm in diameter.  They come in varying sizes and of course produce different tones and resonance depending on how they are used.  The use of these cymbals, have been recorded as early as 500 A.D. and are still as popular today for dancers.  Originally they were played by the musicians for the belly dancers but the light catching from the flashing of the zills, together with the dancers  adding accents to both the music and movements of the dance, have become a symbol associated almost entirely to the form of belly dance.

There are many rhythms in belly dancing music that can be spelled out in finger cymbal playing:

Triplets (left/right/left/pause – giddyup, giddyup, giddyup

Quads (L/R/L/R/no pause)

Beledi (dum/dum/tek-atek/dum-tek-atek)

Chifatelli (dum/dum/tek-a-tek/dum/dum/dum – John went to the sea, caught 3 fish)

Ayub (dum/a-tek-tek – buy more shoes and by more shoes and ....)

Bolero (dum/tek-a-tek-tek/dum/dum/dum/dum    I want to be a belly dancer)

Research done through Wikipedia.