Joy Festival – the usual English Magic*


Ice cream van. Photo taken in Saltaire, Bradford.

It´s early morning and I´ve arrived to the place where I´m about to teach my first workshop of Joy Festival, the Jewel of Yorkshire. England. A bottle of water and a cup of  coffee are standing on a table, next to some copies of my book “The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond”. The essentials.

Every little thing about Bradford makes me realize I´m not in not London; not even Oxford – that´s clear. It´s the North, baby, and it´s so real, raw, tough, somewhat dark, deep and bulshit free. Just as I like it.

We´re at Victoria Hall, a beautiful  venue in the heart of Saltaire, Yorkshire’s well-loved UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of those buildings that makes you thankful for English conservative inclinations. Someone knows a thing or two about enriching a country through its History and Culture – a lesson so many countries, like Egypt and Portugal, should learn.

11071150_10153247097939886_1786920934533133578_nLight (ah: that light!). Everywhere: inside & around the walls, on the ground & ceiling, cutting, sharp, through the large windows, coming from unexpected places. I breathe it all in – that light; the unexpected. People say I smile a lot. This is why.

Dancers/students start to fill the space with their curiosity & sparkling scarves adding light to a room that´s already bursting with 1000 suns. I breathe it in again. Feeling grateful and in love. Always.

The thing about turning your dreams into reality – even the ones everybody else considers impossible – without  selling your soul to the devil is that you´re constantly walking on a rope held up high, without a safety net. You can be the best in the world in what you do but the world rarely cares about the best and you´ve become too aware of that. Working your ass off, being talented and proving your worth on a daily basis is not enough to protect you from disgrace or failure. You know it. It´s like death: an inescapable possibility. You learnt it while you climbed your mountains. It´s quite stupid to take success for granted, especially when all you have to offer is the best. If this sounds weird it´s because it is weird.

(Yep…I see your face….don´t twist it so much…take your time…let it simmer…)

Not taking it for granted makes you thankful for every single moment. Like this one.

After the room is full, the class begins. I love my job and the purpose that has brought me where I am right now – that´s clear for everyone to see. The music flows with the program I have prepared for this first workshop: BINT IL BALAD, a hint of “baladi” and a hint of “shaabi“. Too little time for so much information. I do what I can with what I have, this blessed tradition of cooking omelettes with or without eggs; I observe the group and kill any possible monkey who may be jumping around (insecurities, comparisons, jealousy, anger, fear and so forth…we´re an itinerant zoo, aren´t we?).

Teaching the steps is not enough; offering the cultural context for each dance style is not enough; sharing interesting choreographies is so far from enough. Breaking The Walls and reaching people´s hearts, minds, bodies and souls is THE THING. My Thing*. Bringing back that soul that keeps fascinating me in Egyptian Dance is what I aim for. Creating an atmosphere that fills the room with LOVE & FREEDOM, not only sun light and sparkling scarves, is my target. Nothing less than that.

It takes two – or more – to Tango. Teaching is a dialogue between whoever´s teaching and whoever´s learning. I don´t take success for granted, the same way I don´t take students or audiences for granted.

I was probably lucky, yet again. The students I taught at Joy Festival were amazing, warm, curious, seriously interested in learning and interesting. Each workshop was unique, as well as the performance where I totally screwed up and, nonetheless, people still loved me.

The more I live and achieve, the more I´m out of answers. Furthermore: I´m learning how to accept mysteries, pleasant and unpleasant surprises, and the fact that EACH STEP matters. Actually, it´s the only thing that matters: the step I´m taking right now. Fully present; fully passionate and committed, a mirror of the privileged worlds I´m honoured to dance in/with.

Thanks to Amanda Teasdale, aka Amanda, for creating this fabulous event & thanks for her trust in my work; thanks to all the participants, students and audience, who helped me turn my job into a labour of love. Yet again!


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