Middle Eastern Dance
About Assaya (Canes)
Below you will find information on dancing with a cane or stick in bellydance.

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa people have performed dances with sticks or canes.  These types of dances have been around for centuries and can be found in the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.  Such dances are actually found in ancient cultures around the world.  The reason is clear when you understand their orignal purpose.

Traditionally these types of dances are performed almost exclusively by men.  They did these dances as a military practice.  The dances which typically feature mock battles serve as both physical exercise and martial training on how to utilize the stick as a weapon.  This type of dance is still seen in the traditional Egyptian raqs al-tahtib (the men's "stick dance").  Although the battles are fake the practice you get from it is real.  Egyptian people have been performing this dance for as long as they can remember and it probably is a descendant of the ancient egyptian combat dances which featured the same miliatary training using a stick.

In the Middle East Egyptians are known as being the commedians of the Arab world, making light of even the most tragic of events.  So it's not surprising to think that out of their playful lighthearted nature some women in Egypt started to joke around with the men's tahtib.  Women's cane dances (raqs al-assaya) generally playfully mock the men's dance.  Women generally show off how they can twirl a cane around and tap it on the ground as well as any man.  However women's dances are generally playful and emphasize more graceful feminine movements.

The women's cane dance generally uses a cane with a curved handle that come to about the waist on women of average height and tend to be about 1 inch in diameter.  Many are made of lightweight wood and then wrapped in shiny foil.  However, heaviers woods and actual meatals are not completely uncommon either but tend to cost quite a bit more.  Men's sticks however are generally longer often reaching closer to the shoulders and tend to be at least twice as thick often close to about 2 inches in diameter.  These long sticks are generally a solid medium to dense wood.

Cane dance is generally considered an Egyptian style of dance most closly associated with the Sa'id (Southern or Upper Egypt) to the extent that Sa'idi music is almost exclusively the music of choice for this dance style.  However the style has gained popularity worldwide.  As such, it is not entirely uncommon to come accross this type of dance done Lebanon or Turkey although it usually is still doen to Egyptian Sa'idi music in these performances and is still generally known by the local populations to be Egyptian.  This is one of the few props used in belly dance that is generally considered to be an authentic prop that was not introduced by foreign influences.
Posing with a cane
Sword dance by Paul Jovanowits. postcard. 1901.