The so called purists call for a return to the REAL EGYPTIAN DANCE by the hands of egyptian and arab dancers as they see foreigner dancers taking over the Art and, often, turning it into something far from the ORIGINAL. It´s true that a false sense of “innovation” is dominating the Oriental Dance universe in a way that doesn´t respect the CORE of this art and context of its authenticy; it´s also true that loads of people try* to break the rules of the dance without knowing them (ignorance is bliss,isn´t it? Fair enough BUT…
In Egypt, as in the whole world, it is known that the Oriental and Egyptian Folcloric market is dominated by foreigner dancers who, in their majority, LOVE, RESPECT and try hard to study this Dance in a way that dignifies it as we all wish.
As a working performer in Egypt for the last 6 years, I have to speak up from my own experience and defend the TRUTH I see with my own eyes. If the SOUL and TRUE PURPOSE of Egyptian Oriental Dance is being lost this is not due to foreigner dancers taking over the subject. Sure there is a lot of misconceptions, ignorance and distortion due to a general lack of reliable information about the Dance and its context (a much wider subject than many presume!) but throwing the fault on foreigner´s back is unfair.
Madame Raqia Hassan (creator of “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” Festival) was the first egyptian who took a REAL daring and risky step towards the recognition of this Art in Egypt and the world on a large scale. The whole thing it may have turned into a commercial enterprise with little regard for quality but it was, at least in the beginning, a pioneer effort to bring Oriental Dance to the place where it is today – this is a deed that MUST be recognized. Although other great events of the kind were created and quality/purpose seem to have disappeared, the merit of taking that first courageous step belongs to her.
There was my dearest teacher and friend Mahmoud Reda and the “Reda Troupe” which is ONLY related with Egyptian Folklore, NOT “Raks Sharki” but nothing else with a true impact in the way the world saw this Art came from Egypt until now.
Egyptian women have been discouraged from taking this profession by a crescent religious extremism easily observed in the country in the last few years and by a society which still sees and treats dancers like prostitutes. The few who dare to work in the field don´t do much for its DIGNIFICATION as you can see if you make a round on the egyptian night clubs of today. You just have to go around Cairo and check who are the egyptian dancers who are doing a GOOD JOB in this field and you will know what I mean. Extremely rare and usually associated with (high or low level) prostitution. It doesn´t help when the ones who should be giving an exemple are the ones who confirm the dancer/prostitute stereotype. Prostituting in exchange for a dance opportunity or career rising is NOT JUST A PERSONAL MATTER – it has repercussions on other dancers who may be artists and wish to be recognized as such without the pressure of selling their souls (and bodies!) to the devil. Each dancer who accepts being treated like dirt – or a man´s property – in exchange for the (fake) folden platter of stardom is not only harming her life – on a human level – but harming GENERATIONS of women who want to follow the Oriental Dance Path with dignity.
I have seen foreigners as well as egyptians/arabs doing a great and a horrible job – greatness doesn´t come with a nationality tag. Why do people insist on creating hate, useless competition and limitations when we could ALL learn and benefit from each other´s infos/background/doubts/knowledge?!
For me, the question of ORIENTAL DANCE being rescued from its intense commercial, superficial, distorted side is not on blaming FOREIGNERS for it or EGYPTIANS. Everyone brings something positive to the table: Egyptians are benefited by the fact of being born in Egypt, raised in that culture, music and dance – therefore being into the context, in principle, deeper and more knowingly than foreigners. On the other side of the coin, foreigners are usually educated dancers who happen to fall in love with this music/dance/culture and dig really deep into it. They don´t take dance for granted; they work hard and study; they recognize and respect the dance and the stage in a way no egyptian dancer I´ve known ever did.
Indeed – one side brings the sun and the other side bring the moon to the table and I guess we all know how they natutally feed off each other. Group work and the humbleness to learn from each other seems to be the only clear direction:
I suggest ALL dancers forget about nationality – ART has no nationality – and GATHER forces to RESCUE an ART FORM that has been deformed and misunderstood everywhere, specially in Egypt.
What UNITE us is more powerful than what separate us. Being born EGYPTIAN does not garantee that you KNOW how to Dance as being born a foreigner does not stop you from deeply feeling and understanding this dance.
We are together in this ride, fellow Dancers: Don´t we all wish to see ORIENTAL DANCE taught, performed and respected as an ART FORM?!
So PLEASE stop blaming foreigners or egyptians for that and DO your own job, individually and in group. We have a LOT to learn from each other.Ride your humbleness and intelligence and start to REUNITE the dots. Foreigners bring some essencial LIGHT to this Dance as well as EGYPTIANS. Different lights but both ESSENTIAL.
Wouldn´t it be great to WAKE UP and be a part of a REBIRTH of our beloved ART?
Remember the cliché: Union is strength. Division is weakness.