In reSearch of Raks Sharki...What's In A Name?

In my search for Raks Sharki I've just accepted that the label thing will always be a thing. They inevitable ask:"Oh really, what do you dance?"

Me: "Middle Eastern Dance"
Blank stare and cricket sounds.
Me: "Raks Sharki" knowing that this will require an explanation.
Them: "What? Is that Indian?"
Me: "Bellydance"
Them: "Ballet?"
Me: "No. Bellydance
Them: "Oh. Ooooh" as they drop their chin and give me a sideways look. "Sexy. I've always wondered if I should learn for my husband."
Me: Internally rolling my eyes. "It's actually more fun to try if for yourself....".

Now you know I can talk bellydance all day. I don't mind that. I love taking an opportunity to share and educate about what bellydance is and it's amazing benefits. But let's be real. It's not always possible or practical to do that. Sometimes it's just nice to give a quick answer and be understood. Labeling and naming isn't even clear within the "bellydance industry" so talking to Joe Public will still mean you've got a little extra explaining to do.

Personally I've tried, Raks Sharki, Middle Eastern Dancer/Performer/Artist, Egyptian Dance and they are all more or less fine within the dance community but when you're reaching to people outside of that circle it gets very confusing for them. Bellydance is certainly not my favorite term but, as of now, it is the most widely recognized term for what we do. So I continue use it while I take those opportunities to promote other terms like Raks Sharki or Middle Eastern Dance. 

Ultimately, and thankfully, our dance will speak for us. So rather than draining energy over what to call ourselves let's put that effort into our dance. I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote below.

Does your dance speak clearly for you?

Do you feel stuck on what label/term to use? What are you comfortable using?

Shimmy, Sizzle, Pop!


  1. I find this especially tricky because I enjoy fusion dancing but want to respect the forms I pull from. To say I'm doing "Bellydance," "Middle Eastern Dance," or "Raks Sharki" is incorrect because drop me in Egypt and they'll be thinking, "What crap music is she listening to and why is she moving like that?" I'll use the phrases tribaret and cabaret fusion to other dancers, but haven't quite "written my script" for what I tell Joe Public. Because dance is so good for the body, I do sometimes mention to massage clients that I dance; however, I don't want them confusing their perception of the dance I do as "sexy" with the treatment I'm offering!

    1. Yeah I like those, tribaret and cabaret fusion. But you're right, still needs some explaining to non-dancers.
      I totally get you on the massage thing. In my practice, the second the word "bellydance" came out of my mouth I would cringe -- "ah why did I just say that??!!!?"


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