Joana Saahirah & Zaghareet Magazine

Zaghareet last issue 5.JPGChoosing the people I want to co-create with has been a conscious choice for a while.

I´ve come to a point when I can afford to say no or yes to invitations – personal and professional – according to what my soul asks me for.

My collaboration with Zaghareet Magazine was a no brainer from the start: the team I worked with, for more than a year, was professional, respectful, kind and everything a good human who loves her/his job could ask for.

The theme of the article I wrote for the last issue of the magazine was “The Past, Present & Future of Egyptian Dance”. No better, or more urgent, subject to address.

Here´s an excerpt included in the article,  to open your appetite (taken from my book “The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond”):

The Masters of Egyptian Dance

23780_374540704885_6074320_n“What I´ve learnt from my Egyptian musicians – lessons received from the best dance judges in the world.”
 
-Is it true you worked with Souhair Zaki, ya ustaz (mister) Mohamed? – I asked my accordionist, the best I´ve ever met, a man who could make you cry, laugh and cry again, within 3 seconds of striking a note. Any note.
 
It didn´t matter which note – it was the finger that stroke the note, not the note, that made the difference. The intention, the passion, the honesty, the talent and the life experience contained in that finger defined the quality of the sound it produced. It was fancier, yet simpler, than any note produced by one of the so called “music specialists” or “technical experts”, the musicians who refused to work with dancers – whom they considered bellow them -, resuming their work to the recording studios and live concerts with singers.
 
That finger, alone, proved – without words – that content, not appearances, rules Egyptian music and dance.
 
He came from a family of illiterate accordionists who worked at street weddings and learnt from each other – observing, listening, swallowing the mood of each unrepeatable moment. They were, still are, treated like the scum of Egyptian society. For the ones who know better, they are wizards, the makers of Beauty and the sustainers of dreams in a society where dreaming can be lethal.
They chain smoked – a cheap “Cleopatra” cigar hanging from the lips or squeezed between the middle and the ring finger -, got drunk on the dust from the improvised stages they stepped on, ate humbleness for breakfast and gave birth, time after time, to the Soul of Egypt.
 
24800_379957259885_2010544_n-Give me that note, ya Hamido! – He would ask the violinist, during rehearsal, with the tone he´d use to ask for a napkin at the dinner table: casual, natural, unpretentious -, that is if he sat at the dinner table. Musicians usually don´t, except during Ramadan and other festivities that bind them to domestic routines. Tables are for Government employees, husbands who wear ties and wouldn´t admit cheating on their wives. Yes, wives – you read it well.
 
These are creatures of the night, sleeping by day and working by the night, modern day satyrs who eat whenever and wherever they can. If they can. The need to survive – and support their family -, an innate passion for music, cigars, violent ammounts of tea and other “enthusiastic”substances keep them going. No time, or permission, for suppers with the missus and the children.
For him, as for the rest of my musicians, there was no separation between art and life. One was the extension, and reflection, of the other.
 
From the first time I set my ears on these men, there was no doubt I was in the presence of the illegitimate sons of Hathor, people who aren´t mentioned in the annals of History because they´re too busy making History. Invisible, essential, love revolution History.
 
-Yes, madame. I worked with Madame Souhair.
 
-How was it to perform with her? She must have been fantastic. Tell me all about it.”
 
By Joana Saahirah
Excerpt from my next article on “Zaghareet” magazine (November/December issue).

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*If you wish to have a taste of The Magic, follow the link:

The Magic of Stillness on Zaghareet Magazine

The NEW Zaghareet magazine issue is out – September/October edition – and so is my latest article “The Magic of Stillness – replacing busy by meaningful dance (and life) “.

Proud author mode is mandatory. As I read the article, I can find loads of corrections and improvement space but I also find integrity, knowledge all of us – including me – need to access, and keep remembering, and insights that make me nod in deep agreement.

Doing is growing – no doubt.

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“Who, amongst us, is educated to stop and listen? Who has the habit of remaining still, even if just for a moment? If we stop, the world consider us dead. Yet there´s no listening to our breath without stopping, remaining still and delving into ourselves – odd luxuries in Western society. Furthermore: there´s no creativity without that still – digestive – space. Any creative person will tell you this: we need time and space to create. Destruction doesn´t demand it – we can destroy in a wink, no need for stillness or silence -; creativity does.”

Excerpt from the article.
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Joyful reading, everyone!

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Joana Saahirah & The Secrets of Egyptian Dance in Oregon, Portland, USA, proudly associated with Zaghareet Magazine.

14063826_854278511339416_117732335649861330_n.jpgGet more infos about the event by following this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1543089346001872/

Will you (belly)dance for me?

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Cucu! Striking a “hand” pose during my last performances in Czech Republic. How much can a hand say? How do YOU interpret what it says? Photo by Martin Kabrt.

Hello! My name is Joana Saahirah. I´m a professional Oriental Dancer which most people insist on calling “bellydancer”. I´ve lived and performed in Egypt with my own orchestra for 8 years and have been teaching, performing and lecturing around the world for the last 4 years.

Although I´m aware how exotic and, in many cases, demoniac, my trade seems to the mainstream crowd, I´ve never seen it that way.

In Egypt or around the world, where I currently live, my life is filled with joy, challenges, victories and the ever present void between the way I see myself and my work and the way others see me.

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Me, playing a role.

Imagine the scene: me, on a date, having dinner with an apparently intelligent, educated, well travelled and open minded man. He knows who I am and what I do for a living. But The Question arrives. It always does.

-You´re a bellydancer, right? – The word “bellydancer” is pronounced as you´d pronounce “freaking awesome porno flick”. 0189dinnerg_468x529.jpg

-No. I´m a Professional Oriental Dancer.

-Isn´t that the same as bellydancer?

-Nope.

Err…ok.

-Yeah.

This is when his mouth starts to water fed by phantasies which have nothing to do with me. I can read his thoughts but I wish I couldn´t. I´ve been through this thousands of times. Literally. So I know. Shit and stuff. And knowing can be a big problem.

I revolve my eyes, unable to go through the old explanations, the retelling of the story, the justifications. Damn! I´m tired of explaining, educating, correcting, (unconsciously) apologizing for who I am.

-I´m tired!

-What?

I leave the table, letting the man standing there, confused, holding a piece of bread in one hand and a fat question mark in the other. After a while, the waiter will ask if he wishes to drink something else. He´ll nod affirmatively, keep an olive hanging from his mouth and start dreaming about an oriental sultanesque lap dance that will never happen. Maybe with the waiter (who knows?), not with me.

I´ll head off, thanking God for my destiny and absolute lack of patience.

cropped-cropped-joana-saahirah-love-of-my-life-february-20164.jpgBeing a Professional Oriental Dancer has taught me a lot, more than a single article could tell. Here are a few of the lessons I´ve gathered under my belt, between frustrated dates, bosses who were sexual harassers, prejudices of all sorts thrown at me:

1.       Everything, even ignorance, serves a purpose. Any Professional Oriental Dancer will come to terms with this fact. Or go mad. The same way I ignore the rules of agriculture in Kuala Lumpur (is there agriculture in Kuala Lumpur?), I have accepted that most people know nothing about my craft. And that´s OK.

2.       You can empower yourself through contrast, allowing challenges to shape you like a Diamond which keeps getting perfected by the constant cutting.

3.       What you are is what you dance. Be the person you wish to see in your dance. That means a heart which keeps itself pure, a mind which keeps itself open, a body which keeps itself free, a soul that keeps itself above the mud of the world.

4.       Being a marginal – outcast – is not always bad. In fact, it can open doors “normal” people never get to touch. I´ve lost the count of times I was allowed into places and conversations that would make the devil blush just because I am an Oriental Dancer – aka loose woman, men eater, vamp, Lilith sister. Hell, yeah! Whatever.

5.       Life is too precious and short for us to worry about what others think about us. Being an Oriental Dancer teaches me, daily, to be in the moment and that presence doesn´t include pleasing others. It´s my life, my body, my dance – I do whatever I please with them. If others don´t like it, they can turn around and contemplate another lanscape.

6.       Freedom has a price. A very high one. Especially for a woman and, even more especially, if that woman happens to gather the most dangerous combination: beauty + intelligence + talent + character. Although the price is high, is worth paying. Never apologize for greatness.

7.       Men, Eastern or Western, will treat you differently because of your profession. I´ve never met a man, so far, who was inddiferent to my profession or treated it with naturality and respect. For me, it´s my job, my passion, a big part of my life. For them, it´s a movie, a harem filled with odalisques and sexual drama.

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Piece of me.

8.       Selling your soul to the devil in order to get more opportunities may bring immediate fruits but, in the long run, it´s suicide. Your dignity is your gold.

9. Prejudice doesn´t define me if I know who I am.

10. I shouldn´t apologize for being healthy, vibrant and embodied – what others see as a seduction tool (their projection over my body) I see as my Sacred Creative Tool (how I see my body). I let them keep their prejudices while keeping my lucidity.

11. Sensuality is a way of LIFE, being chronically seduced by life and all its pleasures. It´s NOT the willingness to provoke or seduce others. I dance, and live, for my own pleasure. If others want to join the feast, they´re welcome, but I don´t do it for them. I do it for myself.

12. Different is not a synonym of bad. Embracing who I am, independently of what others think I should be, is the biggest act of creativity I could ever embrace. Work of a life time.

13. Oriental Dancers work as mirrors for other people, men and women.If we´re aware of our craft, we notice how the game works and we don´t take offense when others throw their frustrations, dreams or sexual phantasies on us.

14. “Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me.” – Rita Hayworth

Same thing applies to Oriental Dancers. The question is not to stop being an Oriental Dancer but finding a man worthy of waking up with Joana.

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Me and myself. No apologies.

 

NEW article for “Zaghareet” coming!

The new article for “Zaghareet” magazine has been written a few days ago but the theme keeps knocking on my door, insistently, like a calling for the prayer: Stillness. Saying it our loud brings shivers to my spine. Shivers of desire, recognition, relative stress.

I´m torn between the demands of my agenda and my need to rest, remain still, be.

-Since when did breathing become a luxury? Damn!

This is not a new struggle – my internal world always knows what it needs and it´s clear about it but the external world doesn´t always agree with it. I´m in the middle, a bridge, a diplomat without diplomatic skills, trying to harmonize these two poles, often opponents. Between the writing, the dancing, the teaching, the choreographing and the travelling, I must find space for living. Just living. It has been on my agenda for a while now. What to do between 1 and 3pm? Live. Breathe. Be still. Exist.

Outch! 

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Sneak peek at the new article on the subject of Stillness or the Art of meaningful Dance (Life):

“Stillness was not on my mind while I was living and performing in Egypt – it was something I started doing, without thinking, instinctively, as an answer to the environment and its Neptunian tempo. Every one I met was doing it – or not doing, to be more precise. That ethereal, damned and blessed, thing called nothing.

Egyptian culture knows a thing or two about stillness and its perks. I´d watch the men in their loose “gallabeyas” lounging in the coffeshops, staring at thesky, smoking their “shishas” (water pipes) or palying backgammon , aka “sheesh besh”, contemplating eternity as if they had no care in the world.

Make no mistake: they had hard lives, often tragic by any standard. But they didn´t seem to show it. They lived in the now, enjoying and feeling grateful for the moment and the pleasure – or elevation – of that exotic state we call nothingness.”

By Joana Saahirah
Excerpt from my new article for “Zaghareet” Magazine.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Joana Saahirah NEW article on “Zaghareet” magazine

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My NEW article on the fabulous “Zaghareet” Magazine (July/August issue) has been published. Got my copy in the mail this morning! Proud author/dancer mode is ON.
Thanks to Sharing and the magazine production for such a professional, beautiful collaboration ❤
“My teacher, her mother and their assistants were skinny, pale (I´d say translucid) and so fragile you´d fear they would be taken by the breeze. They wore black turtlenecks in the Summer, smoked fancy cigarrettes in a continuum of anguish I could, even as a child, identify. They hit me with a stick – bad, bad girl! – when I rolled my hips or went out of the straight line. They cursed in French and, above all, they never smiled.
But Lilith sang to me in Spanish. I had direct contact with Flamenco every time me and my family were in the extreme south of Spain (Malaga and La Línea). Right there, in the patios of Andaluzia, where my soul also resides, I was reminded there is a space for Magic beyond what the eyes can see. I knew it – there was more than those doll movements on the barre -, instinctively, but I needed the confirmation. Flamenco did the trick.”
By Joana Saahirah
Excerpt from the article published in this month´s issue.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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A sneak peek at the article. Bellow, there´s a photo of me and my dearest friend/teacher/soul dance companion Mahmoud Reda, founder of the legendary “Reda Troup” and fairly considered the father of Egyptian Folklore.

*How to purchase your issue of “Zaghareet” Magazine: http://zaghareet.freeservers.com/magazine.html

Elephant Journal NEW article: baladi & the pursuit of happiness

Elephant Journal photo 1I´m proud to announce my second article for the fabulous – and demanding – Elephant Journal has been accepted and published.

It´s natural to feel passionate about one´s work – I know I am. This one made me sweat in every sort of (unusual) ways: I wrote, re-wrote, amplified, cut, dreamt about it and raged against it when I felt I wasn´t making justice to the theme. It pushed my boundaries and it forced me to think out of my own box. In case you were wondering: yes, I have my boxes although I adore breaking them.

Baladi or The Pursuit of Happiness is the article´s theme – it couldn´t be truer or more urgent. I hope it rings a bell, or two, in your heart. Writing, as dancing, serves a purpose bigger than me. May that purpose reach you.

Elephant Journal photo 3.JPGHere´s a sneak peek at the article:

“Real happiness kicks a**; it goes as far as suggesting we can enjoy the bumpy parts of the road, the tears, the low points, the falls and the gloomy moments.

It sounds like sadism, but it’s the opposite.

The point is not to try to avoid or deny hardships, but to move through them as smoothly as possible. Happiness reminds us we can go through the scary tunnel knowing everything is transitory. Life is made of cycles we cannot stop—birth and death, hot and cold, day and night, high and low, laughter and tears, beginnings and endings, light and darkness.

Nothing taught me about the true meaning of happiness like Egypt.

Om Dunya, the Mother of Life, they call it. A tough mum, I’d add. While living and performing in Cairo, I had plenty of opportunities to dig deep into the study of happiness and its sister, transcendence. In the midst of conflict, disappointments and chaos, Baladi, a dance style Egyptians associate with poor, common, unsophisticated matters, helped me make sense of the apparent nonsense.”

Elephant Journal photo 2.JPGHere´s the link for the article. EnJOYhttp://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/egyptian-baladi-or-the-infamous-pursuit-of-happiness/

Joana Saahirah at the Elephant Journal

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I´m (once more) in PROUD author mode & thrilled to expand my horizons.
My first article for the fabulous “Elephant Journal” is out and flying high. I love when I produce something I know will inspire, guide, support or empower someone´s life. May that be a dance, a class, a text, a book – any tool my creative channels choose.
The Body of a Dancer (or the Human Body), an entity in constant change and expansion, has been a polemic subject since Humanity saw itself in the mirror but, as you´ll see in the article, it doesn´t need to be anymore.
There´s a Revolution going on and we´re part of it – we CAN dust ourselves off from the inside out. Life is too precious and short for self-hate or any other type of ignorance.
Elephant Journal.JPGHere it is the link for the article. Feel welcome to enJOY, comment and share as much as you wish: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/02/the-alchemists-stone-gratitude-for-the-wisdom-of-a-changing-body/