ArtSecrets You Probably Didn’t Know About of El-Tanoura Egyptian Folk Dance

Is it just a dance?
Sandy MattaApril 29, 20216 min

The swirling Tanoura dance performances are presented in different areas in Cairo especially in tourist areas like  Khan El Khalili, Al Moez Ldin Allah Al Fatmi street in Old Cairo district, Wekalet-El Ghoury, or what is also known as al-Ghuriya which is located in Al-Azhar district where Al Tanoura Egyptian Heritage Dance Troupe perform different cultural arts threatened with extinction including Tanoura dancing, and in almost all the hotels in Tourist provinces where tourists spend their vacation when visiting Egypt.

The origin 

Secrets of El-Tanoura Egyptian Folk Dance

The word “Tanoura” has Arabic roots and is translated as a skirt in English. The traditional dance is mainly built on a dancer, who is always a male, who moves in a circular motion counterclockwise, wearing the well-known customs of the dance which is the colorful skirt that is incorporated with lights to grab the attention, and that customs play a crucial role in the performance.

The dance is said to be of Sufi origins, introduced in the 13th century by the Turkish philosopher and Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi who was the first Tanoura dancer in the Fatimid State; however, the dance was evolved by Egyptian artists who added some elements to the performance to make it more appealing to the audiences, such as lanterns in Ramadan performances, and tambourines.

The philosophy behind the dance

On the philosophical level, it is said that the dance has religious and spiritual meanings; it symbolizes the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, the movement around the holy “Kaaba” in Mecca, another important part in the performance is when the dancer raises his right arm and points his left arm down; It symbolizes the unity of heaven and earth, and from a soviet perspective, the dance is a way to approach God.

Performance Technique

Secrets of El-Tanoura Egyptian Folk Dance

The performance duration usually ranges from 15 minutes to several hours,  a dancer applies all the sophisticated techniques of the dance wearing more than three colorful skirts with fluffy layers and holding some performance essentials as the tambourine. Now, can you guess how much the skirts in which they perform weigh? You are not going to believe this; a single skirt can weigh around 18 kilograms, imagine wearing 3 of them and move in a circle for an hour, I guess it is not easy for anyone to master this dance. During the performance, the music helps in establishing the right mood for both the dancer to get into superiority and the audience as well, and usually, it is folk music related to that kind of dance or some (Tawasheeh).

El-Tanoura Inspired Filmmakers

Secrets of El-Tanoura Egyptian Folk Dance

This art was a source of inspiration for filmmakers, like in the movie “Alwan El Sama El Sabaa”, an Egyptian feature film written by Zainab Aziz, and directed by Saad Hindawi, the film was screened for the first time at The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), on its 31st edition. The film talks about the life of (Bakr), who is played by the late actor Farouk Al-Fishawy, who was a Tanoura dancer. The film has won the admiration of critics because it narrates the life of a Tanoura dancer, as it is an art that is rarely mentioned in cinematic or dramatic works.

Sandy Matta

Sandy is a senior student in the Faculty of Mass Communication, she has known since day one that she wants to study media. Fashion is her passion; she finds herself in reading and she likes cooking for those who she loves. Nothing can stop her from smiling, and when she has to do something; it will be very well done.

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