Egyptian Dance Practice Guiding Lights by Joana Saahirah


Samia Gamal, an icon from the Egyptian Dance Golden Era, posing next to the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt.

Learning Egyptian Dance is a dialogue between the world outside of the dancer and the world inside the dancer; between what teachers can give you and what only you can give yourself.

In my workshops around the world, in my private online classes & at my NEW Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School ( (, I find a common difficulty: how to practice on your own; how to make the best of what your teachers pass on to you.

13412865_1078770638884049_6120654662268184470_n.jpgHere´s a resumed, and, I hope, helpful, Guiding Lights List for a successful learning path in and outside the classroom:

  1. When in class/workshop, be respectful of the teacher, your colleagues and the time you´ve decided to dedicate to this learning experience.
  2. No cell phones in class; no gossip; no dispersion. Be 100% present, pay attention; take notes, if necessary, in a way that you´ll be able to understand when you´re practicing on your own; don´t be afraid to share your doubts, out loud & respectfully, with the teacher. Asking about what you don´t know/understand isn´t shameful – pretending you know what you don´t know may be.
  3. Divide your private practice time into 3 parallel areas: technique, improsivation, choreography.
  4. Be curious. Research the subject you´re studying by yourself. There´s Google, Youtube and Amazon, just to name a few modern technological learning pals. Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School has a KIT for all our students with loads of free learning tools. If you´re interested in receiving it, free of charge, feel welcome to ask for it via email (
  5. Do NOT compare yourself to your teacher or to other students. Each person is unique and so is her/his dancing path.
  6. Be compassionate towards yourself, your learning rhythm, limitations and flaws. Focus on the journey, more than on the arrival (party pooper note: there´s no such thing as “arrival”; arrival is a myth you can chase your whole life without ever reaching it).
  7. Understand the technique correctly – then practice it; repeat, repeat, repeat. There´s a huge side of Egyptian Dance which can only be absorbed through repetition, the time and focus you dedicate to your personal training. Showing up at classes&workshops is very important but it doesn´t replace your private practice.
  8. Memorizing choreographies does NOT make you a dancer. Working on technique, choreography, improvisation, culture & mentality and other important subjects surrounding Egyptian Dance, developing your musicality, self-expression and personality makes you a dancer. Write that down a thousand times. 
  9. Be grateful towards your body – it sustains you, it allows you to move, grow and recover. Bow to it. Whisper words of love, and appreciation, to it. It´ll compensate you.
  10. Dance to express, not to impress. The world doesn´t revolve around you. Make every dance step count for you, for your own enjoyment and self-expression.
  11. Make sure to include a WARM UP and a COOL DOWN at the beginning and at the end of your practice, respectively. The WARM UP opens the doors of your practice and the COOL DOWN closes them.
  12. Create a SACRED DANCE SPACE at your home or wherever you do your private practice. If you don´t have a dance studio, find a clean, beautiful corner and turn it into your Dancing Temple. Incense, a candle and smooth lighting help setting the mood.
  13. Use what you learn in class/workshop, creatively. Break choreographies down; repeat a certain movement and then make it slightly different; learn the rules and try breaking them. Be playful.
  14. Remember never to lose your connection to the MUSIC. Egyptian Dance is an emotional dialogue between dancer and music. If you don´t listen, there can be no dialogue.
  15. Be disciplined and flexible. Find consistent amounts of time to practice on your own. Some days, that can be 3 straight hours; other days, 30 minutes or less. No problem. Do your best. Be consistent. Make your dance practice a part of your weekly agenda.
  16. Set a clear intention for your practice. Ask yourself “what will I focus on today?”. Alternate between learning a choreography, or building one, improving your technique and improvising. This will increase the quality of your practice and avoid boredom.
  17. Every once in a while, film yourself dancing. Then watch it as objectively as possible. Develop a healthy, non attached, mature self-critical sense so you can identify what you´ve conquered and what is yet to be improved in your dance.
  18. Relax. Enjoy. Don´t take it so seriously you end up killing the buzz. Nobody wants, or needs, another burden on their endless TO DO list. Dancing should be fun though challenging. Combine commitment with lightness. Never lose track of what made you fall in love with this art form.
  19. Alternate between practicing with a mirror and without. Some times, it´s useful to watch yourself move; other times, it´s an obstacle.
  20. Be aware quality Egyptian Dance is a mix between structure/knowledge/control and creativity/intuition/surrender. Make sure you develop both.
  21. If you wish to go deep into Egyptian Dance, as an art form, make sure you grow up as a human being. The Dancer in the Person is what ultimately makes the dancer.
  22. Dance from your heart, not your ego. Compete with no one, except the person/dancer you were yesterday.
  23. Have fun! Life´s short & precious.

P.S: If you like these Guiding Lights and you´d like to use/share them, feel welcome to do so; please, identify author and source of quotes.


Photo: Joana Saahirah performing, and spreading the light, in Tokyo, Japan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s