Left handed


Active member
I would assume this comes from a combination of the "designated activities for the left hand" pre-plumbing customs in the region, and the traditions/rules for tahtib where it makes for a more balanced fight when both opponents use the same stick holds. I don't know if "no left-hand cane" is one of those things like "never show the sole of the foot" that is both true (many Middle Easterners do consider it a rude gesture) and wildly overexaggerated (they don't consider it so rude that they freak out when dancers do it, because you can't kick, skip or many other dance moves without the bottom of your foot showing). Egyptian men do two-stick tahtib, either as martial-arts demonstrations or dance performances, and that clearly involves a left-hand hold.

Valeria Lo Iacono says she is left handed and uses her left hand to work a cane when she dances solo.


I'm not familiar with her dancing personally, and she doesn't go into a discussion of why left-hand cane is or isn't a problem beyond the obvious logistics, but she did a Ph.D. thesis on Egyptian dance, so that implies she's not some six-week wonder who doesn't realize that you can't just do whatever you please when you're dancing and expect the details won't matter to someone.

She advocates an ambidextrous approach which is a good practice idea, even if you don't perform that way. If nothing else, martial-arts forums and interviews with tahtib players emphasize you need good stick control with both hands so you don't drop your stick during the match, or lose your blocking grip and get a faceful of your own weapon when your opponent strikes.

FWIW, Valeria is a proponent of cane balancing on the body, which I've heard more teachers say not to do than left-hand cane. Well-regarded and -informed teachers seem to be split on the subject of whether a female dancer balancing a cane on her body is okay or not. From the teachers I've encountered, the trend seems to be that in the feminine style, a dancer should not balance a cane on the body as you'd balance a sword, but in the masculine style, balancing moves are fine when they're part of a sequence of throwing/catching tricks.

And if you're Tito, you do whatever you please...


Suzanne Azhaar

Active member
Tito is amazing. There won't be right handed performances until the cast comes off. Grateful to know I won't be outright offending anyone. Thank you for the responses. :)

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
There is a thinking behind using your right hand for certain things in the Middle East, which is why in some circles, at least at one time, you could only use your right hand, as the right hand is thought to be used by God more than the left hand, which is the devil's use. That's what I heard. Now if that thinking has changed in modern times, I have yet to hear, but I know in cabaret scenarios, there is more liberal use of case, i.e., balancing on the body and even dancing in a bedlah using cane instead of in a balady dress. But for folk dancing, there are "rules" if you are going to dance before certain people.


Active member
Thank you, Shanazel! I try to be helpful, but now look what happens when you encourage me...Ask a simple question and get an hour of homework to read and watch!

As I'm thinking about this {edited to add that Greek Bonfire posted some similar thoughts on this while I was putting together the YouTube clips}, we don't want to oversimplify the part about the pre-plumbing era giving rise to the idea that the left hand is dirty. This isn't just a relic of olden times, practiced only by the rural poor and nomadic Bedouins now. It's baked into the practice of Islam, so depending how diligently one adheres to their religious obligations, a wealthy, educated city dweller might still consider the left hand "bad."


Of course, if you're an extremely devout Muslim, you're probably not going to become an entertainer, but there are lots of practicing-but-not-hyper-conservative Egyptians who dance or participate in tahtib events, and this sort of thinking would be in the backs of their minds, even though they might not be terribly hung up on it. People are people wherever you go, and never let it be said that folks don't cut a few corners here and there on the parts of their religion that don't seem as necessary or convenient as others.

Speaking of wherever you go, as long as we're here, let's take a peek at what some other dancers are up to...

Over in Lebanon, here's a group dancing with some sort of pointy spear (I don't know the name of it) to debke music as part of a zeffa. They're mostly using it right handed, but not always.

A couple of ladies in this Kuwaiti troupe have thin sticks (not sure of the significance--sometimes the thin sticks are camel whips and other times they are stand-ins for spears or swords), but they don't do much with them beyond holding them in their right hands. If I recall what my former teacher said, I think this is a Bedouin stylization, based on some of the moves they are doing.

Over in the Emirates, most of the time, the camel whips and rifles stay in the right hand, but sometimes they switch and do two- or left-handed manipulations, especially when they get into the fancy rifle tricks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yowla.

(If you're really into the Emirati weapon spinning, please avail yourself of the rabbit hole resulting from a YouTube search of "Dubai media يولة", which will point you to clips of a televised yowla competition.)

Much of the dancing you'll find Saudi men doing with objects on YouTube is the kind where they stand in lines and sway while chanting in honor of some holiday or event. They hold swords in their right hands and rest them on their right shoulders and that's about it, prop-wise. There's more info here http://saudiarabesque.com/al-ardha-the-national-sword-dance-of-saudi-arabia/ if you're not familiar with it.

This is a little more energetic, with swords and rifles, strongly right handed.

I don't have much information about this clip, beyond that it is tagged "Saudi traditional wedding dance," but here's a guy double-handing swords.

Unfortunately, I'm not well versed in when lines of chanting guys are al-ardha and when they are al-ayyala. I think it's a combination of regional/ethnic designation and the subject material of what they're chanting, but here's more information on al-ayyala. I probably didn't need to go this far off topic, but I thought it was interesting to see men doing head movements similar to what women do when they toss their hair.

Finally (well, not really "finally," since I've casually skipped over a lot of people and places), it's not unexpected in Yemen that they wield the janbiya in the right hand alone, since it's a small weapon. I've heard "Never bring a knife to a gunfight," but I guess nobody told this guy not to bring a gun to a knife fight?

TL;DR/DW: When Arab men in these areas dance with props, they have a consistent favoring of right-hand holds, but they make plenty of exceptions, especially when showing off.


"The Veiled Male"
...I know in cabaret scenarios, there is more liberal use of cane, i.e., balancing on the body and even dancing in a bedlah using cane instead of in a balady dress. But for folk dancing, there are "rules" if you are going to dance before certain people.
The first teacher that taught me cane told us that if she *EVER* saw us onstage with one without at least wrapping a veil around our mid-section, she'd come onstage and beat us with our own cane! That isn't to say that "I haven't done it", but now that I have a custom made balady dress, not so much anymore.

Suzanne Azhaar

Active member
I'm a grandma. Many times over (many). Love dirt bikes, skate boards, roller blades, and skiing. Seven year old niece asked if I would play w/ her. She received two hover boards for Christmas and wanted someone to join her. How steep can the learning curve on a hover board be? (Right?) Made it to the end of the driveway. Landed on rt. wrist and butt. Fx wrist in three places. Walked all the way around the block with her, then drove to Urgent Care. Try explaining to medical staff who have never heard of hover boards how it happened. Impossible. Took a doc who had tried riding one the week before to understand the multi-directional rotation of the board. I have met my nemesis. Won't be doing it again. Plan B is sit on butt and ride it around the block. No pride. :p