What to wear for what style song when bellydancing has been such a journey of discovery, and often times a bit confusing. For this first installment of What to Wear, let’s focus our attention to the baladi style.
What is a Baladi Woman like?
Before I dicuss what to wear, it is important to discuss the why behind it, which comes from examining the baladi woman. In an article on shira.net, I found what to me as an American is the best description of the baladi woman and the progression yet, written by Hossam Ramzy! http://www.shira.net/baladi.htm
Baladi people come from the country, and over time moved to the cities to look for better jobs. Many were fellahin (farmers) and grew and sold their produce, and lived simple lives. The most important thing to them is respect and to be respected in society. Women are raised to be good baladi girls, to “never show off too much of her femininity” and always honor their family.
In Hossam Ramzy’s article he describes how a balady woman would have to act when in a public gathering when dancing. She cannot simply come out to the dance floor and bust a move, she must begin slowly, moving in small contained movements as to not draw too much attention and cause shame on her family.
As the baladi progresses she remains conservative but will begin to dance more coyly, add a few more movements. When the tempo becomes quicker she begins to let loose a little and become freer with her movements and emotions. The crowd is also doing this, so it looks fine. Visit: http://www.shira.net/baladi.htm to read more on this subject.
It is from this viewpoint that we as dancers need to think in terms of when dancing baladi, we are no longer the spoiled Americans with boundless freedom to act like whatever in public, we need to place ourselves in the mindset of the Egyptian baladi woman who must always act appropriately in public and not reveal too much, or risk shaming her family.
Photo Credit here
What To Wear
When I think of baladi, two very different fashion trends come to mind: the beledi dress and the 2 piece.
In terms of when to wear a dress, there is no set rule, but as far as the stage, it is often a good indication you are dancing beledi when wearing a dress, in particular one with pailletes, a head scarf with flowers or pom poms as a substitute, and hip sash to accentuate your hip movements.
In the real world, the baladi women would dance in whatever they were wearing at the time, there is no costume when they dance the music of their country, so this is simply something we dancers do for performance.
The dress has evolved now with the evolution of Bellydance with more modern elements added into a dress that now can even flare at the bottom, is tightly fitted, exposes the bra underneath, and can even be rhinestone encrusted or shiny. Wild colors are now the norm, whereas more traditional baladi dresses are typically in white to mimic the male galabeya (think Fifi Abdou), in black and gold, or striped.
The dresses have become more revealing and sexy, but all in all, I just implore dancers to not go too over the top with skin to conserve some of the original essence.
A two piece bedlah is worn with many modern baladi compositions where more western instruments are used or songs that have come out after the golden era. This again is something to consider….the age of the song you choose. If wearing a bedlah, again always remain elegant, think about perhaps wearing a shrug as a nod to cover up a little bit.
Watch A Few Fabulous Dancers
Here are a few clips of fabulous dress ideas. There is so much more on this subject, but hope this little taste provokes you to do your own research into this gorgeous style , and gives you a little insight into the character you are portraying and helps you wear what is appropriate.
Here is the look Fifi made famous:
Orit in a more form fitting baladi dress: