Yes, you read correctly, Saidi is more than just one thing: there's the cane dance (then called Raks Assaya) and danced without cane but using zils it's called Saidi. An earthy 4/4 rhythm, the audience can't help but to clap their hands in time to the beat - and even non-dancers are found to move their feet to the rhythm.
Then there are various types of cane: men of course will use the sturdier natural-looking wooden cane, whereas women may chose: natural look - or covered with metallic foil - or very elegant covered in sequins and with crook (then called Balady cane) - but please remind not to beat the sequined cane on the floor until the sequins fall off!
Have you had positive experiences with Saidi dances - or did you have one or the other hilarious experience with a cane - then we'll look forward to receive your stories addressed to Editorial .
For newcomers to oriental dancing: Don't pronounce like the past tense of the verb "to say = said" (resp. the German name Heidi), but with syllables apart „Sa-idi“, which is the reason that in French speaking countries a trema is found on the first i: Saïdi
The rhythm in general:
Groovy, no one wants to remain seated, even non-dancers will bounce their feet in time to the beatt. And for dancers in the audience it's quite painful not to conquer the dance floor and join the show! That's what Saidi feels like - so this may be the reason it's found as part of so many Arab chart hits.
... and for who need to know in detail:
Typical for the Saidi rhythm (4/4) is that it's deep-sounding drum beats (dums) are placed at the beginning and two in the centre of the rhythm segment. It's inverting the small Masmoudi (masmoudi kebir), from which the Saidi derives its other name: Makloub (roughly translated it means „inverted“). If a cane is used with this rhythm, then we finally get to its third name: Raks Assaya - but only true professionals will use this name, for the regular bellydance crowd this dance with the natural-looking cane is known as Saidi.
and if explained in letters, the beat looks like that:
(dum = deep drum beat / tak = light drum beat / p = short break)
In Upper Egypt there's a region called Said from where the saidi rhythm originates. For many it's the typical folklore rhythm, but it's also part of many so-called dance routines as well as in numerous chart hits. The area is situated between Kena and Giz, a well-known city of this region is the city of Assuit, and the famous Valley of the Kings also is part of Upper Egypt.
Saidi - a strictly male dance?
The so-called Saïdis are farmers and shepherds in Upper Egypt, and you'll find the typic rural family structure: leader of a family will be the grandfather, should he die the grandmother will take over the role.
Saïdis in general are very generous and offer great hospitality towards foreigners, but the women will always remain in the background. So should you receive an invitation, you'll never find yourselves in a group of mixed gender, not even in case of a wedding.
If you see a Saidi dance on such occasion, it's usually the men dancing. They use the cane showing off their fighting skills - or they flirt with the cane as if it was a woman (with whom they are not allowed to dance in public).
Nowadays the strict separation of gender on stage is not as rigidly followed any more, this is one area where women and men may dance together in the same troupe, which is also thanks to choreographs like Mahmud Reda.
Of course we women just have to mock the men in a very funny way, but usually we don't use the heavy, undecorated wooden cane, but the lighter, frisky and very feminie balady cane. It's main feature is the crook and of course it may be decorated to suit our taste.
Many have seen cane dances on stage or know it from their own lessons: of course with the genuine Saidi cane (no crook) if men are dancing, women usually tend to use the light-weight Balady cane with crook (bent handhold). Of course you may dance Saidi without any accessory, there are no complicated arm movements, basically you act as if the cane still was in your hands...
As already mentioned, when using the cane, the name changes to Raks Assaya, but if the accessory of choice are zils in order to accompany the rhythm, it's called Saidi.
Movements are powerful and earthy, all who have done a Saidi workshop know will remember the aching muscles after the first day - and yet:
Saidi is a fun dance, the earthy and down-to earth feeling is something easily recognized and remembered, so that even after a single workshop the repertoire of movements will have enlargened considerably. Especially when the cane ads it's own range of movement: beat in time to the music on the ground, whirled single-handed in front of yourselves or above your head, or just carried in a very saucy manner.
But showing a Saidi dance as group performance on stage requires some experience and a lot of training, as the cane must not touch any of the other dancers, so you have to know exactly what you're doing and where the end of the cane is at any given moment.
Typical instruments for Saidi:
Typical instruments of Saidi are Tabla (to be carried on a shoulder strap, the various drums called Req, Duff and Dahola, the flute Mizmar and of course Nakrasan and Rababa. Thinking of the modern chart music there is also a wide range of other instruments, but if you bother to really listen closely, you still may find the genuine instruments as backsound.
CD135 Gibaly "Afrah Baladna Said" -> available at Sakkara
CD035 – Rhythms of the oriental dance - instruction CD
book: BU54 Barbara Lüscher - the history of Oriental Dancing in Egypt (available in German language only)
And here's the way to our Onlineshop .
Garments for Saidi:
Not with a naked belly as the Saidi dance belongs to the category folk dance it requires a closed dress. It should have a slit in the skirt part in order to allow for necessary movements. And in order to give sound to the powerful hip movements it can be cut to hug your figure, if not the hips will be enhanced by a coin scarf.
Hair must be covered, usually the female dancers tend to use a saucy pompom scarf, or a simple cotton-headdress decorated with earrings and coins. Many dancers use a small coin-scarf and roll it up, adding it as a "mini headscarf" or head band from front to neck.
For Saidi dancing there is a special type of jewellery, and the design of the triple crescent moon (biggest on top, smallest at the bottom, this design then is called Hagalla) and there even are necklaces of same design, which then are called Kirdan.
An should you ever see a dancer in a tightly wovem black mesh dress with symmetric silver patterns: that's a typical Assuit-dress. The patterns are done by hammering individual silver threads into the mesh, thus creating a tight pattern. Very elaborate and needing skill, so the price is quite high and many don't dance in an original Assuit dress. But at present hip scarves done of that fabric and design are experiencing a revival.
Men's garments for Saidi dances:
Saidi performed by men means that they wear white pants and a white caftan on top, a dark coat and a scarf as well as a hat (Takeia) that is adorned either with another scarf or a turban cloth. Men also wear shoes when dancing the Saidi.
Khaled Seif, Zurich/Scwitzerland www.khaledseif.ch
Sibel Nefa, Braunschweig/Germany www.sibel-nefa.de