Sunday, September 30, 2012

Joana Saahirah of Cairo at Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival



A souvenir from my show at the Closing Gala of Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo.
A little bit of an extensive show where there was "baladi", "shaaby", saiidi and the essential and omnipresent madness of passionate CREATION between me and my musicians.
Enjoy...

Autumn leaves on my garden.

It´s a brand NEW and EXCITING phase for me:

*Preparing several tours for this Fall and projects for the AMAZING 2013!

*Finishing the editing of my BOOK (which is ending up to be a TWO VOLUMES goodie that promises to break many walls and cause its share of polemic simply by telling the bare TRUTH about a lot of dust that was - until now - kept under many carpets of hypocrisy and ignorance;

*Choreographing new peaces to teach (in Spain, Russia, England, Ireland, Israel and more...);

*Redefining myself and my priorities in LIFE: after 7 years of performing in Egypt with my own orchestra and as the owner of my own body, mind and soul TIME has arrived to take all I LEARNT - or just remembered...- to the whole WORLD. This is my Mission in Life: as I always knew it was. 
LIVING is- after all- fulfilling that MISSION and BEING HAPPY while doing it.
Amen.

P.S. New Love and Passions on the way too. 


Unexpected meetings of Love:

Meeting high quality people in the Oriental Dance environment in Cairo is not a common thing. Envy, low level competition, dancers and mad men (with whom I refused to sleep aroung) and other "silent" enemies are sharks that infest this openly mined and dark sea.
By knowing that, it´s only natural that I cherish every single exception and person I meet with whom I can connect both artistically and HUMANLY with an open, clean heart.
Here are some images of some of these exceptions: blessed ones.


Me and a black kitten- Hussein, Cairo.


Me, Evelina, the wonderful Dandash and Jacy.

Me and Evelina - beautiful person (what a joy to meet you!).

Me, Evelina, Ali Sherif and Jacy - Cairo.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Joana Saahirah of Cairo on television show


For the road...a documentary filmed by the portuguese television with me, here in Cairo. Enjoy!

Any info or question about my upcoming EVENTS should be directed to my Official Fan Page (on Facebook) or to my email: dancemagica@gmail.com

Agenda: taking the SOUL* of Oriental Dance to the World*!

(Image montage by Monir Mahmoud)




Another period of Blog writing absence is arriving (sorry, dear followers!) due to the busy time I´m already having on my hands (too much to do in too little time). 
Here´s, in a resume, what will happen from this next month:

1. Finalizing my BOOK´s editing phase (two volumes of pure GOODIES that will enchant and shock the world: from the moment I came to Egypt to start my career until the (almost) Egyptian Revolution of 2011. True stories, true feelings and my soul translated in words. 


2. Preparing upcoming EVENTS in:

*PORTUGAL (Lisbon, the 13th October);* SPAIN (Barcelona, the 2-3-4th November); *PORTUGAL (17,18th November); *RUSSIA (24,25th November);*ENGLAND(6,7,8th December);*IRELAND ( 14,15th December); Eilat (16-19th January, 2013)

 and MORE to announce...:)))))*


MISSION: BRING BACK THE SOUL OF ORIENTAL DANCE TO THE WORLD!



Politics and Dance in Egypt.


For me, living and performing in Egypt for the last years has always been about ART, DISCOVERIES, STRUGGLES, VICTORIES, SHOCKS and POLITICS. It was never possible to separate my Dance Work from the context I´ve been living in.

Unless you are a cave resident/owner - only coming out to gather food and greet the sun for five minutes a day - it becomes impossible to be indifferent to this environment as it affects you directly on so many levels.
Now- more than ever - POLITICS are on the hot stop and DANCE has to mingle with it:
 no way out of this connection.

Daily life, political events, stage, dance, human connections: ALL are intimately related.


While I performed at a Cairo private party with my orchestra - a few nights ago - I could not help but notice how the current political state of Egypt affects everybody - their thoughts and their daily behavior - including egyptian musicians and audiences. 

My men - musicians - were not their usual selves and were talking, for the first time, about quitting the job/art some of them have for decades. They were exhausted, desperate and deeply sad.  If they were not respected as artists and human beings before, now they are totally put in a corner as the lowest garbage of egyptian society. As religious extremism was growing, I predicted THIS would happen; I just didn´t think it would happen so soon.


The audiences themselves - the ones I could use as a faithful barometer of my Dance, Feeling and Talent - seemed distant, almost afraid to enjoy my show and they surely made a point of making me feel a MARGINAL when, after the performance, I gathered with them in a garden for dinner. Shaking my hands and speaking with me as a normal person to another became a rare event.

Furthermore...

A couple of days ago, an horrible video produced in the United States trashing the Prophet Mohamed stirred newly brewed hate in Lybia and Egypt and caused the death of the Libyan embassador as well as other embassy´s employees. 
Yesterday and today in the afternoon, I  passed by the demonstrations against the American Embassy in Garden City (Cairo) and felt the hate, fear and WAR in the air (hope my perceptions were totally wrong). Of course I think whoever created this awful video is part of an evil plan to DIVIDE people and launch them into a RELIGIOUS WAR, one more in the long History of disasters and cruelties caused in the name of God.

Instead of UNITING for a TRUE REVOLUTION where we can all leave in peace as equals, where we have DEMOCRACIES and GOVERNMENTS that serve the people ( not themselves and their pals!), there´s an OBVIOUS plan to SEPARATE people and turn them against each other - THIS WILL BE THE ONLY WAY TO WEAKEN THEM SO THAT NO TRUE POSITIVE CHANGE TAKES PLACE  in the Middle East and in the World.

I wish more and more of us NOTICED this plan and boycotted it with a peaceful yet FIRM *heart towards the LIFE we all deserve for each other. We are HUMAN brothers and sisters and we can only be divided, if we allow it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Joana Saahirah of Cairo in Russia, this November!


Thrilled to be part of this event organized with so much LOVE: in Russia!

Performing, teaching and judging in competitions; sharing ALL my experience, passion and knowledge of Oriental Dance Magic* with many talented dancers...
honored and happy to do so.


For more infos about the event, please follow the link:

And so it happens when you least expect it:

Yep!

"You´re my sister": be afraid; be VERY afraid.




  1. Wondering: why do so many egyptian guys use the term "you are like a sister to me" while trying to get into your pants (or skirst/dress)?! Associating a sister with sex is something that would never cross my mind. Would you want to get into...
    your sister´s pants?! I mean...this is beyond creepy and incest-like freakish. Then again: if Sigmund Freud was alive and lived in Egypt today, he would go BANANAS just by trying to understand the i-logical behaviors and thoughts of people.

    When I hear these dreaded words "You´re my sister..." from any egyptian/arab guy, I simply RUN AWAY and think to myself : 
    FREAK in the territory

    Yep, life is WEIRD by this side of the Nile.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Contemporary Dance at AUC (American University of Cairo)

"You were - once - wild. Don´t let them tame you."

Isadora Duncan


It was interesting to see and FEEL a series Contemporary Dance (Theatrical exercises) at the Theater of the American University in Cairo. Drinking from different forms of Art always INSPIRES me for my ORIENTAL DANCE work.
It´s a long history of RULE breaking and exploring further horizons. Isadora Duncan -considered the Mother of Modern Dance - started it all by rejecting the limitations (physical, technical, artistic, human, etc) of Classical Ballet and it´s not surprising that she RESCUED greek dance to create a NEW - I call it ETERNAL - language that went against the formality, rigidity and anti-natura standards of Classical Ballet.

Even less surprising is knowing that Greek Dance was highly influenced by Oriental Dance (Egypt and neighbor countries) and that, if we dig enough and in an intelligent way, we may deduce Oriental Dance is the Mother of ALL DANCES. Now...I know...lots of criticism will come from this statement but here we go(!); I´m used to it. 

I watched this set of performances before yesterday, among an atypical crowd that - I guess- didn´t know what they were seeing. I went, specifically, to see my dear friend Yasmine Kamel and support her with my presence but enjoyed the experience in itself for the sake of the old and new ideas that were presented.

Once more, I saw theater and dance holding hands as they are- in fact - brother and sister. Theater is the boy and Dance is the girl: Apollo and Dionysus, in my opinion (although theater has been associated with Dionysus since its origin). Communicating with ORAL VERBAL LANGUAGE - theater - and without words - dance. 
What I loved the most was the COURAGE to try territories that are misunderstood by 99% of the audiences, may them be egyptian or any other. Contemporary Dance-Theater is not an easy cookie to crack  and, certainly, not for the masses (at least, not yet) but it´s a row of OPEN DOORS and WINDOWS that I truly appreciate as an Artist and a Person.

Also enjoyed CONFIRMING the reality: DANCE is LIFE and vice-versa. The movement vocabulary performers used in this show were a rescue of daily, organic movements all of us do from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. The notion that DANCE is ONLY a limited, formated set of movements one learns is reduced to ashes once you understand the ORIGIN of each movement. When you walk, you are DANCING. When you sit, you are DANCING. When you make love, you are - for sure - DANCING. From the instant you move, you are POTENTIALLY DANCING. LIFE is DANCE; MOVEMENT is DANCE; FREEDOM is DANCE; SOUL and BODY are DANCE. And so on...

Once DANCE is considered forbidden and sinful, LIFE itself becomes forbidden and sinful (and I wonder: how stupid is that?!).

Wishing to see more of this COURAGE. Here in Egypt; everywhere. 


And that´s what I´m talking about:


  1. "Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children."
    ~Kahlil Gibran
    Via: Tamalyn Dallal 

Sweet states of mind (essential tools for LIFE).



Friday, September 7, 2012

The other side of the coin: Why I LOVE Egypt.

It is a very complex question but I´ll try to answer it.
 Fellow dancers, journalists and critics often asked me "if there are so many bad things in Egypt, then why you went there and insist on living and performing there?
 - What´s there to LOVE, so?!"

The answer can be divided in two different parts:
1. Why I came here in the first place?
2. Why, after seeing and living so many negative things, I remained here and pursued my dancing career in Cairo when I could have gone anywhere else?
***

Briefly put:
1. I came here, in the first place, because I wanted to LEARN egyptian oriental and folkloric dance from a DEEP, ORIGINAL ROOT and from the point of view of egyptians, its supposed creators;

I also had the desire to write a BOOK about the REAL Oriental Dance and what it means to be a DANCER in Egypt from a direct experience and not based on the theory of others;

Finally - and the most difficult to understand for skeptics - I was called to come here and cross a long, challenging DESERT in order to RESCUE a past (my own past and the Dance´s past, both interconnected) and be able to RECREATE it and SHARE it with the WORLD.

I KNEW that I had to come here all by myself and GROW as a person/dancer, drinking from the roots (pure water and poisoned water included), understanding the BIG picture, knowing my craft as deeply as possible.

I thought I would stay only for one year, maximum two; then LIFE took over and my plans went berserk (for the better and the worst).


2. Why I remained here after I saw and dealt with ALL the negative things that surround the daily LIFE and DANCE career of a dancer in Cairo?

The answer is also complex and has many sides:

I am a challenge person, first of all. I do not turn my back on a DREAM when things get rough (and, believe me, they have gotten as rough as they get!);

I felt I had a lot to learn - from the good and the bad - and that the ROOTS of this Dance were still here, even if almost forgotten by egyptians. 
After I struggled against unfair laws, ex-boyfriends who hated my work and tried to stop me from doing it, sexual harassment from all men in the business and finally got 
 an HONEST opportunity to perform with my own orchestra over here, I started to taste the adrenaline of SUCCESS and SOUL RECOGNITION from egyptian audiences (the BEST in the world, in my opinion). The addiction to this adrenaline kept me going and growing like a maniac in love;

I saw how much I learnt from my own musicians and how many wonderful pearls they gave me on a daily basis;

The interaction between me, my musicians and our egyptian audiences is - by far - the BIGGEST PLEASURE and JOY I´ve experienced in my LIFE so those moments on stage COMPENSATED for all the shocks, disappointments, sadness and hard realities that surround me. 

I also noticed how much I could learn from WHAT I DIDN´T UNDERSTAND (at least, for a while). Mentality, the so called "religion" , cruelty and lack of Humanity disguised as "traditions" and so forth. The constant SHOCK between my VALUES and the values of the ones around me revealed itself as a GROWTH tool that I cherished, no matter how hard it can be.

Then you have to understand that Egypt is a country of CONTRASTS and Cairo is, in particular, a jungle a part from the rest of the country. People come here to struggle, achieve or just survive - in most cases. 
The corruption, oppression and many other difficult conditions we all have heard about have taken away the HEART and SOUL of people so it´s not THAT surprising that their thoughts and behaviors reflect it.

I´ve always seen it as a COMPENSATION matter because I am TOTALLY in LOVE with ORIENTAL DANCE. Only a true LOVER of this Dance could face so many obstacles and keep going like a warrior defending her own heart*.
Oriental Dance is not a hobby or an ego trip for me. It´s my soul, my work, religion,  love of my life, mission, path, EVERYTHING. I could be whatever I wish and still I remain faithful to my biggest Love.

Somehow, the learning processes, the well earned success with egyptian audiences (who still carry the genetic code that CREATED this Art long, long ago...), the absolute JOY of being on stage with my musicians COMPENSATED for all the negative stuff.

If it wasn´t for my CAREER, I would not live here (that is true) because I don´t identify myself with the current life style, laws and mentality. 
Even though, there are subtle - yet miraculous - QUALITIES I do recognize in this country. If you are a constant reader of my blogs, you must have read about the sunny side of this particular street, that´s for sure.


Here we go for a joyful ride:

*You find individuals - rare but precious - of EXTREME generosity and with a heart of gold. They are almost invisible in the middle of all the dirt but, if you open your EYES*, then you will find them. 

*Talent and creativity is EVERYWHERE, as well as BEAUTY. No other country in the world - as far as I know - has this amount of creative and talented people in so many areas.

*Sense of humor. Egyptians have it BIG time and that assures you a smile everywhere you may go.

* The History of the country, of course. If you dig into Faraonic Egypt, you discover one of the most fascinating and rich cultures of all times. 

*The Nile; still magical, after all this time and pollution.

*Om Kolthoum, of course. Simply, the BEST singer of all times (in my opinion); no further comments on this one.

*Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize of Literature) and his sarcastic, poetic, genius observation of the Old Cairo and the whole complexity of egyptian mind and heart.

* The way egyptians receive you at their homes (offering you the best they have with full generosity).

* Hatchepsut temple, in Luxor  and the island of Philae (my two favorite places in Egypt).

*Fellucas with wide wings, floating on an egyptian sunset.

*Magic everywhere (even in demons).

***

Most of all, you have to understand that LOVING a place (or person, subject,etc) does NOT mean you don´t see the negative in it.
 I LOVE EGYPT simply because it´s part of me, my body and my soul. I always say - and will always do - that I am divided in two parts (one portuguese, the other egyptian). It is so, no matter how deep is the valley I see in front of my eyes or how dark are the current times in this country. 

You cannot explain LOVE, after all. You never will (neither Egypt).

Setting the record straight: criticism towards Egypt.

The subject of the CRITICISM to the current situation of Egypt seems to be hotter than ever.
 More and more women - not only dancers - started to SPEAK UP about all the issues that they used to keep for themselves in the past. It´s not that the situation has only gotten worse but many mouths - finally! - started to be opened and the predictable voices against it did not take a long time to arise.
A lot of egyptians who already live outside of Egypt (and did ALL they could in order to do so) or weak "macho men" who truly believe women are assets they buy and keep for themselves as domestic, sexual and procreative objects yell from their corners: 
SHUT UP or LEAVE EGYPT; 
IF YOU DON´T LOVE IT, LEAVE IT.

I usually do not receive a lot of OPEN criticism because the ones who do it just KNOW that I know too much (therefore I am aware of their glass ceilings and all the dirty laundry of Cairo dance scene) and, deep inside, they also are aware that their critics are not fair. 

After I received a private message from one of these characters - who happened to marry a foreigner in order to get him a way out of Egypt - I HAD TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. 
He mentioned how "Egypt gave me everything (fame, money, success!) and that I should just shut my mouth" and do not criticize it or refer the bad - TRUE - things that are happening here. 
Now...he messed with the WRONG person. No one could and can EVER tell me to SHUT UP, specially when I´m saying the TRUTH.


*Just for the record: 

Fame is a result of six years of non-stop struggle and deliverance of my BEST on stage (dance and life mixed into one single treasure), here in Egypt and all over the world where I´ve been invited to teach and perform. 
I have no marketing or mafia machine on my back promoting me and the only help I get is from audiences and students that love my work and some dancers who also happen to be my friends and believe in my work.
 I ´ve been performing in Egypt for the last years of my life without a manager, a pimp, a rich or well connected husband and ALL the odds against me. Still: I earned fame from the WONDERFUL audiences that built my name in this market and gave it credibility as an ARTIST.

Money was not of the perks (no honest dancer who ONLY lives from her dance work gets rich in Egypt; the ones who do can only get it through prostitution and/or marriages to highly influential and rich men). In fact, I lost money from thefts I was a victim of, I paied 4 times more taxes than egyptian dancers and I invested all I earned in my own shows and better musicians so no BONUS- AT ALL - on this issue; 

Success was also something that I EARNED with my talent, hard work, personal sacrifices and PASSION to the Art of Oriental Dance (art that their minds consider a simple piece of garbage and "haram"- forbidden by God). 
It was NOT given to me (more details about it will be FULLY shown in my BOOK).

I´ve performed in Egypt for 6 years - non stop - all my myself (no managers, empresarios, any kind of aid and MANY enemies, envies and obstacles on the way trying to cut my legs because it would be easier to simply eliminate me). I could NEVER do it  without intelligence, talent and some herculean strenght! Attributing my achievements ONLY to Egypt is unfair, untrue and even ridiculous (and only the ones who know about the TRUTH of the Cairo dance scene can grasp this FACT). 


Now I can tell you WHAT Egypt gave me, INDEED (see you on my next post).



Thursday, September 6, 2012

To "Mirror" or not to "mirror": that´s the question."

"To be or not to be
is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare´s iconic play "Hamlet".


Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare, for the quote inspiration that serves the title of this post.
I called it "to mirror or not to mirror": that´s the question a lovely dancer and person (Jadranka from Trentino, South Tyrol) launched. Here´s what she wrote:

"What do you think, is the mirror an enemy or a friend of a dancer when she/he is practicing or teaching other people? Does it take us nearer or farer from ourselves?"

And here´s my answer:

This question, as many others in Oriental Dance, is not plain or obvious and the answer depends a lot on the level of dancer/teacher/artist/student and WHAT she is SEARCHING FOR in this dance.

 The mirror can be a friend and an enemy, just like the MIND. It depends on how you use it, for WHAT and WHEN. I personally teach with and without mirror, depending on the level and subject I am working on.

I found out that, specially in a beginner´s level, it´s better NOT to use a mirror as students tend to focus on their body faults (imaginary, mostly!) and the way they look, not so much on the way they FEEL when they move. They also tend to copy the teacher´s movements, expressions and details in a superficial way when there is a mirror involved, instead of REALLY UNDERSTANDING the structure and anatomy of each movement from WITHIN. Here comes the METHOD of each teacher. Most of them - specially egyptians- will not know how to dismantle each movement and teach them to you; they will only execute them and expect you to follow without a COMPREHENSION of what you´re doing. 

Even in this subject, I apply different methods, according to WHAT I wish to develop.
Sometimes, I will improvise on the technique and subject I´m working with the students and ask them to follow me, knowing they will not do it perfectly but aiming at SPECIFIC goals (eg.: being forced to let go of their mental control and just follow me and the music; working on physical mobility based on isolations and quick, unexpected changes from one movement to the other, etc). 
But, although I use this "follow me" exercises every now and then, I ALWAYS DISMANTLE the TECHNIQUE and MAKE STUDENTS UNDERSTAND IT (as well as how they FIT into their bodies) in a way that they become autonomous, they don´t need to see me in front of them to execute the movements and - most specially - in a way that ALLOWS THEM TO INCORPORATE ORIENTAL DANCE MOVEMENTS AS THEIR OWN BODY EXPRESSION LANGUAGE AND NOT SOMETHING EXTERIOR TO THEM THEY SEE REFLECTED IN A MIRROR OR TEACHER (mirror and teacher are practically the same, be aware of this!).


So, yes, I usually spend a long time working on BASIC technique without a mirror as well as IMPROVISATION exercises where the mirror is an obstacle that feeds VANITY and INSECURITIES, not CREATIVITY  and FREEDOM of LOVING SELF-EXPRESSION (which is my goal).

But, once we advance to higher dance levels or work on choreographies of any level, then the mirror is essential to correct, improve, develop a HEALTHY, OBJECTIVE and CREATIVE sense of self-criticism that is necessary to grow as a Dancer.

In Oriental Dance, we need REASON/MIND and HEART; we need BODY and SOUL; we need LOGICAL THINKING and PURE INTUITION; we need APOLLO and DIONYSUS. We also need PERSONAL MATURITY in order to use our tools in the best possible way. Insecure dancers may use the mirror in a very limiting way (vanity purposes); mature dancers will know when it is USEFUL and when it is not. 

Basically, the mirror is great for choreography work, advanced technique self-correction, visual memory training, notion of how each movement looks from the point of view of an audience (as the visual part of the Dance is important and a tool of expression we should not disregard); it is a TECHNIQUE improvement tool, not more than that.
But the INNER understanding and fitting of the movements, the feeling, the improvisational skills and the ability to LET GO and JUST LIVE the MUSIC through your body (after you´ve done ALL the HARD TECHNICAL WORK and therefore, you can forget about it for a while...) are precious skills for which the mirror has no use.

Teachers of Oriental Dance should be educated in much more than JUST Oriental Dance in order to teach it properly: the way they use the mirror is a very good indication of their own talent, knowledge and ability to teach.

My Teaching Method is an uncommon mix between my wide dance background education (classical ballet Conservatoire from the age of 5 years old, african dances, flamenco, etc) as well as my education as an Actress (PHD in Acting by the National Conservatoire of Portugal), my professional and personal experience of performing in Egypt for the last six years of my life and - allas!- the union between the ROOTS of Oriental Dance and the BEST PART of its mentality and my european mind which always questions and aims for GROWTH. 

So all I´m mentioning about the mirror is a result of my own particular teaching method, personality, education and GOALS. The clone machine I see in most places does not interest me. When I teach, I wish to see UNIQUE HUMAN  BEINGS expressing themselves and learning how to use their selves (body, mind, heart and soul) for creating ART and a truer, happier LIFE for themselves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Character.


What I discovered: Oriental Dance is...

Movements - just like words - are nothing but emptiness if they´re not filled with REAL LIFE and REAL FEELINGS. 
Dance is a LANGUAGE without spoken words; it´s the Soul talking louder than a million trumpets on a king´s coronation day. 

First you learn the A-B-C, then simple words; after mastering the basic letters and words, you coordinate more complex words with others and start to build phrases; the complexity of the phrases will grow with time, experience, TALENT, hard and continuous work in which PASSION, HUMBLENESS and CURIOSITY MUST always reside. From one stage of complexity to anothers, higher and endless...

You learn the RULES properly (and holistically) so that you can, later on, BREAK THEM, flourishing without cutting the roots that represent the Dance´s original IDENTITY. 

Some dancers are prone to fall on the technical side of the matter ( lacking feeling, expression, creative surprises, SOUL); other dancers decide that technique is not that important and trust only their intuition and feeling (lacking vocabulary and falling in the common monotony of the same movements repeated until exhaustion). 

Finding the middle path and conjugation between REASON and HEART is the key.

Trying to communicate - speaking, writing, dancing, etc - without technique is like throwing confusing, impossible to understand messages throughout the air; limiting yourself to the technique - and not going beyond it - is expressing yourself in a poor way that does not make justice to the UNIQUE PERSON/DANCER you are.


Oriental Dance - aka belly dance - is a plain "ass shaking" business, they say...
SURE IT IS (never contradict stupid and crazy people).:)))

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From (to!) Russia, with Love...


It´s with my warmest joy and pleasure that I announce my upcoming professional trip  to Russia, for the first time! Workshops and performance of genuine egyptian dance on the way...

Very happy to share my Dance and Love* with some more incredible dancers - expanding the SOUL of Oriental Dance and  creating stars from the roots that connect us all.

More details about this and other upcoming events will follow soon (this November: Spain, Portugal, Russia, England and more).

SALAMAT MASR FESTIVAL in Cairo.

Some great moments of the last SALAMAT MASR FESTIVAL here in Cairo.
Upstairs ;)  you can see me judging on the Professional Dancer´s Competition, sided by perfect gentlemen who also happen to be Artists with respected names of themselves (love, in particular, the sweet, creative and passionate Prof. Doctor Hassan Khalil).
Such an honor - and responsability - to choose from so many TALENTED dancers and what a thrill to see Oriental Dance has a future in our hands.
Bellow you can see me with my dear friend and brother, Mohamed el Sayed ("te quiero, hermanito!").
LOVE - L-O-V-E - my job.:)

The dragon´s tail.


I´ve been often criticized (generally on my back by people who don´t know me) for my personal life "supposed" reality and for speaking up about alarming subjects no one dares to touch. The criticism regarding the current situation in Egypt (regarding politics, security, mentality, etc) has seen its doors opened like never before, though. You start to hear the voice of another dancers and women who used to remain silent, until now.

After living and performing in Egypt for almost seven years, I thought I was the one who got fed up and exhausted from the daily fight against the so called traditions that targeted me as a MARGINAL (or even criminal) for fitting into the dangerous places of a WOMAN, a FOREIGNER, a FREE PERSON and a DANCER.

I found out I am not the only one who has noticed that things have gotten completely out of hand in this country; unfortunately. For all those - egyptians and foreigners - who criticize me for SAYING WHAT I SEE AROUND ME I only have a simple message to deliver:

LOVING EGYPT does not mean pretending everything is great and there are no injustices and dark things to be changed. It´s exactly this attitude (pretending everything is great and hiding the garbage under the carpet) that allowed Egypt to go down the toilet until the current point of desperation. Speaking about unpleasant but TRUE facts we wish to see changed doesn´t mean I don´t love this country which has been my home, the starting point of my career and Great School for the last years; it means I care enough to see the bad things and still feel there´s something we can do to correct them, 
starting with SPEAKING UP.

I´ve also heard the limited - and limiting - phrase: "If you don´t love it, leave it." 
That is extremely simplistic and unfair, mostly because it comes from egyptians who have - indeed- left their country for greener fields of grass in foreign countries.
 If it´s so perfect, then I ask myself - and them -why do they dream about leaving it and reach the point of marrying foreigner women they don´t love (aka prostituting themselves) in order to get a foreigner visa and/nationality?! 
 Sure they say Egypt is the best country in the world when they have done all they could to remain far from it and live in comfort and privileges (they would never enjoy over here) on far away lands. 

I recognize all the POSITIVE things I´ve got from my LIFE-PROFESSIONAL experience in Egypt. Nothing was given to me (no favors, no help, no easy ways to do anything) and a LOT of obstacles were faced by me and me alone. I have paied my taxes (actually 4 times more than egyptians) and EARNED the right to work and be successful. 
Sure there is an emotional debt towards my MUSICIANS and AUDIENCES but the debt ends right there and it is - in fact - more of an EXCHANGE than a debt. I gave my sacrifice, body and soul, energy, talent and hard work to my audiences and they recognize it. I pay my musicians and treat them as artists and they pay me back by doing their job the best they can and contributing to my success with their music. The WHOLE "Egypt gave you this and that" ends there. Period (big time!).

I try as much as possible to keep myself away from political news and such but LIFE itself has become hard over here and I cannot say "don´t come to Egypt"; actually, that was never my message or intention. I still think there are a lot of places in this country where safety and a great cultural experience are provided but Cairo is not one of them anymore, at least not from my direct experience´s point of view.

I also see that I caught the tail of the dragon. Meaning:
 I came here and performed at the end of Oriental Dance in Egypt. 
Thanks God for all the dancers, teachers and Oriental Dance lovers spread around the world: they are keeping it alive and they will be the future of this Art. 
Here in Egypt, the ROOTS and MAGIC* of Oriental Dance have been buried under the desert sand for good and I can only thank God for having caught the last glimpse of it so that now I can share it with others, everywhere I go.

The prostitute complex: Welcome to Egypt, Mr. Freud!

I´ve been warned and asked by egyptian friends to show off a more POSITIVE image of our beloved country. I understand them, I do. I also wish I had positive things to say but here´s what happens: I only write about things I SEE and LIVE personally. If I don´t see positive things happening around me in Egypt - at least, not now- then I cannot make up fictitious events just to make people happy and sell a little more touristic packages to the country of the Pyramids.

I often say that, if Sigmund Freud (the father of psychoanalysis) lived in Egypt in our times - specially after the attempt of a Revolution on January 2011- he would go mad himself or even get a brain tumor. No amount of therapy would save him from clinical madness if he had to observe, live with and try to understand the minds and behaviors of current egyptians.

As I left the gym (covered in my official "adapted abbaya" - a large sack of potatoes that makes me look like a shapeless cow in order to avoid further sexual harassment) and tried to hail a taxi for my return home, I noticed how several cars stopped in front of me, presuming I was a prostitute asking for clients. This happens - every single time I go to the gym - in a crowded zone of Mohandessin, a commercial district where "normal" people circulate and a major mosque (Moustafa Mahmoud) imposes its presence to everyone, muslims and not muslims. 

Just because I am hailing a cab in the street, I am taken as a prostitute and this assumption spreads its dirty wings on many other - apparently innocent - activities and attitudes. Let´s observe:

* If I walk in the street, I am a prostitute;


* If I talk to a man and shake his hand, I am a prostitute or madly in love with him in a way that makes me forget about decency;
*If I refuse to prostitute with my bosses and other powerful men who think every woman has a price, then  I´m treated and called a prostitute (just for the outrage of rejecting these assholes!);
*If, indeed, I would prostitute with the BIG BOSSES, then I would be a real prostitute but TREATED LIKE a QUEEN and FEARED for relating with well connected men who would kick the butt of anyone who dared to play with "their property". 
* If I take two cups of "cappuccino" on my hands it means I have a man staying at my place- therefore, I am a prostitute;
*If I talk face to face to any man as en equal person communicating to another, I am a prostitute;
*If I receive male friends at home, I am a prostitute;
*If I don´t take shit from sexual harassment in the street and fight back those bastards who follow me on their cars, I am a prostitute;
*If I reject to get married to rich "big shots" who underestimate my intelligence and character (and, instead, choose my own boyfriend according to my own standards), I am a prostitute);
*If I live by myself, I am a prostitute;
*If I live with my boyfriend, I am a prostitute;
*If I don´t admit any corrupted officer´s disrespect in the street and make him shut up, I am a prostitute;
*If I ´m a dancer; oh, well...if I am a dancer I am - not only - a prostitute but the DEVIL itself.

And the list continues...I am not Freud but I can tell right away there is something EXTREMELY sick going on around here.
I end up with the conviction egyptians (and arabs as well - both starting to resemble each other in a scary way) have a DEEP  F....ED UP  problem with WOMEN and a FIXATION in PROSTITUTES.

"Dear Watson, I think we have a problem..."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pleasures: teaching dancers from all over the World!

What others perceive of me - as a person or as an artist- rarely matches with reality. 
Many presume Success is on the marketing machine (backed up by true talent or not) that names someone a "star"; others get blind by the glitter of dresses, make-up and superficial perks that come with Success  while what I truly call SUCCESS is hidden in the realm of the Invisible.

Between many of those - true - pleasures, I pinpoint the privilege of TEACHING TALENTED DANCERS from all over the world. 
Lately I´ve been receiving an incredible lot of professional dancers (some of them already own their schools and have a name in this business) at my home - in Cairo - for private lessons that thrill me as much as they thrill them. Each one brings me a new - unique- inspiration and takes different diamonds from inside me; each one shows me how much ART can be made out of a dance which has been the Demon´s daughter for much too long.

What a PLEASURE (!) to see how much talent there is in the world; dancers from England, Russia, Brazil, you name it...they enter my home in one stage and leave it several degrees above it  and with a totally new vision, feeling and consciousness about Oriental Dance (*and about themselves).
 Then there´s the bonus of giving me the JOY of seeing how much ORIENTAL DANCE can grow - artistically speaking - if the MASTERS do their job right and guide their students properly. 

Talent needs guidance and a teacher who INSPIRES each artist to discover his/her best; it´s not only a matter of repeating steps and empty movements. DANCE is much MORE than that: technique, sensibility to LIFE, warmth, emotional vulnerability, body and soul expression, Listening* and many other etcs that build up an ARTIST.
LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT.

Being part of the BLOOMING of dancers who have enough jewels to fill the wagon of 
MODERN ORIENTAL DANCE (better said: ETERNAL ORIENTAL DANCE) is  pure HAPPINESS for me.