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Modern problems of Belly dancing in Egypt

With leaving in 80-s years of last century of leading dancers, such Titans of belly dancing as Nagwa Foud and Suher  Zaki, the time of impetuous cultural development and the period of belly dancing bloom in Egypt has come to the end. In 40-70 years the dance developedpromptly, it achieved new colors (the introducing of ballet elements in dances of Naima  Akif, aristocracy of Samia  Gamal, filigree movements of Suher  Zaki’s thighs), the dance became as theater dance ( appearance of Nagwa  Fuad’s  programs turned a 10-15 minutes of belly dance performance into real show). Nearly simultaneously with the leaving of  N.Fuad and S.Zaki, a group of leading dancer of Egypt left the stage, because of different causes and some times because of not its own free will, among them are Mona  Said,   Nelly   Fuad and  Aida  Nour, who were keeping on the dance line of gone stars, but at the same time everyone of their interpreted belly dance in her own way.


Only three stars of belly dance have remained among acting stars, such as  Fifi Abdou,  Lusy and  Dina among of young dancers; they have occupied practically all night-clubs of five-star hotels. And during 90-s years attendances of nightclubs, which were early full of visitors and had great programs, were decreasing, because leading hotels represented mainly the same artists, who were not changing their repertoire almost during 10 years. As a result nightclubs had been closing one after another till in the end of 90-s years only one standing nightclub in “Semiramis” Hotel (“Intercontinental”) kept. Other nightclubs of five-star hotels either were closed till the summer season or New Year or they were restructured into restaurants with cancellation or reduction of price for programs and accordingly the level of dancers. However nightclubs of one-, two-, three-star hotels continued active to operate and quantity of Egyptian dancers, who work there, did not exhaust. Unfortunately, young Egyptian belly dancers either did not achieve the mastery for 5-star hotels or left the stage at the top of their career (Amani,  Randa  Camal,  Suher  Rageb  and other).


Respect to belly dancing was impetuously declining and partly dancers, who did not hide their violent private life from public, were guilty of this. Though there were laws, which regulated the behavior of dancer on the stage and their dresses, but since 90th years these laws started to be broken actively, but the dancer “undressed”, breaking not only the law, but decency as well. Exactly at this time traditionally dressed belly dancers appeared on the stage and gained popularity, among them are Tamrohenna (USA),  Yasmina  ( Great Britain ),  Asmahan  (Argentina)  and lately come Nour (Russia). They started actively work at weddings, which are the most respected family business of Egypt, thus they involved into Egyptian business field. Formerly foreigners worked mainly on travel-ships on Nile, in nightclubs and discos.


By the way, in the known interview of Souhair Zaki  Fr.Sallivan  (“Cairo  Times”,  may – june  2001) wrongly affirms, that Russian belly dancers “ have occupied” Egypt. But in 90-s years there were mainly American dancers and only one Russian Egyptian - Katya in Cairo (in the center of Egyptian belly dancing); but at the moment of writing the interview there were five Russian dancers, who of course could not occupy the whole country.


The scandal about Dina delivered next blow on belly dancing as art. After this scandal, roughly discussed in press, many Egyptian families according to their social status or their religion opinions not only stop visiting performances of dancers in restaurants and nightclubs, but also stop inviting of belly dancers to their weddings. And it is a pity, cause at traditional wedding a dancer was always a main figure. There is opinion, that after this scandal it has become eventually possible and even defensible offensive on foreign belly dancers; at first they were “enslaved” at one work place without right to change it, and later they got prohibition to work in Egypt.
After cancellation of prohibition it was cleared up, that the quantity of work places of four- and five-star levels, where foreigners had worked usually, were reduced in Cairo, and the quantity of working days in acting restaurants and night-clubs was decreased as well. As a result of this, for example, on the “Pharaoh” (the complex of two travel ships) eight Egyptian and foreign dancers work at present time.


During a year of absence of majority foreigners, any new star of belly dance was not appearing. Dina, who has come back on the stage,  is still the top star of Egypt; Fifi Abdou has stopped her activity, but Lucy works mainly in her night-club «Parisiana» in the street of Pyramids. Egyptians Camelia  and  Dalia are well-known and popular, but they are not stars; mainly those belly dancers, who had worked before prohibition of foreigners, keep working in Cairo.


Nour (Russia) and Asmahan (Argentina) are the most popular and well-known among foreign dancers at present time; together with Dina they are leading dancers of Egypt. I would like to pay your attention, that Demand gives rise to the offer. If foreign dancers were not necessary for show business of Egypt, they would be forced out of this country.


In conclusion I would like to come back to above mentioned interview of Souhair Zaki. I would like to note the following statement of the star, whom we respect, “At the opening of the last year’s festival (2000 is meant,. - author) I have seen some foreign girls on the stage. I was amazed, that they did something, which absolutely did not coordinate with music”. Unfortunately, in this way, using one inaccurate word and incautious remark it is possible to cast a shade on foreign dancers, who took a participation in festival « Ahlan  wa  Sahlan», 2000. For those, who has videotape recording of this festival, everything is clear. But for other people it is necessary to specify, that Souhair Zaki, according her statement in this interview, was present only at the opening of festival, where the following artists took a participation: 1) Egyptian folklore group, 2) Lucy, Egyptian star, 3) Dina, Egyptian star; foreigners did not perform in this day. At the closing of festival, which Souhair Zaki did not visit, the following artists performed: 1) Nour (Russia), 2) Dina  (Egypt),  3)  Amani  (Lebanon). But those girls, whom Souhair Zaki saw at the opening of festival, were really foreigners and sometimes they did not get in music, but there was nothing surprising and shameful in this, they came at this festival in order to learn dance, and it was difficult to expect from them a particular level. And they did not perform, they walked under music, representing public dresses of designer Amira Al-Kattan.

translated by Violetta Fediaeva

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