Desert Island Dances- Egypt Edition- Contemporary Dance Night
Week 1 in Cairo- arrival, audition, beginning…
After a delay in Rome I arrived more than a little spaced out. As I watched out of the taxi window on my way to Ezzat Ezzat Studio it dawned on me that this was actually happening, and I was definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
There is no real system of traffic so the only way for a driver to navigate the roads is to a) be very aggressive, and b) toot the horn often. This teamed with the fact that absolutely everything is open and running 24 hours a day, means that I am gradually adjusting to constant noise. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps- well Cairo is her hard-core older brother… on amphetamines. I, personally, have been sleeping, but only due to earplugs and my fast dwindling supply of ‘night time’ tea.
I was relieved to meet my American and Dutch counterparts, who, it turns out, are lovely and likeminded with similar taste in food. This is a blessing in our shared accommodation- especially as its fairly unsafe for us to go out alone. Most of the time we prefer to take an Arabic speaking friend with us, of whom, thankfully there are plenty around.
The dance community here is incredible. Small, as you can imagine, and can only be described as a loving family- but, crucially, a family they have chosen for themselves. These are normal Egyptians, not rich, westernized or privileged ones. Some were born into highly conservative families and have fought, and changed their lives, in order to dance. This is not without tremendous sacrifice. As a result the audition was easily the most joyful one I have ever been a part of- in any capacity. Of course there were nerves, but everyone was supportive and caring of one another and everyone was hungry as hell. We all sweated it out for nearly 6 hours. It was then I decided to open my morning class / warm up for anyone to attend. I want to give as much as I can of my humble knowledge to these people, and have a maximum impact on this exciting emerging dance scene.
I noticed that there is a tendency across the board to move from the arms and all could do with dropping their center and using their pelvis more. I guessed this was a cultural thing, or something linked to coming from a very religious background, and this was later confirmed by one of my dancers. Anyone reading this who has moved with me, or seen my work, will know the my classes and choreography will get them down, rolling and dirty!
After the audition we, the choreographers, sat together trying to figure out how everyone could have a team they were happy with without over working some key players. Then a schedule was worked out- and then we started- the next day! Contracts were signed and by Monday (just 2 days after I arrived) I was in the studio with my team of 6 diverse characters.
Many members of my team were actors before they were dancers, and this is a gift. They speak text naturally. We have begun sharing song choices, telling stories and playing with gesture. I was nearly moved to tears today by the vulnerability and power they are already displaying in their movement at this early stage. This is a very different experience from working back home.
One of my dancers is taking a day off on Thursday to support a friend who's on trial for protesting. In the UK we take our right to march and to speak out so much for granted. Insha'allah (god-willing) in the future I will use this right to its maximum. I am so privileged to be working with a group of such brave and strong people. Each individual is so willing to be completely and absolutely themselves. If I ever find myself holding back on being my true self again, I will think of these people, and how much they inspire me.