Saturday September 22

Old Town School of Folk
4545 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago IL (click image)
ARAB FOLK DANCE instructional DVD with technique and instruction in Egyptian, Near Eastern, Gulf and Sufi styles, is available on Amazon and CDbaby.
(click image)
KARIM NAGI folk dancer, musician, teaching artist
KARIM NAGI is a native Egyptian immigrant to the USA, and a true crossover artist uniting the Arab tradition with the global contemporary world. He has has released fourteen CDs, ranging from traditional Arab music to fusion and electronica. He has authored instructional DVDs for the Tabla/Doumbek, Riqq tambourine, Maqam & Taqsim, Finger Cymbals, Drum Solo for Dance, and Arab Folk Dance. As a dance and drum teacher, Nagi has taught in dozens of festivals in the United States, Asia, Europe and Cairo, as well as most major Arab Culture festivals in the USA. He taught at the New England Conservatory of Music for 5 years, and has lectured and presented at Harvard, MIT, Yale, Bowdoin, Princeton, Stanford, Berea, William & Mary, Georgetown, plus Bunker Hill & Attleboro Community Colleges. He has lectured internationally on Arts & Diversity at Kaoushiung (Taiwan) University, Beijing University, and University San Francisco de Quito Ecuador. Additionally, Karim Nagi's Arabiqa program has conducted over 400 school assemblies across America, exposing young audiences to Arab traditional arts. His most recent project "Detour Guide" incorporates English language storytelling with Arab music & rhythm, along with graphic & video art, to describe the experience of Arabs life & culture. Recently, Nagi has received a Doris Duke Grant for the Islamic Arts through the Virginia Tech "Salaam" project. He has also just been elected to the board of directors for Chamber Music America.


Literally meaning "Stomp" in Arabic, Dabke (also spelled Dabka, Dubki, Dabkeh, plural Dabkaat) is a group dance found in the Eastern Arab countries. Performed mostly as a unisex line dance, Dabke is avidly done at the weddings and parties of Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian communities. A version can also be found in Iraq, known as Chobie. The movements include rhythmic stomping, kicking, sidewards walking, hoping and jumping. In social settings the dancers hold hands and form long moving lines or wide rotating circles. There are also many stage performances and musical theater shows that feature Dabke dances. You may also find Dabke used as a form of non-violent social protest during war and conflicts. But it is primarily a proud and energetic group line dance enjoyed by all ages and both genders.


The southern half of Egypt, know as Upper Egypt due to its higher altitude, is called "al-Sa'id" in Arabic (pronounced iSa-yeed)". The Saidi people are famous for this semi-acrobatic stick dance called "Tahteeb" for men and "Raqs Assaya" for women. It is essentially a form of martial art where the manipulation of the stick and the demeanor of movement replicated a battle scene. The main motions with the stick include spinning, twirling, rowing, flipping and striking. Often two dancers will enact a friendly battle with synchronized sparing and coordinated strikes. But the essence of the Saidi dance is in its demeanor. The body moves heavily and confidently with a subtle pulse. Grace is more valued than aggression. This dance is done solo or in groups where the sticks are operated in unison, and men and/or women play together.


There are innumerable Muslims in the world who actively use movement, rhythm and chanting as an extension of prayer. Sufis (meaning "mystics" or also "those who wear wool", in Arabic) are Muslims who use artistic ritual to help reach a state of knowledge or trance. The goal is to have an active experience of God "Allah" or Peace "Salaam". The movements are primarily swaying, spinning, bobbing, turning and tossing. Sometimes the energy swells to a point of abandon and emotive release. The rhythm is essential in propelling the meditative motions. Drumming and Percussion are the main catalysts. The beat can also given by rhythmic chanting. These chants can be as simple as repeating the name of God "Allah" or as complex as a hymn or sung poem. Regardless of religious affiliation, the Sufi ceremony can be done by any group using unified movement, and lead by a strong rhythm that accelerates until it reaches an ecstatic climax.


Folk dance is the dance of regular people. It is enjoyed by folks of all sizes, ages, physical abilities, and shapes. You will find it in many settings where communities celebrate special occasions, or simply to enjoy the social moment. It is not necessary to be a professional dancer, nor to reserve the moment only for formal performances. It is everyones' dance. In addition to the Dabke, Saidi, and Sufi folk dances, a survey of other styles will be taught. This includes the "Shaabi" popular dance found in Morocco, where the infectious 6 beat rhythm is felt by aligning the feet with the syncopated beats. Also a collection of "Khaliji" gulf-style movements from around the Arabian peninsula will be engaged in, where the polyrhythmic drums create an undulating step, while the hands & hair complete the dance with energy & symbolism. For this survey, the drum is the main propulsion, helping all the steps be felt and absorbed.