Raqs Sharqi: the process of learning

In the learning process of Egyptian dance, I distinguish mainly two moments: the awakening of energy and the process of refinement.

The awakening of energy.

Since the beginning, dance was for me, the experience of an ecstatic moment of joy. I surrendered to the profound inner joy, which captured my entire being… As a student, I allowed myself to be awakened to my instinctual capacity for imitation and observation. It was one whole moment: observing, imitating and moving accordingly. One moment spent to stop and understand its functioning was already a lost moment for me. I only desired to dance to encounter myself through the experience of my body awakening itself to the energy of the music. By concentrating on the joy of dancing alone, I allowed myself to enter what can be called, the ‘spirit’ of the dance. As follows, I consented fully to awakening the physiological process required to heat my muscles. In this manner, I experienced that movements were being liberated by themselves.  By liberation, I mean a process of gradual refinement from gross movements to more subtle and precise ones. 

The love of grounding

Over the years, the repetitive and vigorous dance movements had brought my body to a point of inner great energy. I needed to develop an awareness of how to channel the energy into a disciplined, motivated, concentrated body. At this point, I have become aware of the importance of grounding. Being grounded allows a gradual and constant quality of movement throughout all body parts.

The foundation in Raqs Sharqi is the grounding: that is the body flowing with gravity. In this way, the spine is free to move correctly. It means that we re-establish our natural connection with the earth. We are free to move from our spine with a total movement, which departs from the base (of our spine) to the extremities of the body. In this manner, we move from our centre.

As a result, our dance becomes centred and focused. Our movements become genuinely natural. In gravity, the muscles work correctly through the spine thereby allowing an entirely natural movement. We stand firm as we are in our true nature. In doing so, we communicate kinetically who we are.

The grounding allows our movements to connect with the whole of our body and to communicate an image of centeredness. We dance from our heart, our core.

A rebound of energy arises from a deeply grounded body. When we work with gravity, the muscles along the spine work correctly lengthening and elongating outwardly. When we move from our centre we liberate an inner flow movement, which moves towards the body’s extremities, creating a wonderful connection throughout our body.

In this manner, we gain awareness of our spine alignment. Our thighs enroot themselves on elegant powerful ankles and relaxed feet…our hips rest on grounded legs and we erect ourselves as beautiful elegant trees…our hips are comfortable, soft and ready to awaken the energy required to convey our deepest instinctual feelings…the spine is long, neutral, naturally curved, lengthened up to the neck…from the spine the movement reach out to the arms…ready to swing or frame the body. The hands are endowed with energy and can speak without necessary movement. In every gesture, it is possible to find back our corporeal connection with the earth. We have a natural, personal, powerful presence. When we know how to use our sense of gravity to elongate the spine, to connect all our body parts, we are ready to develop proper, elegant, refined, powerful, audacious movements in our daily life besides in dance.

When we are deeply rooted in our grounding, we inhabit a relaxed body. Here, we experience our dancing beyond space and outside time…We forget about our individuality and we surrender to the moment of dance. It is a moment of celebration of the joy inherent in existence, an affirmation of who we are.

Raqs Sharqi: Dance and Life: our inner self-healing journey

The natural movements of Raqs Sharqi, revitalise our bodies by recreating the conditions for a natural organic posture from which tensions can be healed. We enable the body to awaken its inner wisdom for self-healing. In other words, we learn to feel the tensions of the body and release them through a relaxed, joyful movement. Through practice, we learn how to cooperate with our limits. We can have fun… as if we were playing like children: for example, as part of our training, we might need to step o

the ground with our hardened feet until we gradually discover that they have become more flexible. In this way, they are stronger and healthier to carry our bodies daily. When our feet improve, we prevent the spine from curving due to an incorrect posture. We walk with increased elegance.

The process of releasing tensions happens naturally: all that is needed is to have a joyous attitude while learning… In this way, we learn to develop patience because we focus on the joy of movement, on the joy of letting go and dare to move as we are. Rather than concentrating on the results, we learn to experience the moment of dancing in itself with spontaneous acceptance of who we are. We awaken the inner ‘spirit’ or ‘flow’ of the dance…The precision of technique is an ongoing process: we gradually can liberate an increasingly grounded and connected gesture. 

When we practise patience, acceptance and love for our body as it is today, it is always possible to liberate a powerful, personal and meaningful movement even if it is not as refined, grounded and graceful as we wish it to be. To dance is ultimately an act of love that one gives to oneself, primarily. It is a moment for oneself only where “the soul falls in love with soul”… (Rumi) where we find all the energy required to love ourselves and face challenges. 

While dancing we release our joy for life; we transform our experience into movements. We use our past to dance our present and to transform our future in the direction we hope for. As a result, we recreate and heal ourselves incessantly.

As a conclusion on the importance of dance for the human being, I would like to mention Van der Leeuw, the Dutch theologian. Van der Leeuw compared the beginning of creation to the beginning of the dance. To him, God continues to move in us and to move the world through our dance. In this manner, dance has to be seen as a most meaningful social, aesthetic, ethical, and theological concern.