Something Old Something New: Golden Era vs. Modern Oriental

Something Old, Something New: Golden Era vs. Modern Oriental

With Lenora Nawaar

Express Workshop for Amethyst Dance Festival

March 2019



The goal of this workshop is to give you some key components to sprinkle on your natural dance style to evoke the essence of golden era or modern oriental dance. Both of these genres can be explored extensively and lay the foundation for your entire dance career, however it’s nice to be able to add diversity to your style especially to highlight specific musical arrangements and themes.

There are differences between eras, but also individual stylistic choices of dancers, especially because most of the modern oriental/modern Egyptian dancers are still dancing and have flourishing careers. They continue to evolve within their own styles. The Golden period alone could be said to span from the 1930s to the 1980s depending on your source, which is a lot of time for dance to change and evolve. There is not one style that is “correct”, but typically if you say “Golden Era” people have some key ideas in mind. The same thing happens when you say “modern oriental”.

We will identify an element of each within musicality, technique and styling concepts, you can dust on top of basic foot and hipwork to give either a golden era or modern oriental flavor.

My ideas about the Golden Era and Modern Era are not exhaustive, and many dancers will agree or disagree with me and have more ideas to share. I encourage you to do your own research, watch as much footage as you can, and listen to as much music as you can. You can never stop learning and growing in dance!

Time: 40 minutes

Materials: Handouts, music

Walk and Talk Warm-up: 5 Minutes

Combo Lesson: 15 min for golden style combo, 15 min modern style combo

Play Time: 5 min

Alternate music samples back and forth (pre-edited) between modern and golden that are the length of the combo.

Era Musicality Technique Styling and Appearance
Golden Era

Keywords: delicate, internal (to midline movement), softly strong, relaxed

-Primarily melodic, secondarily rhythmic.
-Hits a specific moment now and then, but often “glosses over” the specific accents in melody. Relaxed.
-Repetition of a movement for some time is ok
-Bent elbows

-Upward use of shoulders

-Bent knees in arabesque

-Upward use of hip

-Staying within the body frame

-Small shoulder shimmies

-turns more open and musical

-Movement is largely hip and shoulder centric. There are few chest pops, circles, etc.

-bra and belt sets, belts hug hips and often cover derriere, full chiffon or flowy skirts. Sometimes costumes are high waisted, especially in the time of Samia or Tahia
-Body stocking common, in coordinating colors to your costume, but not nude necessarily.
-hair curled and then brushed out, often shoulder length to reflect the typical styles of the time.  
Modern Oriental
Keywords: musical, strong, contrasts, expansion (away from midline), showy
-Accented in the melodic. The movement matches “exactly” what you hear.
-Often rhythmic with hard contractions and pops.
-Movement changes rapidly and frequently. Lots of variety.
-Arms travel further away from the body,

-Shoulder stay down but engaged

– Extended leg lines in arabesque and turns

-expansion beyond the body frame

-turns are tight and fast

-larger shoulder shimmies

-belly flutters and ab and chest pops more common

-lots of nods to other styles like Shaabi, beledi, saidi, Khallegi, iraqi within one song or performance
-sleeker costumes and mermaid style skirts, made with modern stretchy fabrics that hug curves
-hair is long, curled or straight and sleek, especially for dancers that like to toss their hair


Classical (1930s-1960s)

  1. Samia Gamal
  2. Tahia Karioka
  3. Na’eem Akef

Post-Classical (1960s-1980s)

  1. Nagwa Fouad
  2. Soheir Zaki
  3. Fifi Abdou


Pre-modern: 1990s and early 2000s

  1. Dina
  2. Lucy
  3. Fifi (still)

Modern: 2000s to present

  1. Randa Kamel
  2. Sahar Samara
  3. Aziza of Cairo
  4. Camelia of Cairo
  5. Dandesh


Our song today is Tamr Henna, which dates back to 1957 and a film of the same name. Na’ima Akef, plays the woman named Tamr Henna in this film and is the first dancer to have danced to this song. It is widely used to this day. The original recording is by Mohamed Almungi and is directly from the film. Our modern style track is by Ya Salam Orchestra and was recorded in 2011.

Snippet of the 1957 version of Tamr Henna for practice

Snippet of the 2011 version of Tamr Henna for practice

Alternating snippet of 1957 and 2011 versions

Purchase full length 2011 version here

Costuming Photos: 

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Sources: (Tamr Henna full length film. Dance starts at 26:56) clip of just Naima in Tamr Henna