Oriental Dance finger prints (the teachers who shaped me the most):
I have a deep sense of gratitude towards every person and experience which has taught me what I know today.
From the many incredible teachers I had the honour of studying with there are some I must point out:
- Prisca Diedrich – the person through whom I rediscovered Oriental Dance (only to realize I had found, once again, my own Soul´s Language). I met Prisca as a blank page which knew nothing about Oriental Dance and left the only workshop I did with her with a sense of PEACE, LOVE and CONVICTION of having found a SACRED DANCE – and that conviction was hers to pass on.
- Shokry Mohamed (may he rest in peace) was the first teacher with whom I consistently studied for a certain period of time. He was the one who whispered in my ears (in a time when I was starting my career as an Actress and didn´t even consider practicing Oriental Dance as a profession): “you will go to Egypt and you´ll be a great dancer in the world”. Although I didn´t believe him at the time and dismissed this episode as some kindness gesture from a teacher that wants to emotionally support a student the truth is that I ate my own scepticism along the way. Shokry KNEW better and higher than me and his teachings, presence, love, sensibility and support still linger on me, on every movement my body gives birth to. I still use the same incense he used in his classes every time I teach (the aroma reminds me of him and a time of pure curiosity and learning- away from the pressures of a career).
- Souhair Zaki.
I was lucky enough to participate in a group workshop Souhair Zaki gave at a Cairo Festival and then – through the influence of common friends – I got her to teach me some private lessons which count as the most relevant moments of my entire education in Oriental Dance. Watching her move was enough to GET the whole point of this art. She did not explain the movements, did intricate steps or choreographed the 8th Wonder of the world and she moved in an extremely calm and minimalistic manner but – boy! – how much she expressed with just a few gestures! I ended up watching her – when I was supposed to follow her movements – simply because I learnt more by just observing (and bringing myself to tears in the process).
She was the one who made me see the LIGHT and really get the FOCUS of Oriental Dance. From that point on, my whole dance changed drastically and I started to aim from my heart towards my audience´s hearts.
She danced only Om Kolthoum pieces at our classes and those proved to be the most useful of all once I started performing on a regular basis with my orchestra in Cairo.
My Dance – performing, teaching and choreographing – style is deeply influenced by her.
- Nagwa Fouad was another turning point in my Dance evolution – not so much because of what she taught me but because of what she did and said to me.
By the end of one of her workshops, she asked her assistant to get me, ask my name and tell me I “danced really Egyptian style”. She also pushed me from the crowd and asked a photographer to take pictures with me – this happening while a long line of dancers were waiting for a second of her attention.
At this time I had no accurate idea of what she meant by saying I “danced really Egyptian style” but it surely felt like a compliment that inspired me to find out EXACTLY what she meant by it.
- Mahmoud Reda – the Father of Egyptian Folklore and Founder of the iconic “Reda Troupe”.
Mahmoud Reda is a gem in so many ways. He has generously taught me everything he knows about Egyptian folklore and endured hours and hours of patient training with a student – me! – that tends to be beyond perfectionist and self-demanding (therefore: boring to teach, I suppose).
My story with Mahmoud Reda is long, incredible and beautiful. Very few would understand it and yet a lot have gained from it because Mahmoud´s presence is all over my work.
Not only did I learn all Egyptian folklore repertoire directly from Mahmoud´s hands but I also started choreographing under his push, incentive and faith in me (a faith I did not share).
Mahmoud is more than a great influence to me: he is my dearest friend, my grandfather, my inspiration, my connection to that childish side of dancers who are truly in love with their craft (not with the fame, glory and glitter most people associate with it).
We both share a visceral passion for DANCE – and Art, in general. We watched dozens of videos together (Musicals, Oriental shows, his own “Reda Troupe” work with 50 years of luggage, Tango, Flamenco, Tap dancing – you name it!); listened and marvelled at old egyptian songs; choreographed and taught together; fell in love with Oriental Dance – again and again – together.
This is the Teacher closest to my heart and the only one I worked with – assisting him with teaching and choreographing work (tasks from which I learnt a great deal of treasures). Although I don´t copy Mahmoud´s style – as many of his assistants have and “Reda Troupe” dancers do – I never lose sight of the legacy I carry within me – through him.
Love him and always will.
- My Egyptian musicians and audiences.
Oh, yes. Masters are everywhere and they reveal themselves when the student is ready. I guess I was ready then: I learnt from my Egyptian musicians and audiences as a sailor learns from its own ship, its compass, the winds and tempests he survives from.
As I started – and developed – my career in Egypt on a totally independent basis (no managers, connections, boyfriends, intermediaries of any sort) I had to grab myself to every available learning and guiding tool. I soon understood that no one – expect my instinct and God – would guide me while building daily one hour shows all by myself. Although I was alone in this enterprise, it also appeared to me that my musicians would be the first audience I could test. They are Egyptians – after all – and a particularly informed kind of audience (who knows Egyptian music and dance better than Egyptian musicians?!).
By paying attention to them – while guiding them at the same time – I learnt how to speak Egyptian dialect (without ever going to a school or having anyone explain it to me); I learnt about Egyptian and Arabic music, its particularities and feeling; I learnt about past generations of dancers they had worked with; I learnt about the taste of Egyptians and what touched their hearts and so much more.
Before dancing for my “official” audiences, I knew I would dance for my musicians and their reactions to it would faithfully informed me if I was heading in right direction or not.
Egyptian audiences also worked as a mirror and guide-line to my dance. Although I never compromised my artistic sense and dignity to please the current fashion in Egypt (less Art, more flesh), I have to admit that local audiences built my name, cherished it – allowing my career to grow despite the fish out of the water I´ve always been – and guided me (without noticing it) towards the authentic expression of Egyptian dance.
I ´ve had two precious mirrors playing in my favour: my musicians covering my back and my audiences in front of me – feeling me, understanding me, appreciating me despite all prejudices and ignorance surrounding this art form.
- There are many other teachers to whom I am deeply grateful for these are my number ones.:)
To everybody who has contributed to my Artistic-Personal growth I deliver my warmest hug and Love whisper*.