It is very common for people to imagine that Arab dance and Indian dance are the same thing, barely differing in a few small details, or some even think that they are variations of the same dance that simply exist in two different regions.
It is not unusual to encounter these ideas, especially when people are not familiar with remote cultures. However, there is nothing further from reality. In fact, Arab dance and Indian dance are in and of themselves two vastly distinct worlds and are very different from each other; they may fuse together on some occasions but still are not the same thing.
Arab dance and Indian dance are of completely different worlds that are sometimes confused. (tweet)
Often this confusion is caused by the music of the two regions, especially modern music since Arab pop and Bollywood music sometimes borrow elements from each other. When the two concepts are not very clear and one lacks deep knowledge of the different dances, there tends to be confusion. There are many examples of this, but I am going to illustrate one with the following: the first video is of a singer from Morocco who is very influenced by Indian rhythms, especially the Bhangra, while the second video belongs to a Bollywood movie but its melody is clearly influenced by Arab rhythms.
Now, it is clear that the two regions have common influences, especially from the Persian side; however, they have developed two very different types of dance, which can be seen in the following aspects:
I have talked previously about the hand movements in the two types of dance, but in summary: In Arab dance, the hand movements tend to be circular and do not play a primary role; they only serve to subtly accompany the movements of other body parts. On the other hand, in Indian dance the hand movements serve to tell stories and to express ideas, and they are quite complex since they typically use many different mudras or symbolic gestures.
In Arab dance, the movement emphasizes the hips and torso, while in Indian dance it features the head, legs, and feet. This also depends on the specific dance and cannot always be generalized, but overall there is a great difference in the rhythms and fluidity of the two styles; Arab dance movements tend to be more fluid and gentle while in Indian dance they are more rhythmic and strong.
One of the most important elements of Indian dance throughout its many variations is expression. Dance in India has the primary purpose of telling stories, which is why the body movements within the expression are very important, usually achieved through one’s gaze, facial expressions, and postures that support the story that is being told. On the other hand, in Arab dance the expression is more personal and one might even say more intimate since it is linked to the feeling of the person who is dancing at a given moment.
These are some elements that help to identify each of the dances that are very rich, complex, and constitute great universes in and of themselves. Studying them in depth, as well as participating in dance camps and attending dance tour performances, can help to differentiate them and also to find points that they have in common. The most important thing is to preserve the essence of each dance and to incorporate it into the practice and performance, whether as a viewer or as a dancer.
I hope this article has helped you, and if you have anything to add or any questions to ask, please don’t hesitate to do so in the comments section.
By Miguel Dumont
– I am a dromomaniac as I have been travelling since I am 18 years. I have travelled around more than 50 countries around the world and lived in 14 different places. Also, I am a product manager for digital companies and I have been the last 2 years working on travel solutions. The last one is dance tour for more details.