Throughout human existence, civilizations and communities have formed distinct rhythms and songs to which they dance in an even more unique manner. The following are different styles of this most primitive mode of human expression, as it continues to have influence beyond political and linguistic boundaries. To better enjoy the essence of each dance, press play before reading each paragraph:
Raqs Sharqi (Belly Dancing)
Made popular in the West during the 1940s, Raqs Sharqi (rocks SHARK-ee) is a traditional dance practiced originally in Egypt. There, it is seen as a poor way to making a living and most dancers are looked down upon. Despite such a reputation, Raq Sharqi has continued to make a great influence all over the world, as it’s commonly seen in burlesque shows as well as night clubs throughout the Middle East. The video above features Nagwa Fouad, one of the women responsible for bringing the art form to North America where the term “belly dancing” was coined.
Krumping emerged from urban areas in the United States and then spread to Hip-Hop communities throughout the world. The style of dance is both highly expressive and improvisational. Used as a way to absolve anger and unrest, Krumping originally served as a peaceful alterative to those who might otherwise become gang-affiliated. Implementing elements of pop-lock (the dance style through which “the Robot” transpired), dancers move their arms, legs, chest, and feet in a powerful and spirited manner.
Buchaechum (Korean Fan Dance)
The groups of women who perform Buchaechum are supposed to represent the movement of flowers in the wind and the fluttering of butterflies, as well as the undulating tides of the ocean. While dressed in hanbok (traditional Korean garb), dancers express stylistic components that are deeply rooted in shamanic traditions (rituals, beliefs, practices of the Korean people). The usage of fans with pink peonies painted on them also characterizes much of the court entertainment seen under the Joseon Dynasty, though the true origins of the dance are unknown.
Gumboot is a dance style from South Africa that was created by black miners. During the years when racial segregation was prevalent in South Africa, black people were restricted to service and labor jobs. Because drumming was also looked down upon, miners started to use their boots as well as tin cans and bottles to make rhythmic expressions as they worked. Gumboot now represents its own genre of traditional South African dance. Performers dress-up in knee-high rubber boots (sometimes with bells) as well as construction hats, tank tops, and jump suits. People who tour the countryside in their car rental in South Africa have a good chance of seeing Gumboot street performers.
Flamenco comes from Andalusia in southern Spain. It is not just a dancing style; Flamenco is also a musical genre. The movements that characterize both the music and the dance are moody – intense at one moment then somber the next (as seen around minute one of the above video). Always accompanied by classical guitarists and singers who also clap, Flamenco dancers embody the music and represent the emotions therein.
The Dance of a Thousand Hands
Though this dance is not an authentic traditional dance, I couldn’t leave it out. Beautifully choreographed by Zhang Jigang, the Dance of a Thousand Hands tells the story of Bodhisattva, a proto-Buddha. As legend dictates, she cannot become a true Buddha as her Earthly convictions bind her to the mortal world. She vowed that if there is still a single tear left in the world, she will not become Buddha. The dancers in this video are all deaf and being lead by instructors at each corner of the stage.