Beledi (pronounced “BE-LE-DEE”) means “of the country” and is a style of Egyptian dance form the early 20th century which is still very popular. Thus, ‘Egyptian Beledi’ means ‘of the country of Egypt’. It came about when farmers moved to the city and began dancing in small spaces. The music also changed and Western instruments such as saxophone and acc ordian were used. Baladi is the most common style of dance in Egypt today and is used to dance to all sorts of music, including Western pop and Al Jeel. Women dance this style at haflas, weddings, at home and in clubs. It is seen on TV and in the theatre. It brings women together and can also be flirtatious and celebratory as well as emotional. At weddings "even people who never dance, the happiness in their hearts makes them stand up and dance the baladi dance".
What is Belly Dance (Beledi / Baladi)?
The performance dance form known in the West as the Belly Dance, is based on one of the social dances native to the Middle East. In Palestine, this social dance is called Raks Baladi, and is performed by people of all ages and both sexes during festive occasions such as weddings and other social gatherings for fun and celebration. It is the theatricalized version, performed by male (such as Jim Boz and Tito) and female (such as Morocco and Belly Dance Superstars) professional dancers and called Raks Sharki in Arabic, that is most popular in America today. In its native lands boys and girls learn the dance from an early age. As with all social dances, it is learned informally through observation and imitation of their elders during family and community celebrations, as well as during informal gatherings with friends.
Today, Middle Eastern dance classes are offered throughout the world, and skilled dancers are able to share their knowledge of the dance during studio classes and workshops. The exact origin of this dance form is actively debated among dance enthusiasts, especially given the limited academic research on the topic. Much of the research in this area has been done by dancers attempting to understand their dance's origins. However, the often overlooked fact that most dancing in the Middle East occurs in the social context rather than the more visible and glamorous context of the professional nightclub dancers, has led to an overall misunderstanding of the dance's true nature and has given rise to many conflicting theories about its origins.
Because this dance is a fusion of many dance styles, it undoubtedly has many different origins -- many of them in ethnic folk dances. Many dancers subscribe to one or another of a number of theories regarding the origins of the form. Some of these theories are that the dance form: descended from dances in early Egypt descended from a religious dance Temple Priestesses once practiced had been a part of traditional birthing practices in the region(s) of origin had spread from the migrations of the Romani people (also called 'Gypsies') and related groups, with origins in India.
Historically, most of the dances associated with belly dance were performed with the sexes separated; men with men and women with women. Few depictions of mixed dancing exist. This practice ensured that a "good" woman would not be seen dancing by anyone but her husband, her close family, or her female friends. Sometimes a professional dancer would go to a women's gathering with several musicians and get the women up and dancing. Today, sex segregation is not as strictly practiced in many urban areas, and sometimes both men and women would get up and dance socially among close friends in a mixed function. However, while social dancing during acceptable circumstances such as family functions is accepted and even encouraged, there are many people in Middle Eastern and North African societies who regard the performances of professional dancers in revealing costumes, for mixed audiences as morally objectionable. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that such performances should be banned.
Because the most popular venue for the dance remains night clubs, (as well as the proliferation of video and DVD recordings of popular Egyptian dance celebrities), it is this version, rather than the folk or social versions of the dance that is most popular. The costume now associated with this dance is called bedlah in Arabic (meaning "uniform") and was adopted by dancers in Egypt in the 1930s, from where it spread to other countries in the region. It owes its creation to the harem fantasy productions of Vaudville, Burlesque and Hollywood during the turn of the last century, rather than to actual authentic Middle Eastern dress.
Appropriately, the music is integral to the dance. The most admired Raqs Sharqi dancers are those who can best project their emotions through dance, even if their dance is made up of simple movements. The dancer’s goal is to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm of the music. This is especially apparent during the drum solo portion of a performance. Many see Raqs Sharqi as a woman's dance, celebrating the sensuality and power of being a mature woman. A common school of thought believes that young dancers have limited life experience to use as a catalyst for dance. Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, Lucy, and Dina are all popular Egyptian dancers above the age of forty. Despite the fame of female dancers, men often perform Raqs Sharqi as well. Egyptian-style belly dance is based on the work of belly dance legends Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima Akef, and other dancers who rose to fame during the golden years of the Egyptian film industry. Later dancers who based their styles partially on the dances of these artists are Sohair Zaki, Fifi Abdou, and Nagwa Fouad. All rose to fame between 1960 and 1980, are still popular today, and have nearly risen to the same level of stardom and influence on the style. Though the basic movements of Raqs Sharqi have remained the same, the dance form continues to evolve.
Mahmoud Reda is noted for incorporating elements of ballet into Raqs Sharqi and his influence can be seen in modern Egyptian dancers who stand on relevé as they turn or travel through their dance space in a circle or figure eight. In Egypt, three main forms of the traditional dance are associated with belly dance: Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and Sharqi. Egyptian belly dance was among the first styles to be witnessed by Westerners. At first the French were repelled by their heavy jewelry and hair, and found their dancing "barbaric", but were soon lured by the hypnotic nature of their movements. The most important non-Egyptian forms of belly dance are the Syrian/Lebanese and the Turkish.
Excerpt from: http://wikipedia