So, in case you can't keep track of where I am these days ( I wouldn't blame you , I can't either!) I'm home, in Cairo and last week I did a Bellydance performance that was very different to performing on the boats, my usual work in Egypt.
I have always stayed away from performing in bars, seeing it as a 'lower' or 'seedy' venue to perform. Frightened of the hassle, or of the stigma. However, I was very wrong to worry. I had an amazing night last week. Everyone who came was just there because they love Bellydance. On the Pharoah, people would be there to do the cruise on the Nile, to celebrate a wedding, to show off part of Egypt's heritage, and occasionally for the bellydancing. On Thursday, 100% of my audience appreciated dance and was there to enjoy it.
In UK, I have often performed for audiences who are just there for the dance, but they are usually all dancers... Watching you to learn from you or judge you, but always evaluating, studying. I always enjoy the performance, and thankfully they do too. But as every dancer will agree, dancing for dancers is very different than dancing for 'normal' people. And no, us dancers are not normal!!!
This audience I really felt was there because like the dancers I usually perform for, they too love Egyptian music and dance. Some came because they knew me, but had never seen me dance. Others because they couldn't believe a Scottish girl could dance, and others came because they had seen me before and brought friends along with them this time to 'show me off', "The Scottish girl who dances like an Egyptian".So yes, there was an element of evaluating, however, the majority had come because they knew there was to be a Bellydance show and they wanted to see.
Within minutes, no, in fact, within seconds of me starting to perform I felt they were just 'with me'. Not even just watching me, but actually part of the whole thing. My dance fed off them, and their enjoyment fed off me and the whole thing just felt alive. One could not exist without the other. I don't really know even how to explain that feeling. I will try, with a very British example;
For a cup of tea to be a 'perfect' cup of tea, you need good tea, the 'right' water at the right temperature, milk and or sugar to be added or not at the 'right' levels, but you need something else. You need to be in the mood for a cup of tea. You have to really want it to get that 'ahhh, now that's a perfect cup of tea' feeling. The dancer and all her skills and attributes are the cup of tea. The tea drinker with all their experience of past cuppas and current mood is the audience. One is nothing without the other. You get me? Or is that too British an example?!
A friend who has seen me dance many times before, said that she told a girl who was seeing me for the first time, one of the few non Egyptians in the room, not just to look at my dance, but instead to watch me and the audience and how we interacted together. When I brought the dance down into a stillness the room hushed, when I sped up the room erupted, even to the extent that When I lifted my arms up , they did too!
That's why I dance.
That amazing feeling of being part of something that is so much bigger than the sum of its parts. A room of people who become linked by a common experience. I feel lucky to experience that. Even luckier to be instrumental in creating that.
That's why, whatever happens I want to stay dancing in Cairo, to be eternally chasing that 'perfect cup of tea'.
|costume by Pharaonix of Egypt|
Here's some photos taken at the above gig. Sorry I don't have many with the audience in them... But you will just have to take my word for it that they were there and they were with me!