Me and another dancer met at a posh coffee-shop in Cairo. I had been performing in a high profile venue for a while and she had been at a boat no one knew about. Light and shadow. Not always a good combination.
She admited: yes, she (like many other dancers and sour male creatures) had spread rumours of my supposed prostitution activity. The possible classics: the big “basha”, aka boss; the musician who has “contacts”; the manager who´s a pimp in disguise. Some dancers even marry one of these guys. Professional and legal benefits follow. My comment: ek!
-I´m sorry I said that you were sleeping with your boss in order to get a job at his place. I didn´t even know you and I had…
-No worries, you´re not the only one who spreads weird stories about me. Rumours don´t change the truth.
– I know but I´d like to apologize, anyway. I was at a bad place, at the time, and I threw it on you.
Apologies accepted. The conversation moved forward and I liked her for the guts it took to face me, admitting her mistake. The conversation moved ahead. I knew I had a clever lady in front of me, someone who could actually think and with whom I could talk in a logical manner – what a luxury, especially in Egypt. The hot topic that had made her bad mouth me and then apologize was on the table, next to our coffee: Dancers in Egypt and Prostitution. Old, old, old subject. I´d like to say extinct but I´d be lying.
-You know…in a way, I understand if a dancer prostitutes for her career. Have you ever thought someone can love her job so much she´ll be able to sacrifice anything, just anything for it, even her body? – she added, her eyes bowed in respect for some sort of wickedness I refused to grasp.
–Nah! I don´t buy that crap. Loving your dance or your career has nothing to do with the willingness to sell your body in exchange for professional opportunities. NOTHING. If you love your art, you know and respect it. Egyptian Oriental Dance has the honour of the feminine has its main principle. There´s something deeply wrong with this equation: I say I honour myself, as a dancer and a woman, but I sell myself as fresh meat. ??? Not happening. Unless you have no idea which dance you´re supposed to be representing.
The chat went on and on. She kept defending the side of the “fallen” dancer who sacrifices her own dignity for the sake of fame and I kept looking like the boring one, way more conservative than I actually am. Several conversations, on the same tone as this one, followed with other dancers. In all of them, I ended up like looking like a member of Spanish Inquisition.
For the record: I am not against anyone who decides to sleep around with whoever she/he wants. Knock yourself out, for Pete´s sake!
I am against the perpetuation of the link between Oriental Dancers and Prostitution. When a dancer decides to agree with the corrupted system and sells herself in exchange for “success” (or a sick version of it), her decision is not private. It´s public and it touches the lives of many people – it affects every dancer that will come after her.
When you do it in your private life, just your life is affected. When you do it for professional ambitions, it´s the life of many women you´re affecting and, eventually, destroying.
When I decided to move to Egypt, no one told me the kind of preparation I needed. The truth is no one could have warned me. The ones who know about it, usually have their hands dirty like hell. People who cover each other´s asses are characteristic of every corrupted environment.
As I sat with managers of 5 star hotels, proposing my work and selling my idea of Oriental Dance (totally out of synch with Egyptian reality), I realized no one was asking me to be a great dancer but a great prostitute. It seemed like the preparation for my job had nothing to do with dance and everything to do with sex in exchange for fame.
Every dancer who accepts and supports this rotten system is contributing for its continuity. Every dancer who believes ambition equals absence of dignity is responsible for every talent wasted. I´ve seen dancers arriving and leaving Cairo with broken dreams and broken wings. They were not persistent, lucky and brave enough to find the needle in the haystack. Some of them were truly talented and ready to rock their inner light – they still didn´t make it. They bumped into the same old problem: in order to succeed, you have to sell your soul to the devil.
As I rejected prostitution offers, one after the other, I thought about me but I also thought about who would come after me. I dream about the day Oriental Dancers don´t need to prostitute in order to have a fair chance of succeeding in Egypt. Anywhere. Yes, I know. I´m a freak. I´ve said it 1000 times.
Looking back, I know I was so damn persistent and brave but I was also lucky. I found one gentleman, the person with whom I signed my first work contract in Egypt. Only one was enough for me to take off and never stop. Most dancers don´t ever find that one person.
I´m not Saint Joan of Arc. Not Jesus. Perhaps not even God. But I am a dancer who respects herself and her craft. Being successful because you slept your way to the top is an illusion and a crime against everyone who happens to dream beyond the brothel. If I have to build my career, let it be thanks to my talent, skills, intelligence and professional quality. Then I can walk with my head high, proud and alive, annoying all sorts of haters.
If I need to sleep with sleazy bastards who believe women are property to pass around, I prefer to be a queen in my backyard. Plenty of space to dance, shine and love other there. No humilitation included. No rotten fruit. No smelly fake diplomacy.