Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cairo, the 2nd July, 2009


  • They say beauty is the eyes of the beholder. I say poetry is in the heart of the one who lives with his-her open eyes. Reality offers us material much more delicate, far more interesting, absurd and rich than fiction, if only we could be AWARE of the beauty around us. Poetry arrives from many sources other than books and the ones who can watch from their hearts reach worlds others perceive as common and dull. It's ALL in YOURSELF.
  • Here's what I watched this morning as I woke up and opened the windows of my bedroom balcony to let the sun and the early breeze in:

  • Sweetie - one of my cats - was enjoying the morning breeze on my balcony when one of the many birds that come to sing for her arrived and offered her a simphony so beautiful that would make Mozart blush...

Here's the singing bird of the day. It's not the first one that comes to sing for Sweetie. She had a faithful little bird who used to sing for her in a very romantic mood and watch her. Then I moved (this was in Manial, my last home before this one I line in now) and that bird lost its muse.

Both of my cats - Sweetie and Kenzi - listened to the bird's singing, kissed each other (sorry, I couldn't catch the kiss on camera...I'm not that good as a papparazi for these beauties!) and moved on in such a relaxed, lovely mood that you could sware they understood that bird was singing about love and in love...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cairo, the 1st July, 2009

“NEW ORIENTAL DANCE COURSE IN CSA MAADI during the whole month of July – Join us “

*** I am proudly announcing a new Summer course in CSA: the whole month of July, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12.00h till 13.30h.

*** I will teach Oriental technique and some folklore – Saiidi introduction – besides a choreography in the end of the month!
Join us!

*** *** For more infos and subscriptions, please email me: dancemagica@gmail.com or call CSA Maadi

Cairo, the 30th June, 2009

“Book reviews TEAR AND LAUGHS … and the girl who wants to marry me! ”

*** Sometimes, life in Egypt is just too much to take…
Reality here is too much to digest. It shakes you to the core and mixes away all your ideas so badly that, somehow, you loose track of your own identity and values.

*** I found a girl begging in downtown Cairo who proposed to marry me and sleep on the floor, by my bed if only I took her with me.
She was asking for money – as many kids from the mafias who exploit children – and was caught in conversation with me when I asked her why she was walking around in the street at 2.00h in the morning (I was coming from a dinner with my friends who also tried to chat with the girl, with no success).
She told me the “sir” (her pimp, father, whatever) would be very angry if she returned home with less then 35 egyptian pounds.
She also refused to take a photo with me when we first asked her because, as she knowingly said, we would sell it to the newspapers and the “sir” would punish her (I guess she heard about children´s and human´s rights and was aware of how wrong her situation was, despite being not more than 6 years old).
After a few tender gestures and the assurance that we would not sell the pictures to any one, she agreed to take some pics with me but with fear and doubt that never disappeared.

I hugged her, patted on the head and she kept asking me to marry her.
My eyes were filled with tears and I tried not to imagine where this little girl would spend the night and who – the “sir” – would receive her and what he would do to her after a long day and night of begging in the crazy, noisy, polluted, hellish streets of down town Cairo.

Book Reviews (MUST, MUST READS):

***Paula, by Isabell Allende – I cried like a baby reading this book. Isabel Allende telling about her own daughter´s coma and her death through the rough patches and sweet streets of her own life. Tender, honest and so moving. Beyond moving.

*** Dance while you can, Shirley Mclaine - Oh, what can I say?! Delicious actress and dancer Shirley Mcleine wrote this book about the life of a dancer, an artist and a woman outside of the norm. Fascinating, specially if you´re a dancer or an actress (like me!).

*** Al Khan, The Daily Comic Strip, Tarek Shahin – Cartoon sketches with social, political, cultural critics to Egypt´s current situation. Another daring “reality” check allowed by the Government censors. Funny, bright and accurate. Another way of knowing about my own surrounding reality.
Cairo, the 29th June, 2009

“Ahlan Wa Sahlan shows and the dark side of the Oriental Dance circuit”

*** Dina show: Disaster. Only one word: SAD.
Lots of publicity, marketing and expectations from thousands of dancers and students from around the world and the show was a disaster.
Dina walking around the stage with her signature hand on the nose and empty laughing and no dance.

*** Before Dina, a clone of Dina ( Dalila):
I will be succinct because I don´t want to be cruel.
I watched one of Dina´s clones. What I wrote about Dina´s shows applies , word by word, to this lady´s presentation.

*** My only question: Has Oriental Dance turned into a commercial product so strong that the actual ART/DANCE tends to disappear?!

*** I am confused and sad. I admired Raqia Hassan for her astute way of creating and managing a great event of which I was proud and that I recommended to my students and now there´s nothing left of the dignifying purpose I cherished so much in this festival.

Hope upcoming surprises will make me change my mind. Hoping…
Cairo, the 27th June, 2009

“Big transitions – Thanks God!!! – and the unexpected heart break of departures…”

“ You are the twelve year old girl, still flying free. But your innocence also ended then. The girl you were died; the potion of death was what all of us women swallow sooner or later. Have you noticed how at puberty the Amazon-like energy we are born with fades and we turn into doubt filled clipped wings?”
Excerpt from “Paula”, Isabel Allende

*** When the magical train of Destiny aligned all planets in order to make me throw myself into the unknown, there was nothing I could or wished to do to stop it. The Universe machine decides when you stop or move forward, although you can insist to delude yourself taking about total control of your life and such. I am aware that, no matter how strong I am, there´s nothing I can do against hurricanes, storms and trains that stop at your station and just give you the fraction of a second to decide: getting into the train or remaining in that same old station of yours with all its comfortable corners and predictable little joys.

*** I wasn’t taught to fly because my parents come from a poor background from which you would learn that life is essentially hard and only “others” get so lucky as to rise in all kinds of ladders and, even in those cases, they would do so thanks to less than honest activities.
Although scarcity was always an issue into my family home, I also had a mum who felt – on the silent, bravest part of her soul – that you could, indeed, run after your dreams and achieve, take risks and give them a shot, two, three, all you needed to move forward into your ideal life (or what came near from it). She has seen that fire and strong will to persevere in me and never, as soon as she recognized it, ceased to admire me and give me the assurance I needed when all I had were doubts and self-pity.

*** After demanding my contract´s annulment in the “PHARAOHS” (place where I performed for three years): Relief and excitement for my new contract but also a deep sadness to leave an whole family behind.
I was always cherished and taken care of by all the staff of the place and I will terribly miss them all. All the managers tried to avoid my decision but, once I decide something, there´s nothing or no one able to make me change my mind.
It sounds so corny but one of the managers had tears in his eyes as he said good-buy to me after I announced that I, finally, managed to be released from my contract, demanding its cancellation.

*** Staff from the tables, kitchen, WCs, mechanics, I think even cockroaches in the backstage room…all of them came to say good-buy to me and it was heart breaking to see them like that while I sustained my own tears in order not to give an inappropriate last, unforgettable show in front of all of them.

*** Side by side with excitement and joy, I also feel nostalgic and sad because I shared almost every night of my last three years with this lovely people and I counted on their presence as much as you can do with your own real family.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cairo, the 29th June, 2009

  • I found this amateur video of me in full "baladi transe". Sound and lighting (very poor and adding five pounds to my real weight) but the feeling and the dance compensate those. This was shot where I used to perform, "The Pharaohs of the Nile".

  • Hope you enjoy it!
  • Follow the link:


Saturday, June 27, 2009

“NEW ORIENTAL DANCE COURSE IN CSA MAADI during the whole month of July – Join us “

Cairo, the 27th June, 2009

“NEW ORIENTAL DANCE COURSE IN CSA MAADI during the whole month of July – Join us “

*** I am proudly announcing a new Summer course in CSA: the whole month of July, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12.00h till 13.30h.

*** I will teach Oriental technique and some folklore – Saiidi introduction – besides a choreography in the end of the month!
Join us!

*** *** For more infos and subscriptions, please email me: dancemagica@gmail.com
Or CSA Fitness Center ( 002 – 010 3829638 )

“When the poor are rich - Egyptian hospitality at its best”

Cairo, the 24th June, 2009

“When the poor are rich - Egyptian hospitality at its best”

*** While baring a much desired work transition and dealing with a blazing sun – 43 degrees today! – I had the joy of sharing a simple day with simple people in a place where I would never go if not taken by the hand of a loving, prejudice-free friend!

*** I was invited to a feast at the home of a common friend and was received with much love, generosity and abundance in a place so distant and strange that I cannot even name it.

*** All came from one of my comments about egyptian food, telling to my friends who much I adored “molokheya” and “mahshi” (two egyptian cuisine specialities).
One of the boys didn´t wait long until he asked his wife to cook it for me.

*** It was a long way to his house – I didn´t know where I was anymore! – and we had to take different means of transportation to reach his home ( I wonder how does he do it every day to go to work). We took a long, fastidious ride in a taxi – sauna session - until a countryside zone where we waited for our other transportation by the shadow of a donkey with whom I took some photos.
As I finished my short photo session with the donkey, its owner came running from the depth of the planted field and asked for money with no “hellos” or “good afternoons”. Dry and plain: “Give me money.”

- Money for what? Why should I give you money? - I asked, half joking.
- Give me money. Photo. Give me money. – He rudely answered exhibiting a sharp weapon with which I guess he works the land and kills scorpions.
- No money. For what should I pay you? Is your donkey a professional model?! – I asked again, asking for troubles.
- Model? Donkey?! – He shouted at me with his piercing, wild eyes.
I understood I was facing one of those cave men we read about in history books. I thought they didn´t exist anymore.
The cave man is part of our past, not our present (or so I thought!). Here he was: a noble remain of our ancestors and the world of guttural sounds and haunting ghazelles and buffalos. For a moment, I thought I might give it a try and answer him with a throat twisting howling but no one seemed to think this “time machine” conversation was funny. Only me!

*** An original motorbike came for us, carrying 6 people at the same time and threatening to fall on one side and another while running wild from the green fields into a populated, dirty village I cannot name.

Me and the professional model donkey
understanding each other...

*** When we arrived, we were treated with a culinary feast that left me exploding from so much I ate. Soup, “mahshi” and “molokheya” as a gift to me, chipsy, salads, chicken, pickles and other delicacies that were brought by generous, loving hands.
I was treated like a queen as both the man and woman of the house were my fans (so cute!!!) and loved my dancing. They didn´t dare to ask me to dance and I was too distracted by the little girl´s performances to be able to even think about getting up and competing with that small angel…she beats me, in every way!

*** The couple who received us has two babies whom, once again and according to tradition, run to me and adapted me as their “tante Joana” ( aunt Joana).
The older girl – about six years old – danced for us and talked like a true “bint il balad” imitating the way of her mother and female relatives. Children absorve everything that surrounds them like dangerously efficient sponges. I feel amazed!

*** I agree with myself when I find out, in this occasion as in many others, that the poorest people I´ve met in this country are the ones who are willing to offer you more. Why is that ?! By logic, the ones who have more to offer, should be the ones being ready to share and still that´s not the case. Why is that?!

“Il Zaar” – baladi homemade rave parties to kiss demons and frustrations good buy…”

Cairo, the 22nd June, 2009

“Il Zaar” – baladi homemade rave parties to kiss demons and frustrations good buy…”

*** These days, I´ve been taking what most would consider the “wild side” of egyptian society and yet I confirm, as usual, that this is not – in fact – the wild side of the country, only the misunderstood and despised side of it.

*** Crammed in an old taxi with broken windows handlers (sauna effect at its best!), me and my friends headed to a distant part of Cairo where, for the last 90 years, a famous house practices the “zar” ritual open to friends, neighbours and even strangers who are invited to watch and participate in the session.

*** I have read and listened about the “zaar” and the whole mystic surrounding it but nothing could have prepared me for its simplicity and genuine feeling. Theory and reality do not faithfully mirror each other, specially in tricky subjects such as this one. So much talk and fears about something that is truly simple and uplifting.
Not yet recovered from the “moulid” night, I took the chance to join a “zaar” session and watch as woman after woman arrived with her children by the hand to release their personal demons and feats they couldn´t confess not even to the walls. They came silent and polite, sweet and composed. Then they would cover their faces with a black veil and dance away their dark corners getting into trance with the music.

*** What I loved most about the experience:

1. Musicians.
The musicians were amazing. The instruments were very limited – nay, drums and voice by an incredible female singer proudly presenting a mouth full of gold teeth – and the style of music, language and rhythmic patterns very basic and afro-influenced.
Despite the limitations of the trance music, I enjoyed the way they played and sang, building up tension in the music in order to guide the women into an explosion of emotions and stress release. They would start slowly and smoothly and then adding tension, feeling and heat to the music somehow manipulating the dancer´s brain into a huge release that seemed like a great orgasm to me.
Despite the efforts of every religion to asexualize human beings, I observe that there is a sexual component in all true spiritual practice. Reaching a strong orgasm being similar to religious fervour and the spirit´s ultimate release. In both situations, we get out from ourselves – if only for a few seconds! – and neglect our egos in order to connect with God living, silently, inside us. We can do it through a lover´s embrace and also through different several practices and that´s why it never appeared strange to me that sex and orgasm is considered sacred by hindus (they know that they´re talking about!).

2. The Women.
Old, young, childless and fertile with three or five children by their hands. They all arrived to the “zaar” session with candour and left feeling reborn and clean, once again. I could read it in their eyes as they put an end to their own session and prepared to return home. This is an alternative “therapy session”, visit to the psychologist so common in the West or “baladi rave party” ( as my student Jackie puts it). They all search for the same, in the end. Release all that is weighing on your shoulders, all the past pains and present frustrations, all the imaginary and real demons, all that hurts and doesn´t seem to leave, no matter how much effort we put into forgetting it.

Each woman had a personal style of dancing and an ability to release themselves.
I was invited to participate – as well as another fellow dancer, Virginia, who was with us – and so we did. Being used to visit the “other side” of apparent reality, it was not something new or original for me but it still felt great and joyful. I guess I have dealt with my own demons well enough to turn them into my friends.

3. The atmosphere of the place.

Well…this one is tricky to explain but I´ll give it a try!
The place was charged. This is an expression I use when I feel a space or a person which are not totally positive. There´s light and darkness there, good and evil. This was a charged place where I could clearly touch dancing spirits and an air so thick that I thought I could mould it into a ceramic jar.
The Universe is composed of negative and positive energies, that we all know. What surprised me the most was noticing how the limbo zone or frontier between light and darkness seemed to disappear when these women were dancing their demons away. I still felt good and evil but they were so entangled and mutually understanding of each other that you could not differentiate them anymore.
They´re both different sides of the same coin and humans, in their fear of the unknown and with their heads filled with religious propaganda, seem to run away from the dark side of themselves and reality, trying to deny its existence and convince themselves they´re only goodness and light.
In fact, we´re MOON and SUN. One cannot exist without the other.

*** To choose between feeding evil or kindness lies on our conscious and our heart´s hands. Accepting our complexity and facing our “dark holes” where fear, ignorance and sadness take charge, is one of the bravest acts we can take in life and these simple women in the “zaar” reminded me of that.

4. Knowing reality instead of the myth

Everyone - egyptians and arabs, not foreigners - who knew about my enterprise in the “zaar” session was appalled and called me crazy right ahead. For them, the “zaar” is like a scene from the movie “The Exorcist” where a possessed person is tortured by demons and, finally, released from those through a priest who gets offended, beaten and terrified by the victim. There must be blood, yelling and lots of obscenities. Oh, how great and distorting can our imagination be!

I could see for myself that these pre-made ideas are far away from the truth.

“Yousry Sheriff class, Sufi show at the Hussein and Sayeda Zeinab Moulid – a passion driven day!”

Cairo, the 20th June, 2009

“Yousry Sheriff class, Sufi show at the Hussein and Sayeda Zeinab Moulid – a passion driven day!”

*** Wow…today was a tremendous time to be lived…from where did I take so much energy to face it may be a mystery without solution. Maybe the excitement, the interest and the magic of it all made it seem so much lighter than it was in reality…who knows?
Because of days like this, I remember why I love Egypt so much and I cannot imagine my life outside of it (exception to my major temptation New York and to the dream of my life: an hacienda in the Mexican jungle near from the Caribbean sea…).

*** 10.00h – Class at my home with a wonderful dancer from Portugal.
She had been my student and lost direct contact with since I moved to Egypt until she started to listen about my work here and decided to make a “crash course” with me and watch me perform. Lucky her…Not only she saw me perform as I could take her to one of my rehearsals – very rare and demanding these days…- and show her the work with the dancers (my beloved-hated choreography work ) and with the orchestra. I made a point on explaining her how I orchestrate each song and how each instrument speaks a different language, chatting between each other like a joyful group in a heated, passionate discussion. It was my best class ever and a privilege for her, as a dancer, to experience herself all this information I was glad to provide to her.

*** 13.0h – Class with Yousry Sheriff

May I say UAU. And yet, may I also be objective and fair, as journalists are taught to be at universities. Yes, I do LOVE this teacher and he always manages to make me feel even more passionate about dance, art and life itself. Yes, I still enjoyed his class and had a wonderful time with his endless energy and “Broadway inspired style”, always theatrical, intense and all-dances-inclusive.

And despite all the fun and joy I experienced in the class, I have to say I was less than satisfied with the choreography Yousry taught this time. The same steps and “Yousry style” movements (tango, rumba, tcha-tcha-tcha, Spanish, Broadway and Oriental) as in previous choreographies and the same exact combinations as the few past creations I learnt from him. Nothing new or fresh to add to my own dance or inspiration. It´s painful to admit it but I was disappointed and couldn´t take anything real from his class, for the first time.

* Great detail of the class: Watching Yousry in action always reminds me of the passion you must ALWAYS put in your dance (or in whatever you do, for that matter). Real passion, not acted like most dancers manage to do. He dances like a man with the sensuality and strength I don´t find in most female dancers and he clearly loves what he does with a visceral

* Naughty detail of the class: Yousry dramatically reprimanding a girl who dared to speak on the mobile during class. I totally agree with his policy (no mobiles or cameras, no talking and giggling while in class because, just in case students are not aware of it, the class is meant to be a space of concentration and learning and not a playground where you pay to chat with your friends).
The only difference between his reaction and my own in such cases is the dramatic effect he adds to it and the explosive rage that takes hold of him in a second…I even feared for the girl´s physical integrity as he stood there, motionless, with his penetrating, big black google eyes shooting imaginary bullets at her and requesting an apology that he pronounced “aplochi” leaving everyone startled and trying to figure out what he meant and if he was going to throw himself at the “phone girl”´s neck (well, he didn’t…just in case, you were also wondering and enjoying the scandal…).

*** Sufi show at the Hussein (“El Khoury Palace”)- Brilliant!

*** This is something you don´t want to miss. If you´re an artist (musician, dancer, painter, photographer, sculptor, whatever!), you HAVE to see this show.
The Ministry of Culture – in a rare spasm of lucidity – has been sponsoring this incredible for many years but only now I was persuaded to watch it and I kept silence, in deep reverence during the whole 90 minute performance.

*** Sufism comes from Turkey but found a great deal of followers in Egypt where they created their own rituals, music and dances targeting that ancient need to connect with God or our higher selves, much beyond our always childish and deceiving little egos.

*** I ´ve seen the “tannoura” show many times performed in night-clubs and other venues but always defaulted and missing its spiritual meaning and its soul. As pure entertainment, it´s something that has never seduced me.
Now this “Darwish” show was something else…the palace where it´s presented is stunning and all the musicians and dancers are talented and/or experienced in a way that makes you appreciate the whole show and also each individual presence on the stage.

*** The energy of the show is purely spiritual and uplifting. LIGHT and FIRE joining in a dance trance that leads both artists and the audience into a better, higher dimension of our reality. I felt in heaven…

*** Amazing! I will return soon, Inshah Allah!

*** Every Wednesday and Saturday, around 20h at the “El Khoury” palace in the Hussein (“Khan el Khalili” market).

*** Sayeda Zeinab Moulid

*** A country like Egypt has many, many faces. I feel I am living, indeed, in a place which is fairly denominated “Om Dounya” (“Mother of the World”) where distinct, contradictory realities live face to face with no fuss.
Travelling between worlds is a task I take with much pleasure under the surprised, condemnatory eyes of local egyptians and arabs for whom every person belongs to a certain place/standard and the mixing with an “inferior” cast of people is seen as a self-value lowering most of them would never accept to go through.

As a dancer, I have been in 5 star places and met rich people. Most of my experiences in this posh side of Egypt has taught me that, behind luxury walls and a fat bank account is, usually, corruption, deceive and lots of lies people tell to themselves and to others in order to keep their life style alive.
On the other hand, I have been in extremely poor environments where people have not much more than a roof over their heads – if they have it! – and remain generous, smiling from the soul and good at heart.

One thing I am sure of: Egypt, its complexities and contradictions will never stop surprising me!

Singer and band in the "Moulid"
*** Taken by the hand of some egyptian friends – musicians and dancers themselves – I had the opportunity to visit and participate in one of the cathedrals of egyptian “underground culture” : The Mawalid (plural of Arabic ‘moulid’,meaning ‘anniversary’ or ‘birthday’) are
held each year throughout Egypt to celebrate the lives of Muslim awliaa
(‘saints’) and direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.

These are popular celebrations performed by the lowest class of egyptian society (besides the despising looks of the rich and educated ones who consider these celebrations a pure manifestation of ignorance and loose principles) aiming to celebrate the birthdays of important figures of Islam iconography.
Sayeda Zeinab moulid is one of the most famous and chaotic mawalid in town and, for the second time, I had the chance to see how much these celebrations save – or postpone – the egyptian poors from going mad – more than they already are – and revolting against their own government and a life of misery and social injustice.

Me and children and famous character of Sayeda Zeinab "Moulid"

*** Penetrating in one of Cairo´s most dangerous zones is an experience of a life time by itself. The famous “City of the Dead” where (out of money and in desperation) people started to build houses using the local tombs as bases for them is a famous spot for drug dealing and all kinds of crimes police don´t dare to reach and deal with. Going against all wise advices, I once went inside of this city for two days – by myself – to collect photos for a magazine issue I was preparing three years ago. Not only I was not robbed or raped – as all the voices pointed out that it would happen – but I was received with a natural curiosity and much kindness, turning my initial lonely ride into a friend´s meeting during which I was invited for tea and “ful” at every other house of strangers. At the end of each day, I found myself lost in the dirty labyrinth of the city but I was sure someone would guide me out from there from his own hand with much tenderness and a sincere smile. Someone always did.
I was right, the wise voices were wrong!

*** We entered the city by foot and I was aware of the negative sensation my sleeveless shirt was causing in people passing by us. One of the musicians son – a small boy with 8 years old – made a silent promise to protect me and never loose sight of me during our visit to the “Moulid” and so he did.
I was stoned twice and my little guardian angel couldn´t avoid it or even understand from where the stones came from. Everybody was surprised – my guardian angel and my fellow artists – but not me. I have been through enough in this country to be stoned on my back and move on as if nothing happened with a serene smile resting on my lips. I´ve been stabbed on my back in ways that hurt so much more than this and I understand how much ignorance, darkness and religious hysteria is moving egyptians these days. Life is becoming too hard to bare, religion and its fanatics seem to be the only escape and stoning a sleeveless foreigner girl who dared to come out in the street in a context they consider masculine is nothing spectacular.

***I know you always pay for your freedom, specially in a place like Egypt.
For a woman, being free is synonymous of being “loose and half way to being a prostitute”. I pay for the choice of being a dancer, I pay for the choice of going to places where male dominance rules. I pay for dressing the way I do – with so many concessions from my part – and for being myself and always saying and doing what I think it´s right. There was a price I had to pay for loving and being loved back and also a fine to punish me for being strong, brave and proud. Those features are not welcome in a woman, thank you very much!
Being an INDIVIDUAL and a WOMAN, at the same time, it´s not something you can get away with for free and the stoning – and several comments – during my visit to the “moulid” was just a reminder of that.

*** We had dinner in a “baladi” restaurant surrounded by children who fled into my arms like bees to honey and followed a specific itinerary of small “local rave parties” (as my dear student Jackie pointed out with her wonderful sense of humour) where different sectors of “Sufism” gathered announcing their ideology with a standing coloured flag on each spot.
There were musicians and spontaneous dancers moving away their demons and frustrations and using the music – created for that purpose – to release all that words could not express. Devils and unsolved fears and desires were flying away from each person as they moved to the cadence of the trance music.
I sit between the musicians who invited me to be with them and gently covered my arms with one of their scarves noticing, with no surprise, I had a small wound from the stoning on the back of my shoulder.

*** I could smell a mix of sweat, incense, heavy breathing being exercised through the hypnotic music and the presence of spirits whom are never dangerous to the ones who have peace in their hearts. “Be afraid of the living, not the dead”, my paternal grandfather used to tell me and my sister when he was alive between one and another spiritual tale he would tell us (vampires, neighbours who transformed themselves into wolves at night, women who were witches and took him for moon rides in the countryside…my grandpa had it all in his endless bag of scary tales).
The fact that I can see further than the friends who are with me doesn´t scare me as it doesn´t scare me the fact of seeing different devils floating in the trance dancers gathered to release the ticking bomb they carry in their chests, minds and humanness.

*** Some of my friends also dance along with the locals but never allowing themselves to really go into trance. I just watch. It´s more useful to watch and, anyway, I have made this travels on my own, though my dance or while making love with my man. I´ve been there in so many different ways and saw my own demons and my own LIGHT.

*** Prejudices and class distinctions are nothing but ignorance and fear.
Tonight I felt in contact with that essential need of every human being of being FREE from the load of a hard life. Too much garbage gets accumulated in one´s mind, heart and spirit. If releasing it is a kingdom ruled by the ignorant, then I consider myself one of them and always, for sure, an ignorant like them.

Nile Festival Opening Gala and yet another class with my dearest Mahmoud Reda”

Cairo, the 17th June, 2009

Nile Festival Opening Gala and yet another class with my dearest Mahmoud Reda”

*** I will be forever a marginal, always following my heart and what I feel it´s right, despite all surrounding pressures and influences. I am away from all the madness, envy and corrupted environment where I happen to work in. This chosen distance has a price, as with everything else in life. Dirty business, conveniences and backstabbing do not mix – in my own conception – with ART so…I keep myself at the shore watching vampires sucking each other´s blood and ambitions.
I am a “quality seeker” so I make a strong point at surrounding myself with good quality people, work and co-workers, even furniture and food, friends, my man and the air I breath. I long to be surrounded by all kinds of beauty and settle for nothing less than the best (fruit of a lot of extremely unpleasant experiences in my life! Thanks God for them!).

*** I attended the Nile Festival Opening Gala, once more, by the hand of my dear friend Mahmoud Reda who received a well deserved “Happy Birthday” surprise for the 50th year of “Reda Troupe” existence. At the impressive age of 80 years old (may God keep him healthy and happy for a long time), Mahmoud keeps “Reda Troupe” alive with the on going choreographies he keeps creating and teaching all over the world and through the guidance he generously delivers to professional dancers who are inspired from his knowledge and noble heart.

*** As usual, the biggest pleasure of the night was – as far as I´m concerned – the company of my best friend – Mahmoud – and all the jokes we cracked throughout the evening. There was the “outside” world made of dancers, artists, students and lots of EGOS floating around the crowded room. And then there was a small, highly restricted world in which only me and my friend lived and there we could understand each other, even during the longest of the silences.
I am a naughty girl, that´s for sure. Mahmoud has that wonderful, rare quality to understand that “child” within me and he´s also a child himself so…we end up being two children in our own sacred playground. It´s just marvellous.

*** “Do you remember when we were teaching in Brighton and decided to walk back to our hotel after my shows in the event´s gala?!” – I inquired Mahmoud.
“Yes, I do.” – He replied with that simple happiness expression that only children – like us – can have on their faces.
“We sang the whole way to the hotel and danced on the empty, rainy streets like crazy people…it was amazing!” – I continued trying to recover a bit of those unforgettable moments with my dear friend…

Now the GALA:

*** There were three dancers performing during the night: Nancy (egyptian), Nour (Russian) and Camelia (egyptian).
I missed Nancy performance but I don´t think I´ve lost something amazing. If she remained faithful to herself, there was a lot of excessive skin showing and very little dance (I´m not interested, thank you).

*** I caught on Nour´s show and was not surprised to find a well prepared, clean, professional and polished show that is usual from this dancer who has performed for a long time in Egypt. Being a passionate dancer myself, I always feel like Nour is professional and lovely but quite close to a monk. Her clothes and props are old fashioned – not in a good way – and extremely “proper” (meaning “boring”) to a point that you miss the sensuality and spices that are an essential part of Oriental Dance. She´s correct, efficient and intelligent (not enough or even desirable, as far as I´m concerned). Her orchestra is very well orchestrated and you can feel the respect and love she has for her job but there´s something so visceral missing there…her guts, her wild essence – maybe she´s not wild at all… - her “womanly” scent and flair, any kind of sauciness that reminds you´re not watching a church choir concert “a capella” but an Oriental Dancer..

*** Now Camelia was a good surprise and a refreshing change from most dancers I´ve been watching lately. I had seen Camelia perform several times before she stopped dancing in public (I guess she changed her mind!), around four years ago, and at that time I wasn’t performing in Cairo yet and she was far away from my favourite dancers. I often found her cheap, exaggerated in her way of dealing with the audience, arrogant, ugly (way too many plastic surgeries leaving her looking like Michael Jackson´s sister) and with a bad habit of rubbing her sweat body against people in the audience (I was one of her victims and I can honestly say that wasn’t sexy at all!).

The Camelia I found now was also exaggerated and cheap on many occasions, even out of rhythm and loosing herself away from the music in times when she totally lost control of what she was doing on stage but…a great BUT…I enjoyed watching her and kept waiting for the next crazy thing she would deliver in a minute.
Her show was entertaining, original, crazy and full of personality (her personality!) and unique. She didn´t act, as most dancers seem to do in Cairo, or pretended did what she thought people would love her to do. Instead, she did what was residing in her guts, mixed lots of “crazy marketing tools” in it, added a bit of shocking movements towards the cameras rolling in front of her and had an exquisite repertoire for the night. I just LOVED all the songs she – or someone else – chose for her to dance in this show. Good taste, knowledge and a refined perspective of what Oriental Dance is.
Most of all, and going against most people´s opinions on her show, I admired her courageous attitude and the way she let herself go through the music…being yourself and bringing out on the spotlight your craziest self seems like an easy thing to do when you´re just watching but not for the artist on stage. She managed to be totally HERSELF and I loved her for that.

*** What did I miss (?):
There was a Saiidi band after Camelia but I had to leave and coulnd´t watch it so…no comments on this one.


*** Another opportunity to share moments of dance and laughs with my friend and a room full of students from all over the world.
We worked on a song from a “Reda Troupe” movie ( “Ya warda, ya baladi”) and had a blast teaching it to the crowd. One of the things I dislike in choreography is the mental discipline and the repetitions necessary to memorize and then remember each step without changing any of it. I want to reach the maturity point of the choreography work, that point when everything in the choreography is so familiar to your body that you don´t have to think about it anymore…you just enjoy and let your body do its work…the time between that initial phase of memorizing and the time of simply enjoying can be excruciatingly long for someone impatient like me.

*** One more time, I observed how most students follow the choreography without learning anything. It´s sad and frustrating and there was nothing I could do. This is a common flaw in these major workshops: students follow and copy the scratch of the choreography but they´re not learning FOR REAL anything of it.

*** I had to run from the class to another dancing gig for which I had been picked by the managers according to my looks and to my “stunning bewitching eyes” (in the words of one of the enchanted managers). Before they even saw me dancing - auditioning for the job – they had already decided they wanted me for it. I was asked to present myself – to the rage of the other ignored dancers also to be auditioned – and all they did was stare at me and comment how beautiful I am. The fact that I might dance as a circus monkey was not in consideration at all…I got their point from the beginning and couldn´t stop myself from laughing at this ridiculous, rotten system. I won the job (no kidding?!) but it was a sour victory because I knew my looks – and not my dancing skills – got me there! Life´s not fair, even when it´s for your own benefit.

"Happy Birthday to me”

Cairo, the 13th June, 2009

“Happy Birthday to me”

*** I am not good at conventional celebrations. Like a true gipsy, I enjoy freedom in all its forms, including the freedom to choose when and what to celebrate. Why celebrate what society and tradition says it´s a “must” and not special moments that are truly significant for us?!

*** Birthdays are the main core of conventions and traditions and yet I was so excited to celebrate it this time!
I cannot thank my friends – close and distant – for all the messages, phone calls and presence in my life during this birthday. I cannot thank God enough for having done a real fun job at night and having a bunch of the sweetest real friends waiting for me indefinitely until I got released from the party I was performing in.

All of them had early awakenings the next morning and I was supposed to attend my own birthday dinner around 23h but only got there at 2.00h! And there they were…patiently waiting…the gesture itself filled my heart with gratitude.
I am invaded by gratitude feelings very often in my life and this birthday was one of such occasions when I recognize the blessings surrounding me.

Here´s what I am thankful for on this birthday:

1.My health and the health of the ones I love the most.

2. My friends – the real ones – and all the kind people who compensates for the terrible disappointments I had during the last year.

3. The new opportunities and challenges finally appearing in my professional horizon after three years of lonely struggle and hard work without a single break, helpful hand or incentive (except for the local audiences who have been my pillar).

4. My man. THE MAN. Oh, how long did I deserve to feel something great and real like this?!

5. “Kenzi”, my treasure or the new baby cat I adopted from the street. She has filled my lovely home with even more beauty…plus the queen Sweetie which has been showing me what true sexiness and beauty are for a long time.May God keep them both healthy and happy!

6. The fact that I have become wiser, truly wiser and feel able – also finally! – to concentrate on what matters in my life and never give a second thought to the subjects that are simply not worth my attention. Life is too short and uncertain in order to waste it with unworthy matters.

7. Restarting to teach on a regular basis and all the new learning and friendships that arise from that step. I am loving it…

8. Being here, in Egypt, fighting for my dream and having the health, talent and strength to go on doing it better and better.

9. My new orchestra and dancers! YES!!!

10. My newly achieved sense of security in myself and an understanding of life in Egypt that makes my days much easier. Trying not to sweat the “small stuff” and take personally all the sexual harassment, direct and indirect offences regarding the fact that I´m a “rak´asa” (dancer). I know reality and accept it as it is. I cannot change it but I won´t allow it to harm me or change me instead.

11. My newly discovered passion : riding horses in the desert and all the empowerment and meditation potential that comes with it.

12. It´s corny and, for sure, way too much common sense but…I am thankful to be alive and for all the suffering I´ve been through (“Ando devagar porque já tive pressa e levo esse sorriso porque já chorei demais…” piece of a brazilian song by the marvellous Maria Bethânia). In this song piece she says “I walk slowly because I´ve already walked in a rush, I am carrying this smile because I´ve already cried too much…” and that´s exactly how I feel.

13. Finally, I am grateful to notice that, despite all the deep disappointments I recently had with people I used to love from my heart, those betrayals and shocks didn´t make me sour, mad and negative. I can build a loving distance between my own pain caused by the ones I trusted and look at them with acceptance and good wishful thinking. I am glad the dark side of so many people who used to surround me has ended up filling me with LIGHT. And for that I am thankful to them (they know who they are).

*** Happy Birthday to me cause I deserve it!

“Watching Gene Kelly in Cairo”

Cairo, the 14th June, 2009

“Watching Gene Kelly in Cairo”

*** “You are beautiful. You have that “fellahin” touch that makes you special and I love you like that. Please don´t you ever change!” – Says my friend – and teacher – Mahmoud Reda - in the middle of our wonderful afternoon together. How can I not love him for accepting me just as I am and appreciating me for all those complexities and contradictions that compose all I am and beyond?!

*** I am aware of a privilege here and now. Not because he´s Mahmoud Reda, the famous artist but because he´s a truly good, beautiful person I´ve grown to love and cherish as if he was a jewel to keep in a safe place. Not perfect, for sure. Just yet another human being but , for sure, special.

*** I am a fool. I wish to believe that all those whom I love will life forever. Deep inside, I know they´re not vampires – are they?! – and so, obviously, they will have to physically disappear some day but I refuse to take that reality in. I refuse it because I am an awakened fool and a person in love…

*** How many kinds of love are out there?!
Love for your family, for your mum (the love of my life and my biggest reference), for your friends, for your lover, co-workers and pets and then the love for special friends whom I call “soul friends”. Mahmoud is one of them.

*** My sweet friend ordered fish and shrimps because he knows I am a “fish person”. I eat the fish with my bare hands, I take off my shoes and he knows it´s normal for me to choose to eat on the floor. He doesn´t ask why. This is me and this is the Joana he has also grown to love. Isn´t all real love, all kinds of love, accepting?!
I sing Dalida for him, he sings “Swing” (Frank Sinatra classic) for me and all we can do is smile and laugh like children.
We choose to see the famous musical “Singing in the rain” together. Mahmoud has seen it several times but he tells me how important it will be for my artistic education and he insist we see it together. I cannot say no. He knows of my passion for the genius Gene Kelly and I know that it´s a shame I have never seen this classic!

*** Watching a movie like this with Mahmoud by my side laughing at the same jokes and opening his mouth in disbelief during the tastiest dance bits it´s a life experience I will never forget. Common sense assumes that the simplest things in life are the better and I agree with common sense on this one.
Just me and my dear friend watching Gene Kelly in amazement. Nothing spectacular there and, yet, these are moments I will miss way too much in the future and I am aware of that.

*** I thank God for all my work, success, love and appreciation around me. I also thank about my health and wealth as I am far away from being financially rich but I am, without a doubt, rich in the matters that DO MATTER.

*** We made rewind on our favourite dance parts in the movie. We laughed and admired the talent and creativity in the movie…not even the heat of a 40 degrees Cairo city could distract us.

*** Very simple, I am aware of that.
Precious. I am aware of that too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

“Day at the Sakarah Country Club…Sun, sweet company and being in love with someone who deserves it – It was about time!!!”

Cairo, the 12th June, 2009

“Day at the Sakarah Country Club…Sun, sweet company and being in love with someone who deserves it – It was about time!!!”

*** O.k, I have to give myself some credit on this one! I have not ledan easy life and some of the (lots of ) crap I took in the past – bye,bye, baby… - was, in fact, crap I assumed and accepted to myself (although unconsciously) but, so far, I am happy to announce that the only way is UP and I´ve been a great student, learnt all my lessons and promised myself never to set for less than I deserve both in my professional and personal life. I am having – just now! – the life Ideserve and it took me a long time to get here, a lot of work and asshole dating, disappointments and shocks that would rock and break into 100000 pieces the coldest person on earth. Add to this fact thatI am actually not a cold person and as much as I am strong and bravein all the areas of my life, I am also extremely emotional, tender andwith the most fragile heart I´ve ever known so…you can imagine howhard all those heart breaks hit me.

*** Recently I went out with one of my few egyptian friends and allthat she commented was how much she wished to get married – she´s 34years old and single which is pretty strange for an egyptian girl! –and have children and how she dragged the serious possibility of finding no one she really loves and who love her back. Her family nags her constantly and she´s seen like a freak of nature because she never accepted to set for less than the BEST!

*** Due to this marriage drama, she also sees herself as dull,unattractive, stupid and not the least appealing to any man. That´s how she feels about herself and yet what I see it´s a totally distinct reality: she´s gorgeous, honest and straightforward, sexy without being slutty as most egyptian girls in her condition or even married,intelligent, kind, delicate, interesting and funny!She´s a doctor, she is educated not only by academic standards but bybehaviour and mentality standards and she´s so great that I cannot imagine myself why on earth she would think no man would fall madly in love for her.

*** We hanged around some egyptian pancakes and went for dinner later on and the whole time I was thinking to myself: why on earth do incredible ladies like her settle for less than the PERFECT man?! O.k,PERFECT may be an illusion and maybe the wrong word but…the BEST man ever…Why?!

*** I have observed my own past behaviour in that department and gasped for air as I recall all the mean attitudes I accepted from men,willing to sacrifice my own well being and self-esteem in order to be loved… Why?!

*** I looked at my dear beautiful friend and couldn´t stop seeing myself in her in the way that she – quite like me – could not see how great she is and put the “men picking” standard so bellow herself and her worth. Western and eastern women have many different issues to fight for but each time I go further and deeper inside of an egyptian lady mind, I see how similar we are in our basic needs, aspirations and fears. How similar we are in our stupidity too, that´s for sure!

*** I am happy to announce that I woke up, really woke up and found the man who deserves me and is not afraid to tell me every day how extraordinary I am and I see – only now?! – how much time I lost with men who didn't deserve it. How many wasted tears, time, phone calls, kisses, heart felt hugs and love did I offerto these men and how much of that time could have been wisely used onmy work, friends or on a man who actually feels grateful to have found a gem : Me!For the first time in my life, I dance for my man (something I said I would never do! Never say never…there we go!) and it feels great, fun,intimate and soooo sexy. No “trying” to change me plans, no hidden agendas or fooling around , no shame for me being a dancer or whoever I am. Just plain acceptance, appreciation, passion and …real love from a real man! After all I´ve been through, I really deserved it! Thank YOU, God!

*** If you´re a woman reading this and you are taking “shit” (excuseme the poetry ) from any man, just get the hell out from that relationship and get what you deserve. NOW!

*** I am blessed and grateful for all I´ve been trough and for thegifts the Universe always manage to bestow upon me.


9.00h, Giza – The horses went crazy this morning! Not only one horse but all at the same time. There was something in the air which no one could see or define that made them irritable and impossible to ride. Animals are extremely sensitive and horses, in particular. There must have been something invisible to the human perception that they caught in the air turning them into un manageable hurricanes.Merchants, donkeys, camels and early morning “sheesha” smokerssurrounding the magic place and nothing to do but leave after kissingmy “Ameer” goodbuy.

*** 10.30h. Sakarah Country Club – I almost forgot English have colonized, used and tortured egyptians for quite a long time and then I arrived to Sakarah Country Club and, for some reason, I felt I was in Egypt during English supremacy. I remembered a bit of this country´s controversial history with foreign countries. Everything about this club exhales the English posh style of life aimed only tothe privileged. The place seems a bit snob and elitist as I imagine most English are but it manages just well to release the stress of us,citizens of the mad city: Cairo.Despite the colonial vibe that is not my favourite asset in the world,I slowly fell in love with the place mostly because it had a swimming pool (yes, I am not difficult to please, specially when it´s damned hot and I am in the desert) and, most of all, I was surrounded by people I love. It´s a truth universally acknowledged that Paradise means nothing if you don´t have people you love around you.

*** Lots of expatriates – as they like to call themselves here in Egypt – and some egyptians and Lebanese. Expatriate means out of our own “patria” – homeland – but I don´t agree with that term as I feelE gypt has become my homeland as much as Portugal has always been. Only my family and close friends are away and that makes it hard for me tolive far from Portugal but, excluding that hard fact, I feel pretty much at home in Egypt.
*** Great atmosphere with no hassle from the staff (kept to a minimum,thanks God!) and users of the place. It´s a foreigner friendly place,that´s for sure!

*** 14.00h – We had lunch under the shadow of a tree and watching the desert and the palm trees that come before it. Birds came to eat atout table as well as a baby dog who drove me crazy and got me drooling all over it the whole day. From all the children present in the place,no one of them chased that baby dog as much as me which is kind of embarrassing and worrying as I am not 4 years old anymore.

*** Besides the swimming pool – that I plan to visit very soon- there were football camps, horse riding arena, motorbikes for the desert (getting one of these next time I´ll go there!), rooms to rent (agreat idea for a romantic weekend with the love of your life…), a bar and a restaurant which serves the meals around the swimming area.

*** Between the swimming, joking around and talking (ah, and my baby dog ridiculous chasing ritual), there was time to reconnect with myself and get peaceful and just happy with no worries or future “to do” lists in my head.

*** NOTE: The best time of the day in Sakarah Country Club is thesunset, as in most places of Egypt. You can see the sun slowly fading away through the palm trees while you´re swimming or chatting your hearts out…very nice.

*** P.S. : Where is the baby dog?! (the smoothest, sweetest ears –little carpets – I´ve ever felt in my hands…)

“Man proposes and God disposes”

Cairo, the 11th June, 2009

“Man proposes and God disposes”

*** I saw this phrase written on a primary school on my way home :“Man proposes and God disposes” .As with so many things in Cairo, I had to take notice of it, its beauty, truth and wisdom and the happy “coincidence” (if coincidencesexist!) of me catching sight of it after a wonderful day on the Nile,performing with my new upgraded orchestra (YES!!!)

*** I am very good at proposing, not so good at understanding and accepting that is God, indeed, who disposes. I am good at the fight,facing the challenges with my head up high and drying my own tears over and over again with the skin of my own hands. I am good at that.Sometimes, I even conclude I am good. Period.Now I realize, more and more, that is God who is pushing all thestrings for our destinies to unfold the way they are supposed to.Human power is limited and also an illusion. What a sweet illusion it is…

*** Today I realized the privilege of being on a new stage with a bigger orchestra and hear my name called with so much appreciation by strangers.I took notice of the audience´s attention and empathy, I opened myarms and felt like the whole place fit between my two hands.Ah, the illusion of power…so sweet…

*** I also took notice that you know you´re doing a great job in Cairo when you arrive to a new place and the whole staff – including thew.c. cleaning ladies – know your name and heard about you.You know you´re doing a great job when you hear disrespectful men in the audience trying to throw sleazy remarks at you and finding it impossible to do so after you start dancing…You know you´re doing a great job when musicians from another dancers who have never worked with you see you in public places and personally compliment you with an old fashioned kiss on the hand.You know you´re doing a great job when people stop eating and forget food in their plates in order to share your dancing with all their senses and attention.You know you´re doing a great job when you´re able to go against the corrupted system and grow in your career even if you don´t prostitute yourself for work opportunities and protection and even so when there´s absolutely no one – no empresario, no manager, no husband, lover or a good old fashioned pimp, no one – riding this wild path by your side.You know you´re doing a great job when your own musicians treat youlike a queen and respect you above everyone else.You know you´re doing a great job when you hold a full house of strangers in your hands, even if only for an hour of love, power and illusions which fill everyone´s hearts.You know you´re doing a great job when you make someone in theaudience whisper and tremble with only just one look.

*** I am proud of myself. The struggle has not been in vain. I feel blessed and thank God for everything.

“How much did I miss being a teacher…”

Cairo, the 10th June, 2009

“How much did I miss being a teacher…”

*** First days of my Oriental Dance Summer Course in CSA! YESSSS!!!!

*** I almost forgot how wonderful it feels the dynamic of regular classes with a group you get to know deeper and deeper, observing howeach person shyly starts to grow out from her protective, insecure place and just flourishes into whom they really are through dance.

*** I was advised to postpone my Summer workshops in CSA to the new season starting after Ramadan because most foreigners choose this timeof the year to go on vacation and out from their countries meetingwith “back home” families and running away from the religiously charged time of Ramadan so I was informed no students would, probably,apply but they were wrong and I am happy for it.

*** What I´m enjoying the most:

* CSA itself is a place where you can relax and feel at home. It has an easy going vibe going for it and most people come to learn, share,take varied classes and meet expatriates (hate that word) from another countries with whom they can find so many common experiences and perspectives on life in Egypt.

* The group of students is varied – Spanish, Scottish, Irish,Lebanese-american, greek, English, Portuguese (that would be moi!) –and lots of fun. They are interested in the dance, joyful and willingto learn and discover new things through dance and that´s why I am there for…open up the secret treasures of Oriental Dance box go them!

*Remembering how much you learn, as a teacher. It´s common to hear that you learn as much as you teach and it´s true. You see the sameold movements from different perspectives and discover new ones.“Mistakes” can be turned into new movements and opportunities to know our own body better arise from the knowledge that there is no suchthing as a desirable PERFECTION.

• I am excited…really excited…
 The first level of the course will goon until the end of June so feel free to join us any time (Mondays andWednesdays, from 12.00h till 13.30h in CSA Maadi.

•*** For more infos and subscriptions, please email me:dancemagica@gmail.com or call me on my egyptianmobile: 002- 012 258 8817

“New show (YES!!!) of Cairo with brand new orchestra and male dancers!!!)

Cairo, the 6th June, 2009

“New show (YES!!!) of Cairo with brand new orchestra and male dancers!!!)

*** When someone screws you or tries to harm you in some way, you can get pissed off him/her and shout or you can silently search for a wayto make the best out of it, taking it as an opportunity to jump outfrom a ship that is clearly sinking and will not lead you any where worth going…That´s exactly what I´ve learnt to do. I don´t get mad anymore atanyone or anything or even loose time with people or situations whichare not valuable enough for me to offer them my time and energy.I look at the big picture – many times, in the middle of the greatest storms – and draw the next steps to be taken in order to turn anapparent crisis into a major, unexpected victory. Enemies – all kindsof enemies – love to see you pissed off and loosing control. What they hate is to know that, from what it seemed to be your fall, you build a castle and now you can look at landscapes impossible to admire a while ago.When I feel so hurt that I could cry, I turn my potential tears intof eeling and soul put into my dance. When I am so outraged that I could yell and knock some heads off their shoulders, I keep that energy and apply it in singing – for my show, for my man, for my friends or mycats, even for myself. When feelings of betrayal and unjustice try toget hold of me, I transform them in creative energy to move ahead and take the steps I need to take in my life.Wasting energy on subjects or people who don´t deserve it is plain stupidity and I have learnt to just let it go and be happy…too many conquers to grab with your two hands, too many shows to present and love to share. Why waste time in hate and sorrow feelings which will bring you no more than that: hate and sorrow in double!?


*** I am living one of those periods when you know a challenge and a couple of risks are being offered to you as a rare opportunity to grow yourself towards the direction of your dreams. Taking the challenge and assuming there will be hard times and risks at stake and the willingness to face all that is what distinguishes a looser fromsomeone who doesn´t get stuck in his old, familiar, safe place… The confidence and faith to look forward an unknown route and launchmyself in a risky enterprise with no warranty is one of the featuresthat I have always been proud of in myself. I am a lot of things but coward is not one of them and I respect myself for that.

*** After three years – time has flown…- of constant work in Cairo with my band and still no help or wise advice from any part of the crazy town, I reached a “transition” point that I longed for a longtime. May God help me and protect me from all that may come with my new victory for I that there´s always a price to pay for a victory achieved.

*** I am proud to be presenting my new show with a big band and male dancers performing with me. So great to coreograph modern pieces and Saiidi with these boys which are only great dancers but joyful and wishing to do a great job by my side! Thank you, God! After so many terrible experiences I´ve lived this last year, having this anticipated birthday gift is all I needed to restart to believe thatthe “best is yet to come”!Weddings are arriving, finally and even with no connection of empresarios of any sort and a brand new contract to fill me with that almost dead flame you carry when you are excited and know there´s ahuge step being taken in your life.

*** What can I say?! Thanks God and…really…I deserve all these blessings from a long time. After so much hard work, persistence,mental and physical resistance towards all the headaches and shocks Iwas vulnerable to, having a break and a chance to grow in my career is the best gift I could wish for.

“Harem´s renaissance… at the swimming pool”

Cairo, the 4th June, 2009

“Harem´s renaissance… at the swimming pool”

*** I have pronounced myself a serious, fierce adept of segregated places in Egypt, haven´t I ? I do know it sounds backwards, ignorant and anti-diplomatic for me to assume that I love the existence of segregated areas in several contexts in this country and I feel astounded myself to hear it coming from my mouth but, for the sake of honesty, I must say exactly how I feel and think (I am praised anddoomed for this quality).

*** When you live in free, modern society where you can go out in the streets and not be harassed by 95% of passing by men, segregation seems like something distant, absurd and third world created. It makes no sense and it´s a clear attack to freedom and free, healthy interaction and association between sexes, nationalities, races,religions. As an European, the image of a segregated country or a“harem” was exotic and medieval, proper for old movies of OrientalFantasies where women are oppressed and kept in closure, living boring empty lives where there´s not much going on besides staying pretty andwell fed to please a supposed master/husband/sultan.

*** That´s how I think when I am out of Egypt, still (thanks God!)…But, as soon as I land in Cairo, my “egyptian mode” button gets activated and I start to marvel at the wonders of segregated areas where I can be at ease without being disturbed, sexually harassed and constantly disrespected by strange men whom I don´t know and have no inclination to do so.

*** I happily found out that there is a swimming pool segregated areain my gym, besides the girl´s locker room and the training room which also is separated into mix and only female areas.I already train in the female section of the gym and now I am an“habitué” of the swimming pool where not only I can join into an intensively feminine atmosphere but I can also observe what must have been the traditional “harems” where women of all ages and nationalities gathered and lived in seclusion, sharing everything(even their own bodies), gossiping and exchanging beauty tips.

*** I am a “man´s lady”, I am. I always got along with men much better than with women and you will not find me discussing lipstick and hairdos or gossiping about another women any time soon. These typically feminine subjects are boring and empty to me so I am used to be keptout of these circles. I have always been the girl who got along and stood in the side of the boys, the stranger, the one who observes butc annot “get the point”. Strangely enough, I am perceived as very feminine by others…(“Me, feminine?! I don´t feel feminine at all…”).

*** I grab my book – one of the three books I brought to read – and take a sip of my “latté” while watching a group of girls in the swimming pool speaking about someone else´s tragic life (the absent character´s name is Mona, poor Mona…).The area is not big so we´re all very close to each other. I see some women eating by the plastic tables, others braless and exposing henna tattoos in the strangest places, others smoking and talking about respective husbands or lovers and several others by the swimming pool laughing and raiding each other´s hair.I feel shocked with the insensitive way these women seem to treat and feel their own bodies as if sensibility had been taken from their skinin order to support and survive upcoming pains. Their body is clearly a strange mass of meat which they have to control and feed in order tofit what´s expected from them. Do they know their body has a soul inside it, all around it, above and under it?!

*** As I watch this exquisite, progesterone over charged atmosphere, I cannot stop thinking about how much this resembles what I imagine a“harem” must be. The same maternal vibe and that omnipresent mixed sense of solidarity/envy between women who share a space where theyare unique, not willing to please any man or be what society expects of them. Just being themselves and not caring much for their physical or moral flaws…

*** Faithful to tradition, I am kept as an outsider/observer. I cannot discuss a pedicure ritual for half an hour nor even occupy my mind with other people´s lives. I just can´t although, for some strange reason I couldn´t understand,I felt comfortable at this warm womb built by these women´s full moon bodies and their wandering souls searching for company and mutual understanding/bonding besides getting sweet comments about my body andthe “khulkhal” I always wear around my right ankle. Receiving compliments from women has a totally different taste from the ones you get from men and they are something I am not so used to.They feel nice and sincere.

*** I have surrendered to the “harem´s” delights.

“Great shows tonight, some secrets I will not yet reveal and anew Summer Workshop in Cairo- CSA Maadi(Join us during the whole month of June!)

Cairo, the 2nd June, 2009

“Great shows tonight, some secrets I will not yet reveal and anew Summer Workshop in Cairo- CSA Maadi(Join us during the whole month of June!)

*** I am confirming, once more, that some hard times and injustice wemay suffer come to bring us better paths, news challenges and steps forward! When we think we are being victims of injustice, evilness and pain, we are actually on the way to something much better than we hadbefore, watching as the opportunity for our evolution is on our enemies hands. An official THANK YOU note for all the generous,attentive enemies who have tried to harm me until today. You´re theones who push me forward and my victories are also yours.My heart felt thank you! Did I mention how ironic life is?!

*** Breaking the sour tone of many of my last Diary pages, here we go again with good news!Tonight I had the best show crowds ever! There was a mix of egyptians– my favourite audience – arabs and foreigners and all of them were so demanding and warm that I had to rise to the occasion and bring inspiration to its fullest!The owner of the place came to check on my show, as he frequently does(is he afraid I´ll go on stage with my snickers on my head?! I mean…Iwouldn´t, would I?! And yet Dina – famous egyptian dancer - has pulletout some very similar underwear marketing stuff on stage and gained inpromotion and fame, so…).

*** At the beginning, my head was very far away from the stage (…) but the audience managed to bring me back to earth and I had a wonderful time in a very relaxed mood. No worries about doing a good job,checking on my dress and hair, make-up and all the little details that make me presentable for the stage. Just pure enjoyment and the best feed-back from the mixed nationality crowd.

*** Secrets, secrets, secrets…everybody has them, specially in Egypt.It seems that truth always gets you in troubles around here. Most people´s lives are built on lies they tell to themselves, their spouses, lovers, “friends”, co-workers. Lying is one of Egypt´s favourite activities and, may I fairly say, one of the most useful and life saving tools you can ever have! I am not a good lier, which has brought me so many troubles along theway. I should know how to be silent, pretend I don´t know anything and just listen, not saying what I think and feel all the time but that´sstill a long way to run until I reach street wise maturity skills and master the essential art of keeping my mouth shut.
As any true local, I am keeping secrets under the table and, for thefirst time in my life, I am enjoying having them. Isn´t life so colourful and multi-faceted?!


From the 8th June until the end of the same month, all Mondays andWednesdays from 12.00h till 13.30hFor more infos and subscriptions, please email me: dancemagica@gmail.com orcall me on my egyptian mobile: 002- 012 258 8817

“Great shows tonight, some secrets I will not yet reveal and anew Summer Workshop in Cairo- CSA Maadi(Join us during the whole month of June!)

Cairo, the 2nd June, 2009

“Great shows tonight, some secrets I will not yet reveal and anew Summer Workshop in Cairo- CSA Maadi(Join us during the whole month of June!)

*** I am confirming, once more, that some hard times and injustice wemay suffer come to bring us better paths, news challenges and stepsforward! When we think we are being victims of injustice, evilness andpain, we are actually on the way to something much better than we hadbefore, watching as the opportunity for our evolution is on ourenemies hands. An official THANK YOU note for all the generous,attentive enemies who have tried to harm me until today. You´re theones who push me forward and my victories are also yours.My heart felt thank you! Did I mention how ironic life is?!

*** Breaking the sour tone of many of my last Diary pages, here we goagain with good news!Tonight I had the best show crowds ever! There was a mix of egyptians– my favourite audience – arabs and foreigners and all of them were sodemanding and warm that I had to rise to the occasion and bringinspiration to its fullest!The owner of the place came to check on my show, as he frequently does(is he afraid I´ll go on stage with my snickers on my head?! I mean…Iwouldn´t, would I?! And yet Dina – famous egyptian dancer - has pulletout some very similar underwear marketing stuff on stage and gained inpromotion and fame, so…).

*** At the beginning, my head was very far away from the stage (…) butthe audience managed to bring me back to earth and I had a wonderfultime in a very relaxed mood. No worries about doing a good job,checking on my dress and hair, make-up and all the little details thatmake me presentable for the stage. Just pure enjoyment and the bestfeed-back from the mixed nationality crowd.

*** Secrets, secrets, secrets…everybody has them, specially in Egypt.It seems that truth always gets you in troubles around here. Mostpeople´s lives are built on lies they tell to themselves, theirspouses, lovers, “friends”, co-workers. Lying is one of Egypt´sfavourite activities and, may I fairly say, one of the most useful andlife saving tools you can ever have! I am not a good lier, which has brought me so many troubles along theway. I should know how to be silent, pretend I don´t know anything andjust listen, not saying what I think and feel all the time but that´sstill a long way to run until I reach street wise maturity skills andmaster the essential art of keeping my mouth shut.
As any true local, I am keeping secrets under the table and, for thefirst time in my life, I am enjoying having them. Isn´t life socolourful and multi-faceted?!

From the 8th June until the end of the same month, all Mondays andWednesdays from 12.00h till 13.30hFor more infos and subscriptions, please email me: dancemagica@gmail.com orcall me on my egyptian mobile: 002- 012 258 8817

“Children´s day in Portugal and new baby adopted…how I fell in love with a street cat of Cairo…”

Cairo, the 1st June, 2009

“Children´s day in Portugal and new baby adopted…how I fell in lovewith a street cat of Cairo…”

*** In Portugal, the 1st June celebrates Children and their rights. By coincidence – or not! – I fell in love with an abandoned baby cat which hanged around CSA institute. It had a broken paw, a lovely strong look expression in her eyes and it kissed my hands as if there was no tomorrow when I touched her for the first time.I don´t remember to even notice her colour and general looks. All Isaw was her soul and immense sweetness and I fell helplessly in lovewith her. It´s true that real beauty is the one that comes from within. This divine creature is a proof of it.It may sound corny and exaggerated but I left the cat lounging on a garden chair in CSA and went to my class with tears in my eyes. Assoon as I finished the class, I searched for my new passion and foundher with a lady from ESMA (Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals) who asked me if I wanted to keep her.

*** Oh, temptation…temptation…as an animal lover, I cannot understandmy fellow human beings which are unable to see the incredible beauty,magic and wisdom of animals. In Egypt, there is sympathy for cats buta weird aversion and even terror to dogs and all other kinds of animals.

*** My only problem was my constant travelling and the problem of not being able able to go on an airplane with two cats (I already have mycat, the Queen, Sweetie!). The lady – seeing temptation in my eyes… -assured me that she would keep the baby cat every time I travelled.So…no excuse not to adopt an orphan with a broken paw and a beautiful gaze.

*** After going to the doctor – most egyptians laugh very hard whenthey hear I took a street cat to the doctor! – and taking her home(provoking a predictable jealousy crisis from my Sweetie), I realized that she had been rescued and taken to a place where she will be treated with care, attention and love and yet I was the great RECEIVER in the equation. I brought an angel – one more – to my home and a blessing. This became clear to me in a recent, sunrise time dream.This is not charity or an act of kindness to adopt an animal from the street. More than all that apparent truth, I can see clearly that thiscat has been offered to me as a gift.A blessing. A new light into my home and my life.

*** Sweetie – my other cat - is going nuts with jealously and looks atme as a cheated husband might look at his wife as if saying, between her teeth and with her fists held in strong tension: “You traitor! You have the nerve to kiss me and bring the smell of your new love on your hands…have you no shame on your face?!”

*** Searching for a new name for the adopted baby. Any suggestions?!

*** If you´re generous and feel like helping to take animals from thestreet and avoid their massive killing – as it often happens in Cairo– please be kind to contact ESMA (Egyptian Society for Mercy toAnimals) –Mona Khalil : +20122188823 / mona@esmaegypt.orghttp://www.esmaegypt.org/There are many ways to help:ADOPT – SPONSOR – DONATE – FOSTER – VOLUNTEER

“ Two interviews on YouTube and new MUST READ books”

Cairo, the 31st May, 2009

“ Two interviews on YouTube and new MUST READ books”

*** If you are not an alien recently visiting planet earth or some bearded, eccentric person living in an isolated cave somewhere indesert of Arabia, you must have noticed, by now, that YouTube isbecoming a big thing in the world!Stars have been made and destroyed by it and political campaigns havealso been braided and succeeded through it and yet it is still new tome (“Yes, I am a kind of an alien although I have no beard and no plans to move to any cave, not yet!…”).

Check both interviews on YouTube following these liks:



***Trying to keep up with the times – just a bit, though…- I am happy to inform my students and fans that two of my most recent television interviews are on line and you can ckeck them on the supra cited YouTube just by searching :Joana Saahirah of Cairo interview. Those were made in Portugal during my last visit to my country and are, obviously, spoken in Portuguese but you can still get a glimpseof Hosny Watatak – whom I took with me to Portugal for seminars andshows – and me doing a bit of one of our tabla solos. No musical background, no support, just me and him and all our craziness (I canfairly say that’s a lot to go for us!).

*** Promise to upload some GOOD dance videos really, really soon. I´ll keep you all posted!

*** MUST READS (arabic world):

1. Friendly Fire, Alla Al Aswany (author of Chicago and The YacoubianBuilding ) . This was yet his best book, as far as I am concerned.Egypt is seen with crude, even cruel eyes but there´s a lot of truth in it and a veiled love for Egypt. Only the ones who really care about this country have the courage to denunciate its flaws and, by doing so, hopefully change a bit of reality. The writing is also more human,even dark but in a tender, always realistic way. My favourite!

2. The Voice of Egypt , Virginia Danielson.Being a self confessed crazy fan of Om Kolthoum, this book is an obvious pick for me as it speaks about…you guessed!... Om Kolthoum!It´s a study tracing the diva´s life and all kinds of impacts her work and persona had on Egypt and all the Arab World. Not a genius kind ofwork but, for sure, a MUST READ if you´re a musician or a dancer in the Middle East.

3. Samarkand, Amin Maalouf (Lebanese writer).I am still reading this book which was recommended to me by a friendbut, so far, I am loving it. It´s the story of the famous poet, sage and philosopher Omar Khayam traced back to a time when knowing and speaking up the truth was a death crime (we´re not so distant from that, are we?!). Loving poetry and philosophy as I do, this was also a clear YES to me!

4. Muhamad, Prophet for our time, Karen Armstrong
For someone critic and higly suspecting of the way most muslims live their own religion in the Middle East, I have to admit that this book let me fascinated and much more informed about this man's life and character. Knowing about everything that's distant and incomprehensible to you is not letting go of your own convictions and ideas but a truly humble exercize of learning and enriching yourself.

5. Popular Culture in the Arab World, Hammond
This book is an essential must read to anyone who lives or feels interest in the Middle Eastern culture and the way things got to be the way they currently are (chaotic!).
Reading reliable, good books about my own reality helps me to understand most of what I live (frequently crazy, nonsense stuff I try to understand with no avail...)

“Gynaecologist visit …or should I say: I want to reborn as a man in my next encarnation!”

Cairo, the 30th May, 2009

“Gynaecologist visit …or should I say: I want to reborn as a man in my next encarnation!”

*** All of us have our own admitted – or not – phobias and strange habits we keep from our fellow human palls. Some people eat boogerswhile waiting for a green light in the middle of a traffic jam, othersfear passing through tunnels and stuff themselves with chocolates while watching romantic movies. The variety of phobias and weirdhabits is as colourful as human beings themselves.

*** I don´t have a lot of fears, thanks God. I am praised for my wellknown absence of fear – thanks God for his omnipresent protective hand on me – and courage.But I have a phobia that I presume most mentally sane women share:going to the gynaecologist, specially if he´s a man. Am I being silly and backwards?! Is it only me or I´m not alone in my aversion to beingnaked with wide open legs showing my most private parts to a perfect stranger?! The fact that he´s a DOCTOR doesn´t seem to erase the otherobvious fact that he´s also a man with a libido, testosterone, desires and a very unreasonable motive to have become a doctor specialized on women´s inside businesses. I know I sound like my grandma and all I am saying sounds like pure nonsense but it´s what I feel. Maybe I am theproduct of some veiled catholic education too prude and body shameoriented to even understand that any man would have a natural fascination for women´s vaginas and uterus. Well…I quit. I just don´t get the point.

*** I have my own doctor in Portugal to whom I have made very clear how much I hate him, his white office with the huge “opening legs”chair and some tools that already give you a preview of what will happen during the torture session…sorry! …I mean, medical consultation.I have nightmares before any consultation, I pray that a small hurricane invades my road on the way to the doctor clinic and I am,unfortunately, stopped from attending my booked visit, any 5 minutes delay on the doctor´s side is reason enough for me to declare national strike on the spot against doctor´s lack of professionalism and…leave!LEAVE, LEAVE, LEAVE…running for my life.When I manage to arrive and get inside of the doctor´s consultation room, I spread my disgust at being there, I complain, I renew my hate declarations and faint 90% of the times. Groovy.

*** I declare I have a phobia related to gynaecologist visits. MyPortuguese doctor – who knows me for about ten eight years – will do anything to entertain me and has a gallant , patient way of receiving my attacks to the whole male gynaecologic community.. He will talk about anything, sing along with me while I´m sweating like a fountain, joke around, thank me for my usual hate declarations and also thank my mum for forcing me to come to the clinic.

*** Now what would happen if I had to visit a gynaecologist in Cairo?!Well, it was not the first visit to one of these medieval torture rooms. I had searched for a woman in this job but the best references kept going towards men in the speciality (why is that?!) and, somehow,I ended up at the clinic of a well recommended and respected gynaecologist in Mohandesin.The last thing I need in a gynaecologist is a clone of an egyptian Don Juan.Really, I don´t need it. The combination: EGYPTIAN + GYNAECOLOGISTWHO´LL CHECK YOUR NIPPLES AND VAGINA WITHIN SECONDS + DON JUAN ONATTACK is lethal and a total deal breaker for me.

*** I know how most egyptian and arab men are raised and how they see women´s bodies covered in tabus, repression and shame. The fact that someone who sees women´s bodies as the devil´s temptation is a gynaecologist is just not something I can easily forget and pass on without feeling uncomfortable, specially if the doctor himself has mixed feelings about my specific body and shows some romantic “so out of context” interest while he asks me to open my legs wider and get naked.

*** No singing to make me relax ( Hakim could give a nice touch to the traumatic event), no nice words of understanding towards my hateful remarks and fearful expression. Just loving, confusing glances that Icould not exactly understand and a dry approach to the whole naked subject.“Get undressed, please.”“O.k. do I have any cloth to cover myself? A towel? Anything?!”“No. Just undress and sit on the chair. We have to check your breasts first.”“O.k! (I am thinking: Ah...what a relief! He just wants to check my breasts while I am seated naked on this comfy white chair…it´s not that bad, after all…)

*** He´s writing something that seems very important on a piece of paper while I observe him, raw and naked, from the dramatic white leather chair. He has a “praying” mark on his forehead. This is a mark many egyptians get from constant praying and pious stroking while bending and touching the floor with their foreheads in religious rituals practiced – as tradition demands – five times a day. This is,usually, considered a sign of purity and religious fervour so in favour these days. For me, it´s a twisted detail that informs me that, most probably, this well recommended doctor is one of the many hypocrites praying 24 hours per day and moving on with their days lying, cheating and harming other people in many ways.I hope I´m wrong.
Having in consideration the “Don Juan” vibe floating in the room andsome displaced compliments on his part – not recommendable in a doctor who´s seeing you naked – the last thing I needed to be aware of wouldbe the “praying mark”, prelude of so many assets I am not fond of.

*** Running away. Is that an option?!

*** He finally sits in from of me and observes my breasts. Then he pinches my nipples and asks me the regular questions of breast monthly checking (the breast cancer prevention is becoming a BIG, URGENT ISSUE for most doctors) while I try not to throw up or just faint with the feeling of privacy invasion and extremely uncomfortable vulnerability with a total stranger who just commented how well shaped is my body(What do you mean, dear doctor?!) while testing my nipples with his bare hands.“ Don´t be so nervous. It´s natural to do this breast checking. Wehave to.” – He tries to calm me down, with no success.I am thinking: “No. It´s not natural that I am naked in front of a perfect stranger who happens to be a doctor but is also squeezing my nipples searching for mysterious milk or other weird substances. It´sonly natural to feel unatural in this situation, dear doctor.”

*** When it got to the “open legs” operation I was ready to fly from there so quickly that I don´t think the doctor even saw me leaving.The perspective of wide opening my legs to this pious Don Juan wasjust too much for me to take.Yes, I was childish, perhaps. I was, surely and according to my own tradition, impulsive. But I just couldn´t do it.Super Man in one of his rescue flights would seem like a wheel chairold grandpa during a Sunday treap to the super market. I must havegrown wings under my naked arms because I don´t think I saw myself leaving. No one must have seen me leaving…that´s how fast I was.

*** Later on, retelling the story to my friends, I realized I probably surrendered to my own fears and prejudices way too fast. Yes, the doctor was flirtatious and dry. Most egyptian men are like that. Yes,he had the scary praying mark on his forehead but that doesn´t meanhe´s a bad person or one of the hypocrites prevailing in dutiful religious masses. Yes, he was pinching my nipples and taking his time way toooooo long in the process but that might as well been his job.Yes, I was probably wrong but…great news! I am not perfect. Sometimes, I am as shy, ignorant, and moralist as any medieval monk.

*** Does anyone know a good (female) gynaecologist working in Cairo?!