A new im­pulse

ChinAfrica - - Lifestyle -

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 fran­cois­dube@chi­nafrica.cn

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