I like it Soul(ful) style, baby!

10395820_1529222060654008_7712582134754422151_nThe big picture is not always a pleasant sight. I´ve been building a very peculiar career/life path – no surprise I have an equally peculiar vision of dance and life.

From Portugal, where I created an Oriental Dance market (that didn´t exist) in just 2 years of work, to Egypt, where I spent almost 10 years of my life presenting a new show, with my own orchestra, on a daily basis. And I´m not counting the (mis)adventures that happened along the way. Those were, in themselves, an incredible array of schools that pulled every string there was to pull in me. New strings have come to the surface as I started receiving invitations to perform, teach and lecture around the world. A new me; a new set of dreams and personal desires have been born ever since. We never stop growing and surprising ourselves, or so it seems.

No wonder I see the big picture. No wonder the big picture is not always pleasant. I mean, I´m an optimist. What else can I be? A pessimist? Would that help? Nah, I don´t think so. It´s hard work to be an optimist in the big picture but it´s a coward work to be a pessimist. So easy, so shortcut, so lay me down on the sofa and let this whole mess explode and see if I care kind of attitude. So lame. So comfortable and predictable. So not me.

While seeing the big picture, I tend to get annoyed, every now and then. Discussions about the OLD and the NEW STYLE of Oriental Dance get on my nerves. They do.

If you ask them to define OLD STYLE, they look around searching for flies. If you ask them to tell you where is this so called NEW STYLE, they whistle a Frank Sinatra song. They have no idea. Clichés run around random mouths so easily they crystallize and become universally acknowledged truths.

In Egypt, you know how to dance or you don´t know how to dance; there´s a guy covering your back – a convenient boyfriend of some sort (musician, manager, boss, empresario or rich “pasha”) – or there´s no guy. People love your dance or they don´t. There´s no talk about “that´s old style; that´s new style”. It´s Egyptian Dance or it´s NOT. You´re good or you´re not. Simple.

What people often call old style is EGYPTIAN STYLE, that language of the soul that is eternal. It´s not old or new. It´s a CLASSIC. It´s ART. It´s E-T-E-R-N-A-L.

What people often call new style is clueless dance performed by equally clueless dancers.


Samia Gamal, backstage.

Sure enough, every art form evolves with time and the ever changing circumstances. The Oriental Dance of today CANNOT be the Oriental Dance of 100 or even 20 years ago. It just can´t. If it´s alive, it has to evolve with the times.

I´m not only talking about the fact that dancers, students and audiences are not the same as they were in the past. I´m talking about time, politics, economics, emotions, life styles, human expectations that have drastically changed. It would be naif of us to presume Oriental Dance would stay exactly the same as it was decades ago. Only dead things remain the same. But the essence can remain. The soul does remain. If we recognize and bring it out of our systems.

The shift between old and new happened when Badia Masabni created the “Casino Opera”; when she put Oriental Dance and dancers in a context that forced them to shift into modernity. From the streets to the big, posh, glamorous stages; from the “harems” to the movies; from the domestic space to the public space, big time; from a purely instinctive improvisational performance to a structured, choreographed performance aimed at communicating to a wider, educated, well travelled audience. Yes, Badia Masabni could talk about old and new style. She could.

What makes Egyptian Dance what it really is? What´s its essence? It seems that, when it´s missing, people call it “modern style”; when it´s present, they call it “old style”. I mean: what; why?

Is Beethoven music considered old or new?

Is Picasso painting considered old or new?

Is Tolstoi  writing considered old or new?

Is pure Love considered old or new style?

Do you get my point?

Quality and essence never go out of style. They´re not old. Not new. They´re eternal. So is authentic Egyptian Dance. Stop calling it old.

Is ignorance new? No, it isn´t. I wish it was. The new style of oriental dance – whatever that is – is not new. Sorry to disappoint you – yet again. It´s been there since the beginning.

Bring the knowledge, the cultural and mental context, the music, the sensibility, the interpretation and the soul and you´ll have EGYPTIAN ORIENTAL DANCE. A dance that is timeless, impossible to classify as old or new. Such as Humanity. Such as Love.

tumblr_nmhp2ud6Ke1rkn8fuo1_540I hope my point is clear. Or felt. Felt is better than understood. (I hope).

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