Saidi is an energetic and earthy folkloric dance from Sa’id, a rural area in Southern (Upper) Egypt. This upbeat dance is performed to the catchy Saidi rhythm, consisting of 4 counts of Dum Tek Dum Dum Tek. The minute the rhythm takes off, you get the sudden urge to hop around and bounce your shoulders. And of course the crowd is just as excited as the dancer! The two Dums at the end of the rhythm give the melody an earthy and playful vibe that is popular with audiences around the world.

When performing Saidi, many dancers use a stick or cane, called an Assaya (Arabic for stick). Saidi can stand on its own for the entire performance, or when the music calls for it, it can be integrated into a Raqs Sharki routine.

Raks Assaya vs. Tahtib — What’s the difference?

There are two types of Saidi stick dances: Raks Assaya and Tahtib. Tahtib is a powerful dance resembling combat with sticks performed by men. Inspired by Egyptian martial arts from the pharaonic times, it established the foundation for today’s Raqs Assaya.

Stick handling in Raks Assaya dances are more acrobatic, and omit the fighting characteristic of Tahtib. When women perform this dance, a smaller stick or cane is used to frame the body for flirty and feminine movements.

Saidi Moves for the Stage

  • Arms: Held softly in positions, rather than flowing. When using the assaya, it is twirled in various ways or held high in one hand. Men often use the assaya to mimic martial arts movements.
  • Upper body: With a very tall posture, women will perform big and bouncy chest and shoulder movements, such as shoulder and ribcage shimmies and pops.
  • Hips: Women show off lots of big, loose hip work from hip drops and circles to pelvic undulations and locks. Shimmies are juicy and grounded.
  • Footwork: Lots of jumps with the free foot lifted and brushing the feet on the ground, resembling the infamous footwork of the Sa’id dancing horses.

When to use Saidi

The music will indicate whether or not to use typical Saidi movements or props. Aside from the earthy 4 count rhythm, you can recognize Saidi music by the long, whiney sound of the Mizmar horn. You might also hear the Rababa (similar to a violin, but with ancient roots), and various drums such as the doumbek and the tabla beledi.

What to wear

Men traditionally wear a long and loose galabeya dress, while women wear a glitzy beledi dress with a hip scarf and a veil headpiece.

Saidi egyptian web

Our Top 3 Saidi Picks

1) Just WOW! Egyptian belly dancer, Tito Seif, does a mesmerizing stick dance using both traditional and intricate movements. He juggles multiple sticks with ease and contagious energy.

 

2) Taly and Kareem, based in Paris, perform a beautifully choreographed Saidi dance.

 

3) Sahar Samara, one of Tito’s students for many years, shows off a powerful and innovative Saidi.

 

Sources:

Saidi Dance by Ashraf HassanLearn Bellydance Styles: Saidi and Raqs Assaya

Learn Bellydance Styles: Saidi and Raqs Assaya by Lauren Zehara

The Belly Dance Handbook by Princess Farhana

The Saidi: Rhythmic Intelligence #2 tutorial by Henna

Photography by Vagengeym_Elena, December 2016

3 replies on “Saidi — Your Guide to the Egyptian Folk Dance

  1. There’s actually a group reviving the Tahtib martial art. Sahra C. Kent recently posted part of an interview with one of the men involved in that on Facebook. I’m actually doing my first Saidi piece next weekend. Also, that Taly and Kareem video is my absolute favorite!

    1. Really?! I will have to check out Sahra’s interview. So cool! You’ll have to post a video of your Saidi! Yes, I love that video too 🙂

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