The Art of turning obstacles into OPPORTUNITIES (a NEW YEAR´s peculiar Message)

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The Art of turning obstacles into OPPORTUNITIES is not new to me; every student, fan, follower and reader who´s been in contact with my work knows how familiar this ground is.

Would I wish to live in a world that always runs smoothly, an obstacle-free universe where everything goes exactly how I want them to go, a life covered in unblemished sugar and candy? Probably. Maybe not. Who knows?

I know enough, by now, to recognize Life has a way of making us grow – both professionally and personally – through adversity. And, in the sake of truth, let me say it like it is: obstacles aren´t nice; difficulties, loss, injustice, pain, setbacks, failure, adversity in all its shapes and colors aren´t cool. I can´t stand the voices who glamourize these dark patches trying to make them what they´re not: something we should (almost) wish for. I´d like to have all the roads opened wide for me – effortlessly, lovingly, populated with kind, honest, generous folks who wished me the best.

But, I have to admit, it´s through the dark tunnels we evolve. We must face them, cross them, light them up with our ability to turn the night into a new day.

I´ve lost count of the obstacles I met along the way – they were so many, and some of them so great, I started calling them “opportunities”, first as a strategy to cope with them and survive, then as a realization.

This year, I received loads of blessings and I went through some of the hardest moments, including a big earthquake with a tsunami threat in a distant island, disease, instabilities of different sorts, a face to face meeting with my deepest fears and a fire. If I didn´t have a heart attack these past months, I will never have it.

There are huge TRANSFORMATIONS happening inside me and in my work, including at Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School.

I´d been thinking about creating a better platform for the school – I´d been wishing for it and dreaming of it forever but life had to slap me on the face, once more, to push me into forward action. The platform – Powhow – where the school operated announced its closure in the space of one month. No warning, no pre-announcement, no preparation: the courses I´d been building in the platform would be gone, forever, after all the love and investment I´d put in them.

At first, it felt like a betrayal, a punch in the stomach. God knows how much work went into the school, how much time, money, skills, patience, care. Yet, my feelings weren´t taken in consideration. As it happens, most of the time, the world doesn´t care if we´re feeling down or outraged. As the jazz song says, “we gotta dust ourselves off and start all over again”. And so I did.

A lot of work is ahead – mistakes, trials, discoveries, surprises, evolution. There´s no shortcut to success or to love or to LIFE. We gotta dig in, dive deep, take chances, wrap our sleeves up and show up for our own survival and thriving.

tumblr_ntvrutKOqi1r9qv2bo1_500.jpgThe medicine may be bitter but it may heal us so let´s open the bottle and swallow the magic liquid, shall we?

1. In the NEW year that´s approaching, I hope you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and give thanks. Say THANK YOU for all you are and have right now (even the unpleasant stuff).

2. Take stake of the “negative” experiences you´ve lived in the past three months and check how you´ve lived them and if you managed to make the best of them. Bring the lessons from past experiences to the present and to the future. 

3. Feel the pain/loss, whenever you suffer/lose; take a step backwards, have a good night sleep, breathe deeply and “start all over again”. Going through the tunnel doesn´t mean we must remain in the tunnel – we cross it to, eventually, get out of it.

4. Wonder how you can turn a “bad situation” into an opportunity for growth. You may not be able to erase sadness or bring a lost treasure back but you can create something beautiful out of it – it won´t eliminate the dark tunnel but it´ll give it meaning.

5. Understand there´s no EVOLUTION without pain. We have to struggle to get out of our comfort zone; we must die a little in order to be reborn.

What I wish for this NEW YEAR is this: the lucidity and courage to cross the dark tunnels life throws at us with our eyes on the prize – what can I learn from this, how can I turn this shitty hard situation into something worthwhile?

You know the deal: nobody said it´d be easy, only that it would be worth it.

Meanwhile, it wouldn´t hurt if we asked Santa for world peace and, yeah!, a few open-wide roads. No rocks or frogs, no traps, no dragons with evil intentions, no losses.

We deserve a break and rewards for the seeds planted ❤

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A NEW, upgraded, Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School is about to be born.

The Power of Challenges by Joana Saahirah

This was the first, and only, video I´ve shot since I moved to Bali. As everything I do, it reflects Life as I experience it.

Living and sharing what I learn from living has been one core pillars of my career and one of my biggest pleasures. I hope this video inspires you towards a more interesting dance and, more importantly, life ❤

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On Sensuality (being Alive)

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A brand NEW Online CourseSensuality in Baladi (out of the box, crazy and fabulous, as usual) – is coming to Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School and with it come a set of subjects I hold dear to my heart.

Sensuality, as freedom, love, creativity, courage, inner strength, passion, and integrity are some of the subjects at the core of my work.

The first, a highly polemic and misunderstood topic, return to our school with a bang.

What is Sensuality and why is it so important in Egyptian Dance and, let´s not forget, in life?

For me, Sensuality is about BEING ALIVE and in APPRECIATION of every gift life´s offering us.

For me, Sensuality is about BEING ALIVE and in APPRECIATION of every gift life´s offering us.

Sensuality is about putting our phones, computers, and other machines aside and actually take a sip of this blessing which is being here, alive and thriving.

Most of us ignore the pleasures our bodies, and lives, provide – the feeling of drinking fresh water on a Summer day, resting after a long journey, waking up with air in our functioning lungs, touching a loved one or/and being touched, a sunset, the sun falling upon our skin, and so forth.

We ignore Nature, ourselves, other people; the simple (big) things in life.

Most of us live inside gadgets, not inside ourselves, present in our lives.

Being ALIVE means BEING in LIFE – your life. Body, mind, heart, and soul. That presence, more than anything else, is the definition of Sensuality.

Ask yourself:

HOW PRESENT AM I IN MY LIFE? Am I letting life slip away?

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❤ Follow the link for more information on our NEW Online Course

“Sensuality in Baladi – Posture, Technique, & Choreography”:

https://joanasaahirahworld.com/2018/07/21/17443/

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The Ballroom (Shall We Dance?)

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A new morning, fresh and generously damp, is upon Bali. Another big celebration is keeping the streets empty and the temples beaming with colors, life, rituals performed for so long time itself has forgotten when they´ve started.

I´ve arrived two days ago, after traveling for two days, and I haven´t stopped a second. Not physically, not mentally, certainly not emotionally. Much less spirituality.

Part of me is scared – our brains don´t like insecurity, we don´t like insecurity, the world tells us we shouldn´t like insecurity. Not knowing. Stepping on foreign ground – truly foreign, wild. Why would someone put her/himself through that?

They wouldn´t (most people don´t), unless they´re aware Life´s too short for small minds, small dreams, small hearts.

This is perhaps what it feels to be alive – out of the comfort zone, raw & open, our chest courageously open towards the wilderness: a mix of adrenaline, fear, excitement, moments of “why do I keep putting myself in these pickles?!” with moments of “Oh, God! I love myself and my life so much. I´m proud of myself for growing continuously”.

Moving to a faraway, exotic, country isn´t new to me. I´ve lived, and worked, in Spain, Lebanon, and Egypt. I´ve also traveled the world, consistently, for work in the last 5 years, dealing with people from varied cultures, educational backgrounds, perspectives.

None of that protects me from being human. Each adventure is new – the 40th leap of faith is as scary as the 1st. The risk of getting disappointed, hurt, open to failure and success; the possibility of not being able to adapt, love, engage; the possibilities for disaster and bliss are there, fresh out of the oven, as they were the first time we went out of our comfortable zone. 

I don´t think everybody should follow their dreams, the same way I don´t think everybody should avoid television, meat, gossip, self-hatred; a wide set of stuff I dislike.

I don´t even think everybody should live their fullest, brightest, life.

I do think everybody´s free to CHOOSE what they wish to do. Or not to do. Even if that means they´ll choose apathy, cowardice, fear, laziness, remaining in their comfort zone, not going for what they love, not fulfilling their purpose.

This is our biggest blessing and/or our doom: FREE WILL. WE GET TO CHOOSE who we want to be and how our lives are going to unfold. 

At our pioneering Online Course “Enta Omri, a Journey of Soulful Egyptian Dance & Self-Love”, I taught a module on Co-creation. In that module, I called Life our biggest, and most faithful, “Dance Partner”. And that´s how I see it: 

We´re all in a ballroom. Our lives are handing their hand to us, inviting us to dance. We check the dance floor – wet, slippery, dangerous; with holes that lead God knows where, weird corners, dark spots we cannot see in detail. 

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Most of us will bow our head and decline Life´s Invitation:

-Nah! I´ll pass. My feet are hurting.

Some, perhaps the crazy ones, will say yes with shaking legs; they´ll allow Life to take them to the dance floor. They´ll be lead and they´ll lead.

That´s the thing about accepting Life´s invitation: WE GET TO LEAD AS MUCH AS WE ARE LEAD.

The ones who stay on the sideways, complaining about their feet, are not lead and are certainly not leading. They´re stuck to the ballroom walls, watching Life go by, whirling-whirling-whirling with the ones who don´t mind falling, or breaking a leg thanks to the slippery floor. They´ll criticize them for falling, for making mistakes, for daring:

-Ah, how do they dare!

They´ll probably not know despair, the fear of the unknown, the risks; they´ll also not know what it means to be alive. Fully, unsafely, passionately alive.

Sooner than later, they´ll watch as their feet get stuck to the floor, their muscles become frozen, and their brains dead before time.

Yes, it´s a choice. Living or dying before time. Watching life go by or DANCING WITH IT – ALLOWING IT TO LEAD YOU WHILE LEADING IT YOURSELF. Wherever you end up, in this case, will be a good place. The Dance always takes you where you´re supposed to be.

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One of the many religious celebrations that parade in the streets of Bali on a practically daily basis.

 

“I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.
The great affair is to move.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

NEW VIDEO “Do you believe in Magic?” by Joana Saahirah

Enjoy this video “Do You Believe in Magic?”, a part of the original bonus material offered with Joana Saahirah´s Online Course “Enta Omri, a Journey of Soulful Egyptian Dance & Self-Love” available, fully recorded, at Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School.

This is the course I wish someone had created when I first started to learn Egyptian Dance!
Much more than an Egyptian Dance course – an opportunity for personal, dance, & life TRANSFORMATION.

***Follow the link for more information: https://joanasaahirahworld.com/2018/05/03/enta-omri-a-journey-of-soulful-egyptian-dance-self-love/

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Old veggies served at a 5 star Moroccan restaurant? I don´t think so.

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The night was young and we, me and a group of friends, were ready to rock Marrakech.

We left our riad, a building with fresh corners, a courtyard, and birds which drank directly from our hands, hidden in the labyrinth of the old medina, towards the famous Jemaa el Fna.

Jemaa el Fna is that way, that way, that way! – Strangers would yell at us, pointing in the wrong direction. Invariably.

Morocco was new to me and, yet, it wasn´t. The Arabic Culture, the North of Africa, the Chaos & the Colorful Mysteries of Life have been the core of my life for too long. Normality, if it exists, is exotic to me. Madness & adventure aren´t.

We settled for dinner at a 5 star restaurant, half lit, warm, pretentious. Girls dressed as “bellydancers” were swirling around, shaking their tired, apathetic hips in our direction.

I ordered my usual “vegetarian tagine”. What I received was a plate – steaming & depressed – of old, heated, over-salted veggies. 

-Hey, sir. Can you please come here? – I called one of the waiters. 

-Yes, miss. – He approached our table, pulling his “tarboush” towards his legs.

-This plate is unacceptable. You´re cute, the restaurant is gorgeous, but these over-priced veggies are uneatable. They´re old, heated, and over-salted. Take them back, please.

My friends were surprised. The waiter was surprised. I think the “bellydancers” were surprised. I wasn´t.

Whenever I feel disrespected, I say it so. Respectfully, but assertively.

I was being overcharged for a plate of uneatable vegetables and there was no way I´d shut up – “don´t make waves, girl; don´t make waves! – mamma used to say” – and eat something that hadn´t been properly prepared.

I wasn´t upset. In fact, I joked with the waiter the whole evening; I accepted an apology dessert, and I laughed my heart out. But I didn´t pay for that tagine and I certainly didn´t eat it.

Self-respect is a sign of SELF-LOVE. Without SELF-LOVE there´s no love. No love for others, no love for what you do. No love at all. Period. Love, and respect, start with ourselves.

Whenever you´re served an old, heated, over-salted plate of veggies, remember to set the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable for you, and don´t be afraid to make yourself respected.

It´s not a question of creating conflict, or being mean to others; it´s a question of justice, clarity, and evolution. For you. For everybody.

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P.S: This was the only time I was served a lousy plate of food in Morocco.

Moroccan gastronomy is amazing and, if you´re a foodie, like me, you should try it.

 

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Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

 

What is The Invisible Dance?

products-energy-webinar.jpgIt all started before I moved to Egypt to start my career.

I was a very young, curious, dancer who traveled to the Land of the Pyramids, first with Shokry Mohamed, my first Egyptian Dance teacher, and then by myself, to rediscover the Sacred Art of “Raks Sharki”.

As I´ve researched, took classes, attended shows – from the cheapest to the 5 star nightclubs -, participated in family celebrations, and observed, I realized Egyptian Dance was more about what WE CANNOT SEE, BUT FEEL, THAN THE MATERIAL, PALPABLE, VISIBLE MOVEMENT.

At first, the prominence of the soul over the physical stroke me as odd. I´d been educated, as a Classical Dancer, to believe Dance was essentially a physical activity and, therefore, to be oriented by its visual aspect.

The focus was on what the eyes could see – how each movement is executed, the beauty of the lines, the drawing of patterns, the physical tricks, and the technical details.

My first trips to Egypt showed me there is another side of Dance, the Invisible Realm, where The Magic resides.

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I was reintroduced to an whole other concept of Dance and Life.

Instead of asking:

How does it look? (Focus on the external/skills´exhibition)

I started asking:

How does it feel? (Focus on the internal/feeling)

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Yes, the visual side of the dance is important; yes, physical fitness, the correct execution of movements, what I call “clarity of speech”, are important and my students will confirm how demanding I am on that level. But what I call “The Invisible Dance” – a term I introduced in my book “The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond” – is the most important side of Egyptian Dance.

More often than not, the best Oriental Dancers aren´t the ones who have the best technique, the sharper movements, or the most intricate choreographies. The best Oriental Dancers are the ones who are emotionally moved and are able to move the audience. They know about feeling, energy, aura, the “Duende” Flamenco dancers know so well; that which can only be perceived with the heart, beyond rational understanding. Those dancers move from their soul and, therefore, reach the soul of their audience.

They are Sacred Mirrors, Bridges, the offspring of Hermes Trismegistus,  the Messenger who runs between the sky and the earth, delivering messages from humans to the Gods and vice-versa.

We live in a material world, ruled by competition, appearances, power, and money. In this world, the Invisible is a joke, a myth, something only crazy people believe in.

What authentic Egyptian Dance brings is the opposite of what we witness, nowadays. It´s Ancient Wisdom – eternal and more urgent than ever.

Soon, I´ll share a NEW VIDEO about The Invisible Dance at Joana Saahirah´s Youtube Channel. For now, I challenge you to stop for a minute and think about the following questions:

What is ENERGY?

What is LOVE?

How does THE INVISIBLE manifest itself in your dance and in your life?

Are you aware of your SOUL?

Do you dance from you SOUL?

What is more important: do you LIVE from your SOUL?

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The Fear of Ridiculous & The Happy Monkey by Joana Saahirah

 

The Fear of Ridiculous & The Happy Monkey Exercise by Joana Saahirah.

Video dedicated to my students at Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School; part of the bonus material offered with “Tabla Solo Discovery Journey – Level 1” Online, Recorded, Training available at Joana Saahirah´s Online Dance School.
Follow the link for more information: https://joanasaahirahworld.com/2018/02/08/new-tabla-solo-creative-discovery-series-joana-saahirahs-online-dance-school/

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Education Versus Personal Exploration

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“Education is safe – you learn what others have already created, mastered, tested and approved of. If you decide to stick with what you´ve learned, and never go beyond it, you´ll become a correct, universally applauded mediocre copy machine. There is comfort, and certainty, in this choice.

But is that what you want? Can´t you see you are, and can do, so much more than that?

Self-exploration is risky, uncertain, mysterious – you´ll embark on adventures you cannot fully control; you´ll face your demons, limits and potential; you´ll test your waters and see how far you, not your teacher or an institution, can go. You will give birth to yourself without knowing how the baby will look like. What if the child is born with deformities? Or – oh my God; I cannot believe it; oh, so damn – ugly? Or just mediocre – a plain kid with no sparkle in his eyes? A regular Joe, perhaps.

Remember births can be painful and/or orgasmic. And the product of our creativity – may that be a human child or a dance piece – can disappoint our expectations. 

If given the choice, most of us will prefer to receive The Answer, or Magic Pill, from the hands of our teacher than to find it ourselves. I´ve had a few students who got mad at me because I told them they would have to use what I was teaching them and discover who they are in the process.

– Copying me won´t do the trick. You have to go into the desert by yourselves. – I told them.

They wanted to twist my neck. Who wouldn´t? A teacher who sends you off, alone though with tools in your travel bag, is not to be trusted. Is she/he?

(…) 

Explore, go within, try new things; use knowledge to empower you, not to limit you.

A good, professional, teacher will know how to guide you towards self-exploration. But, then again, YOU have to want to go there.

Curiosity cannot be taught – you awaken it in you or you don´t.

The courage to see what´s out there, inside of you, cannot be taught.

The perseverance, the discipline, the guts to find your own voice cannot be taught.

The willingness to face your limits and, what´s even scarier, your infinite potential, cannot be taught.

You, my beloved, have to get on the camel, pack your essentials, and leave for your cross of the desert.

I´ll meet you on the other side or, who knows?, in an oasis, because I, too, have my desert(s) to cross. We all do.

You´re alone on the road and you´re definitely not alone.”

Excerpt from The Egyptian Dance Booklet by Joana Saahirah (soon to be published)

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“Going to school gives the illusion that knowledge is what makes an artist. It´s like knowing how to write English perfectly. It has very little relation to the art of writing.”

My Life and Times by Henry Miller