Khaleegy Family Introduction
During her solo performance career (1949-1966), Jamila did not see Khaleegi, a traditional dance from the Gulf Region of the Middle East, in belly dance performances. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Saudis cultivated a more public and prominent image worldwide. In fact, many businesses, including Hollywood film studios and producers, competed for their financial investment. Dancers catered to an increased number of Saudis in their audience.
By the early 1980s, famous belly dancers including Sohair Zaki began including short Khaleeji phrases or songs within the structure of a lengthy performance. This was reported by Jamila’s students performing in Egypt and as evidenced on the available performance videos. Suhaila also observed this trend in the shows of professional dancers (including Nagwa Fouad) when visiting Egypt in 1981 and 1982.
Interest Builds Slowly in the U.S.
Suhaila researched, documented, and studied the music and steps and began teaching workshops to break down the movements and stylization for other dancers. Even other dance forms began to take notice.
After Jamila closed her Broadway studio, she and Suhaila rented space at Ed Moch’s studio. Ed was an influential Bay Area jazz dancer and choreographer. Intrigued by world dance, he asked Suhaila to teach several master classes, including Khaleegi stylization, for his dance company. d dance space soon after Jamila closed her Broadway studio.
But while Khaleeji music and dancing had appeared in performances of famous dancers in Egypt, the trend had not appeared in any substantive way in the U.S.
Following her high school graduation, Suhaila moved to Los Angeles. Once there, she immediately began dancing in West Hollywood at Byblos, arguably the most famous Arabic club on the West Coast. Suhaila’s decade of performing at Byblos and in the Middle East coincided with Byblos heydey, 1985-1996. Within the first week Suhaila began at Byblos, a large Saudi audience was in attendance at the club one evening. The band interrupted the planned set with a popular Khaleeji song, Leyla.
The band was comprised Lebanese and Egyptian musicians. While Khaleeji music was not within their standard repertoire or training, they had learned and rehearsed one Khaleegi song. Accordingly, this would serve as their one signature Khaleegi song should the need arise. Suhaila was well prepared, as well. The crowd responded enthusiastically, thrilled that the band played Gulf Region music. In addition, they were impressed and grateful that the belly dancer not only danced to the music but danced to it correctly.
These moves have default timings, downbeats, layering, directions, and sentiments. However, they can be varied. The key is to know the base move and to maintain the integrity of the footwork and Home Position.
- The traditional costume includes a thobe, a large rectangular dress that hangs to the floor and often longer. The dancer holds up the dress in front with both hands. Imagine you are wearing a long dress that you need to lift up just enough so you can move your feet without stepping on the fabric. Extend your forearms in front of you with palms facing down (or pick up the long skirt in front). Make a small circle motion with your hands (toward the audience, down, toward you, and up) fulltime with the downbeat toward the audience.
- For this step family, keep the feet close to the ground. When lifting and placing feet, just barely lift the feet to give the appearance of shuffling or scuffling along the floor. Deliberately place the feet without stomping, even when there is an emphasis on the flat foot. The foot patterns are small.
- Foot placement is important. Maintain the exact foot positions despite the direction traveled. To find the correct foot placement for Khaleegi 1-3, stand in jazz first with the right foot flat and the left foot on the ball. Move the left foot slightly back so that the ball of the left foot is parallel to the heel of the right foot. The back foot does not tuck but stays either by the heel or the ball of the front foot. Push off the back foot to travel forward.
- The Khaleegi steps, like the Persian steps, have a subtle bounce that slightly emphasizes up when on the ball of the foot and down when on the flat foot.
- Many of the steps have a slight lean to the side and slightly forward that directly coordinates to the leading foot.
- Most of the steps maintain a steady pulse with a very subtle, soft-contraction ribcage lock fulltime downbeat back that
Khaleegi 1 footwork is very similar to Persian 1 except it is slightly more relaxed in that the back foot can sometimes come parallel to the front foot.
Travel forward fulltime downbeat right with right foot flat and left foot on the ball and slightly behind or beside (but not tucked or crossed behind) the right foot. Emphasize stepping on the flat foot. Circle the hands fulltime downbeat out toward the audience. Lean or bend your upper body to the right side, drop the right shoulder down and slightly forward, and look to the right diagonal. Maintain a steady pulse in the upper body with a very subtle, soft-contraction ribcage lock fulltime downbeat back.
Khaleegi 2 is a cousin of Goosh Step. But Khaleegi 2 emphasizes the Reverse Maya rather than the exaggerated movement and upper body counterbalance that are important elements of the Goosh Step.
Travel forward fulltime downbeat right (flat-ball-ball-ball) with a slight emphasis on the flat foot and with Reverse Maya (figure eights down-to-up) fulltime downbeat right. The hands are at the sides of the hips either holding up the thobe or with thumbs just beside the hips and palms facing down.
Khaleegi 3 and Persian 3 have the same footwork, so the family stylizations are important to responsibly differentiate the steps.
Alternating Khaleegi 1 traveling forward with an alternating chasse (flat-ball-flat) fulltime downbeat right with a slight emphasis on the flat foot. The arms circle fulltime to match the footwork: R, R [1, 2] and L, L [3, 4]. Maintain a steady pulse in the upper body with a very subtle, soft-contraction ribcage lock fulltime downbeat back.
- A variation involves a hair swing that moves side-to-side to match the hip work.
Arabic 4, Persian 4, and Khaleegi 4 have the same footwork, although the timings, hipwork, and family stylizations are different.
Walk forward-and-back-and flat halftime downbeat right with Reverse Maya (figure eights down-to-up) halftime downbeat right. Body has a bounce doubletime with a focus down on the downbeat. Holding the thobe in front, make a figure eight following the hips.
- A common variation places the hands at the hips as in Khaleegi 2.
While similar to the CCW Pivot and Persian 5, Khaleegi 5 is not a paddle turn.
Khaleegi 1 fulltime downbeat left turning CCW in place with an emphasis on the left foot and with an alternating exterior hip slide, back and center, fulltime downbeat center. Grab the sides of the thobe, bringing the hands together in low 1st with right wrist over left wrist.
- The hip slide alternates between center and the back of an exterior hip circle. The movement is not a pelvic lock or single.
- The hands wrap the thobe around the body, girdling the hips to accent the slide.
- This step does not have an upper body pulse (ribcage lock fulltime downbeat back).
The content from this post is excerpted from The New Danse Orientale: Salimpour Belly Dance Instruction, published by Suhaila International in 2013 with updates and additional content added in 2023. The New Danse Orientale is a study guide and resource for belly dancers when learning Salimpour Vocabulary steps and step families.
If you would like to make a citation for this article, we suggest the following format: Salimpour, J. & Salimpour, S. (2023). Khaleegi Family. Retrieved –insert retrieval date–, from https://suhaila.com/khaleegi-family
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