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DANCEMOVEMENTTHERAPY BETWEEN THE WEST AND THE MIDDLE EAST

I think I have a long history with dancing; I feel like a "terminal stage" dancer, finally free from the conditioning and inductions of the professional world of entertainment.

Dancing Red Sea

I reflect on how much my dance, while maintaining the same roots, is changing, a bit like my life.

As before, and today even more so, the dance that I love and cultivate is an approach to movement, bodily and vocal, true, essential, delicate, free from "having to like", from "having to seduce".

The dance I love has nothing to prove, it has no aesthetic and stylistic anxieties, it is not muscular, it is not performance, it does not exaggerate and challenge the limits of the body (for that there is already sport!), it does not seek consensus, nor easy effects, nor circus sensationalism.

Indeed, over the years it becomes less and less flashy, it invests in quality, relationship, presence, it multiplies dreams and visions, very real, imperfect, rarefied and poetic.

Dancing in the lavender

The dance that I cultivate when it meets other worlds of dance and humanity lets itself be permeated, it brings back ancient ties between tradition and innovation, where dance, like the human being, becomes one, including the whole, which is certainly more than the sum of the individual parts.

So it happens to me to smile with tenderness mixed with sadness of the "easy" dance, sold as folk by jumping on the political bandwagon of interculture (which maybe finds some subsidy!).

These are almost always dances that in the countries of origin still today, are used only privately, in weddings, in contexts of night entertainment between nights and cabarets, in which the dancers themselves are considered in the same way as prostitutes. For example, you rarely find Middle Eastern folk dances in the theater in the Middle East; of course, the tradition of theater as we understand it in Europe is different there, but unfortunately the folk dance performed by women publicly does not exist there, except in short interventions of theatrical performances of our tradition, such as the Operas.

To see the Raqs Sharqi (the so-called "belly" dance) in Egypt, the cradle of that type of tradition, you have to go to tourist or night entertainment places inhabited above all by rich local and non-local men.

Therefore, when I happen to see her during frequent trips to that country, I feel unease, an embarrassment for the hypersexualization of the image of the woman's body, often completely redone with cosmetic surgery to increase its attributes and cachet (plastic surgery is expressly required of dancers to obtain contracts).

Middle Eastern dancers tell me that it is very difficult to work in those countries, they are almost forced to hide their profession. It is much cheaper to go to Western countries to sell Raqs Sharqi.

But sometimes, precisely those who come from these countries and could never dance there in order not to be rejected by their respective family and society, prefer to conform to the distorted, commodified and vulgar reading of a dance which, instead of representing a place of freedom, especially for women, imprisons them in an image of a "trophy woman", an innocent and available bride, who, instead of dancing free at her wedding, must invite the "belly dancer" who symbolizes the sexual consummation of the "most beautiful day in a wife's life".

Seeing the dance presented at these weddings, one does not find anything compared to the great ladies who spread oriental dance in the world especially through cinema.

Thus in Europe, USA and Canada we see groups of women gathered in this type of dance initiative, with bellies and breasts on display; it is singular how western women like to play with the ostentation of their body, as if the seduction and satisfaction of male desire were a socially imposed and accepted "obligation" here too, or a post-1968 legacy to reaffirm sexual liberation and conquered "modernity".

It is a bizarre dissociation with what has been the history of women in the West, with the rights laboriously and never definitively conquered; with hips, winks, grotesque steps, "dancing fat", jewels and ornaments, she stupidly reaffirms that she is so enmeshed in the patriarchal vision of the woman object, as to become its first promoters, fueling the image of the stereotype, of the woman goddess, mother or prostitute.

But in these circuses of shows in the West regarding Middle Eastern folk dances, the most trashy thing that is happening is the seizure of power they are having, obviously in the West given that in the countries of origin it would be a crime even to declare their sexual orientation (if it does not comply with the "norm"), male dancers who imitate, sometimes even well, a dance that arises primarily from women, for their joy and their health and only later is used by men to objectify them.

Therefore, men in various ways must teach women how to be "more women", more convincing and seductive.

Sounds like a joke, but it's not.

I remember once I organized an interdisciplinary and intercultural event supported by regional institutions; there were also a group of Middle Eastern women who had to prepare a buffet with their typical food. While they worked they had brought with them the music they loved and they danced with each other full of joy, so much so that they allowed me to watch them, since I was a woman and men were not allowed.

It was wonderful to participate in their dance expression, so beautiful and genuine.

Who knows how a dance point of contact between different faces of the same woman could be born, not at all at the service of "having to appear" in the socially granted square meter of visibility; a dance point of contact between the past, the present, the future, which takes into account the histories of the countries and cultures it recalls and which was not just an easy image and empty appearance, for the purpose of profit.

Every time I go to Egypt I happen to dance the Raqs Sharqi with the women I meet, and I ask myself this question, when it's only us who dance, free, imperfect, unmonetisable. Beautiful sources of what is emerging in my search for life and dance: my DanceMovementTherapy between the West and the Middle East, in which stories, identities, moving bodies meet and generate a dance thousands and thousands of kilometers long, where ancient peoples continue to drink, to rejoice, to pray, to recognize each other.


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