A new impulse
Long a pillar of tourism, belly dance has been hard hit in recent years by a fall in popularity in Egypt, according to industry experts. After a glorious period in the 1950s during the golden age of the Egyptian film industry, belly dance is recently in its low ebb.
If belly dance shows were a must-have entertainment in the past at Egyptian weddings, they are now frowned upon by the most conservative segments of society, said Raqia Hassan, head of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival. This is not a good sign for the future of belly dance, she added.
“Belly dance, through its intoxicating and natural charm, symbolized above all Egyptians’ love for music. But now, many dancers neglect this expressive and emotional aspect,” she said.
In light of this, the Chinese craze for this dance is seen as a breath of fresh air. China is now a belly dance “giant,” with tens of thousands of students and hundreds of schools, according to insiders.
“My students come from all walks of life, including lawyers, doctors, businesswomen, and so on, as well as the occasional male dancer. They are attracted by what they see in movies, by the music and oriental clothing, while others see it as a hobby or a way to get back in shape,” said Du.
Demand is such that belly dance schools in Cairo, such as the Raqia Hassan School, now offer classes with simultaneous Mandarin translation to meet the needs of Chinese students.
“I believe that to fully master belly dance, one needs to explore its roots and the region where it was born, namely Egypt,” said Du.
For the last 10 years, she has been organizing study tours to Egypt. Every year, she brings about 15 students from all over China to Cairo, where they undergo intensive training and can dance alongside some of the greatest masters.
These trips allow students to better assimilate the spirit of belly dance by immersing themselves in local culture, she said.
“Egyptians are more willing to express their feelings and desires directly and simply. This is reflected in their dance. Chinese dancers, on the other hand, are more restricted. As far as I’m concerned, I found that my personality changed as I learned the dance. Little by little, I became simpler, more open and less restrained, because I love this dance, this culture and this country,” she said, before jumping back on stage for her next number.
(Reporting from Cairo, Egypt) Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org