A NEW WORLD: a NEW EARTH: a NEW VISION ORIENTAL DANCE
by Joana Saahirah of Cairo
As I started to teach Egyptian Dances all over the world – to dancers from different nationalities, cultural backgrounds and creeds – I realized that passing on the treasures I gathered during my life and career in Egypt was not only a question of DANCE, TECHNIQUE, TIPS and the development of several skills that make a GREAT DANCER.
I watched myself – as well as the students – and allowed all kinds of wisdom to pass through me and guide me only to find out that a brand NEW VISION of ORIENTAL DANCE was arising inside me.
TEACHING this dance is not only an artistic or healing mission – it is also a SPIRITUAL path in which VALUES, ETHICAL PRINCIPLES and a NEW MENTALITY can and should be passed on to the students, audiences and everyone who has contact with my work. It ´s about EDUCATING people and opening them to a new mentality that will bring them - and everyone around them - a happier Life.
Observing myself and the TIPS that flowed out of my heart´s mouth between a choreography or a technical explanation,
here are some of the PRINCIPLES of this NEW MENTALITY that are the BASE of everything I am and teach in the Oriental Dance World*:
- Oriental Dance is not about vanity, ego trips, desire to please others or serve their fantasies. It is all about personal growth and eternal self-exploration and reconstruction.
- Loving yourself – as well as others – is a MUST for whoever wishes to go deep into Oriental Dance. Without self-love and respect we cannot be FREE, CREATIVE, DARING, CHARISMATIC according to our own energy and stand in Life. Without LOVE we cannot shine – not in dance, neither in Life.
- It´s essential do see other people and Life – in general – as co-creators of our own path in Dance. Stop looking at others as competition and envy material. They are human beings – just like you – with their own limitations, talents, trials and tribulations. Be com-passionate towards others and LEARN from them, instead of assuming a defensive and small minded attitude. A great dancer is always a great observer and a lover of LIFE (remember Life is the material of which Dance is made of).
- Be curious. About other dancers, art forms, traveling, Literature – you name it. Inspirations are everywhere; inspiration triggers are everywhere; answers to your questions are everywhere. LOOK out for all of them in the most expected AND unexpected places.
- Work hard; party hard. Never assume that intuition and natural talents make up for lack of work study and serious commitment in the dance study. They don´t. Take classes, practice as much as possible, see good dance videos and documentaries, read about dance, research: then again: BE CURIOUS. Talent flourishes with constant and perseverant work.
- Don´t take yourself too serious and be patient with your own mind, heart, body and soul rythms of learning. Each side of your Being has its own time of digestion and you cannot rush them into learning as fast and efficiently as you would wish for. Time is a Master; Patience and acceptance towards yourself are too.
- Develop Character and backbone. Great dancers are strong, wise, perseverant, humble and self-confident and they learn and insist on winning over obstacles/difficulties/challenges when most people would quit. CHARACTER and inner strength is as important as all the technique and more down to earth data you can gather; it will allow you to grow consistently and never set up for just average.
- Realize that Dance and Life are deeply interconnected so what you are as a PERSON will reflect in your dance (and who you become in your dance will reflect who you become in your life). All the inside material you use to interpret music (your personality, life experiences, thoughts, feelings, soul, sensations, view on life – highs and lows) will be clearly shown once you start to dance, specially when you´re improvising. So make sure your inner world is rich, beautiful, honest, as clean as possible from all the thoughts, feelings and tendencies that don´t bring LIGHT and JOY to yourself and/or others.
- See Oriental Dance as a Journey where the arrival is not the most important thing. Yep: it sounds like a cliché but it´s true: Dance and Life are all about the PATH, the JOURNEY and less about the arrival.
- Do not compete with your dance colleagues. If you observe them, do so with the curious eyes of love and learn from them. No one can take your place in dance or in the world. Every person is UNIQUE and irreplaceable in his/her own way. Trust yourself and your unique gifts – no one can steal and efficiently copy who you are and the special way you feel and interpret the music.
- Say No to the Clone machine factory. Copies are always a second best sad attempt at success and they never go far. This tendency may serve the ego of many teachers who wish to create clones of themselves in order to perpetuate their name, franchising business and ego but they do not serve the HIGHER purpose of ART: BEING YOURSELF – CREATING YOURSELF – DIGGING in the GIFTS you have inside and sharing them through dance.
- Enjoy, feel pleasure, be HAPPY while you´re studying dance, practicing, choreographing, teaching or performing. Think about it: it is a privilege to be able to move your healthy body (so many people cannot do it) and learn an ancient dance that has survived throughout centuries of persecutions, ignorance and banning.
- Support other dancers as you wish they would support you. It may seem strange at first but you will find out that supporting others is supporting yourself. We are nothing but an ebb of little connected dots who will meet – somehow, someway – when we least expect it. What you do for others will return to you like a fair boomerang – so make sure what you throw is what you wish to receive (that´s the magic of this Universe´s mathematics).
- Cherish ALL your teachers with respect, tenderness and gratitude. They are the doors that allow you to discover new worlds inside and outside yourself.
- Dare to be DIFFERENT, out of the regular pattern. Be creative in ways that allow you to fail, make mistakes and then some more. The more you fail the more chances you have of succeeding. Fear of failure is the nº 1 cause of frustrated dreams.
- Allow the Inside Job of your Being to be done. Oriental Dance is about RE-CONNECTING
( religare =religion). Allow and rejoice in the process of coordinating your mind with your heart; your body with your soul.
- Breathe deeply and consciously as many times as you can. All reconnection starts there: inspiring and expiring with intentional love-awareness.
- LISTEN. Take time to learn simply to LISTEN – even before MOVING a finger. Dance starts in SILENCE, then MUSIC, THEN MOVEMENT. Dancing without LISTENING is like trying to fly without wings.
- Honour past dancers and all the references that contributed to your dance education and inspiration. Acknowledge everyone and everything that feeds you creatively so that food for the soul expands and multiplies.
- Never settle for what you already know. Ask, search, be humble to know how much you don´t know yet. This will keep you growing endlessly. Remember: arrogance is the territory of the small minded, insecure and weak.
- Be THANKFUL. For being yourself, for being ALIVE; for being able to dance; for your Teacher and all the treasures he/she unravels for you; for breathing and feeling the sun on your face on any given morning. Those are not things we should take for granted: those are gifts only available NOW.