I Love Lucy:
Confessions of a Dancer
April 11, 2006
have been and will continue to be a life-long Lucy
fan. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that I love
Lucy! No, I am not talking about Fred and Ethel's zany neighbor.
Even though Lucy, the American comedienne, entertains with antics
on television reruns, I have not spent countless hours studying
the performance techniques and style of that Lucy…
Lucy to whom I refer is a dancer in Cairo, Egypt. My Egyptian
Lucy is an accomplished actress and singer with talent who is
held in high regard. However, it is her Raqs Sharqi that has
stolen my heart!
Lucy is special
to me because she represents the last actively performing fannana
(artist) of Classical
Raqs Sharqi of our time. At her nightclub, the Parisanna,
in Cairo, Egypt, Lucy still performs a five-part Egyptian Cabaret
set seven nights a week, dancing with a 16-piece traditional Oriental
orchestra (nine of
whom are Arabic percussionists). According to Lucy, there is no
drum machine, nor is there a mazhar in her band, because
she considers both to be too loud for her taste.
single most striking element of Lucy's virtuosity is that it embodies
the music to
which she performs: she becomes the music and conveys it with
her emotions, her
movements, and creates her dance with genuine warmth, love, and
joy for her audience.
my enthusiasm for Lucy, you may imagine correctly that I have
long dreamed of meeting her and seeing her dance—in person. Walt
Disney was right: Dreams really do come true! On
April 7-9, 2006, I had the honor of meeting, dancing for, and
studying with Lucy of Cairo, Egypt! For this thrilling opportunity
and "I can't believe this is really happening"
experience, I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude to Dee
Dee and Ahmad Asad and their company
Little Egypt for sponsoring Lucy’s workshop and show
in Dallas, Texas.
of you that have not yet attended an event sponsored by Little
Egypt, I am happy to report that Dee Dee, Ahmad, Noura,
and all of the Little Egypt family and staff more than lived up
to their reputation for excellence, kindness, and hospitality.
As for Lucy…her
WOW factor cannot be overstated! Lucy is a true alma:
a gifted actress, musician, dancer. Add to this, her beauty, warmth,
love for dance and willingness to share her knowledge with others,
and you have the ingredients for an extraordinary dance teacher!
Let me briefly share with you an overview of Lucy's approach to
Oriental dance and why, even more than ever: I Love Lucy!
shared much more with us in her two-day workshop and in her performances,
I hope that my brief overview will inspire you to learn more about
and from Lucy also!
10 Tips (as I gleaned from her Dallas, Texas, Workshop, April
8th and 9th, 2006)
- Lucy does
not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance with
a set choreography. Lucy does not dance choreography.
Throughout the weekend, she emphasized this fact. Therefore,
she did not teach us choreography. Instead, she urged us to
follow her as she danced extemporaneously and to learn from
dance is 100% tied to the music. She has a profound understanding
and feeling for Arabic music. When she dances, she becomes one
with the music. The nuances of the melody, the rhythms, the
cultural context of the arrangement (or the song), and the emotions
contained in the music transfer through her soul and translate
her body movements into dance. While Lucy's movements are from
the "vocabulary of Oriental dance," she gives these
movements a voice that is uniquely her own as they communicate
the message of the music to her audience. Thus, Lucy instructed
workshop attendants repeatedly, "Listen to the music!
Feel the music; dance to the music!"
- Lucy believes
that each dancer has a unique gift to share and must allow her
heart and personality to shine throughout her dance. She urged
us to be proud of being dancers and to always enter the stage
with confidence that our dance is a gift that is worth giving.
dance center is in her core (the solar plexus). She emphasized,
just as my dance coach, Najia
Marlyz, teaches, that all of a dancer’s movements
must originate from her core. Even Lucy's graceful hand and
arm movements radiate from her core. When she was demonstrating
for us her beautiful hand, wrist, and arm techniques, and when
she corrected dancers, she repeatedly pointed to their upper
oblique muscles of the rib cage and said "dance from here."
- Lucy always
holds herself in a very balanced, elevated, and graceful and
centered posture. This gives elegance to her movements. Lucy
also holds her dance balance (her weight) in her core. Again,
this concept supported what I have learned from my dance
coach, Najia Marlyz, and I felt in accord with the concept.
When executed thus, a dancer’s steps never make her appear heavy,
but instead give her an appearance of floating! Lucy seems to
float and her dance appears deceptively effortless.
- Lucy is
very conscious of her body alignment and repeatedly corrected
dancers who executed movements by turning their knees inward.
She would say, "No, no. Not this!” while demonstrating
a knee twisted inward. “This is bad, --ugly. You will hurt yourself!"
she emphasized again and again. Then she would demonstrate how
to execute the movement with proper body alignment and a dancer’s
- Lucy is
true to classical Egyptian Raqs Sharqi form, using
downward movements on the "doum."
- Lucy uses
her shoulders, arms, and hands in fluid and graceful movements
because (she explained) Raqs Sharqi is a "feminine dance,"
and therefore, it should reflect soft feminine beauty, not blatant
sexuality. She elaborated that Samia Gamal
was the first Raqs Sharqi dancer to incorporate beautiful arms
and upper-body movements in her technique. Lucy believes that,
after Samia Gamal, she is the second Egyptian Raqs Sharqi dancer
to excel in the most graceful arm and upper body movements.
- Lucy advocates
and uses understated shoulder shimmies, and during her workshops,
she corrected dancers who were executing vigorous inadvertent
or intentional breast tosses. (I also noted that upward chest
“pops and locks” were not included in her dance
Lucy repeatedly told us that she loves to dance!
She said that she dances and practices every day. She advised
that we should dance a minimum of 30 minutes every day.
She commented that sometimes she even practices with no
music playing, dancing only with the music inside her
head and heart.
me, Lucy’s tenth tip demonstrated how deeply she loves and feels
her Oriental music.
is a true alma and Oriental music plays within her very
heart and soul.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
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