Saturday, July 27, 2013

Joana Saahirah of Cairo choreography ("Om Kolthoum" song)

Another Jewel* for you all. Because my word is worth a thousand gold coins: here it is: the much expected choreography I taught in different countries.
Music from my own Personal Eternal Diva: Om Kolthoum ("Daret il Ayem").
Honor and joy to be part of this MIRACLE of Art and Love - the authentic RELIGION (if  I prefer to be specific*).

Joana Saahirah of Cairo "Eskandaranie" choreography

Dedicated to all my students, fellow Dancers and fans around the world.
One of the choreographies I created for Teaching.
Hope it will inspire* you.

Egypt in the thirties (1930).

Just some GREAT NEWS* arriving (very soon):

And more: much, MUCH MORE*********************
Of berries, joy, red lipstick and SWEET FIRE is my Love made of (and that´s exactly why-how-when-for what I DANCE*).

Summer* Adventures

 Whoever knows me well is aware that taking vacations (as in totally stop working or creating  in my head-heart) is a rare, strange, unexpected event in my life.
-Vacations? YOU - taking vacations? Are you all right? What happened?! (:/ yeah...)
It´s not only a matter of always being busy with new professional adventures (thanks GOD for them***) but also a little detail I am blessed to recognize: my WORK is not only "work" but my biggest passion, love, excitement, addiction. It´s not what I do for a Living (real LIVING*, not sub-living) but also what gives me more pleasure and bliss.
I absolutely ADORE with total PASSION what I do so the urgent need to get away from it  does not exist. Add to that the fact that I am permanently on working mode - even when I am not actively doing something: new movements, ideas, articles, choreographies, show concepts and such are permanently swimming inside of me - no matter how far I may try to be from my duties.
This Summer will be an exception. :)))))))))))))))))))))
 I will take 10 days off my "regular" (so irregular) life for a short but HAPPY period of sun, rest, bliss and love.
Until then, I will leave you with two choreographies I did to teach in several countries and a "see you later" full of the best things Life has to offer.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ukraine & Egypt: much closer (to each other) than you would imagine...

Watching Miracles happen through the dancers I have the pleasure to teach.
Ok, let´s do this. Shisha Party Festival in Ukraine was A RIDE!
 Thanks, first of all, to Juliya Pepelyachkova for believing in my work and
Arusa Nanu for being the bridge that it all easier and much more wonderful. 
Dancing, teaching or just BEING ALIVE (not sure which one is the right one: maybe all in one).
My habibi - God Ghanesh - unexpectedly showed up at my workshops.
Divine message???

Rocking the house with FANTASTIC DANCERS***
A new brother in my Life (love you, David)*


P.S. All these "teaching" photos are courtesy of my dear DavidOfScandinavia). Thanks, my lovely.

My head is spinning right now (no such luck as a week on the beach...not yet) and there are too many things on my hands that start - once again - to reclaim my attention but I will manage to write, at least, a telegram: from Ukraine, with Love*.
What a roller coaster. God (three times God).
Food from Ukraine ("oh, the borscht"): FABULOUS.
Wonderful people (artists and quality human beings) met on the Journey.
Audiences, Dancers and Artists in the Festival were FANTASTIC. LOVING. APPRECIATIVE. PASSIONATE. SOULFUL.
Watching "Swan Lake" at the gorgeous Odessa Opera House: BLISS. OH. BLISS.
LAUGHING with fellow ARTISTS who shared so much more than just work: memories to cherish and keep warmly in my heart (stored for Winter times).

The opportunity to share my Vision of Oriental Dance with the World: HONOR and BLESSING.
Odessa (Dead Sea) beach: sweet and calm with some spices in it.

The HONOR and JOY to share my Vision* of Oriental Dance with the World is beyond words.

Joana of Cairo, of Portugal, of Never Land, of Kualalampur, of, of...

Lately, the question has revisited me VERY often: how do we cal you; how do I present you; what name would you like me to use when introducing you to our country?
Fair enough: there are many "this and that OF CAIRO" ("Of Cairo" seems to mean - for a lot of people - a kind of magical seal that assures you instante knowledge of Oriental Dance, Fantastic Talent and a Super Woman Cape - kind of Batman cape but with coins attached to it).

There are also many "fake" OF CAIRO cases. Dancers who try their luck in Egypt and never quite make it in the market - even reaching the point of paying to perform in parties and hotels so that they can show the world how "they are performing in Cairo".
Many others live in the country for years without ever signing a legal work contract, hanging around to see if the country rubbs off its magic on their skin and they, suddenly, become "Madame OF CAIRO".

Sure: everyone has the right to their own dellusions, illusions and little theatre acts but it´s just sad that so many dancers worry about being - fairly or unfairly - called "THIS OF CAIRO" and seem to have no interest in DOING THE REAL WORK. The name "of Cairo" seems to be more relevant than actually discovering what Egypt or Egyptian Dance is all about - beyond the common superficial conception of it. I would say: drop the names and be curious to go deep into the subject of egyptian dance: the ride is so worth a 1000 names! Believe me.

As far as I´m concerned, almost 8 years of daily shows with some of the best musicians in Egypt and a career made exclusively out of my TALENT and SKILLS (no convenient "relationships" attached) has earned me the name of Joana OF CAIRO: not because I need this seal "of quality" but because it was in Egypt that I REDISCOVERED MYSELF and MY DANCE; it was in Egypt that my career kicked off his shoes and started to REALLY fly; finally because I OWE Egypt (and my guts to face it) a lot of the knowledge and treasures I can NOW share with the world.

Above all this marketing schemes, notice that what defines the QUALITY of a Dancer-Person is what she/he does and not her/his name. There are many Amazing Dancers who have never worked in Egypt and others who have done so and, in the end, have not learnt a single thing about AUTHENTIC egyptian dance.
 So: open you eyes and mind, please. A NAME - of Cairo, of La La Land, of whatever - does not define what that person has to offer.

Oh, yes: I´ve earned that name with my blood - literally. And yet it´s quite indiferent what name you may call me. In the end, call me whatever you like: Joana of Cairo, of Zimbabwe, of Kualalampur ("JOANA OF KUALALAMPUR" sounds pretty good...exotic...hmmm...crazy ideas swimming in my mind right now...), of this or that.
Saahirah or just Joana; Joujou or Madame; everything and nothing: I WILL STILL BE ME and you will know who I am by WHAT I DO and HOW I DO IT***.

 I am not defined by any NAME and CATHALOGUES are too small for me: I´m way more interested in the contents that a name carries and I do agree with Master Shakespeare: a rose would still smell as sweetly if it was called by any other name.

Get my point?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(World) Sisterhood* - happy discoveries

The more we search for BEAUTY, the more we find it.
It was with no big surprise that the pieces of this puzzle started to organize by themselves and fit their rightful places: the Oriental Dance community around the world is not just about a group of people loving the same dance and culture that gave birth to it quite in the same manner that Oriental Dance is not just about movements.  
Women (and some men too) feel attracted to this dance as if it was a magnet we can hardly explain. They feel it gives direction to their lives, increases their self-knowledge, self-esteem and personal empowerment and offers them a kind of pleasure that no one else can offer them: even LOVE starts with ourselves.
Besides the Life changing perks I´ve witnessed along the way, this magical* dance has the power to UNITE WOMEN and create a kind of SISTERHOOD I deeply believe in: more than a net of women with the same interest: we´re speaking about a net of SISTERS who support, rebuild, love and push each other forward and higher. This ancient dance whispers, slowly but surely:
-You know what?! We don´t need to keep fighting, betraying and perpetuating the "feminine" that sees women as enemies of each other. To hell with the ones who push us to see our sisters as "the oponent to destroy". IF WE UNITE - when we unite - our lives will completely change. The way you see and treat other women is the way you see and treat yourself.
Absolutely GORGEOUS phenomenon and how lucky I am to be at the heart of it***.
Oh, man/ lucky! I´m not even counting the number of FANTASTIC WOMEN I´m gathering around me. They may say I inspire them and give them strength but they have no idea how much they inspire and strenghten me.
Grateful for this - still shy but growing - SISTERHOOD: one of those treasures of the misunderstood ORIENTAL DANCE SACRED BOX.

The Clone Machine Factory (a sad fashion coming to an end*)

It´s known: travelling is a School in itself.
No amount of books, university degrees or diplomas can cover the realm and depth of Lessons one can gather from travelling the world (specially when working in such a sensitive area as mine).
My last trip to Ukraine restored some of the hope I, sometimes, lose in the future of Oriental Dance and Dancers. The "Clone Making Factory" that I easily observe in dancers from all over the world made me gasp in fear, breathless with frustration. My heart stopped beating every time I saw a "professional" dancer copying her/his teacher, favorite dancer and so forth. It stopped even more painfully when I confirmed how many "teachers" consciously feed this "copy machine factory" that goes totally against the CORE of Egyptian Dance.
 Sure it is commercially appealing for the majority to offer a quick fix and an express formula for Stardom ("dance like me and you will be a star like me; look like me and you will be a star like me; do your make-up like me and...behave and walk and live like me know the rest...or not"). Building dancers who will carry the teacher´s banner and be portable marketing machines for him/her is still a frequente attitude but I don´t consider a Teacher´s job is to use students/dancers to promote him/her. I believe a Teacher - more so if we apply the word "Master" - creates INDIVIDUALS who can shine for themselves and leave their personal mark in this world. When I look at my students dance, I don´t want to see myself. Why would I? Nobody can do it "my way" the way I DO, first of all. Secondly, I am proud if I can prepare dancers to need me the least (yes: not the regular comercial approach but, hey, if I was here for the commerce I would own a supermarket) and to REMEMBER what their bodies already know. I am a bridge, not the final destination. I may give you the tools to EXPRESS yourself but the juice that comes out from you is YOURS and only YOURS.
Such joy to see students of mine spread around the world: all diferent from each other and from me; alive, brave, delighted to be who they are. NOW: THAT* is my job.
  I know...almost every one dreams about Shangrila la la la - the land of easy and fast success. They imagine a glamourous life they presume they want for themselves without wanting to go through the Road to grow and reach a proper mountain with their own two feet.
It´s also about the ego trip for many dancers who claim to have "followers" who copy their every step, hair twist and facial expression. They actually feel "proud" to have an array of copies repeating their every single movement as if they were gods they should reproduce to the smallest detail. I work so that the dancers I teach become FREE, INDEPENDENT from me (as much as possible) and find their own way of doing things. These copy machine factory teachers do the opposite: they behave like Divas, create dependente and weak personality dancers who do not dare to even question them, teach them how to worship them and become "their followers" (Frankenstein comes to my mind immediately...outch!).
The question: why do you do what you do becomes - once more - urgent*.
It gives me the creeps when I listen or read the word "my followers" - it quite sounds like a fanatic fascist movement or worse.
No doubt I can see how this clone machine factory helps the marketing of certain names that know much about smart ass publicity/business and close to zero about ART, ARTISTS and the NOBLE WORK of TEACHING.
I get it - believe me I do. I´ve been swimming against this - and other - tides for a long time and lost a lot of work for keeping my stand and conviction:
Oriental Dance - or egyptian dance, as you prefer calling it - is all about BEING YOURSELF and finding your own personal, unique, soulful language INSIDE* the dance´s  language. It is NEVER about being a clone of another person - no matter how much you admire your teacher or other dancers. I know the path towards YOURSELF - or what someone wisely called "becoming yourself" - can be harduous, full of doubts and uncertain and being a copy of an already tested formula seems ridiculously tempting, specially if you´re ambitious.
But let me tell you something: in the long run, copies will not pervail. Only authentic* dancers-individuals.
If you´re an ARTIST, you will have to walk the line, baby! YOUR PERSONAL LINE.
Yes, it is risky - jumping off a cliff with no end in sight - because YOUR FORMULA has never been tested. If you are your full self and expose it with no masks, you cannot be sure of how people will react to it (will they like you, understand you, appreciate the WAY you DO things, etc?). Guess what: that´s a risk every artist, from every area, has to assume. Talent is not enough, dears; discipline and serious work are not enough; perseverance and stamina are not enough: you need COURAGE and a thick skin to get into this business, to survive to its dark sides and fly above them.
 If you don´t dare to be yourself and copy someone else´s way of Dancing-Living, then you presume you know how you will be appreciated because someone else - the person you copy - has already tested it and succeeded at it. Yet TIME is a  m.... f....., thanks God.
Quality and truth - or the lack of them - always end up showing on the surface and only ORIGINALS will remain in the History of Oriental Dance.
BE YOURSELF: BE FAITHFUL to your heart, spirit, personality, taste, UNIQUE way of listening and re-acting to the music-life. TAKE the lip of faith: fail, if necessary. Open yourself to that great possibility of failure and know that, if you work hard and push your TALENT* towards the true voice of YOUR SOUL, you WILL succeed.
Ukraine restored some of my lost faith in this (mine:our) Path. Many of the dancers I had the honor to teach and judge were - indeed - UNIQUE and that made my heart sing. Hope that many more of these original artists-human beings are awaken and multiplied and that teachers understand that their craft is not about vanity and ego self-indulgence: it is ABOUT LOVE, GENEROSITY and educating human beings for the FREEDOM of being themselves, using their potential and being more loving and brave human beings/dancers.
It takes courage to release the birds from the cages (including your own bird from your own cage: remembre you teach what you need to learn). It does. Courage is an ARTIST´s middle name. And from such courage  is Oriental Dance made of.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Essencials* for Dancers***

"Howling lesson" by Debbie Dicarlo

Ukraine, here I come!

Vintage me***

Well, well, well: Ukraine is my next Love Journey stop and I couldn´t be more excited.
Teaching and performing (with live Cairo orchestra: YES!) by the side of some pretty talented artists I very much respect. What a ride!
The ones who know me are aware that I am a rule breaker per nature but there is a side of me that is so fond of traditions that I could even be called "conservative". Some things should never change:
Romantic love - the holding hands type;
Italian ice cream and coffee;
Books printed on paper;
Friends that last a life time;
Gardens, lakes, sea and mountains for romance and peace;
Riding a bycicle;
Pretty dresses with ribbons tied around the waist;
Sleeping under the stars;
Doing everything with passionate love (dancing as making love - exactly one and the same, as far as I am concerned);
Silence. :)
World: here I come!:)))))))))))))))))))))

Bellydance World Cup in Cyprus (Aphrodite´s Journey)

Here´s what they say: Cyprus was the birthplace of Aphrodite - Goddess of Love, Sensuality and Beauty. After I´ve been in the country I tend to agree with the myth. The Magic* is there, even if Cyprus is divided into Greek and Turkish sides that do not really understood each other.

 Talk about the absolute need for LOVE...
Taking the risk of repeating myself and assuming that other creative-professional priorities take time and energy that I used to dedicate to my blog´s update, I can thank - once more - for the chance to share my VISION of Oriental Dance with the world.

This time was Cyprus (teaching and judging in the Bellydance World Cup) but many other places are already hanging on my love-dream belt and many - MANY - others are following right now.

As I joyfully ride this new chapter of The Journey, I cannot stop but thinking that it is all way bigger than me: my work, mission, dream, task in this world. The happiness of opening doors to other dancers and showing them the TRUE BEAUTY and RICHNESS of egyptian dance goes beyond my own sense of pride and ego: it is a WORK of LOVE. Pure, real, enlightened, blessed as only REAL LOVE can be.

Ukraine is the next stop on my map* and many other challenges and blessings are already showing themselves on the horizon.

Blissed and blessed*.
Leaving you all with some images-memories of an unforgettable ride in Cyprus*:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Treasures of Egypt (beginning of the Journey*)

Thanks to Wail Abdel for this hillarious gift.

This is one of the several television gigs I took when I moved to Cairo to live and work there. By the time, it was forbidden for foreigners to perform Oriental Dance (solo performances) so my dream was, temporarily, ilegal (Welcome to Egypt!).

Anyway, the time I had to wait until that absurd law was eliminated served me quite well to work in another neighboring countries (Oman, Qatar and Lebanon) as well as in Egypt where I joined groups of Modern Dance, Hip-hop, Egyptian Folklore and even Khaleegi. You name it: I did it all.:)

Wait until Wail finds me performing a mean "dabke" on the famous SAMIR SABRI SHOW!:)
Lord: so proud of myself and the way this Magical Journey started***.

P.S. Thanks, Wail - you´re "da" man.:)