Raqs al Nasha’al /Raqs Samri is done at all-women Gulf parties, especially at weddings. It’s a Saudi/ Kuwaiti women’s dance where they used to wear special diaphanous overdresses full of gold sequins (thobe al nasha’al) and swirl their hair, to show off their beauty and femininity. The thobe al nasha’al is never worn in real life. It’s worn only at weddings or parties, just for that specific dance. Because it is so sheer, the dress worn under it is visible, so for performances wear a solid-color kaftan, of whatever color the thobe is underneath – any other color will alter the perception of the thobe’s color.
The back of the thobe is supposed to be longer than the front. Ideally, there should be a bit on the floor in front, when standing in it and about a foot more in the back, due to the positioning of the neckline and head hole. Fold the thobe in the middle (the way it comes in its original wrapping) and you’ll see the neck hole begins on the front part, just past the center crease, and goes on from there specifically so that the back part is longer and trails a bit – like one of the medieval dresses with short trains behind, to show that the person wearing it never has to walk through muck and mire like a peasant!
The dancers in the photo (left to right) are Casbah’s Varvara, Suzannah, Djinni Hassanein & Leora, from a concert performance at the Theresa Kaufmann Auditorium in the NYC Museum of Natural History.