The relationship between Tarab and Dance.


Written by:
Mohamed Shahin

Hanna St. John

Tarab is not a dance nor is it a type or style of dance. The word Tarab is a term that relates to the influence of the music. 

I see a new “trend” in our dance called “Tarab Bellydance”, “Tarab Workshops”,”Tarab Performance”etc... There seems to be a need to create new genres of bellydance/raks sharqi, despite how fundamentally wrong the name of that genre is. One must understand the meaning of words before using them and refer to a knowledgeable source. This maintains clarity and minimizes confusion, especially if you claim to be a teacher. 

Tarab is not a style of dance. The definition of Tarab is when reaching the epic moment of a feeling derived from hearing music whether it instrumental or voice or both together expressing either joy, pain sorrow or any other intense emotion. The feeling and emotion the listener or dancer as listener gets, ecstasies from the musical experience are called Tarab. 

The term Tarab is never used to describe the dance movement or dance style. It is when you dance to a piece of music that can lead you to feel the state of Tarab from hearing it. Your dance is influenced by the emotion inspired from the music.  That is what we call Tarab.  

To reiterate, Tarab is not connected to a dance style or technique at all.  Therefore using the phrase “Tarab Bellydance” is incorrect. The correct way to describe what some are trying to say is to say “ Dancing on Tarab”.

We often wonder why dancers chose to use Tarab songs or music. Originally the dancers chose the famous Tarab songs that are sang mostly by Um Koulthoum, some of Abd elHalim and Warda etc... in order to demonstrate their technique and ability to dance with complex and difficult music. By dancing to a Tarab song, the dancer will illustrate the feeling of the lyrics, the obsession with the repetition of phrases, the depth of the melody, the character of the various instruments, and power of subtle rhythm. 

It is essential to teach the true and correct explanation about one’s culture. I encourage teachers to do their research before passing on information over the internet causing misunderstandings that can be very difficult to undo as we live in the age internet where information spread at lightning speed.

If you wish to learn more about the deeper meaning of the word Tarab, there are few books written on the subject. It is hard to do it justice with few paragraphs here.

I hope I was able to explain the word Tarab in relation to our dance and how it should be used.

Peace and Love
And Happy dancing!