Thursday, January 31, 2013

TheBellydancers.Tv and Monir Mahmoud*

Ok: let´s go straight to the point: we tend to point out all the negative ideas, ignorance and prejudices towards dancer and, specifically, towards Oriental Dance but I don´t think we FOCUS enough on the POSITIVE things that are being accomplished in this field.

I´ve admired and thanked the amazing work "TheBellyDancers.Tv" is doing  for artists of this area all over the world and I´ve seen as Monir Mahmoud works restlessly to share and support everybody´s work as very few people do in this - also - business.


It´s easy to criticize - harder to DO something and RECOGNIZE the great things people are doing around us. So this is my humble - yet heartfelt - homage and THANK YOU note to the gentleman Monir Mahmoud for all the work he´s been doing for ORIENTAL DANCE and DANCERS. 
Dear Monir, know that you are truly appreciated for your innovative website and for all the sun shine you throw upon us.
*Here are my VIDEO GALLERY at "TheBellyDancers.Tv": 



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

X International Championship EUROPE - ASIA Joana Saahirah


In the heart of Russia - Ekaterimburg at the Europa/Asia Festival - my "shaabi" inspired tabla solo with touches of Bob Fosse and my old flame (Broadway Musicals) all over it.

Almost as fun to watch as it was to DO IT.
P.S. Thank you, Russia.

Where everything ends and begins:

Via Elizabeta de Lacanne

Zaman.

Samia Gamal posing at the Sphinx in Giza, 1960
Photographer : Paul Popper

  1. If this photo was taken nowadays in Egypt Samia Gamal would be in a jail´s office being stared at and harassed by police officers and listening to offensive jokes about "rakkasat" and their infamous loose morals.

    "Zaman, ya zaman..."
    Great image of an Egypt long gone (asking myself where did Egypt go? And when it got lost from itself*?)



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New article on my WEBSITE: the FUTURE of ORIENTAL DANCE.

New Article on my Website or THE FUTURE OF ORIENTAL DANCE.

*TO KNOW MORE, FOLLOW THE LINK:
 http://www.joanasaahirah.com/products/new-earth-new-world-new-oriental-dance/

On Sexuality and Human Race (not to mention Oriental Dance)

The idea of talking about Sensuality, Sexuality and the ancient connection of these to Oriental Dance has been in my head for quite some time. It´s not a new subject - that´s for sure. But it seems to - insistently - remain on the eternal questions drawer.

On the last Saturday Conference I organized in Lisbon (Portugal) - with the collaboration of some portuguese professionals of the Oriental Dance scene in Portugal  - THE theme came to life once more. 

Why Oriental Dance - egyptian dance, raks sharki, belly dance, etc - is still so deeply and negatively associated with SEXUALITY - more than mere sensuality?!


*First you have to GET THIS:

Oriental Dance will NEVER be understood and respected as the ancient Art and Healing form it REALLY is while WOMEN and SEXUALITY are not TOTALLY FREE and DIGNIFIED.
The nature and purpose of this dance is deeply linked with women and sex - two of the most feared, hated-loved, worshiped-destroyed VALUES of Human History.

So here I lay the - less than - candid suggestion: have a healthy, natural, happy SEX LIFE and then your mind and eyes will be clean enough to let u see through a dancer´s body, movements and freedom of expression.
May I also wish for a brighter mentality towards women; a mentality that stop dividing them into the two old, rotten shelves (wife-mother-martyr-virgin OR the whore-free-wild Lilith). I mean: really?! We´ve passed beyond the 20th century. We´ve learnt how to build machines who do everything imagination/reality could ever create and we STILL divide WOMEN into these two limiting and ridiculous cathegories. 

Time to wake up!



* Secondly:
Last minute BIG NEWS: we are sexual beings, quite like the animals we also are. Have you ever forgotten it? Maybe a National Geographic matinee would help. 
Sure we have a - supposedly - more developed mind (on some aspects) in relation to other animals; we have proclaimed ourselves superior (attesting much to our own ignorance, as far as I´m concerned) to other animals, done and said a million idiotic assumptions but the FACT is WE ARE ANIMALS. SEXUAL ANIMALS (take that in your pipe and - sensually - smoke it, please). 
Accepting that FACT will not turn us into perverts, ninfomaniacs and sexual offenders; denying this FACT does it. 
The more we repress, deny, distort our human nature the more freaky behaviors we will create (you just have to take a look at Saudi Arabia and many countries with the false morality of the current Middle East to see examples of this everywhere).


* Thirdly:
Dance - any kind of dance - is a sensual and sexual experience because it MOVES everything a Human Being is: body, mind, heart, senses, soul: EVERYTHING, I repeat.
Oriental Dance is - probably - the most sensuous of all dance types because it´s the one who allows a TOTAL FREEDOM of EXPRESSION where the limits are beyond the sky and the earth. FREEDOM is VERY SEXY - so is Oriental Dance.
There´s no forbidden movement; no shameful body part, feeling, sensation. Oriental Dance ACCEPTS HUMAN BEINGS as the TOTAL, COMPLEX, COLORFUL stars they are and not understanding THAT is underestimating this dance form.

Also notice that this Art form is so fantastic that gathers sky and earth in the blink of an eye. It´s not all about the feeling and not the mind; or about spirituality to the exclusion of emotions or physical pleasure. It´s ALL wrapped inside a single person.

 The "TARAB" so many speak about (the touchstone of oriental dance terminology - as desired and allusive as a physical orgasm) exemplifies what I am saying: Oriental Dance is a HUMAN- HOLISTIC experience and THAT is scary for many of us. This alchemy-dance proves that we can be sensuous and spiritual at the same time; physical and intellectual; earthy and heavenly. It does not exclude a bit of the TREASURE POT we are.


*Fourthly:

A Dancer is a mirror of her audience´s fantasies, frustrations, dreams, unconscious unresolved issues. I´m not trying to be Freud over here but I´ve seen it thousands of times: people (audiences, students, reporters who interview me, etc) project a lot of their mental, emotional and spiritual luggage on me, as a dancer. Nobody means to do so - consciously. And yet a DANCER who is truly and totally OPEN - vulnerable is the word -  it´s an irresistible mirror for "watchers". 

I´m also not saying there aren´t "amateur dancers" who use this craft dishonestly - disrespecting themselves, the art form and the ancient culture that gave birth to it. Of course there are many "dancers" who misuse the craft to their own financial profit and present it as a cheap, exotic streap-tease like number. But those are not REAL DANCERS - much less REAL ARTISTS. And those do NOT represent ORIENTAL DANCE in all its richness and high purpose.


Spicy tip for the road: get your act-life together; enjoy all the pleasures Life has to offer as a GIFT they are for all of us; get a grip; get over yourself (your ego); get an orgasm ( or multiple orgasms, for God´s sake); get a nice woman-man and make love like the human beings (animal side included) we are; understand WOMEN are not puppets you can locate on this or that shelf and then we can return to the good old "SEXUAL BELLY DANCE TALK".


NOTE: here´s a BONUS TRACK (fantastic article written by Joumana Haddad on "sexuality" in the Middle East). Check how West and East are not SO different - after all - on many disturbing points. 

Follow the LINK: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/lets_talk_about_sex_habibi

Friday, January 25, 2013

The last steps of this* Marathon (my Book).


Managing to perform, choreograph, teach, travel for work, plan ahead BIGGER projects and manage lives between countries AND write a BOOK (or trilogy)  all at the same time is not for sissies.
Sometimes I feel my head is going to explode and that my body is pulled in so many different ways and places with such frequency that I lose track of who I am, where I am and where I have to go (a GROUND is urgently needed - so I see*).

Like a professional juggler, I understand that each task must have its own time and space and so I am - already apologizing - for a near future absence from my Blogs in order to close myself into the "lonely writing shell" and finish the final editing of my Book. 

Many friends, fans, followers have asked me about the Book and when it will be published. 
It´s quite like asking me if it´s going to rain or sun shine after two months. There´s a LOT of the process that is on my hands but so much of it belongs to Life, circumstances, context of the moment. 

Yes: the book is already written and edited. Even though it is - apparently - ready for publishers and readers I KNOW it needs a little more polishing, cutting of the accessory edges, sculpting, CARE. As I hate others to underestimate my intelligence, I also try not to underestimate other people´s intelligence (in this case: my future readers).

I´ve mentioned before: writing a book is quite like baking and there are "timings" that one must respect. It became clear to me that I could not rush things, not let the words settle down or give myself time to figure out all the dots and pieces of the puzzle. Your book becomes ALIVE - and with a will and moods of its own - very early in the writing process. Respecting my book´s wishes, baking and rest period and all the other little whispers it lays on my ears every time I want to rush things is also RESPECTING MYSELF and my future readers.

This is not a simple book: once you read it you will understand why*.

So here I am fighting my urge to dance and the necessity to sit for the last phase of this marathon: the last retouches and adjustments of my Creation (the key that closes the door to a major cycle of my Life that will give birth to something bigger, better, of a higher vibration and purpose).
Be patient, dears. As I am trying to be (hard!). Bare with me for a little longer and I assure you to give my best so that the waiting is worth it. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dance inspirations are Everywhere* (even in a cat´s jump)

  1. Photo by Martha Swope


    Happy Birthday, George Balanchine!
     (He taught a pas de chat like no one else...)


Return to Spain (Malaga - "Almárabe" Festival)


My HAPPY return to Malaga, Spain ("Almárabe Festival" - 15,16,17th March).
Workshops, performance and conference (and a compulsory visit to Pablo Picasso Museum and home).

*More infos at:


Why you should not miss next EILAT FESTIVAL (2014)


From how great THIS Eilat Festival was I can tell you how AMAZING it will be its 10th Anniversary in January 2014.

Orit and Yael have made such an outstanding job at this event! I don´t know how they these ladies could manage to gather such a SPECIAL group of ARTISTS-TEACHER- STUDENTS-DANCERS- AUDIENCES in a single place and for a single purpose: ORIENTAL DANCE, SHARING JOY, KNOWLEDGE, CULTURES and FUN.

*What you could find at EILAT FESTIVAL? 
Several workshops (all of them juicy, irresistible and wide in their diversity and richness) happening during the day and NON-STOP entertainment (live music, competitions, shows of high level and passionate dancers, chilling by the pool, you name it!); work and fun - together. 
Joy; away from the "real world" paradise where your senses, mind, body, heart and soul were constantly stimulated. 


* The Invited Artists:

My hats off to the organizers for their shrew and VISIONARY choice of Teachers and Artists. Each person I met had valuable things to teach me; every dancer brought something new and was a precious combination of TALENT and HUMAN QUALITY.


* The Atmosphere:

Fun, laied back, happy, enthusiastic, friendly, HEART warming. No separation whatsoever between nationalities, countries, gender, teachers and students: NONE. We WERE ALL ONE and that, my friends, is BEAUTIFUL and DIVINE.


*The Respect and tenderness:
Despite the busy days and the overwhelming responsabilities the organizers - Orit and Yael - had to face I always felt they CARED for each person present at the event and they both made it very clear how much my work and presence were truly appreciated there (priceless thing, as far as I´m concerned).
The love and receptivity I got from dancers, students and audiences were also overwhelming and pure food for my soul. VERY THANKFUL FOR ALL THESE BLESSINGS*.


* The feeling I got:
This was the BEST way to open 2013; best key; the most exciting prediction of how this year is gonna be (blessed).
Plus: no matter what news, politicians and criminals say: we are ALL ONE and israelis LOVE and RESPECT egyptians and their music, dance and culture more than any of them  can imagine. Believing in yourself is believing in others (Eilat reminded me of that*).



P.S. You gotta SEE it and FEEL it yourself. Mark Eilat Festival 2014 on your agenda. You will not regret it!

Eilat Festival: THE LOVE FEAST.

Oh, boy! Where to start?!
All right, then. I´ll start with plain honesty from the guts (as usual  - my blessing and my curse!).

I´d met Orit Maftsir in England (Brighton) a few years ago and I never forgot the impression she left on me. Her energy, talent, hard working attitude, passion for dance, obvious "joie de vivre", enthusiastic approach to dance and a willingness to LEARN stroke me as a rare combination to find in a single dancer. 

This memory tattoo remained with me until Orit invited me to be part of the FAN-FUN-TASTIC "EILAT FESTIVAL" in Israel.

Of course I appreciated and felt honored by the invitation - specially coming from a person I admired - but lots of doubts, fears and questions rushed into my mind as I took my time to decide what to do: accept the invitation or not?

 
You have to remember I´ve been living and performing in Egypt for almost a decade and - therefore - feel identified with that country on so many levels that it becomes almost impossible to separate my person from Egypt as a country as its people.

I´ve also been fed with all sorts of negativity towards Israel and - obviously - disagreed on many of this country´s political decisions but THAT was never enough to make me a hater because - thanks God - I never allowed anything or anyone to freeze my working brain. If I believed everything I´ve been fed for so long in Egypt then I would have quit Dance, Art and Life altogether (but that´s another - complex - subject).

I was sleepless for some nights trying to figure out what would be the fair and honest decision: would I feel disloyal towards Egypt if I accepted to represent it in Israel? Would I feel peaceful with my myself once I entered the territory of a country I was used to associate with negative opinions and feelings? Would it be correct to take a POLITICAL stance and deny myself and others the opportunity to GATHER in JOY and LOVE through Dance?!

Opinions came from everywhere and they mostly agreed: don´t go to this Festival (for political, security, ethical reasons).
As always, I retreated inside myself and kept all hate, background noise and external judgments out my door.

There are good and bad people everywhere; I don´t agree with most country´s political decisions and still I separate them from the HUMAN BEINGS that live in those respective countries. Governments rarely reflect the PEOPLE - unfortunately.

The answer came to me like a thunder: You HAVE to go. 
Not doing so would add more hate, misunderstanding, fear, separation, war and negativity to the old conflict between Egypt and Israel. 

Plus: I believe Music and Dance are white flags of PEACE and UNION that make all "differences" disappear.
I was not going to Eilat to bring further darkness and separation ( I leave those functions to the so called "religions" because I see what an efficient job they have been doing in those fronts) but to offer the BEST of EGYPT through Culture, Music, Dance, Feeling, Soul. I was taking the LOVE of EGYPT with me and THAT was worth the risk of being criticized, ostracized, punished in any weird way.

Exposing myself and assuming decisions that are not popular and crowd pleasing is a speciality of mine so off I went to Eilat: and what a SURPRISE did I receive!


Instead of the "enemy" I heard so much about in Egypt I met THE FRIEND in the form of hundreds of israeli and foreigner dancers-students-audiences with a single interest on the horizon: TO SHARE THE LOVE FOR EGYPTIAN DANCE.
I did not hear, see and feel 1% of negativity towards Egypt; it was quite the opposite. If my fellow egyptians could see how much their (our) country is known, appreciated, loved by israelis ...it is mind and heart blowing.

Yes: I know MOST GOVERNMENTS wish to perpetuate wars, hatred and separation between countries and people. It´s their way of keeping us weak. UNION is STRENGTH; SEPARATION is WEAKNESS and they know it and play us like professional puppeteers. 

When we realize we are ONE and that our differences are ridiculously small and insignificant - specially when compared with the HUMANITY that unites us - then the Governments (made of blind and deaf individuals who have lost their own souls along the way) then WARS WILL STOP and we will feel curious again for each other: in love again with each other.

I was glad - VERY glad - that I accepted the kind invitation to teach and perform at 
EILAT FESTIVAL. Here´s some of the Magical* things I remembered by doing so:

*The so called official "religions" (and notice that something truly DIVINE cannot - ever! - be official)  have done enough to cause wars, separation, hate, despise, ignorance and unhappiness. 
Art, Music, Dance and Culture shared have a much greater POWER to UNITE people and promote PEACE between nations, countries, groups, HUMAN BEINGS;

* You should always follow your own CONSCIOUSNESS and not what others - even the majority - thinks is the correct thing to do. It takes guts, willingness to be exposed, criticized and even punished but it´s worth it.
Most people in the world have substituted their won CONSCIOUSNESS (and the responsability that goes with it) by the so called "religions" - therefore they follow the "rules", the "rituals" and the do´s and dont´s but they own none of their thoughts, feelings and actions. Result: you may see them attending the Friday prayer at the mosque or the Sunday mass at the church but they will not hesitate on stealing, cheating, lying or any other attitudes that are evil and destructive. 

* Oriental Dance´s initial - and eternal - religious purpose has always been to RE-CONNECT (from the latin word: Re-Ligare =RELIGION) human being to human being; human being to her/his own heart, mind, body and soul; human being with his/her own DIVINITY.
God is an internal presence - not as an external Father who tells you to move right or left and punishes you once you disobey Him.

* This is my Mission (Eilat Festival made it even clearer to me than it already was): to share the treasures of Egyptian Dance with the world and, by doing so, RECONNECTING some precious dots that have been long lost. 
And Amen; Cheers; LOVE to all that and thanks to Orit Maftsir and Yael Moav for this Bright event that is building more bridges than any of us can imagine.





Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Women´s Awakening.


  1. Dance of Life: In Ancient Egypt the Ab, which represented the merging of the Womb and Heart, came directly from the Mother's heart in the form Holy Menstrual Blood, descended into her Womb to take the shape of her child. The hieroglyph for this expression of the Divine Mother was a dancing figure - as long as the Dance continued, life went on.

    www.thefountainoflife.org
    Via: Leslie Zehr





    BONUS goodie: a super inspirational video sent by my friend Katrina Vebralovitch:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the Road again: Eilat Festival

On the road again, folks: Eilat Festival it is.

All is set: new choreographies that promise to challenge and marvel everyone (including myself, I always hope); loads of POSITIVE energy and inspirations to share with talented dancers from all over the world.



And the only two words that come to my heart´s mind are: BLESSED & THANKFUL.

See you all at Eilat:
www.eilatfestival.com


Some of the Precious stuff I learnt from Mahmoud Reda.

If you follow my work and have an idea of who I am as a dancer, artist and teacher then you must know how important my relationship with Master (and notice I don´t use this word for just anyone: Master) Mahmoud Reda - fairly considered the Father of Egyptian Folklore.

Having extensively studied and worked with Mahmoud was one of the most treasured gifts my Life has given me. Our relationship is beyond the regular teacher-student matter as well as assistant-artist. It goes way beyond it in ways words can hardly express.

Having assisted him while he choreographed some of his pieces - to teach all over the world at the age of 84 years old!:) - was eye opening and the ground breaking kick for my own choreography challenge - an ever growing passion filled with hate/love notes.

Here are some of the gems I got from Mahmoud and always hold on to when I am choreographing a new piece:

1. Just do it. Don´t think about it so much and believe in the power of ACTION. Even if you don´t feel much inspired today: do it. Simple as that. Then you can change whatever you´re not satisfied with - later on.  Don´t wait for a "moment of inspiration". Create one - many, hopefully - by ACTING upon it.
It was Pablo Picasso who once said: "inspiration exists but it has to find me working." That´s IT, basically. MOVE it. DO IT. Do not wait for angels and stars to fall from the sky so that you "feel" inspired to move ahead. Nike sports brand created the brilliant slogan and this is all about subscribing it: JUST DO IT.

2. You don´t need to start choreographing from the very beginning of the music. You can grab any part of the music that is more appealing to you and choreograph that bit, then returning to the beginning, end, whatever. It´s like a movie shooting: you can go from filming the first scene and ahead or start in the middle, then the end and - finally - the beginning. Art is flexible - also - that way.

3. Use your mind-intellect-rational thinking - whatever you wish to call it. I know that being a naturally instinctive dancer is my own territory - therefore I had a huge trouble (still have) on this issue. "Use your head" - Mahmoud would tell me. 
"What do you mean: use your head?!" - I would answer, exasperated. 
"Don´t trust just in your instinct. Dare to think about it. Your mind can also help you in the creative process - not only your heart." - He would add.

I was resistant to this until I realized it by myself: a Dancer - and a choreographer, even more than a dancer - MUST gather all sorts of qualities. Instinct is not enough as well as Rational activity is not enough; emotion is not enough, as well as soul is not enough. It´s the union of all these sides of the human being that make a COMPLETE dancer and choreographer.

If you dance and choreograph ONLY through instinct you will tend to be totally unaware of what you´re doing (which can be good and/or bad) and the vocabulary and ideas you will apply will mostly be the ones your body has already assimilated - and not more than that. This is why you see a lot of dancers repeating the same movements again and again giving birth to a dance that is coming from the heart but poor in dance vocabulary, combinations, dynamics, ideas and variety. They trust their instinct and presume that will be enough. Guess what?! Mahmoud was right. It is NOT enough.

4. Don´t go for the obvious and more predictable way of listening, grabbing, feeling and choreographing a music. There are MANY ways of translating a sound and adding something human to it. Be daring and - once more - Intelligent in the choice of movements and combinations that better express a music´s originality. Go for a slow movement when the music is fast  (IF the music allows it) and dare to stop when the music is going nuts on speed and intensity. Of course this requires the same old rule: BEFORE YOU BREAK THE RULES YOU MUST - DEEPLY - KNOW THE RULES.
Warning: don´t try this at home if your base on Oriental Dance is not strong.:)

Regarding to this issue Mahmoud told me another true story that happened with the genius composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab. Many years ago, egyptian newspapers used to print upcoming songs from famous singers and composers even before the songs were released (so the melody correspondent to those lyrics was not known for some time). One of Mohamed Abdel Wahab´s songs had a phrase with a single disarming word: "Nagachi". All the music fans, critics and intelligentsia went nuts over it- wondering how complex it would be the music for that word. When the music was - finally- released a lot of people were in shock to find out that the polemic word "Nagachi" was not even sung: it was spoken as coolly and umpretentiouslly as a "sabah il kher" ("good morning" in egyptian dialect). The composer-singer-actor simply said it, dryly and plainly: "Nagachi". Done; no fuss, no muss. 

Sometimes, simplicity and unpredictable solutions that come from a new perspective of looking at Life/Art are the Magic Keys*.

5. Don´t be afraid to pose, pause, be still, use the space in smooth and even SILENT ways. Then again this is the kind of thing only a professional or mature artist is able to totally grasp or put into practice but here remains the tip*.


6. Don´t use ALL you know in a single choreography. Give It in small doses and know when "enough is enough".

7. Do a bit of the choreography every day - within a work discipline very similar to the one I used to have in my childhood classical ballet studies.

8. Be yourself. NEVER copy others. Let them copy you - if that serves them. But NEVER copy them. If you are more worried and focused on what others are doing - opposite to what your heart, energy, personality and soul can create - you will be turning yourself into a copies patchwork (a little bit of that dancer, then another bit of another dance and so on: NOT good).

Mahmoud told me a story of a time when he met Om kolthoum (yes: "il ustaza OM KOLTHOUM" ) at a theatre gig (using the word "gig" when applied to Mahmoud Reda and Om Kolthoum seems almost offensive but here we go: I have the best intentions).
Both of them were performing alongside with other artists (including Abdel Halim Hafez and another folkloric troupe). When Om Kolthoum caught Mahmoud sneaking a pick at the other folkloric troupe´s show from behind a stage curtain she whispered in his ear:
-Mahmoud: let them see YOU; you don´t SEE THEM.

Of course this is extreme and came from a highly competitive Diva (aka My Lady); it sounds extreme and even arrogant but it has some Truth in it.
Sure you ought to be other dancer´s work but "not too much"; not to the point that you are attached to what they´re doing and forget what´s your own UNIQUE path.

9. Search for Beauty and Inspirations everywhere (and I mean: EVERYWHERE). In the good and the bad (totally relative notions according to the eyes and mind of who perceive them); in the dirt and in the cleanness; in the sun and in the night; in richness and in poverty. The duty of the Artist is to continuously search for the Beauty exposed or hidden in the most unexpected places in the world and share it with people through his/her Art.
Ideas for a new choreography can arise from a moment of deep despair or the sight of a flower dancing with the wind. Having eyes with "beauty radar" in them is the privilege - and maybe curse - of those who were born with Talent.



Hope these tips inspire you for Happy and Constructive ACTION. Bless our inspired ACTIONS, STEPS and already won challenges.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What Dancing Feels Like



While I dance
I cannot judge,
I cannot hate,
I cannot separate myself from life.
I can only be joyful and whole.
... That is why I dance.

~Hans Bos
Via: Yumma Mudra

Almárabe Festival (my return to Malaga, Spain)

Happy to announce one more event in the world: "Almárabe Festival" in Malaga, Spain this 15,16,17th March.
So glad to present a couple of workshops, performances and conference in the city of my favorite painter: Pablo Picasso.
More detailed infos will be soon posted here and on my website: 



As I realize and confirm - with a crescent intensity - that Oriental Dance (TRUE Oriental Dance - not the commercial, superficial joke a lot of people sell for oriental dance) belongs to the World - not just to Egypt or any other specific place that may have given birth to It* - I also see the World answering back.

Yep: I always knew this was my Path - from the moment this Dance took over my life (not offering any possible way of escaping my destiny: myself): 
First I would have to go to Egypt to recover my past ( long and complicated subject suitable for another post(s) ); I would have to dig deep into egyptian ground (finding all kinds of roots, worms, snakes and beyond imaginary creatures and experiences); I would have to WORK on the field in Egypt, dancing with egyptian musicians and for egyptian audiences. 

Then - when the past recovery was done (which it was by the time the Revolution "almost" happened in Egypt) I FELT in my heart it was time to MOVE ON and SHARE WITH THE WHOLE WORLD ALL THE RICHNESS - HUMAN, ARTISTIC, MAGICAL - I GATHERED IN 8 YEARS OF AN AMAZINGLY SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN EGYPT.

It´s frequent to be asked if I felt afraid for the death of music, dance and arts in Egypt after Muslim Brotherhood took over the Government. My answer is quite simple and difficult to chew for a lot of people:
I saw it coming from the last years of life and word in Egypt - only a sleeping person
 wouldn´t. I knew that Muslim Brotherhood would win elections - if these were held fairly and that would affect ALL sectors of life in the country, particularly Women, Dance, Human Rights, Justice, Security and so many other essential things one tends to take for granted.

Besides that I KNEW that I caught the tail of the dragon - the last glimpse of the ancient and magical Goddess Dance. Suddenly, there was nothing else to dig out from the ground except a deep sadness of watching MY beloved Egypt turning into a poor copy of Saudi Arabia and other "cavemen" lands.

I also felt Egypt turning into an Islamic charade for a LONG time - even before the January 2011 revolution attempt. I knew this chapter of my Life was closing in order to allow me to FLY HIGHER and TAKE all I LEARNT to the 1000000 corners of the world. 
As long as there is a human being dancing from her/his heart and soul Egyptian Dance CANNOT die (and I am aware that only a few* understand exactly what I mean).

Many stories have been told about me and my reasons for this or that. Those people who talk have no life of their own - therefore they "imagine" MY LIFE. I find it sad and endearing at the same time. It´s - in a twisted and sad way - the best kind of compliment.

Only a handful of  CLOSE friends know WHY I decided to distance myself from Egypt (although I still have my home there as well as professional responsabilities I must attend to) and those - the ones who know! - are the ones who keep it to themselves. So do not believe envious, frustrated, mad and lost people. By speaking about me they only reveal who THEY ARE - not even touching me or who I am.

Besides the professional TURN I wanted to make for a long time (and the Revolution was just a pretext for the MOVE), there were daily struggles who were making me physically and mentally sick.

It got to a point that I could not go out in the street besides my home (in Zamalek: supposed to be the poshest and safest place in town) without having a nervous attack and being  aggressive towards men who would sexually harass me every thirty seconds (shamefully supported by passers by: men and women as well). It felt like all the mice came out from under the ship and the status of WOMEN (which was never on the human level, anyways) went totally down the drain - allowing an amount of disrespect, insecurity and sexual harassment I had never experienced in Egypt. 

Once I caught myself grabbing an harasser by the neck and yelling at him in the middle of the street I KNEW it was more than time to move on. Sure I respect the ones who insist on saying everything is cool and no change has happened in the country but "we" know how much they are lying - specially to themselves.  I also respect the dancers who keep barely  surviving (because Oriental Dance work in Cairo is - right now - bellow the poverty line and impossible to assure a dancer´s basic needs of living) in the middle of that spiritual cemetery but that is not the kind of life I want and deserve - specially all I´ve already been through and after paying way more than my dues. 

Everyone chooses their own struggles, challenges and pains (God knows I chose mine and how much I learnt from them) and it is my right  to recognize THIS is not my battle field anymore. There are bigger and CONSTRUCTIVE arenas to ride from NOW on. Allowing ignorance to destroy the Love I have for egyptian dance and Egypt is not part of my destiny or goals.

Meanwhile: working, working, working. So much on my hands I can hardly breath.
Eilat Festival next and a mean "baladi" piece to choreograph (a piece which is taking my sleep-breath away). Baladi is a naturally improvisation style - not something born to be frozen/choreographed. So I am challenging the laws of nature and my own patience.
It´s like trying to hold on to a VERY slippery fish between my hands. Oh, Lord: give me strength and focus to deal with this dragon (I will* do it*).


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

BOF 2012 - JOANA SAAHIRAH in Barcelona


Here´s one of the videos of my last performance in Barcelona, Spain - at the Barcelona Oriental Festival (BOF).
It´s still on cd - dancing without a GREAT orchestra is not my cup of tea - but I still managed to have fun and I think the audiences had too.:)
Wonderful Barcelona, wonderful people and event organization: pure pleasure.

My Lady*


No words required*.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Interview to Taus Club Magazine - Italy


Talking about Dance and the Real Deal about being successful in this field - let that be in Egypt, the jungle or any other place in the world - is always a joy for me.

Being a professional dancer is so much more than "just knowing how to dance"; there´s a lot of very specific qualities no one seems to talk about as well as some very tricky traps you rarely see mentioned. I hope this interview helps clarify a little bit more about the ups and downs of this profession and the inner resources one MUST have and/or develop in order to build a dignified and successful career while building - at the same time - a dignified and successful human being (yourself*). 
Feel welcome to read my latest interview to an italian Oriental Dance magazine - Taus Club.
Just follow the link: http://www.taus.it/?q=joanacairo_en

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Yet another creative retreat*

For someone as used to the stage as I am the periods of time I have to retreat in order to choreograph, prepare a specific event (workshops and performances in Eilat arriving this January) or write (restarting the final editing phase of my BOOK - temporarily aside due to my last European tour) I feel - to say the least - stressed, thirsty and with that* kind of sensation that tells me "something important is missing".

And yet - like any other circumstance life offers you - there´s a fat chance to take advantage of the moment and face my own demons. It´s boring, frustrating and true:
the more you know the more you are aware that you don´t know much and that puts you in the weird position of the eternal beginner.

As I start to choreograph new pieces to teach or think about upcoming performances I face - one more time - a series of ghosts that never leave my sight but I´ve also nailed the trick: one cannot fight against his/her own mind and its party poopers.
Insecurity? The feeling that what I´m doing is not good enough for my own standard and ever developing taste; the inner demand for something more - much MORE - exciting than anything I´ve done before and so forth. The array of voices that dance in my head while I TRY to dance my way into a new piece of choreography are multiple, colorful and VERY - potentially - EXCITING. 
Joining hands with the ghosts and counting on their grumpy and ever present negativity in order to push me forward and higher.

Remember, babe: God gives you lemons, then you make a damn great lemonade.



Saturday, January 5, 2013

More food for the Soul and New Website IDEAS*



A new period of "creative retreat" is starting now. Every time I prepare myself to a new event - EILAT FESTIVAL is arriving - I close myself in my cocoon and FEEL what is apropriate for this specific event, dancers, occasion, time. Although I would love to work mechanically and commercially oriented it´s just NOT ME - and I can´t go against myself.

So I am leaving you all with this "food for the soul" documentary (from a show Margot Fonteyn - the most celebrated ballerina of all times - used to produce and present after she quit dancing on stage) - and with a REQUEST regarding my new WEBSITE.

*Feel welcome to send me new ideas, suggestion of themes you wish to see approached and constructive critics in order to IMPROVE my brand new WEBSITE: www.joanasaahirah.com

As in everything else I ever do, I am looking for GROWTH and that always includes learning from others. Waiting for your comments on my email: dancemagica@gmail.com

See you all at EILAT FESTIVAL - this January ( check full details on: http://www.eilatfestival.com/)

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Essentials*



This beginning of 2013 found me melting between opposites: highly active and creative ventures (writing, choreographing, teaching, you name it) and a neptunian mood that makes me want to crol under a blanket with a warm "cappuccino" and read one of the countless books gathering all over my place.

*2013 wishes-goals already made, written down, DIGESTED by mind, heart and ACTION DIRECTIONING;

*Just saw the new movie "Les Misérables" (Oscar calling - big time! - for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman) and a GREAT RAY of LIGHT that came from it. The effect this movie had on me is undescribable. Now I HAVE to read the books (5 volumes, it seems!) of Victor Hugo master piece;

* Choreographing a "baladi" piece to teach at Eilat Festival this January. It´s like turning a lion into a domestic cat: quite impossible (and I´m a fan of "im-possibles"). Baladi is - par excellence - a pure IMPROVISATION style. How can I turn wine into water?! I will.:) Taming the lions is one of my favorite hobbies.

*Updating and improving my new baby: my WEBSITE:
www.joanasaahirah.com

* Wondering about new ways, directions, maps, attitudes, versions of myself that take me a step closer to that state we all long for: complete inner PEACE.

You know what?! I´m going against the current so I am SURE 2013 is gonna be the best year of my LIFE - so far. Hope this conviction is shared by all of you. Let´s make it happen, shall we?



Turning the tables*



Fragility and vulnerability - not weakness (two completely different subjects) - have always seemed two of the most obvious qualities of STRONG people. I´ve observed how the fake strength (often disguised into aggressivity and desire to dominate, oppress and humiliate others) of so many "apparently strong" individuals turned to dust when compared with the TRUE and ONLY strenght of the KIND, VULNERABLE, OPENLY FRAGILE human beings that dare to face the storms face to face (and still keeping their open and warm hearts alive) and move ahead despite them or even BECAUSE of THEM.


Since I launched my career in Egypt I´ve started to learn the POWER of USING ANGER, INJUSTICE and ATTACKS in my favor. Being STRONG started to mean: taking advantage of all obstacles, evilness, random or purposed disasters that crossed my Path.


Since then, I learnt the rare and precious ART of turning OBSTACLES into OPPORTUNITIES and ROCKS thrown at me into WINGS I could fly higher than any of my enemies could imagine possible.

The first time I heard an ex-boyfriend  say "that dance you love so much is shit" was a turning point in my Life as well as all the other times I heard egyptians and arabs comment on how all dancers are prostitutes and Oriental Dance - THEIR OWN DANCE - is not an Art but just a female seducing tactic (only acceptable when performed by a wife to her husband in the privacy of their bedroom). 

My heart broke into a million pieces; my soul was scattered all over the grounds of every cemetery in the world; I was devastated. Of course I had an idea of how poorly Oriental Dance was still seen in the world - particularly in the Arab-Muslim world - but having someone so close to me throw such an offense and ignorance to my face was more than I thought I could bear. From that first bomb an inner, higher, wiser STRENGTH came from inside of me and MADE THIS PROMISE: I WILL PROVE THESE IGNORANT-CAVE MEN WRONG!
And by God, I did. I still do.:)

That same ex-boyfriend also threw at my face that I would never have a performing contract in Cairo - unless I turned myself into a prostitute (which he is sure all dancers are despite working with them and pretending to respect them). When I presented him my first contract in Cairo - achieved on my own and with so much merit - he looked down at the paper (ready to spit at my face) and asked me "who did you sleep with in order to get this contract?!"

Then again there were HUGE fights, physical and emotional agressions, offenses no woman could ever deserve to receive and a yet BIGGER anger and sense of injustice that propelled my career into a SUCCESS no one - except me and God - could have imagined. I was once more - literally - on the floor and ready to JUMP HIGHER and HIGHER - an impulse that is still here with me in this moment.


Loads of OBSTACLES, INJUSTICES, SEXUAL HARASSMENT, DISAPPOINTMENTS and IGNORANCE came my way since then. It was obvious that - in order to thrive - I would have to learn more than just dancing. I had to learn how to make lemonade out of the toughest and most unsavory lemons.

From all the lemons I´ve gathered extra ENERGY and CONVICTION to accomplish my dreams and, specifically, to PROVE ALL THOSE ASSHOLES WRONG BY BEING MYSELF - and nothing less than my best self - AND BUILDING A CAREER BASED ON THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING THEY TRIED TO CONVINCE ME ABOUT:
Oriental Dance can be an ART FORM, dear ignorants.

A Dancer who does not sell herself can be successul, dear ignorants.
No, this dance is not just a private pip show any common wife does to her husband.
And yes: you threw rocks at me and you underestimated my character, intelligence, strenght and talent but I made you all shut up by being ALL THAT I AM TODAY. Thanks to you!:) Never underestimate the power of anger and injustice: human beings are able of miracles you - from your little own frustrated minds - cannot conceive.

The world is full of incredibly beautiful, kind and supportive people.

It´s also full of sad losers and destructive, frustrated people who will try to put you down and convince you´re not worth being happy, successful and an achiever of your own dreams - simply because they believe THEY are not worth it.

DO NOT BELIEVE THEM - believe in YOURSELF. Use their rocks in order to built your own castles and shine like the true LIGHT that you ARE* ( essential: the true ALCHEMY: turning rocks into gold).