Tip #3 – Competition, darling!
Competition between dancers – direct or indirect – is a reality. Even if you´re not checking who´s doing what or comparing yourself with other dancers (something I´ve never lost my time doing), you´re still competing for jobs in the market – your country market or the world market, depending on where you stand.
Cairo was a school in this sense – and many other senses. Eight years of defending myself from crazy macho jerk ex-boyfriends and dancers – and their managers – trying to stop me from dancing taught me a lot about excelling myself without ever falling into the mediocre games some people play in order to shine.
-If I don´t shine exclusively upon my talent, I´m not worthy of this stage; if I only succeed by using or destroying others, I´m not good enough for this craft and I better dedicate myself to agriculture. Period. – This has always been my belief and the guidelines for my life.
Building my name with absolutely no support – and loads of obstacles/people who wanted me out of the picture – taught me about the true nature of SELF-CONFIDENCE. Working and succeeding without a sugar daddy or a manager/pimp in one of the smallest, dirtiest and most sought after markets in the world – the Cairo dance scene – brought out the healthiest competitive vibe in me. If someone sent the police to check if I had drugs in my bags (oh, yes, they did!), I´d call out an emergency meeting with my musicians and tell them:
-Those mother fuckers are trying to screw me again. Let´s make a better show; let´s go the extra mile; let´s make sure no one forgets our work; let´s screw them by being better than we ever were.
I´d dance better; push myself in ways I hadn´t pushed before and, basically, thrive to become a higher version of myself.
During the last 3 years I´ve travelled, non stop, to perform, teach and lecture: that has been another school in terms of what being a healthy competitor means. The same rule applies: compete with whom you were yesterday and don´t pay much attention to what others are doing or not doing, unless what they´re doing is interesting for you. In that case, I suggest you observe, learn what you can and support them. I don´t mean copy them; steal their ideas, words, choreographies without a single mention of their name. That would make you a creep. I mean: learn from the people you find interesting; get inspired by them and support them, if you can. Don´t ignore what´s their merit and not yours.
In a world where shirtless men are sold as the next BIG thing in the Oriental Dance world (the ladies go craaaaazzzzzyyyy…) and great dancers/teachers are left in the shadow, we have to know what we want and how to balance artistic and personal integrity with the demands of a market that is constantly changing and playing by very different – often arbitrary – rules and fashions.
When in doubt, live and let live. Don´t step on anyone in order to rise to wherever you think is your place. Success is great when you achieve it with integrity and your head held up high. Having your hands covered in blood when you get to the top of that mountain is not the equivalent to success but, like it or not, to failure.