Arts & Entertainment

Egyptian belly dancers seek to breakdown negative stereotypes around art form

Cairo, Feb 16 (EFE).- Wearing simple clothing and with a scarf tied around her waist, Egyptian belly dancer Sherin Hegazy leads a group of girls on a campaign to defend this traditional dance as an art form and challenge local stereotypes that is linked it to prostitution.

“Oriental dance is an art, it has a history,” Hegazy, choreographer and founder of the company Awalem Khafeya (Hidden Dancers), told Efe.

“But in the movies, the dancer has been portrayed as a different person, a scoundrel,” she added.

The cinematic portrayal of this traditional dance in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries since the 1950s has been “degrading” and led the public to frown upon its practice as something disrespectful, she said.

Hegazy has brought together a group of dancers to make videos of their performances to showcase the “elegant and sublime” side of the dance, she added.

There is a long way to go since it is the Egyptians themselves who have to “recognize” that it is a traditional art, she said.

“Things start from within, not from the outside in.”

Egyptian belly dancer Amie Sultan believes that Unesco should recognize the dance as part of cultural heritage in what would be a major first step towards tackling stereotypes.

Sultan and a group of academics are working to document Egypt’s traditional dances.

“Our heritage is as important as the Egyptian antiquities, we must recover it, but it is intangible and it is inherited, if we cannot make it be inherited well, it will be lost and we will regret it,” she added.

Currently, belly dancers mostly perform at nightclubs, where they can face harassment or at weddings, where people gather around the dancer and prevent her from performing at her best, she continued. EFE


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