From the earliest times, humans have used movement as a common form of expression and communication. Dance, a shared human experience, is a universal language that connects all of us regardless of origin, race, religion, or politics. Before written language, dance was a vessel through which stories and events were passed from one generation to the next. The folkloric dances of the world are a historical mosaic of our shared history, heritage, and evolution.
The story of Middle Eastern dance begins in the lush meadows of the Fertile Crescent and on the sunny banks of the river Nile where the environment, landscape, and spiritual beliefs shaped the earliest versions of this dance. Historical artifacts from Mesopotamia and paintings found in Egyptian tombs depict ceremonial, social, and ritual dances dating back to 4000 B.C. From Neolithic farming settlements to the complex societies of the Bronze Age, the people of the “Cradle of Civilization” created traditional dances inspired by the majesty of rivers and mountains, the bounty of harvest, the bravery of battle, and the divinity of idols and gods.
Over time, as the Iron Age gave way to the Old World Empires and the resulting people and cultural exchange from the Sahara to the Caucasus occurred, the dances evolved. The Arab Caliphates further extended the diversity of the region as Islam expanded from Andalusia to the Balkans to Central Asia.
Throughout its history, Middle Eastern dance has been a reflection of its rich environment and the diverse influences which created it. Dances of the Bedouins, Dervishes, Cane, Sword, Jarra, Salleh, Mahrama, and the many line dances such as Dabke, have been the language the people who created them have used to communicate with each other and the world. In keeping with cultural and social traditions of the region, the costumes are modest for both men and women, and the performances are inherited tradition of skill, technique, and ceremony.