What is the first image that comes to your head when you read the word “Egyptian Dance” or, what mainstream audiences insist on calling it, “belly dance”? Odalisques dancing to capture the attention of round bellied sultans, skimpy clothes and circus-style contortions, or an exotic strip-tease have probably crossed your mind. I wouldn´t be surprised.
The truth is Egyptian Dance, as I´ve rediscovered it in many years of research and career in Egypt, in the Middle East, and around the World, has revealed itself to me and it´s completely different from the images usually associated with it.
Several journalists came to visit and interview me while I was performing and managing my team – of musicians, technicians, assistants – in Egypt. They were curious about me, the dance and the culture I was immersed in, and why would a young, Western, intelligent girl hide in that dusty, outdated, dangerous world of the Cairo Oriental Dance scene?
Some observed the interaction between me and my musicians, our rehearsals, and my daily activities in and out of my work context. All of them, without exception, were shocked to discover a reality which was the opposite of what they´d imagined.
Egyptian Dance is NOT a bunch of empty contortions aiming at seducing someone but a primal and elevated holistic tool for self-knowledge, empowerment, and expression.
Egyptian Dance is NOT an exotic striptease but an ancestral art form with its origins in fertility rituals older than the Pyramids.
Egyptian Dance is NOT a distant language only understood by Egyptians who live, like Tutankhamun, in Pharaonic chambers but a universal language which reveals our shared Humanity.
When I started to study Egyptian Dance, I was a blank sheet – there were no positive or negative ideas associated with it inside my head. I carried no prejudices, no expectations, no specific goals. All I knew and mattered was the way the music and the dance made me feel, how it was inviting me inside myself, and allowing me to discover SELF-AWARENESS, LOVE, and EMPOWERMENT.
My feet didn´t quite touch the floor whenever I wrapped an Egyptian Dance Class.
I was in heaven and I was falling in love with that ecstatic state.
As I moved to Cairo to start my career, I initiated what Joseph Campbell once called “The Hero´s Journey”. I faced the best and the worst side of Egyptian Dance, realizing how much of the ancient Egyptian Soul was imbued in the dance and the difference between the dance and what people make of it.
The current mentality in Egypt, deeply influenced by pseudo-moralism and false religious rules, condemns the Feminine Power, Freedom, Art, Love, Sensuality, Questioning, and Evolution (everything Egyptian Dance stands for). Therefore, I, like every other professional Oriental Dancer who didn´t fit the mold, faced a daily battle between our Art and the right to develop it, and what the majority considers a “good woman”, an ethical life, a respectful profession.
Through Egyptian Dance I discovered what it means to be a WOMAN, the importance of LOVE, SENSUALITY, PASSION, FAITH, INSTINCT, AUTHENTICITY;
Through Egyptian Dance I rediscovered the true meaning of “religion” - the connection between BODY, MIND, HEART, and SOUL; the UNITY between the earth and the sky.
Through Egyptian Dance I remembered what precious my unique fingerprint is and what a gift life is.
Above all, Egyptian Dance is a CELEBRATION of LIFE and HUMANITY in all its shapes and colors. No other dance form embraces the spectrum of emotions and experiences Egyptian Dance does – it denies nothing, it accepts and transforms everything.
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