World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival



DANCE ORIGIN: Egypt and Israel
GENRE: Belly Dance
TITLE: Modern Shimmy
Oreet J.S.
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2011

Oreet, creator of SharQui – The Bellydance Workout®, is an award winning performer, choreographer, and teacher. Her specialty is high-energy belly dance style called Modern Egyptian dance, a contemporary, innovative twist on traditional Egyptian style that fuses modern dance, ballet, and Middle Eastern dance from Oreet’s Yemenite/Israeli roots. Oreet certifies dancers and fitness professionals in her SharQui® format nationally and has recently expanded her teaching presence on the West Coast.


DANCE ORIGIN: Egypt and Israel
GENRE: Belly Dance
TITLE: Modern Shimmy

Oreet presents a solo set that puts a new twist on contemporary Egyptian belly dance: Modern Shimmy. She begins with an upbeat piece that features slow and lyrical taksim melodies—an instrumental version of the Egyptian pop song “Inta Omri.” Next she performs a drum solo, the traditional finale of a belly dance performance. This dance is usually performed while standing in one place, to emphasize isolation movements of the hips and belly. The song merges Egyptian, Turkish, and Latin rhythms, highlighting Oreet’s control and precision as she matches every body movement to the intricate beat.

Middle Eastern belly dance is an ancient and beloved folk dance form with unrecorded origins. Most contemporary dancers say it is a dance form created “by women for women,” a style not originally meant for men’s eyes. Most importantly, its history is an oral history and a danced history, passed down by women. The flashy form we know today—including the revealing two piece bedlah dance costume—was invented in the 1920s. Choreographers re-invented the ancient form for large and extravagant stage performances in Cairo cabarets, and for Hollywood-inspired sequences in Egyptian film.

Oreet learned the dance in her homeland as traditional dance, from the women in her Yemeni and Sephardic Israeli families. It was danced—as in many Middle Eastern homes—as a celebration of femininity. From both family and teachers she learned that undulations of the torso could instruct a young woman about her woman’s body; the shoulder shimmy was about breast-feeding, and pelvic shimmies were great exercise to ease childbirth. Women danced as encouragement during childbirth, and in joyful celebration once the baby was born.

Oreet’s choreography is based on a modern athleticism and she adds graceful ballet-inspired movement to the high energy belly dance of her Middle Eastern roots. Her costume is a modern twist on an Egyptian style: the exposed belly is from the old Cairo design, and the silver wings are a grand, contemporary touch. Oreet created the introduction piece in 2012 and the drum solo in 2008.


Oreet Jehassi Schwartz

OREET fuses modern dance athleticism, graceful ballet, and high-energy belly dance from her Yemeni-Israeli roots to create an innovative twist on the contemporary Egyptian belly dance style. The name of the set is SharQui Style. Sharqui, or raqs sharqi, is another name for “dance of the East”, the Egyptian solo dance form rooted in pre-Islamic times and taught within the family. The first piece mixes raqs sharqi with a contemporary style: OREET moves across the stage to energetic rhythms from the Arabic pop singer Haifa Wahhab. We see a hint of flirtation, but the dancer also holds back a bit: in the lyrics a woman tells her lover he must behave himself before she’ll promise her love.

Tomorrow, desire (for me) will call you . . .
Oh you will stay up so many nights
With your heart on fire
You will feel everything that has happened to me
And you will come to me bewildered

The second piece is an Egyptian drum solo featuring the distinctive ring of darbuka drum and the song “Osama” by Raquy and the Cavemen. The drum solo is the traditional finale of a belly dancer’s performance. The dancer follows the drum’s rhythms precisely while remaining mostly in one place. OREET adds contemporary choreography to meet every beat—especially the contemporary syncopation at the end of the song.

OREET created the piece in 2008.

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