Love-Hate… Egypt

I still remember the first time I went out here in Cairo: I was an untrained in what we should call “The behavior accepted by this society”. I was also younger and I kept my dreams in a tiny glass box so I can see them… I was afraid to release them. I didn’t speak any Arabic, I didn’t understand many things (until today I still don’t understand some things) but I have on my side my “good will” and the innocence…

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During an afternoon when we walked, we cross the street to the Nile side and I could hear “The hantour” (very famous song)… The music came from a “Falucca”, (Those little loud boats with lights). Without any hesitation I started to dance on the sidewalk, on the daylight… (Anyone who has been in Egypt knows that this is not a good idea, specially being a woman). Suddenly my friends surrounded me saying: “Please stop!”. With the course of time certain words began to sound familiar to me: “Haram” (sin), “Mish kwayes” (Not good), “3eb” (Shame)… I didn’t like those words!

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Everything was so strange and far from my culture and the way I was raised. Sometimes, to be honest, I was over and I felt everything unbearable. I wondered if I was in the right place. “Maybe I should return to my land” I thought… My land, my tiny Tucuman that I left so long ago…

I remember one day I was very angry and melancholic. I was sad. I went to the room, slammed the door and fell sleep in the bed… crying. Then I had a dream: I saw a lot of people, and the place (according to the references of those who claim to have been there) it was like heaven… From among all these people my father appears (he died in 2006 before I came to Egypt)… we hugged strong, until now I feel that like I’m hugging him right now. I was amazed and I asked him: “Papa, what are you doing here? Do you know where I am?” and then he replied me with his sweet voice: “Of course I know where you are!”… From that day my friends, I didn’t need anything else…

The Nile

The Nile

When I was a little girl I remember we used to say: “Look at the airplane!” Pointing to the sky… (IF we saw an airplane). My city is not one of the largest in Argentina but it’s one of the most populated (and we, “Tucumanos”, we are brave so be careful 🙂 ) I remember all that in a day like today with helicopters flying over my head every five minutes… and I see airplanes all the time… all the time… no longer strikes me… and I’m not a little girl.

Alejandria

Alexandria

With so many things that happened to me here in Egypt, including two revolutions, I must admit that there are things and habits that are normal for me now… or “natural”, whatever you prefer to call… Like if I born here, as if those things were a part of me since forever…

Of course I know how to make "Mahshi"

Of course I know how to make “Mahshi”

I have lost some of my “sense of wonder” about many things but that doesn’t mean that I have lost the “enjoyment”: Cows hanging in the streets, eating with the hand (no fork or knife) sitting on a carpet on the floor, and always replying: “La’a Shokran!” when people offering me to eat or to drink something… just for they insist couple of times more… all this is, how to say it? “Part of me”.

Having a "street breakfast"

Having a “street breakfast”

Yes, sure… many times I was angry and I wanted to take the first plane to anywhere… But everytime something stopped me… not my husband or my work… but something I have inside me, something I feel… The experiences like pictures come to my mind: “The joy and the sadness”, “Good things, bad things”, “The uncertainties and the certainties”…

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Street water is good now!

Maybe because I drank “Nile water” I’m under a “love spell”? Maybe that’s why I can’t leave? Perhaps when you are able to face everything in a strange land that you adopted as your own with all your heart, unconditionally with deep love… you just can’t leave?

sailormoont

Thank you Egypt!

iloveegypt

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I’ll never be Egyptian

How do I start this post? First of all let me introduce myself: “My name is Magda (Originally Magdalena but I’ve changed it long time ago because I got tired from “Maggie”) , I’m from Northern Argentina, I’m an artist… Since like five years I’m working (surviving) and performing in Egypt… Two revolutions caught me here and I was like “I’m coming back home” but my unlimited hope and my positive thinking stopped me… So here I am!

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Are we clear? Good! Well, this post it’s about some misunderstood concepts that are flying over the Belly Dancing’s community skies… So, let’s start!

Audience in Egypt and elsewhere

I said it before and I will repeat it until I die… (I hope I don’t need to) : “You are not doing the same things here in Egypt and outside… This is what people showed me and this is what I (by experience) can say… Let’s bring on some examples so we can have a clear view…

Magda Monti

Splits!

While here in Egypt are the boom of the moment, abroad splits are like “normal”… since ANY trained dancer can do that! So, why here in Egypt splits are a big deal? Just because (except a few dancers) Egyptian dancers are NOT trained to do that or even to “dance” the music that they grew up with… and let me add “Splits in an acceptable way so people won’t judge you” and bla bla bla…. Some of this is truth, some of this is lie…. WHY? Since you are a dancer, a Belly Dancer, people will not look at you in a good way… It doesn’t matter how “respectable” your dance is, or even if they take pictures with you… because in the end “Enty Rakassa” (You are a dancer)… BUT deep inside they will always know which kind of dancer you are, so be aware and try to change this concept they have without loosing your hope in the way…

MAGDA MONTI

MAGDA MONTI

I heard a dancer saying: “Splits are made to bring the attention, so you are seeking people’s attention”… Mmmm Really? OF COURSE ARE MADE FOR THAT! Specially if you do it in the finale! (As I do it and I love it) What’s wrong with that? I do it in every time I consider it’s worth to do so… I just try to not do it slow while touching my boobs… But that’s MY split version.

magdalenamonti

Wings, 1000 veils and whatever circus show

That’s working outside… here Maybe wings and “shamadan” well performed ( and with lighted candles)… if no… Just forget it….

With my lovely "Shiva" 2005

Singing while you are dancing

I had a woman between my guest at my show, she was claiming she performed in Egypt long time ago and telling me her story… I respect her as ANY dancer who have the guts of living and performing here… She told me: “Don’t sing the song while you are dancing! It’s not your language! It’s not yours!” I don’t know how she danced but I felt like if singing is what I feel, that’s what I will do…

People here are not interested in your pirouettes or with how many elements you dance with… They want to see interpretation (not overacting). Remember: Maybe for you Om Kalthoum’s Lyrics are something so NEW and may bring you on tears BUT people here grew up with that and they knew it before you so… Just feel it without even trying to tell anything… because IF you feel it , you would be able say it with your body.

dance, sing and enjoy while you're on stage... if no... why you are on stage?

Costumes… a big subject

For this I am very personal.I sometimes use the same costumes in Egypt and outside and I had all kinds of criticism… a woman said (in any group lost in facebook) that I had killed my grandmother’s sofa while wearing a suit made by Aziz (RIP my dear and awesome designer since YOU I never wear another’s designer costume)
Another said that in one of my outfits she could see even “my address”… and in other costume “I hope she won’t sneeze so her boobs will stay in place”… And many comments like this…I am not interested but I laugh a lot… LOL Keep talking and commenting :*

Performing at Japan! ♥

Performing at Japan! ♥

When people would understand that dancers here perform for a different kind of audience? and they are not related to dance at all? Oh! yes, they know how to dance… any Egyptian woman can do that! And you will be surprised because what you’ve paid it to learn, Egyptian woman and little girl knows it from her heart… blood and whatever… BUT of course there is a big difference between “knowing by heart” and actually “doing a show for 45 mins or more”…

Conclusion 

It doesn’t matter how long I live in egypt… five years… twenty… I’ll never be Egyptian because I’m Latin American, Argentinian and proud of it … in my whole being, not only in my dance! Anything wrong? That’s the mean reason they hired me here in Egypt when they first saw me! It is a commitment, no doubt… and I assume that… with all the love and respect that dance deserves…

Shh!

Shh!

“If you don’t like something, change it or make it better but If you can’t then just shut up because foolish words, criticism and gossip are typical of people who can’t stand another’s success… Yet also this is FUEL for those who love their lives, trust in their work and have no time to lose”

Oh Yeah!

Oh Yeah!

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The teacher

With my beloved "Shiva"

With my beloved “Shiva”

I had to leave behind many things when I came to Egypt, one of them my school… and of course my students. Although I started teaching not by “vocation” (my father refused to afford me dance, whether classes, costumes or whatever was associated with it) I must to admit that I found a great satisfaction in teaching. I went to the local news paper and I post on classified ads and I received my first students in living room. That was the beginning but more students joined, then more and more until we had no place and had to move to a real “dance hall” where we were able to work.

There is nothing more rewarding than watch a student grow. To see her evolution and feel that you give something. Not all my students wanted to become a “Professional performer” or “teacher” but I was teaching them all equally. I was quite demanding as a teacher and I still am. In class there is time for everything and by that I mean that work and rehearsing must be priorities… We can talk, exchange opinions… but only when the work is done. Rehearsals were sacred: If you didn’t show up you should send a death certificate to justify that…

Ending the year dancing

Ending the year dancing

 

I loved to make choreography, specially the “solos” because those “solos” were their moment. True, my students had something mine in their dance but they always put their personality in each song.

I have wonderful stories! laughter, tears… anger… So many memories… stories… If I remember just one I feel moved. I miss them, of course, but I’m happy to had shared so much with them and I learned a lot.

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Good teachers and bad teachers

When I started in Belly Dance I had a teacher whom I admired very much. I remember that always before any competition or festival we used to have so much rehearsal and in the end of the day we stayed just to watch her rehearsing. Once, when she finished dance we gave her a big hand and she said: _“Someday you will dance like this…”  I swear, just to hear that, I felt like something inside me was broken. Over time I realized that teachers not only teach what you need to learn… some of them teach what you should never learn.

A good teacher is the one who is by your side from the “teacher position” but without feeling superior… A good teacher is who you admire and respect without he demands for it. A good teacher always remember that once he was also a student… therefore he “reads you” and he knows how to guide you. When I met my teacher in class I knew that it was him who should guide me. Never wanted to be like him because he is unique but I wanted to follow his steps and learn from him every second. Besides being an excellent teacher, is a being full of light… loved and admired worldwide, he walked in many stages but he still sit beside you and talk with no arrogance… Those who have the pleasure to know Amir Thaleb sure understand what I’m talking about.

Teaching in another language

When I had the opportunity to teach here in Egypt had been a year without teaching and on top of that I had to teach in English. Which represented a challenge for me because, even though my English is not bad (and my accent is very Latin) is not the same… Especially in the beginning. I always had more foreigners students than Egyptians, sometimes groups others private lessons. It was no long until the language stopped bothering me and I felt again the pleasure of share what I’ve learned and what I love… again… Teach or give for me is the same.

The language issue is not minor in some countries where English is not spoken much, such as Japan. Where at certain times in the class I needed the collaboration of a translator because I prepared a class with a song translated from Arabic to English. But I can assure you that DANCE, like any area of art, is UNIVERSAL.

Japan

Japan

 

 

Every country I visited has nurtured me professionally and of course I have precious memories of each place and the students who passed through my workshops… They have passed through my hands. Now I don’t have a dance group or my students like I used to have when I was in my Tucuman, but I’m still the same and when I teach I give my best because I want the students take something from me… that’s my wish. I just have one problem: When I start the class I forget the time… also I don’t count inside the time “the break”… maybe that’s why in my workshops we always finish the choreography. In Japan my workshops were 3 hours and half each. I didn’t stop for 2 hours and half and when I did a pause to explain something some girls came and spoke to me in Japanese… their faces were like “PLEASE!”… with the help of the translator I understood that the girls wanted 5 minutes to drink water and relax…  The Japanese people are the most polite people I’ve met and the students are also applied.

Sicily

Sicily

 

I teach here in Cairo to foreigners visiting and foreigners girls living here… from Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Italy, France…to name just a few, and of course from Latin America. Also I have Egyptian students.

One of my groups in Cairo

One of my groups in Cairo

 

I have also recorded online classes for http://www.cairobellydance.com and I want to thank Aleya for trusting my work.

 

The big difference

When I was in my country I was teaching more often than dancing in any celebration. Is not in our tradition to bring a belly dancer, is not a “must do” and in turn there are many girls who want to learn to dance. So all the dancers teach more than dance in shows. I remember when I was called for a show in a wedding I used to spend all day preparing myself for the occasion… Although you can dance in the end of the year in your festival but is not enough.

Here in Cairo, Alhamdullah, I dance almost everyday and I teach from 3 to 4 times in the week. I don’t have to much time to “prepare myself for the occasion” but it’s worth to have 2 or 3 shows per day… The stage is a great teacher, and what you learn on stage you can not learn it elsewhere…

 

Gratitude

To devote myself to what I love for me it’s a blessing. Meeting people from different places in my shows and in classes it’s a unique experience. No day goes by without I remember how I started my journey… my beginnings… Those evenings when we went out with some of my students to hand out flyers, whether “start of courses” or “festivals”… every time I traveled to Buenos Aires to learn… every time when I used to sewing and make designs with countless beads and sequins…  Every time I told to my students: _“Today you get on stage, some of you for the first time, for some of you will not be relevant but others will never leave the stage.” And of course that moment when my father told me:_“If dancing is what you really want… then dance!” … His words were like a release for me… Because it’s not important to do what you want, but LOVE what you do!

 

 

I’m not sorry for what I am

It is quite rewarding for me to receive the love of the people. It happens to me very often in my shows but it’s expected because I dance with a costume and make up and like this it’s easy to recognize me. People come and tell me: “I saw you in the tv series with Mona Zaki” or “I saw you in the Christmas video”… and many beautiful things…

In a scene with <ona Zaki and Bassem Samra

In a scene with Mona Zaki and Bassem Samra

But in the street just happened to me 2 times: once in the bakery (I was looking for my cheese cake… yes I love it) The man gave me the bag with my sweets and told me something like “Thank you Maria” (Maria was the name of my character in a tv series)… and once when a cop stopped us (me and my husband we were coming back home in the car) but the cop recognized me and let us go without even seeing the papers!
Well, now starting to happen more often… and in the streets.

A girl looked at me and smiled… she looks down until she was encouraged to talk and told me in arabic: “Excuse me? you’re the girl dancing in Huba’s new video?” I wasn’t sure how to reply so I smiled to her and that’s when she said: “Yes! it’s you! you bring light to Egypt! I loved the video! you are amazing!”.

Today when I was doing some shopping at the supermarket, I went to pay and the cashier told me in Arabic: “Beautiful dancing in the movie Mahragan”. He didn’t even ask me if it’s me or not… I smiled and say thanks!

All this shows me two things:
1- Yes, it’s true that there is a prejudice against the dancers here but if you know HOW to show your art the people will appreciate it, and they will show you.
2- It makes no sense to deny who I am as I did before for fear… This is what I am. I fought for every success and I’ve learned from my mistakes… “to hide myself” clearly was a mistake.

With Bassem Samra "Tv series ASIA"

With Bassem Samra “Tv series ASIA”

Why I’m going to hide? 

I can’t live without “the dance” I feel complete on stage! People see it and appreciate it. Is that wrong? I don’t care what people say, that is not because I pretend to be a “rebel” and if I am accepted “good” if not “good too”…  No, this goes beyond: It’s because since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be on stage, of course I never knew the prices that must be paid as an artist, and I never imagined that I will be a “Belly dance artist in Egypt”… but I knew that “Stage” it was the place where I wanted to be and finally when I was there (I was eleven years starring a theater play for children) I said that I would never leave it… and here I am.

Acting, dancing... on stage!

Acting, dancing… on stage!

I’m not sorry for what I am… if the dance is “haram” (sin) and I will go to hell for that… this just makes me think about my next show… I believe in God and he knows me very well… that’s all it counts! If I put in the balance all that I feel when I dance or when I’m acting and “what people say” I think the last thing doesn’t make any sense… doesn’t even count! This who I am… yes, an artist… but I also love to call myself: a BLESSED CREATURE and above all very, very, GRATEFUL…

Awkward moments, memorable moments

Dear readers, followers and friends, first of all I want to thank the beautiful messages that I’ve received lately. For me it’s a pleasure to share this space with you and I’m glad that you ask me to write! I want to apologize for the absence. I always try to find some free time to write but is not always possible. I’ll try to not be away so much 😉 This time I want to share with you some moments that I will not forget… some on stage, some recent… Enjoy!

The police

Although there is no curfew “police checkpoints” and “military presence” still in the streets of Cairo. The police stops some vehicles to ask for the papers of the car, the license… It’s rather routine and not for all the vehicles. Mohamed says that when he goes alone in the car nobody stops him to ask anything but when I’m with him the story is different. I don’t know if this is true but when we go together we always have to park and show the papers. These checkpoints are never in the same streets so it’s difficult to avoid them even if you want.

A few days ago we came back from a show and we saw few meters ahead a police checkpoint… A policeman asked the papers to Mohamed. The police took the papers and his license and without even seeing them asked him to park. Mohamed asked: “Just like this? Direct???” The police told him to shut up and do what he said.

We waited a few minutes, since we could not go without the papers and the license. We started worrying when the policeman showed up, who asked with a serious voice many questions… Until he completely changed his expression and exclaimed: “Eh Dah Eh Dah?” (Expression in Egyptian Dialect which means “What’s that?”) And with a big smile he told me: “Excuse me, you’re an artist, right? You perform in a boat in Giza!”. I was very surprised. I told him the truth: “Yes, it’s me!”. He told me he saw me on television and he wanted to take a picture with me but he was wearing the uniform so… in the end he told me that he wish to find me in another time without his police uniform to take a picture with me. We were talking for a while until we asked him if we can go, he said: “Of course! Sorry for the delay! Go ahead!”. He gave us the papers and we left.

I want to dance!

It was a sunny day. I don’t remember exactly the time of the year but I will never forget that day. I had a show in the morning for a tour group, so I was waiting to start. Everything went wonderful and then came the part where I get closer to the audience. I went to a particular table because a woman smiled to me. When I was close to her I realized that she had difficulty for speak  and move, she had paralyzed half of her body. She told me: “You are very beautiful! I want to dance!”. Without saying one word I took her hand. It took us a while to get on the stage, and in our way I was wondering if I was doing right! I was afraid she fall or hurt herself! But her smile and her energy “erased” my fears. Once on stage, while we were dancing she told me that she had a car accident but she feel very happy when she is dancing. We danced the whole song together at the end she hugged me strong and said: “Thank you!” I replied: “Thank you!”. No doubt, it was one of the most beautiful shows in my life.

It happen to me always that the audience believe that I’m Egyptian, for that reason I learned to no assume the nationality from anybody… I could be wrong… Looks can be deceiving. 

The American

During my show on the first floor I could see between the audience a man who was alone in a table, but was very happy and enjoying the show. In the end I went to change to perform in the second floor, and when I was going up the stairs I found this man and he told me: “You did an amazing show! You are great! Good Job!”. So I replied him in english: “Thank you!”. Completed my shows I was in the dressing room preparing myself to go home when my phone rang… Mohamed told me that it was people from Argentina who wanted to see me. I left the dressing room and I found this “supposed American” who was actually from Cordoba, Argentina. He thought all the time I am Egyptian and I never imagined that he was Argentinian. This happened to me very often with groups from Argentina and Latin America. The last group of Argentina it was a group of women who also took me by Egyptian but one of the waiters when he knew these ladies were from Argentina he told them that I was from there too. So again the phone and they came to the dressing room to say hello! One of them told me: “When we heard your nationality we needed to talk to you! We thought that it would be nice for you to talk with people from your land!”.

Posing with a group from Argentina!

Posing with a group from Argentina!

Is indeed beautiful for me to find people from Latin America or Spain because they speak my language, and if they are from Argentina I feel like I know them from always.

The Fall

My show is divided in two parts. The first is my entry and I choose a song for the occasion, depending on if there is a wedding or a special group or… why not? Any suggestions from the audience. The second is a tableaux (Saidi, Scandarani, Baladi…) and that is when I get close to the people. That day, during my second part I saw a covered woman looked at me in a very unfriendly way. But as usual I didn’t pay attention, perhaps I understand the reason of this kind of attitudes, as some Egyptian women are so jealous, but I don’t put my energy into that. When I wanted to leave the stage to go to the tables the heel of my shoe or having stepped wrong or that bloody slit between wood and carpet or whatever… well, I was on the floor.

Me, who had wondered so much about how embarrassing would be the moment when an artist fall. I was horrified when by chance I saw some dancer’s fall and I suffered it as if it was my own! Me? Well, I was sure that “The fall” it wasn’t something you can escape for so long… you are on a stage, your are exposed… it can happen. Easy to say… but when this idea was on my mind before this day I was like: “Oh no God! No please!”. So, I was there, on the floor, asking myself many things… Although my fall was not a big fall for me the result it was the same: “I was on the floor” period!

When I looked up as I stood I saw this woman filming me with her cell phone with a smile from “ear to ear” but her smile far from discourage me gave me strength and made me smile. My musicians were worried looking to me and waiting for me to say something to them… I smiled to them. Some people from the audience didn’t realized about what happened , some other yes and they asked me if I was fine and I replied: “yes!” With a big smile.

I finished my show with a Baladi and an amazing Solo Tabla. The fall It wasn’t THAT terrible anyway and to my surprise I felt “cool as a cucumber”.

The important thing is to getting up: The show must go on! 

Gracias!

Thank you!

Argentinian Style or Egyptian Style?

I am at home, online, drinking “mate”, but sadly I’m reading some comments and statements on facebook. The topic seems to be “Argentinian Style or Egyptian Style?”. Is not bad at all if people exchange views and discuss an issue, but I feel a great sorrow when I see that there is a lot of “disrespect , irony…” in some comments… I feel that I must to say somethings… just because I’m from Argentina, I live in Egypt and I’m a dancer.

Argentinian Style

What is this? well, here we need to separate “what is this or what means this for each person”:

-For many people it’s an invention or a distortion of the dance, it’s a deformation because is not oriental.

_For other people it’s a “breakthrough”, innovation, something just amazing.

In my opinion all these things are true, except for the word “deformation”, because for me the art in all it’s disciplines can be (and in fact it is…) “transformed”. Talking about “deforming”, and more if you talking in derogatory way, it’s talk about something ugly, not nice for the eyes… And the Argentinian Style is not unpleasant to watch!

Here some examples of great exponents of this style and great Argentine dancers

Saida

An impeccable reference for what we call “Argentinian Style”. With her legs showing unique flexibility, moving on stage with gran elegance, that everlasting smile, and those famous “camel reverse terminated with a head hit”. In my country many have learned in her school and others “accidentally wanting”. In Argentina many tried to imitate her, so far, with no results… How many dancers got injured by trying to do what she does? Her amazing floor work? Even the smile and the expression of her face many tried to imitate. I don’t know in other countries but in my country it was so. Few people have joined to criticize her… I wonder why they do this? Because she is not “oriental”, because she is not “Egyptian”? She doesn’t need this! She have her own style… And this is what a dancer should do: Find a style!

Maiada

In my opinion, in my country she is the most “oriental” or the most “Egyptian” of all. She is a bomb. You look at her and you get desperate! She comes then turns around and you’re like saying: “Wait! Where you’re going?!” Even since I first saw her was always that way, with this “enjoyable aggression”… Today many people notice that because it seems that “Egyptian Style” it’s a boom in Argentina. But she was always so, with that demeanor on stage, with those feet stomping and screaming “Tierra!”.

Amir Thaleb

What to say about him? Literally “master of masters”. He was the master of the dancers mentioned above… including me… blissfully!

Amir is a great “Art maker”. Someone we can call “interpreter and teacher”, because one thing it doesn’t means the other. There are many amazing dancers and performers but they are not like that as teachers and viceversa. Amir is great performing and teaching because he is “human” and “humble”, he gets next to you and talks to you without any arrogance. I remember being in his class and get excited to tears! To watch him on stage or in class is simply a delight.

The Argentinians

In Argentina we are a melting pot of races, we come from many places but we are all Argentinians. We have descendants of Arabs, Germans, Italians, Spanish and more. It’s in our nature that diversity, that mixture, no one can be 100% Italian or Arab. Yes, you can have more or less forthcoming ancestry but you are “Argentinian”… period! And I think that is the reason why we fight in the 90% of the cases for nonsense… Like “Argentinian Style or Egyptian Style”

“The oriental dance should be like the Egyptians dance!”, “Those dancers who make fusion are not real dancers!” By making these kind of comments it seems that they are competing to see who is the “Idiot”. Enough of divisions! Art doesn’t need them! Everything is so divided… the purpose of ART is UNITE.

I have some news for many: Just come over to Egypt it doesn’t make you an Egyptian, even if you live here. I live here since a long time and learned many things, one of them is that I am and always will be “Argentinian”. It doesn’t matter how many “Mahshi” or “Molokheya” I eat, or my arabic… It’s true that here you learn many things that are priceless and that nowhere, except here, you will learn… true! But this it doesn’t make you better than anyone! There are many who never set  foot on Egypt and they are excellent dancers… they study, they rehearse… they love to dance! AND There are many who speak because they came here or they live here and they believe that this single fact transform them into some kind of “Mahmud Reda or Fifi Abdo Reloaded”… They are wrong! what a shame!

Things that do not make you a good dancer 

_”Having an Arabic surname or a Syrian or Lebanese grandfather” Bring something in the blood it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be the best! You can approach your ancestors and their culture as much as you want but the oriental dance goes beyond the progeny to which you belong.

_”Having a degree from an institution or school”. In my country is widely used and there are many schools. But on stage is seen what you know…

_”Come to visit Egypt”. I agree that coming to Egypt causes a before and after in the dance but that doesn’t makes you a interpreter or a great dancer… that would be “magic”. If you think by stepping the floor of the Pharaohs will “make you”, and you can get on a “smoke camel” and look down on to all your colleagues you are an idiot.

_”Living in Egypt”. This land is very generous, it opens for all the “bees” who come to learn… The people, the noise, the music, the food… are a delight for the senses. Watch the little girls dancing at the celebrations, can drive anyone crazy! Because there is no dance schools for girls here, however they can steal the show… And that’s when you understand: You study so much to do what they are doing naturally. You live in Egypt, you are not Egyptian.

_”Being called to give a workshop in any festival in Egypt”. Today is very easy to call people, we are fully connected. Many people will have a surprise if they know that teaching here is not so hard. Different it was before when the teachers were really called and not like now where you just “bring a group” to have your class. I know that with this many people will get angry with me but I really don’t care because I never had to meet “certain requirements” to be in events where I was. Somebody told me: “Oh! Magda but how you want we bring people to the festivals! Here you know the Egyptian people they will not attend! This is HARAM! We have to put some conditions if the people want to teach!”… well, my answer to that is that in this way you are not really calling the teachers because of their professional skills, you are just counting the people they bring to your event! that’s called “swap”… Many here know that I don’t bring groups to ANYONE, I’m a teacher and a performer, if people wants me for what I am “fine!”… But I don’t do “swap”.

All these things, by themselves, are nothing.

Egyptian Style

Just by saying “Egyptian Style” you are saying that is not yours. In other countries we can use “Isis Wings, swords, fan veils…” whatever… I said it before and I will say it again: In Egypt people don’t like these things because they are waiting from you an interpretation, not a “circus act”… I don’t believe that it is a “circus act”. I used to dance with wings or sword, which also requires preparation I’m just telling you what Egyptians think about it. Because also for them it is assumed that you understand the lyrics so you can interpret it, so like this you don’t need the elements. In Argentina, however, by a matter of language the lyrics went to second place and dancers focused on “show and fusion”… Today many people are worry about the real meaning and they are translating the songs! … that’s great.

The Egyptians hear “Om Kholthoum” in a taxi! They grew up with this music, It’s part of their lives and language not just from “the dance”.

Egyptian dancers of today are very different from the dancers of the “Golden Era”. Nothing have to do the steps and the way from Randa Kamel with Samia Gamal. In the same way that you can not compare Dina and Aziza… And I can get tired of giving examples. Dance is diverse! even among Egyptian dancers! And they are criticized by the Egyptian themselves for many reasons, the most obvious is the negative image of the dancer or a matter of taste.

Cynicism

I had the opportunity to hear some Egyptian teachers talking about the “Argentinian Style”: _ “All Argentinians are crap when they dance! They don’t know how to dance! They are cold and they just know to do show”. And of course this has hurt me a lot, not because I consider myself an exponent of this style, but because the same people who say those terrible words is the same people that year by year bring “Argentinian teachers” to their events! Just because they can bring a group… How we can call this? mmmm… commerce and cynicism perhaps?

Everyone can dance in the way they feel! With or without choreography, Mixing Flamenco and Oriental steps… why not?

My style

Some people know me and some people saw me dancing… and I’m sure many people don’t know nothing about me. I’m not gonna start to write what I did year by year with my career, I know what I am and what I’m worth. I have no Argentinian Style or Egyptian Style, I’m a mixture of both. And I’m constantly growing and evolving. I don’t copy anyone but yes, I include in my dance the best of every artist I admire… Although many people tell me “Magda you don’t look like anyone! I love your style!” I don’t know if I can speak about MY style now, because I feel that for that you must to walk a long way, and even I walked far I feel that I can always improve.

The stages you step on and the experiences are shaping you constantly… Since I’m in Cairo I added to my technique the feeling and other things that were missing from my dance… I’ve been incredibly transformed, and I’m still… everyday.

I had a great teacher, and I had others too… The best lesson in my life I learned from a teacher in my very early start… Want to know the story?

“We were in class rehearsing for the annual festival. Every time we finish our teacher used to stay alone to rehearse her solos, so we always try to stay just to watch her! I used to admire her… Well, that day, as usual, she started to dance and we were there watching her… loving her. When she finished we gave her a big hand and then she said: “Someday you will dance like this…” That day I learned what I don’t want to be. Because if there is something you should never lose it’s HUMILITY”

Never forget where you come from, from who you learned something, there are lessons of all kinds… arrogance it’s useless! Respect your colleagues, Respect their sacrifice and their trajectory… To all the people who criticize I need to tell you this: There is nothing more evident than envy and resentment.

You don’t like a particular style? Perfect! you can say it without attacking and despising… Choose another style, find YOUR style… Dance and let others dance! 

Dancing on Broken Glass

Many things happened to me since I’m in Egypt, good things and bad things, which are part of the “living” and some others. It’s very difficult sometimes to separate the “Everyday self” from the “Artist”… But Artists are supposed to have this ability so when I change before go on stage all my problems stay in the jeans, in the shoes or whatever I’m wearing that day… I let it and wear something else: “Shiny dress, makeup and glamour”… But dance in general is not “glamorous”… The dancers, specially in Egypt, they know this… There is a lot of  “backstage” that the viewer ignores.

The situation in Egypt is uncertain about the dance. Things are not like they were before the revolution… or this government. So it is often difficult to let “problems and ugly feelings” far from the stage.

With the possibility that from one moment to another “The dance can be banned”, I learned to dance every time like it’s the last. Although I always do. I’m not the best or trying to be… I just do my best every second… and more every second.

I learned to disguise and not reflect what happens inside me for the simple reason that, as an artist, it is my duty to dress the stage with light and not with dark emotions… Then at the end I will have enought time to sit and think, analyze or regret realities.

I have had to dance on days where horrible things happened: Dancing while people are being killed in demonstrations, knowing that many women were and are abused in Tahrir… Or after hearing the news of what happened in Luxor with this nineteen tourists on the “hot air balloon”. To name just a few… This things go further than an incident on stage as: The bra that breaks in the middle of the song, some splinter hurt your foot, badly and everything is so cheerful so there is no place for any expression of pain… Or some Egyptian women that, driven by their own “lack of self confidence”, they try to ruin your show roaring with laughter, pointing you with the finger and hoping for your reaction… They waste their time with me because not only I laugh with them, also I get close and I show them that I’m not one who moves “by inertia or by money”… I am an artist and there is no way to get me out of my role… whatever they do.

I learned to stay firmly on stage as never before I had done. And even although sometimes I feel like I’m dancing on broken glass, if  feel pain I don’t show it… I can’t have that luxury: “The artists, we use a disguise and magically we wrap the viewers, we take them for a walk with the melody, the movement, the song lyrics, hugging them tightly, making them part of our feeling…” An Egyptian woman told me: “Thank’s! you made me forget so many problems and so much disaster, I never thought you were foreign because I saw the whole time you understood what you were doing”… In that moment I didn’t need anything more, my mission was complete.

Sometimes I feel like the Egypt that many people knew, the one where the air was a bit more free, it was a mirage… just that and nothing more… But the art, I think, has its ways to survive… In any arid landscape THE ART will always be and exquisite oasis where we can “refresh our soul.”

You don’t come with a smile on stage because you ignore the reality or you don’t care. It’s set aside the reality and all that for a moment so that the audience can do the same. It is not easy to transform the energy and dress in light in the middle of so much uncertainty but is a task and it’s worth trying. It is not easy to ignore the ugly feelings and “shine” but it’s possible… even on broken glass.

Christmas without Christmas

Since a long time ago I’m not in my country and the Christmas find me… here in Egypt. I have not forgotten how were the Holidays when I was a child but I must to admit that this memory is “fuzzy”.  Although still alive in me my mother’s attempts for keep me without realizing that she was the one who put the gifts in the manger… Or with the arrival of the “Three Kings” she was responsible not just about “the gifts in the shoes” but also to spread the grass and the water because “The camels were thirsty”. I don’t remember how it was that I realized about this “lie” but from that moment everything changed.

I will not deny that I miss Christmas in my country, is not easy to have Christmas in a country were the majority are Muslims  They don’t understand why it’s important for a Catholic the birth of baby Jesus (also I think they will never understand, and I think too “they don’t care”… at least this is what some of them showed to me, some with whom I have discussed strongly… but that’s a topic for another post).

Here, and I must to be honest in this, there is no “Holiday Spirit”, or decorated streets, or any preparations to receive “Baby Jesus”… There are trees and Santa but in any hotel or places where the tourism flows, where they have no option but to put them… but it’s a normal day… So how to have a Christmas? The true meaning of Christmas were never the gifts or “Where we will spend Christmas this year?”, nor any of the frivolities to which we are accustomed… Because Christmas really doesn’t need those things.

It is true that I had a big disappointment when I found out that it was not indeed “Baby Jesus” but my mother who rode a magnificent theater for me… But I was even more disappointed when I realized that I had lied to myself all the time after I discovered her…. Because with the time, and even the distance, I had discovered that her intention was never to hurt me because lying to me year after year that kept my illusion alive!

And thanks to those memories, today being so far, Christmas is within me.

In my heart right now there is “Live Nativity scene” with a big tree that has no “balls” but “names”. These are the names of all the people who write to me daily from many places, telling me to “take care”, wishing me “the best of luck”, they watch my videos on my youtube channel and they follow me in the distance… Of course I don’t know many names but they are part from this tree, that is adorned on the top with a “huge star” in where you can read the word: “THANKS”.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope that it’s spirit be always present in your hearts!

Gratitude

It has taken me some time… not to much… maybe a couple of cups of tea… and change the snuff and the fire on my shisha few times until I decided to write this.

Always when New Year comes an enormous amount of feelings invade us and in the time to make a balance of “what it was good or not” we fall short. I say short because most people forget to “thank”. We have the vision of an eagle to see “what we got out of hand”, “what we lost”, “what we haven’t received”… or we have an enviable imagination to ask: “What if I had done this?” (or “that”) or “Why this is happened to me?! I’m so good person! Why this didn’t happened to ______ (insert name) because he\she is’nt good person?!” …  The truth is that we are blind for the “goodness” around us… and we can’t understand that maybe for the endless useless questions that we can do maybe “there is no answer”… And maybe _____ (insert name) he\she is a good person after all.

We live in a world that we see, often, through a wrinkled and selfish look… It blind us so much. 

The truth is that to be happy it doesn’t take so much. The first step is to be grateful. 

Once I heard on a radio a very nice message. To summarize a bit: A man was telling about his day at work, the problems with which he has faced, the injustices that he had endured but still when he get home he said “Thank you! Thank you for having a place to come back”. And me, I’m crybaby, I remember being in tears because I understood exactly what he meant… Well, don’t wait until you don’t have a “place to come back” to know what it means.

Now I feel cold, very cold. But I have to admit it “It’s because of laziness” to get up of the seat… I’m excited and happy writing… Although there are so much people who have no choice but to “feel cold”.

I’m not hungry, and I have the fortune to choose what I will eat. I have the fortune to stock up with what I please in the supermarket and if I don’t feel like “cooking”… I call a delivery… But I know that this is not “all people’s reality all over the world”.

I woke up this morning and I could get out of the bed. Make the breakfast (get angry a little bit because the cats had a party in the living room while I was sleeping). I’m healthy… beyond a cold nothing else happen to me… Waking up it’s a great privilege!

Occasionally, I miss my parents. Although I’ve lost them long time ago… I always miss them. But I was lucky to have met them… and I have beautiful memories that feed my soul every time I think about them.

I have the joy of sharing my experiences through this media with people from all over the world… Because I learned to read and write some time. In the world today in many places this is a “luxury” for a few.

I come from a busy week and I have some very interesting proposals. I can devote myself with all the love to my passion… Although the latest events in Egypt do not paint a very nice future… I have something that, unfortunately, many Egyptians don’t have: “Options”.

Thanks because I can quench my thirst… hunger. If I feel cold I know after one minute I will be warm.

Thanks because I can feel. Because my heart is not squeezed by concerns that prevent me from enjoying.

Thanks because things “moves me”.

Thanks because it doesn’t remain an “alien” to me the suffering of others… and I do my best to change this, even a little bit.

Thanks because I know the LOVE… all I did it was GIVE.

Thanks because I started to be happy the day that I started to “thank”… I don’t know if spend so much time or if I thanked so much that already I lost the count from when it was the day that changed my life.

I’m not one to come to teach anything… simply because it’s impossible to teach someone to be grateful…

And no need to searching on the internet “Gratitude quotes”… Something simple you can do is to open your eyes and ears to the amount of terrible events in the world.

Hunger in Africa, where people literally “crawling for hunger”, they have no power to move (I’m talking about children under 6 years)  

The orphanages in China, where thanks to the policy of “one child” thousand of babies are abandoned in horrible and cold places without a warm arm to give them love.

Hell that exists in Palestine, massacres and bombings in Syria. The uncertainty and horror that exists in these countries few people know.

The number of young women they are abducted everyday worldwide by prostitution networks, separated from their families, raped, beaten… Dead in life.

The Indian children who are exploited: Sewing costumes or assembling articles “for export”. From that operation they will not see a single rupee. 

To name just a few…

Is become aware that: of the quantity of “tremendous realities” that exists in the world we are not part of them (at least not in our skins). How lucky and blessed we are… 

Me, from this side of the world, I write in the warmth of my home with my cup of tea “calentito” and my cat purring near to me… and you? Let the word THANKS to be your daily prayer.

migatokoshka

The fog

Today in the morning when I returned from two shows in Alexandria, crossed my mind many ideas. The first was in the control, we were warned about the frog, we were told that a few miles ahead we would not be able to see anything. Despite this warning we decided to continue, I couldn’t stay and also I had commitments in Cairo.

I thought about the number of protests that took place recently in Tahrir and Roxy. I thought about the walls that were built in the center of the city to not let the protesters be dispersed even more when they are fighting with the police. I thought about so many things that I live here everyday, or anything you can hear on TV or from the mouths of the neighbors, and the truth is that I had a lump in my throat. Besides I clearly saw that the fog was, literally, swallowing us… We couldn’t even see the lights of the car in front of us… I always go and come back from the coast from the Red Sea or the Mediterranean Sea, this “reach destination, dance and return” has become a routine in my life so I know the “crazy speed people” with which you can find in the route and the fog… but this time I was afraid.

I had never seen anything like that. It seemed to the moment of suspense of any horror movie… without exaggeration. “That’s the Egyptian people” I thought… unable to see anything, without see beyond their noses, not because “they can’t see” but because nobody knows what will happen in the next day. Some totally blinded by their interest they can’t see “what’s in front”… but that doesn’t mean “isn’t there”. Others can see perfectly but the fog doesn’t allow them to discern.

What the president did in the last days has angered many people, and with good reason. I think he has forgotten that he won the elections by a very small percentage, that many people have him in “the spotlight” and that, unfortunately for him, he doesn’t represent nearly the half of the people.

There were many historical examples of  “Authoritarianism” and this leads to nothing but the own destruction, sooner or later, of who exercises it… but this examples are not enough.

Now the parliament will be something like “untouchable”, and I smell something stinky is brewing… I think his intentions are clear and it wouldn’t surprise me if in a few months the parliament is “salafi” or inflexible and Islamic… I don’t need to say that is not just me thinking about the possibility to leave… we are more, and not just foreigners.

All this ideas and conjectures are nothing because we actually “see nothing”. What I do see and for me it’s clear is that politics and religion shouldn’t  go hand in hand, especially when the religion that represent the power doesn’t represent a percentage of the population… Whatever that percentage I believe that first of all they are citizens.

It is clear that you should have a good education to take over a country but not even the most exquisite education and not even the strongest training, guarantee anything good if you don’t have it clear that the emperors have died and that the pharaohs no longer exists.

A few kilometers ahead our vehicle lights lit up a bunch of stuff scattered on the road and a little bit further on… I didn’t wanted to see but it were people and, not so far, a micro bus. One of many that departing daily from Cairo bound for Alexandria and other cities… one of many in the city ranging from neighborhood to neighborhood at full speed… unlicensed, unchecked, crowded and most cases: Driving by a brat who has no idea that the lives from all passengers are in his hands. The negligence and the brutality abound while traffic law are not fulfilled. So these micro bus and even vehicles with a suitable drivers are swept away by trains, they fall to the Nile or crash on any route.

There are many horrible feelings in life… One is the fear, but I am convinced that something worse than fear is the uncertaintyThe doubt. Not knowing what will happen and not knowing what to expect. It’s a “Feeling yourself naked and defenseless in the fog, in the middle of nowhere.”

Finally we reached our destination. I was exhausted, physically and mentally… but unharmed. There was no longer fog and I could see the sun… I yearn the same for the Egyptian people… A new beginning where the fog lifts and become visible the lights of a new day.

graffiti en tahrir