What an intense week it has been.
I have learned so much about so many things. I am even managing to pick up a few new Chinese words. The main thing however is that I have seen the different attitudes between countries to 'love'.
This week we were largely focusing on Tarab. Which meant explaining the lyrics and well as the moves for many of the great songs by om khalsoum, Abdel halim hafiz and Warda. Songs that have become if you like the bellydancers' version of 'the great American songbook' , 'the songs every bellydancer should know'.
Tarab lyrics are almost always about love. Often complex love. You will often find fantastical memories of ecstatic times shared, mixed up with anguish of being torn apart, in one song. The lyrics may seem sad, but the music sometimes sounds happy. This is a hard enough thing to explain in the UK where I understand the language and the attitudes to relationships. Here in China, my students found it difficult to cope with the extreme emotions being voiced and seem to have a much more functional attitude towards love and relationships.
They felt that it was all too much and that they could never feel these emotions, never mind express them in dance. Some of the older ones nodded understandably to many of the issues, but being from a still very conservative society, many of the younger ones could not even begin to imagine why anyone would, or could, let their heart rule their head in this way. As one student said, but 'real love is like family love'. I tried to explain that there are many types of love. It was a difficult concept for many of them to grasp. How to get into the passion of the dance when the idea of your ideal partner is that you love each other in a 'family love' way, rather than a passionate way? I am not saying their way is wrong. Not at all. It seems much safer in so many ways. Longer lasting too I suspect. I think that sums it up well actually. I am generalizing obviously since I still know so little about the people and the culture, but it seems to me that logic and safety (security) are core values whereas emotions are considered as dangerous to those. A bit like Victorian Britain maybe? Wherever it comes from, it is most defiantly on the complete opposite side of the care/passion lovescale that inspires so much of the music in Egypt, in particular Tarab!
The students have been joking 'from Lorna we learn Bellydance, English, Arabic and Love'.
One girl asked me near the end of the week what was wrong with her because she felt like crying when she danced to a certain song. I had to hug her. I told her she was doing exactly what she should be doing. She had opened not just her ears to the music but also her heart.
I split the class in two and had each side perform Enta Omri for the other half of the class. I had tears rolling down my face. The air was thick with emotion. In 3 weeks these dancers have come so far. Shy, giggly girls have allowed themselves to express passion in their dance. That is a such huge step.
One of my girls wrote on wechat (China's answer to Facebook), "you made us enter the music and find ourselves deeply so we can put our emotion into the music and enjoy ourselves"
Well... The beginnings of it anyway.
Next task... To feel comfortable and confident showing their 'sexy side'. The giggles are still too frequent and very un-Egyptian (well un- Egyptian bellydancer anyway!).
Oh, and the great news is that I now have at least 8 of them who are planning to come to Egypt next year to visit in the summer. Knowing that will make the goodbyes at the end of this week a little less painful for me. We have shared a lot this course. Strong friendships have been formed. Oh dear, am welling up a little just thinking about it.
Must be positive. I have a class to teach.
Shaabi- 'sexy' is a must..........