Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Russia: "My cup runneth over": L-O-V-E.

  1. Oh: Russia!
    It will be impossible to talk about it without falling in some annoying cliches - the great kind.
    Did I already mention I named Russia the "6th Dimension"?! Well, I did. For the best possible reasons.
    From the base of it all I read - in huge, bright neon light :
    "MY CUP RUNNETH OVER" (with joy, emotion, respect, tenderness, appreciation and a lot of other things from the DIVINE lot).
    Where do I start speaking about a trip-event that returned my FAITH and HOPE towards the Present and Future of Oriental Dance? 
    Yes, it is dying in Egypt - its birthplace, roots and original source. But it is MORE than alive all over the world and, in some places (like Russia), is actually developing so much that it can actually FLY.

    My heart is pouring an unstoppable rain of LOVING feelings right now. I am blessed, appreciative and happier than words could ever say.

    The Feeling of Russia:

    Ok: so let´s start by the most amazing detail that says pretty much EVERYTHING that is important. As I arrived to the Convention Center where the Oriental Dance Federation Competition was happening, I was surprised by a group of small girls calling my name as I passed by them. These girls were Oriental Dance students who were competing and they must have around 6 years old. They recognized me, knew my name and what I had done in my career - so far. I asked how was it possible that such young girls already knew my work and I was informed they watch my videos, study them and even use my choreografies as studying material. 
    I was open mouthed for what it felt like a century!:) and very happy, of course.

    * The EVENT´s organization: 
    Did you know Russia has a National Federation of Oriental Dance with registered and certified dancers from all over the country?! 
    Oh, yes, they do. As they also have "belly dance" passports where certificates and prizes won in Competitions are registered - like a curriculum.
    Helena Ramazanova and Natalia Amira Kuzmina did an AMAZING job with  Europa-Asia Festival (the 10th edition). There were a series of workshops, Competitions and Gala show where around 1000 dancers participated (yes, you read it well: a thousand dancers or more!). 

    I had no idea of the work already done in Russia for the sake of Oriental Dance as an ART FORM. These professionals are doing an EXCELLENT job - and, by now, you must know how much I would appreciate someone who works hard and honestly for Oriental Dance´s sake. 

    Besides being exceptional professionals, they also happen to be QUALITY HUMAN BEINGS and THAT* is another treasure I value more than any prize, glamour or apparent success.


    * The Workshops:

    I taught a Saiidi and an Oriental Dance entrance on stage by the end of the week, after students were already exhausted but they still gave their ALL in the workshops. 
    The level is the highest I´ve seen so far and there is a DISCIPLINE, RESPECT, HARD WORK APPROACH AND PASSION  for dance as an ART that REALLY touched my heart and made me proud. 
    You can see those dancers are used to approach DANCE - and probably LIFE - with iron fists and a PRO-ACTIVE attitude. They have all the necessary ingredients to be the ARTISTS of tomorrow. 
    Such a PLEASURE to teach these dancers - oh, Lord!

    * The Competitions:

    There were two theaters with different dancers competing at the same time for the  whole Saturday and Sunday. 
    I was impressed with the level, seriousness, passion and true commitment of these dancers from all ages (from 5 years old to 70 years old): more than impressed: I was AMAZED and, again, emotionally touched. 
    This was no playground: the dancers competing prepared themselves like "ballerinas" do in Classical Ballet; it was obvious they did not take Oriental Dance lightly. They were also creative, original, taking risks and trying new things - creating from an almost childish point of view in the sense of loving what they do and having no prejudices on the stuff they allowed their inspiration to create. 
    I fell in love with these ladies-girls!

    For the first time, I truly enjoyed a COMPETITION and understood the benefits of it. If used in the way I saw in Russia, it can help a dancer´s career (it can launch it, even!) and PUSH EVERYBODY TO DO BETTER AND BETTER AND BETTER. 
    Besides the PROFESSIONAL and LOVING approach towards Oriental Dance, I was presented to a wide variety of dances (from Egyptian Oriental Dance and Folklore to other styles of the Middle East : Iranian-Persian, Saudi Arabian, etc). I was a judge but I was also a happy AUDIENCE waiting to be beautifully surprised (which I was on several times).
    The GROWTH reached in Russia - regarding Oriental Dance - is nothing short of AMAZING and all teachers, professional dancers and students deserve my "hat off". 
    It´s endearing to see a country that RECOGNIZES Oriental Dance as an ART form and not as an "ass shaking" exotic bullshit. 
    Russia: you made my DAY: my month: my year: my SOUL*. 


    * The Gala-SHOW:

    It´s also known: I have the hardest time ever when I dance with the sound of a cd. Being used to perform with my egyptian orchestra spoilt me for life, I guess. Dancing without them makes me feel like a fish completely out of the water. Yet dancing for russian audiences felt GREAT due to its warmth, curiosity and eagerness to know me and my VISION* of this Art.
    Perfection would be to perform in Russia with my musicians but THIS was already close to perfection.

    * The HUMAN quality:
    This is - probably - the point I am more sensitive to. The way I am treated and respected as a person and artist. Russia also made my day in this aspect. Both organizers and students were wonderful to me and made me feel totally at home.

    PLUS: Maria Aya - my honey bee - was with us (check photo bellow) and having her near was also a BLESSING. Such an exceptional artist and person! LOVE HER, simply LOVE HER: talented, human, humble, kind, intelligent, funny, sister, everything good you can dream of: this is Maria Aya.

    "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back."
    (Albert Camus)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rays of Light - between Russia and Turkey.

Then: when you almost - almost! - lost faith in Humanity something like Russia and Istambul happen and Light is ON again.

This afternoon: as I got lost in the heart of Istambul I met a gentleman who only spoke the local language but noticed how disoriented I was and offered help and warm turkish coffee for the road. Then he lead me to the metro station I was supposed to reach; from that point, a gorgeous turkish young man offered to help me on the journey and - literally - took me by his hand and payed for my ticket, leaving me at the train station. At this point, a new young gentleman (syrian, this time) offered to guide me and also bought my ticket, even against my reproaches. He made sure I arrived safely to the hotel and left me with these simple words:
 "Allah maaki" ("May God with with you"). 
YES: there is LIGHT and KINDNESS in this world.:)
P.S. You can find the best street pizzas in Istambul as well as shopping bliss (even for a anti-shopaholic like me) at the mythical Grand Bazar. GORGEOUS is too little and poor to describe ALL you can find at this place.
Plus: Turkish Airlines is the best airline company in Europe (the prizes it has won say so and I confirm it).


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Joana S. in IRELAND, this December: Workshops, Performance & Cozy Cultural Talk!

It´s gonna be fantastic: can´t wait to return to one of my favorite places: IRELAND.
All countries are beautiful and unforgettable - in their own unique way - but some grab me more by the soul´s horns than others and IRELAND is - no doubt! - one of them.

WORKSHOPS in DUBLIN and TULLAMORE, performance and a spontaneous OPEN and COZY CULTURAL TALK about Egyptian Music, Dance and Culture.
Sharing what I´ve learnt in these last years (8 years, darlings!:) of life and performing in Egypt is a BLESSING I am - every day - grateful for. I REALLY had to rescue the SOUL of egyptian dance from its cradle - Egypt - so that I could honestly pass it on with the whole WORLD***.

Lots of Leprechauns joining us for Inspiration* and HAPPY moments of discovery, joy and PRESENCE.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Joana S. Workshop in London: Modern Oriental (Mohamed Abdul Wahab)

***What London can expect from this Workshop:

Using one of Mohamed Abdel Wahab famous compositions, this workshop aiming at intermediate /adv-pro levels will focus on:
- Technique, sequences leading to choreography
- powerful stage entrance
- interpretation tips
- development of charisma and stage presence
- exploring space and communication with audience
- meeting point of East and West, the Classical and the Modern


How to find the BALANCE between the old - or eternal - and the modern Oriental Egyptian Dance?

How to innovate and go beyond what´s already done without losing track of the ROOTS, the AUTHENTICITY, the FEELING and the SOUL of the DANCE?

These are the main questions we will work on this workshop dedicated to the GREAT INOVATER of egyptian music: Mohamed Abdul Wahab, one of the greatest composers of egyptian musical History and a modern minded soul himself.

Mohamed Abdul Wahab´s music composed for Om Kolthoum,Abdel Halim Hafez, Nagwa Fouad and many other of the greatest names of the Oriental Dance Golden Age in Egypt. His music reflects a richness that one can hardly find nowadays and the dance that translates and adds to his music is - consequentely - RICH, TASTEFUL and expressive of a GENIUS language that comunicates EGYPTIAN SOUL, CHARACTER, HEART; as well as Egypt´s past, present and future.

We will approach an iconic theme of Mohamed Abdul Wahab and work on that MIX-MIDDLE TERM between the roots and modernity: we will also focus on musicality, interpretation, different dynamics, feelings and moods; silence-pause and movement-music.

Understanding Mohamed Abdul Wahab´s music is also understanding and FEELING egyptian soul and THAT* is half way to understand and feel EGYPTIAN DANCE.

***For DETAILS about the event, please follow the link:

***For some goodies (Joana S. dancing Mohamed Abdul Wahab´s creations) follow the links:


Nubian Workshop in London - by Joana S. of Cairo.

***What London can wait from this Workshop:

- Technique, sequences leading to choreography of this particular style influencial in Egyptian culture & music since the ancient times. Nubian dance is one of the most colorful and expressive styles within the wide range of dances in the egyptian folklore.

Its movements, expressions, combinations and context tell the story of a very particular kind of egyptians: the nocturnal, emotional and poetic nubian people.


Joana has studied Egyptian Folklore from the direct hand of the "Father of Folklore", Master Mahmoud Reda. After intensively studying with him, Joana was invited to join him in teaching and choreographing work.

Besides the work with Mahmoud Reda, Joana has performed this - and other - style in the Cairo stages for the last 8 years, being appreciated for her mix of AUTHENTIC vocabulary, expression and character of the dance and a PERSONAL, CREATIVE, GROUND BREAKING approach to this dance.

This style will add spice, variety and deeper sense of Egyptian Dance - as a whole - to all dancers who attend the workshop.
Be sure to bring a relaxed, open heart to the workshop and the eagerness to LEARN and SURPRISE yourself.

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

After Russia, England (London) it is*:

 London it is: 
Performance, Competition and Workshops (Nubian and Modern Oriental based on the Genius of  Egyptian Music: Mohamed Abdul Wahab).

Taking the BEST* of me, of my experience and learning Journey in Egypt, of all the Discoveries I´ve made - so far - regarding Egyptian Oriental and Folkloric Dance and its Alchemy quality-mission.

It´s never only about steps and fancy glittering clothing: it´s so much more about finding yourself through the Dance - reaching your own Soul and communicating from that Sacred point (with your audiences and/or with the whole world).

Waiting for you all in London!

Infos available at "Bellydance Trophies" website:

P.S. Wondering if "Sweeney Todd" musical is on stage...

Bringing back the SOUL* of Oriental Dance to the World:

Indeed: my mission, goal, dream, LOVE.
Next stops of this DANCE-LOVE train: Russia, England, Ireland.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

With Love*, to Russia...(so it is: amen*).

Why do I have the feeling* this will be absolutely UNFORGETTABLE?!
Maybe because all the russian dancers I met were talented, disciplined, passionate and hard working. Maybe...
Because I know Dance is a deep and loving part of russian culture.
Just because; no reason; no whys or hows: it´s just the heart* saying so and that´s enough.
Point out on your agendas: my performances and workshops in RUSSIA will be UNFORGETTABLE (dare to be there and LIVE it).
Amen: amen: amen.

Devorah Korek: blissful mirror.

Ok: I´m not an internet nerd: I´m quite the opposite, actually. Computers and me are like water and vinegar (they cannot be successfully mixed).

So I tried to post this comment on the blog´s comments box but failed, somehow. 
Devorah Korek (Director of Sarabi school  - Barcelona and the creator of a teaching method I deeply identify myself with) - whom I mentioned in an ulterior post -  was kind enough to answer to that same post. 

As you may have noticed, I never publish private messages or comments to my work unless the person clearly says I can do so. This was the case and it simply made me cry.:)
I´m more used to attacks and obstacles than support so this is PRECIOUS, specially coming from a professional-artist I respect so much.

Thanks, Devorah: again and then again.

"Wow! To be included in your diary is really quite an honor for me...

I also enjoyed our lunch very much, and the long chat was wonderful for me, to find someone that has the same world view as I do - it's great that you are so young but have such a mature view of life, and are understanding things that it has taken me much longer to learn.

 You can really help a lot of dancers with your knowledge and generosity, it makes me feel good to know that you are out there traveling and teaching and raising the level of dance in Cairo as well. 
Keep on keeping on, Joana - you have a great career ahead of you!! 
Best of luck always, Devorah"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What is Oriental-Egyptian dance- and what is NOT!

It´s an old theme, I know. Yet it has never been so interesting and inflammable. 

What is Oriental dance and what is NOT?
What is EGYPTIAN dance and what is NOT?
What is right and what is wrong?

Well: I never presume to hold the flag of the universal Truth (that would be just stupid!); what I DO presume is that I perform and teach according to what I have SEEN with my own eyes, LEARNT and DONE in 8 years of LIFE and PERFORMING in Egypt (as well as other parts of the Middle East).

I cannot do or teach something I don´t recognize as EGYPTIAN DANCE because this is the path I chose and I try my best to remain faithful to the TRUTH I - personally - experimented and grew from.

There are many kinds of ORIENTAL DANCE too; not ONE kind but many. 
Egyptian, lebanese, turkish - more recently american tribal and other versions of this dance one can find all over the world. On which point do you separate CREATIVE FREEDOM with lack of KNOWLEDGE and RESPECT for the dance form?
That´s a tricky question and the ones who disrespect it the most are, usually, the most arrogant and self-assured (and that says a LOT about the Oriental Dance business in the world).

I think it´s great that different fruits are growing from the same root and, even if I don´t appreciate certain styles or way of doing things, I respect those choices and recognize their right to existence. 

What pisses me off is when people - who should know better but are proud of their ignorance - sell EGYPTIAN DANCE as something that has nothing to do with it.


1. A nose held high plastic performance that only serves to show off a glittering costume and a starved ego waiting for meaningless pampering;
2. Classical ballet poorly performed with some basic and boring hip shaking;
3. Acrobatics- aerobics - "Cirque du Soleil" twisted into some exotic steps - contortions and vanity exercises;
4. Empty movements that communicate nothing except an eagerness to be venerated;
5. Meaningless catalogs of dance steps which do not express FEELINGS, HISTORIES, THOUGHTS, WHATEVER makes us human.

As I started performing in Egypt, I readily had to learn what meant EGYPTIAN DANCE because my survival - as well as the survival of an entire orchestra - depended on THAT* understanding. No one - except musicians and local egyptian audiences - taught me what EGYPTIAN DANCE REALLY IS. And, yes, I willingly learnt (as the applied student that I am).
I realized there were only two ways of building a career in Cairo:

1. Or you slept around with a man that gets you a contract and assures its continuity (some dancers have them as "hidden" lovers, boyfriends, even husbands that come in handy for the egyptian nationality documents). These men can be musicians, empresarios and managers who get work to dancers and bosses.
In this case, "your man" takes care of the bribes and schemes necessary to keep the machine moving in exchange for bed (or bed and breakfast).

2. Or - in case you refused to sell your body and soul to the devil - you just had to conquer local audiences (the ones who build your reputation and return to the place you dance asking for your name, exclusively) with your TALENT,CHARISMA and INTELLIGENCE. You had to surprise them and touch their hearts and minds at EVERY SINGLE SHOW and that, dear readers, is the best egyptian dance training one can ever have.

***Sure there is the porno-nakedness phenomenon - specially in the cheap nightclubs of "Al Haram street" and it´s damn sure that LOTS of men (and women) enjoy seeing fresh meat exposed (silicone boobs are a favorite) but I respect myself way too much to be able to  experiment that tactic. In a highly sexually repressed society like the egyptian, it´s understandable that a lot of people pay fat amounts in order to see an extra inch of flesh and skin. Does this have anything to do with ART?! I leave that* to your consideration.

So, yeah: I learnt the tough - hands on the ground - way. Day by day, my barometer (egyptian audiences) taught me what it meant EGYPTIAN DANCE. It´s just natural that I pass on all I learnt.


I know money still rules this world - it´s clearer and clearer to me - and most dancers in the business will try to please and deliver what sells most but (HEY!) we have to WAKE UP.
Instead of selling a product that matches most people´s ignorance towards Oriental- Egyptian Dance I do believe that TRUE ARTISTS have the ethical obligation to go against the current and offer BETTER than people´s ignorance. 
Then again: this is JUST my opinion (I find it funny when I see the hats I mention fitting on so many heads and enemies multiplying in my direction. Funny and, of course, sad).

P.S. Always loving my dearest Mahmoud Reda, Souhair Zaki and Shokry Mohamed 
(my strongest maps of this path called Oriental Dance).

Food for the Soul.

Thanks to Jadranka for this PRECIOUS* gift.

"Stillness is the language God speaks; everything else is a bad translation."
Eckhart Tolle

Follow the link to join Oprah´s conversation with this author:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Of Laws and blissful encounters.

We sat in a warm - "gaspacho" scented - corner of Barcelona having lunch. The restaurant was typical Cataluña and the owners announced the "plates of the day" with the deserved ceremony of a rich and beloved kingdom.

My lunch partner is Devorah - a great professional who has shaped (more than she knows) my way of understanding and practicing Oriental Dance. We talk about everything and found out how much we have in common: in Dance, as in Life.

How much path already accomplished: how much desert already crossed: how many lessons learnt the pleasant and the unpleasant way. All of this results in some LAWS - or guidelines - one discovers and is eager to share with other dancers and students. 

That Dance is a LANGUAGE - body, heart, mind and soul inserted in the words;
That Dance is based on the perpetual movement between EXPANSION (yang) and RETRACTION (yin); movement and pause; music and silence: life and death.
That Self-confidence is NOT the same as arrogance and is absolutely essential to the CREATIVE PROCESS and professional-artistic growth.
That Life is not always fair - there is some really wicked randomness at every corner - but that we have the strenght and intelligence to turn injustices into challenges and stones into material to build our own castles.

One of the most precious thing about my DREAMS ACCOMPLISHED is the meeting of a restricted - and PRECIOUS - group of human beings who have also gone to the core of this Dance and found their hearts in it*. 

Learning how to fly ABOVE the mud and the dirtiness as well as APPRECIATING the jewels and the diamonds one always finds. There is water in the middle of the driest desert, after all. 
Thanks to Devorah and all her teachings - in a time when I was just starting this adventure and didn´t even know about it. 

Portugal and Russia: bringing back the SOUL* of ORIENTAL DANCE to the WORLD.

Portugal workshops - next weekend - as well as my first visit to
RUSSIA (for workshops and performances).
Blessed and EXCITED for all the opportunities to SHARE my LOVE, DANCE, VISION and MISSION.
Bringing back the SOUL* of Oriental Dance to the WORLD* - indeed. 
Amen, folks.:)

Sometimes, this is all I need:

Autumn arriving in the shape of reddish colors; a warm, cozy  coffee shop from which we can watch the rain; a true friend with no hidden agendas and arms of Christmas´s eve; intimate, vulnerable-treasured talk between those who have nothing in common except their friendship and respect for each other; a cup of sizzling coffee with cinnamon on top, sprinkles of chocolate and tenderness fat drops; mindless talk, mindful talk; a book inside my hands, falling on the page like early morning miracles of water and LOVE.
Sometimes, this is ALL I need.

Just caught the tail of the Dragon*.

This is the entrance to one of the 400 year old stone houses on the banks of the Vltava River that snakes, like the tail of this dragon, through Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic. It's the home of Canadian artist and woodworker Cal Zukowski []. Cal made the door with local oak and cherry utilizing Japanese joinery. The dragon is a similar design to one found in the town's impressive 14th century castle.

P.S. It just crossed my mind, once again, that I´m blessed to have caught what I call "the tail of the dragon" - the last glimpse* of true egyptian dance and soul. 
I see the news from Egypt as I tour Europe and, somehow, I am not surprised. Only a blind or hypocritical would not have seen it coming: "religious" extremism is coming to town. BIG TIME.

More details about this subject* are amply chewed and identified in my BOOK (FINAL editing on the way: YES!!!) and I´m out of WTFs ("what the fuck" for the distracted souls who don´t know that this poetic expression means) but the tail of the dragon returns to me in a daily manner - in dream day light occasions as well as in my nightly sleep.

You know what? Wherever I go, I´m taking Egypt with me - the TRUE and BEST part of Egypt. Let the darkness come: there is enough DANCE to light up the whole Universe.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Pablo Picasso NEVER fails to inspire* me for new choreographies.

 He´s my "tour de force", my base, my "muse". Pablito it IS: am I turning myself into a CUBIST DANCER (does that exist already?). EXCITED.

Internal AGENDA:

Thanks to Jadranka for re-posting this. I meant every single word I wrote; sticking it to my fridge- inside of my chest.

The Adventure continues - final phase of the marathon. My own Person, Discoveries and Peregrination in the shape of a Book (or more).

Preparing Portugal and Russia´s events for these next two weeks. 
Can´t wait for it ALL!
Beautiful and exciting times ahead.

"La Sagrada Familia": God in the shape of a building.

Photos won´t do it: you just HAVE to BE THERE to FEEL IT*.
"La Sagrada Familia" is the unfinished MASTERPIECE of Antoní Gaudí (follow the link: ) and the second most impressive, perfect (oh, yes: PERFECTION exists!:) thing made by human hand (that I´ve ever seen).

"Taj Mahal" (in Agra, India) is still my favorite piece of human architecture but "La Sagrada Familia" is the second - no doubt about it. If I had visited Barcelona in my adolescence I would have become an architect myself JUST BECAUSE of this DIVINE feat. 

I cried - "wept" is the right word over here - inside of "La Sagrada Familia"; I had epiphanies, heartbreaks and heart mending; I REMEMBERED what it meant to be a Christian or- simply put - a RELIGIOUS person; my mouth dropped and my eyes realized I was not inside of "just an architectural" masterpiece but a spiritual feat of hermetic treasures and a meaning that future generations will be able to unravel. 
I sighed - a lot! I got dizzy, warm and then freezing cold. I realized how immensely small and big we - humans - are.
I felt humbled and high at the same time; I held my heart in my own hands and the PRESENCE of GOD in that SACRED GEOMETRY and SYMBOLIC PIECE of HEAVEN Gaudí created.
Was Gaudí an alien?! - it crossed my mind-soul. 
Was he a Saint? A lunatic with flashes of divine inspiration? 
A Mystic, for sure; a person directly connected with the Fountain: a visionary: a truly RELIGIOUS person.
This is what true ART does: it AWAKENS you to something BIGGER inside yourself. 
I bow to the GENIUS of GAUDÍ and all the forces that sent him the LIGHT to produce something of this LEVEL.
 Barcelona is blessed.

Interior of "La Sagrada Familia" - a big forest.
And this is where I get my own Inspirations. It´s not - usually - from other dancers of my area. I get the best ideas and most essential lessons from architecture, sculpture, painting, literature, etc. Those are the nest where I catch my eggs - and what an egg this one is!

The shapes, the figures of Nature spread in a loving way; the christian iconography and its details; the proportions, light, direction of walls, pillars and intentions: ALL came together to offer an emotional and spiritual experience. 
I sat at "Starbucks" having my breakfast - in front of "La Sagrada Familia". An overwhelming sense of peace came upon me ("how lucky am I to be able to experience something like THIS?!).
I will never be the same after THIS*; my DANCE will never be the same. Impossible to remain static, untouched, unaffected by the MAGIC of a MIRACLE - like this*.