World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Samar Nassar

Dance Origin: Middle East/Lebanon
Raqs Baladi/Middle Eastern Dance
Samar Nassar
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

In the United States, "belly dance" was coined for this form because of its isolation movements in the pelvis and torso. In the Middle East, the dance is called “raqs baladi,” meaning “local dance.” The evolution of the form is hard to trace, but it includes styles and movements from Lebanon, North Africa, Egypt, the Arabian Gulf, and Turkey. At Middle Easter family gatherings, all members of the family, women, men, and children, dance together in celebration of their culture and music. A formal technical style of the dance became popular on the stages of fancy nightclubs throughout Egypt. Then, in the 1940s, the Egyptian film industry brought gifted Middle Eastern dancers to the silver screen, and audiences fell in love with the form. The dance is popular today worldwide as a medium where women find confidence, health, and a celebration of their feminine power. In performance, it is a highly technical form, and the dancer’s quick response is essential, as she expresses the emotional, lyric, and rhythmic qualities of the music. 

Rhythm in Arabic music is organized into cycles of beats and pauses, each with a fixed number of pulses. Within these pulses, strong beats, weak beats, and silent beats define a groove. The baladi beat is a masmoudi beat contracted into 4/4 time. The drum is called a dumbek. For strong beats, called doum, the dominant hand strikes the "sweet spot" of the skin. Weaker beats, called tek and ka, are played on the drum's rim.

Samar Nassar is first generation Lebanese-Peruvian who has been belly dancing for over thirteen years. She has performed on stages all over the world and choreographed performances for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She credits her belly dance style to her Lebanese heritage, a country she visits often. She is the Owner/Creative Director of Hipline Belly Dance Studio in Berkeley.


TITLE: Drum Solo
Samar Nassar
Susu Pampanin, Faisal Zedan

Lebanese style belly dance is explosive, upbeat, and fast, with wide movements and an emphasis on percussion. In Drum Solo, Middle Eastern dance is stripped down to the basics: it highlights the soloist's technique, as she responds to every single beat.

Samar's dress was designed by Eman Zaki; a prominent Egyptian fashion designer to the stars. The cut accentuates curves helps the audience see the subtle movments. The Isis wings evolved from the traditional veil usually worn for a dancer’s entrance.

Samar Nassar choreographed this piece in January of 2006, and adapted it for this program. Drum Solo was originally commissioned for a performance at the de Young Museum in 2006. 

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