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Ouled Nail is a dance term that falls entirely in the realm of tradition and folklore. (It is pronounced "oooled nile".) Actually, they are a Berber tribe whose territory extends from Biskra to Jelfa in Algeria. They are said to have originated in the "Montes des Ouled", and are quite prosperous due to the manner in which the women of the tribe earn their living: by dancing. Little girls are trained from an early age in the art of dancing . If they do not decide to stay in the oasis towns of the Sahara to guide younger incoming Ouled Nails, they return to their desert homes about fifteen years later and get married. The quality of the marriage depends greatly on the type of dowry they have saved for themselves. The Ouled Nails have to obtain sufficient wealth to secure a good marriage. After the marriage, an Ouled Nail settles down to being a good wife and mother. The costumes of the Ouled Nail are always magnificent, but in an unusual way. They are heavily made up, eyes darkened with kohl, faces tattooed and adorned with heavy jewelry. Their black hair is oiled and worn in braids on both sides of the face, looped up and held in place by big earrings. They have always gone unveiled even when almost all the women in North Africa wore veils. The costume focuses on a profusion of jewelry, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. They are known to wear huge bracelets with studs and spikes an inch or two long projecting from them. They wear a spangled veil held in place by gold fillets. Their skirts are voluminous. They wear the money they earn in various ways over their dresses. One common way is in long necklaces. Another is to hold the skirts and shawls together with coins. A third way is to ornament their beautiful headdresses. Sometimes these elaborate headdresses are even topped with ostrich tips! The dancing style of the Ouled Nail is heavy, intricately symbolic, and quite earthy. After several dances in costume, the dancers would retire behind a screen. Shoulder shimmies, undulations, and snake arms are common upper body movements. Twisting movements in the hips were also usual.
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