Monday, December 3, 2012

Traditional Emirati Dance

As the UAE approaches National Day on December 2nd, traditional dance can be seen around the city at the various celebrations honoring the 41st anniversary of the federation of the Emirates.  This is a big day for the nationals in the UAE and their national pride is exhibited in many ways throughout the country.  One of the ways they celebrate is by getting together for their traditional dances.

The Ayyala is a dance performed by a group of men standing side-by-side with their arms linked together, and some hold wooden camel sticks or canes. This is commonly known as the "cane dance." These groups, which can be sometimes over a 100 strong, sing traditional songs and dance to the beat of a hand drum or singers.  This dance is usually done at  wedding celebrations,  National Day celebrations, and special events.

I  had chance to witness this dance in August on the eve of Ramadan during a date exhibition in the Mushrif Mall near our house.  John has seen this dance performed on several occasions as he has been invited to Emirati functions at the Officer's Club (women do not socialize with the men at these events).

Below are a few video clips of the dancing I witnessed in the mall:

Below is a youtube link of a professional video, kind of like our MTV.  This video is long but well worth watching as it has other aspects of the culture such as camel racing.  This one also shows the dance being performed by a large group of men.  The video features Sheikh Hamdan Bin Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. 
This link shows a local group of men performing the dance.  It's a little bit different but equally as good.  It is more of what one would see in smaller Emirati city.
This link was filmed at a UAE wedding celebration at the Emirates Palace.
Here's another link of a dance performed at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall.

The women also have a traditional dance, the Na'ashat where they dance in unison, gracefully swinging their hair from side to side.  The dance displays the beauty of the long, black hair that women in the region are known for.  I often hear it referred to as "the hair dance."  The dance is performed by Arab women in a group as dancing solo would be deemed improper.  The "Khaliji" dance has a certain groove to it and requires the Khaliji music and rhythms for it to feel right.  It includes head slides and circles, shoulder shimmies, hair tossing,  some hand gestures, and different footwork but very little is done with the hips that are hidden under the thobe, the colorful and glittery garment worn.  These dresses are now considered old fashioned in the gulf and not worn in daily life but they will appear in traditional dance presentations.

I have included a YouTube view performance of this dance, however, the dancers are not local Emirati women.  Many women in the Gulf would never agree to being filmed as it can be considered a blight on their honor to be revealed in public in such a way.  The video below is performance by the Kamal Ballan Khaleeji dance studio.  

This is another theatrical performance of the hair dance and includes singing as well.

Again, this performance is a production that includes mixed company.  Notice in the beginning of the video as they scan the audience the Emirati on the front row.  These are the Sheikhs and VIPs.  

The music most often associated with this style of dance is called Khaliji (some research revealed another named called Samri).  This is a 2/4 rhythm, Dum Dum Tek.  It if most often played with layers of percussion and added embellishments.  Traditional instruments include the oud, def, and tabl, but today modern arrangements use more varied instruments such as orchestration and synthesizers.  Syncopation, a deliberate disruption of the two or three beat stress pattern, or a note that is not on beat,   and rhythmic clapping patterns are also a highlight of the music.

Hope you have enjoyed this blog and have taken the time to view the videos and enjoy the traditional dances of the region.  I love the music here and love to watch the dances.  

1 comment: