You live a whole lifetime in one week!
You step off the plane,
jetlagged, not-so-pretty, with a dull ache in your shoulders. You
stand in a seemingly interminable line while the archetypally
nonchalant immigration officers stamp away at passports in
what feels like deliberate slow motion. Your consciousness
starts to glaze over at this tedious ritual while dreams of
bathtubs and delicate scents fill the remaining time in line. You
airline has indeed lost your bags and the dull ache in
your shoulders springs back to life, along with a swelling
thud in your temples as you realize that the lost baggage
counter is clogged with frustrated passengers, a hot cauldron
of gesticulation and rapid-fire Arabic.
You take your place
in what appears to be a line and desperately try to conjure
back those Calgon images of serenity that buoyed you through
the immigration line.
to Cairo, the Mecca of the Dance. You’ve come for
a weeklong intensive seminar. You will dance and
live with a bevy of other dancers, many of whom you’ve
never met before.
Most of them are coming
in today/tonight/tomorrow and there will be dinners, lunches,
shopping and sightseeing, and endless hours of instruction
that you will all live through together. This is something
you’ve looked forward to for months. Now if you can only
sort out your luggage and get to your hotel.
Outside, the sweltering
morning heat is shot through with shouts that all seem to be
competing for your beleaguered attention. A kindly-looking
old man is holding up a sign with your name – ah, sweet rescue! He
takes you to a black-and-white beat up Lada taxi with no air
conditioning and ...
to ferry you through a terrifying death ride in the streets
of Cairo. He is enthused about the opportunity to
practice his English, so of course the topic is the NBA. “Kobe
Bryant! Verrrry verrry gut!,” he makes a slam-dunk gesture
with his hands, necessitating that he take them off the
wheel, which leads to a near-collision with another car.
Your nervous yelp
is of great humorous value to him and he dissolves into laughter. You
I hope, into laughter
as well. Because a sense of humor is the number one survival
tool in this life, according to my humble experience. A
city like Cairo, with its dust-choked swelter and roiling,
cacophonous traffic jams can overwhelm a person accustomed
to the neat and tidy lanes of Hometown Wherever. Your taxi
man is just the first of the Caironess you will meet in the
Danse Macabre of the Cairo streets on a daily basis. He
cheerfully deposits you at your hotel, this ferry-man, and
goes back to his destiny leaving you to await yours.
Yours will take the
shape of nine other women from all walks of life – big cities,
small towns, language barriers, diet restrictions, belief systems. One
or two of these will room with you in the ensuing Reality Show
of the upcoming week. You slide into the bathtub, close
your eyes, and hope for the best.
And what “the best”
means is directly proportionate to how willing you are to approach
the following week with an open heart and mind, and above all,
a sense of humor.
I have found that
a willingness to laugh – at frustrations, stress, mishaps,
the unknown, and above all – at myself, can have a transformative
effect on life. Laughter can also have a transformative,
bonding effect on a group, breaking down barriers and uniting
people in moments of levity that transcend personal differences.
Because in the week
to follow, it’s as if, on one level, time will accelerate –
opinions are formed,
friendships are born and run their course, some fade, some
flourish… antipathies seem to be immediately sensed, patience
can become strained, projects are completed (or not), and
the whole process climbs, peaks, and resolves itself just
like a timeless story.
All this against the
backdrop of Cairo with its surging intensities, which can add
some unexpected turbulence to the mix.
Groups coalesce through
people’s observations of each other. As dancers, it is
inevitable that we watch one another and “compare” ourselves
to other dancers. Anyone who claims to be beyond this
is also claiming super-human characteristics (and honestly,
I don’t believe them). As a result, you could find yourself
on either end of the “My-God-she’s-good” spectrum.
If you find yourself
on the receiving end of that spectrum, it will be very important
for you not to take yourself too seriously and to be humble
about your abilities. Groups of women (especially in
a situation of performing arts) can be fertile ground for the
blight of envy and
those who are “that
good” have a responsibility to the group, whether they want
it or not, as they are focal points and unwitting examples
to the rest. It’s important to project accessibility
and humbleness, and one of the best ways to do this is through
Crack a joke at your
own expense (don’t go too far, however, it may come
off as contrived) when the girls compliment your dancing. It
will lighten the atmosphere, and best of all, a good laugh
can be a much-needed breathing break. Laughter
forces us to breathe, which is something too many of us forget
to do. But if you can pull off a light-hearted remark
that gets everyone chuckling, that’s also a plus in that everyone
is in it together, spontaneously. It wasn’t planned,
there’s no time-frame, it just happens. And when it does,
it brings the group together. Those who laugh together,
dance better together, as it were.
If you’re the one
in awe of another dancer, you will probably need your sense
of humor even more. Most of us are secure enough to regard
those who dance better than us with a sense of honor and respect. After
all, that dancer is someone who should inspire us to work hard
and develop ourselves. But sometimes there are people
who can’t see past their own limitations, and perhaps you have
observed this type of woman. The woman who constantly
cries about her faults, pointing them out and loudly contrasting
herself with those around her. Her insecurities are worn
on her sleeves and as such make her a burden to be around.
be this girl. Recognize that the pursuit of any art
form is a personal journey that must be fundamentally undertaken
alone, with no one but yourself as your main competitor.
People don’t dance
well to slight you; they dance well because they dance well;
it has nothing to do with you. So smile and get up every
day and get in there! You’ve invested in the trip for
self-improvement, so improve yourself. If you can’t quite
yet pull off that layered shimmy-8-with-a-twist-lock-pop combo,
laugh it off, and try again! Accept the journey; it will be
much easier if you can just laugh off your temporary clumsiness
and get back in the saddle.
Cairo itself will
challenge your sanity more than any dance move. Just
wait until the entire group is stranded on the side of the
road in the sweltering heat because the van you hired broke
down and the driver forgot to charge his cell phone and none
of you speak Arabic or know your way around. This is
no time for petty egoistic antipathies; this is a time, first
of all, to keep each other calm. Second of all, if I
can help it, I would want to find something funny about the
situation. Laughing at it reduces its power over you
and puts it in perspective. I was with a group of girls
once in Cairo when the traffic was so bad that a twenty minute
journey slogged on for over two hours, and we ended up missing
our master class that evening.
a few goofballs in the van decided to while away the wasted
time with a Tribute to Freddy Mercury. By the time
we sang “I Want to Break Free!” for the 57th time,
everyone was chuckling, including the driver.
In Egypt, as a foreign
woman who practices Raqs Sharqi, you can be scrutinized and
can end up feeling pretty defensive at times. Don’t let
this prevent you from making a human connection with Egyptians. They
can be quite sporting! I remember another Cairo trip;
there was a group of us that were visiting Alexandria, and
our van kept us waiting and waiting on the sidewalk for what
seemed like an eternity. With our bags, and our blondes,
and our watches, we were quite a sight and a group of old men
sat nearby on oil cans just calmly watching us. Some
of the girls were unnerved at being observed like this, until
one of them got ants in her pants and decided to conduct an
experiment. On the sidewalk. She went to the mini-mart
across the street and bought a 2-liter bottle of diet Coke
and a roll of Mentos candies. Yes, that experiment. In
the middle of Cairo. The old men exploded into laughter
even as the coke bottle exploded into frothy parabolas all
over the sidewalk. The oldsters, of course, had to go
get their own “experimental materials” and before you knew
it, we had a quite a crowd on the sidewalk making a huge mess
and laughing like children. By the time the van finally
arrived, we had the old men, some street children, the fruit
ladies, and some guards together enjoying the spectacle.
the rest of the time we stayed at that apartment house,
the locals waved warmly at us each time they saw us, and
there were no more creepy feelings. We had bonded over
an exploded Coke bottle.
I could catalogue
a vast number of fun stories for you on this theme, but I think
you get the point.
builds bridges, and in today’s world, bridges – between
individuals and between cultures, are becoming more and
more of an imperative.
In the peculiar world
of Oriental dance, with its interplay of personal and group
egos, let us endeavor to lighten the atmosphere of our dance
groups and keep the focus where it should be, on our love of
the Dance as opposed to our personal obsessions. Love,
laughter, and friendship go a long way in determining the quality
of your life’s experience, whether it’s the big picture we’re
talking about, or the lifetime you live in one week.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Roots Raqs –An International Belly Dancer Goes Home to
Macedonia by Paola
The musical folklore of this region deserves full debut
in the World Music scene, and those of us in the MED community worldwide
are ripe for the breath of fresh air that Chochek and Gypsy Brass Music
can bring us. It is an original, organic and time-honored fusion, brought
about by history, geography, and most importantly, tolerance and mutual
of Cairo- Egyptian Rhythm, Language and Dance by
streets are much like its dance –streams of freestyle movement
guided by intuition rather than rules. There are no 'principles'
as such in both circumstances –it’s the organic-ness
of Egyptian life that creates order in chaos.
Ancient Art of Keeping Your Mouth Shut by Neon
one’s casual presence in the forums infested with negative-spirited
discussions can instantly strip a successful artist of her magical
Sermon's Photos from the Hoover Hafla
produced by The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of MECDA on February
10, 2008, at Hoover Theatre in San Jose, CA
Dance Zones of Egypt: Sahra Kent's Journey Through
Egypt Basic 1 Workshop Report and photos by Debbie
not strictly speaking a “dance”workshop, for each
zone we got up to learn some characteristic steps and posture,
and gestures associated with each dance zone/style, a good way
to blend the theoretical with the experiential.
along the Nile, Part 2: Raks Al Balas by Gamila
El Masri, Reprinted with permission, from Bennu, Issue
the poor balas (water jug). This is one of the most underestimated
and ignored of the dances along the Nile.
Breathing for Better Dance Performance by Taaj
also hold our breath when we concentrate or get nervous. This
brings tension into our bodies. The more tension we have, the
more shallow we breathe. It can become a vicious circle!
a DanceDivas’Life! Interview with Jane Yee Shan
Chung by Lisa Chen
I saw the Suhaila technique workshop announced on her website
and I just signed up without knowing exactly what her format
is. I am the only person who did not learn Suhaila format before
at that workshop. I was so naïve, I simply wanted to give
it a try.
to ? From Toronto,
Ontario, Canada The International Bellydance Conference
of Canada Video reports by Gilded Serpent Staff
Masouma Rose, Shira, Lynette Harris and many others. Reports
are presented in video format inbedded all on the same page.
Wednesday Evening show- "Remix 2007", Daytime activities
on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Main Stage Shows from Thursday
and Friday Night. Yet to come-- Saturday Night Gala performance
at the Ryerson Theatre, Sunday Daytime acitivities and Sunday
Night at the Nightclub "Myth"