Sunday, February 05, 2012

dance and drama..

This week sees Cairo clashes back in international news. First the horrific violence at the Port Said football match on Wednesday... then every day since then in Cairo, as people take to the streets to mourn for the dead from the match and demand SCAF (Supreme council of the armed forces) speed up the transfer of power to Egypt’s newly elected parliament.

There are so many conspiracy theories and stories and lies going around that it is really hard to work out the ‘truth’ of the situation, if there is one....

However most people (except SCAF) are in agreement that the violence in Port Said’s match with the Cairo team Al Ahly, was not your usual football hooliganism. This was orchestrated. Planned. The ‘thugs’ had weapons in the stadium. The security at the match certainly left much to be desired.

So, if it was organised, who set this up? State TV broadcast blamed America and Germany for instigating the violence!

Today I was talking about it all with my Egyptian cleaner, whose brother is in Tahrir now. Her entire family are against him going, and they are‘for’ the army. He goes anyway. In the revolution last year he went to Tahrir with 2 close friends, and came back alone. They were killed in front of him. He is involved on every level in what he sees as a fight needing to be fought, a fight for freedom for Egypt, to the death if need be. He is among the thousands who have been protesting downtown over the last 3 days.

My cleaner told me she blamed America for it all.... saying that they want to ‘break’ Egypt as they have done Iraq etc. This is what she said she learns from the local TV. She had heard that someone from al Qaeda was hiding out in Egypt and America was trying to bring Egypt to a state of civil war so it had an excuse to ‘invade’ and catch him. I tried to explain to her a bit about world politics. That although America hasn’t always been very wise in some of its global politics, it wasn’t as such in my opinion, ‘out to get’Egypt. It took a lot of persuasion to get her to even consider where might be a different way to think about this situation. She admitted that what she really wants is access to internet so she can read about it for herself, educate herself. And I have to agree with her. That is exactly the issue. Mubarak and his regime did not have any interest in promoting an educated population in the last 30 years, since once educated they might question his authority. In fact, you might say, exactly what is happening now. Egyptian people are very quickly educating themselves, and large amount of what they learn comes from the net.

So this is the Drama. And believe me, it is a ‘play’ where the scenes and characters change frequently. No-one yet knows the ending to this story. I only pray that between now and then, not too many innocent people lose their lives, and their livelihoods.

Which bring me to Dance.

My work is affected by the huge drop in tourism that any negative press bring to a country. I do understand people fear about Egypt just now. I strongly also believe that now IS a good time to visit Egypt. Come to Egypt! Help the economy of a people struggling to put enough food in their children’s mouths. Partly for selfish reasons of course, as I said my work has been severely affected this last year, but also for the other 22million Egyptians who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. It’s been a tough time. There are other reasons to visit. We don’t know what the future holds therefore there are things in the current Egypt which are really worth experiencing, and which might not survive the next years. Like dance.

Belly dance is already becoming harder and harder to find in Egypt. Less people have a dancer at their wedding, for financial and for religious reasons. People are going out less, due to the economic hardship which is affecting everyone in the world, and travelling less. So the nightclubs you find on Sharia Haram, for example, are often closing down or working limited days or hours. Some top 5 star hotels, which used to have a dance show every night of the week, are down to maybe one night per week, or special occasions only.

My boat, the Nile Pharaoh used to function with 2 boats, each working a minimum of 2 sails per evening (plus often lunch sails and late sails) and each of those sails had 2 decks open for business. The last year has seen the norm change down to one boat, one sail, and one deck per night. That is a massive drop, for us dancers who work there, but also for the rest of the employees. How long an employer can continue to function in these circumstances is anyone’s guess.
Everywhere in the world a sector of society which suffers greatly in any economic depression is entertainment. Restaurants, nightclubs, bars, theatre, dance. People stay at home when they need to tighten their belt.s This is happening here in Cairo too. Us artists are feeling it.

Dance festivals (for example, Nile Group and Ahlan we Sahlan festivals) although still being a fabulous way to immerse yourself in Egyptian dance for a week, are attracting less and less dancers from abroad who are scared to book a place, just in case things flair up.

This week I attended the opening festival of the Nile Group. The show was great with 2 stars of Egyptian dance; performing (Camelia and Tito) and one foreign dancer (Marguerite). But sadly, where only 18 months ago it was hard to find an empty seat at these events, the lowered attendance was notable. I do understand it is a risk some people are frightened to take... but I really wish people would come and support these amazing events which do so much for promoting and improving the level of Egyptian dance worldwide.

Come to Cairo-Dance here, watch dance here – while you can!!!!


Anonymous said...

Another great blog, thanks Lorna. :)

I second you: come to Egypt! The thing the world news skips over is just how localised protests are. They don't affect any of the beach resorts, and even within Cairo, are localised in an area not even 1/4 mile in a city of 20 million people.

Many local people and ex-pats here don't protest...and have lived here in comfort and safety for the past year without as much as seeing a single protestor.

Come towards the sun: welcome to Egypt! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm coming out Sat... I'm a bit scared... I have to admit it but blogs like urs help me to relax a little!! Hopefully I'll see u dance whist I'm there!!! :) Lx