Posted on 07/08/2019 by siteadmin
More about ……. Yasmina of Cairo
“I have known Yasmina for many years now. I saw her perform in Cairo, asked her to work with me on my ‘Farida Adventures’ then teach at events in the UK like my ‘Shimmy Up North‘ event at Borwick Hall and ‘Fantasia’ in London. More recently, I love working with her on the JWAAD accredited courses where the extent of her in depth knowledge really comes into its own. It is wonderful that we have Yasmina involved with developing and teaching on these courses now. Yasmina is also teaching and performing at Fantasia 2019 so I thought it would be interesting to find out more about her life, her plans and what she will be teaching”…….. Kay Taylor
How did you get into belly dance?
Many years ago after finishing a degree in photography I took a holiday in Morocco, saw a dancer and heard Arabic music for the first time. It inspired me to take classes in London and from then on I was hooked!
Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did you end up being a professional dancer in Cairo?
I began my career performing in the Turkish, Greek and Arabic nightclubs in London in the mid 1980’s (I was simultaneously working as a fashion photographer at the time, and used the dancing jobs to help establish my studio). Through contacts in London I began being offered contracts abroad, first in Morocco, then Italy, then for a Lebanese impresario called Toros Siranossian based in Beirut, who sent me to dance all over the Middle East for four years during the early 1990’s. I took a trip to Cairo in 1994 to buy costumes and totally fell in love with the place. I was determined to dance there and a year later arrived there on my own to try my luck.
What did you like most – and what did you like least – about your time as a professional dancer in Cairo?
I loved the excitement of being immersed in the culture, having my own orchestra and the creative freedom to produce my own show, performing to Egyptian audiences. Also the learning process, training with choreographers and working on my dance – which completely transformed after I got there.
The worst things were the uncertainty and insecurity of life as a professional dancer in a very tough business. You are required to draw heavily on your inner resources!
What does your life look like now?
I withdrew from the wedding and nightclub performance scene in 2004, but continued living in Egypt and being connected to the dance. I bought a large apartment close to the pyramids which I’ve been using ever since as a Belly Dancers’ B&B, hosting dancers from all over the world. As well as accommodation I provide one on one dance classes and workshops, plus photo shoots both at the B&B and on location around Egypt. In addition I perform and teach each year at festivals and events worldwide. I have made two documentaries about the dance in Cairo, the second of which is released this year. Finally I have been working on a novel set in the belly dance world, which may or may not get published!
You are currently spending more time in the UK – how are you finding the dance scene?
I feel very happy to have been offered the chance to participate as a regular teacher in the JWAAD courses (the Music Course and History and Culture Course), as it is so important that dancers have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the culture of oriental dance. Teaching this kind of theory is a trend that is spreading worldwide right now, and although it still only attracts a hard-core of students, it is a vital resource. The dance is taught and promoted very differently in different parts of the world, and I would say that the UK still has some catching up to do in attracting young dancers who want to put the hours in and train at a high level. There are lots of women who have discovered its joys and benefits, but perhaps there needs to be a more cohesion in the dance community to support each other’s events and expose new students to the best of what is out there, so they will be inspired! There are some notable individuals who are making incredible efforts in this regard – I really hope that those efforts pay off with a ripple effect that has more wide-reaching impact.
What do you like to do to relax?
Ride my horse (when I’m in Cairo), walk in the countryside (when I’m in England), swim, read, watch box sets, go to the theatre, spend time with my family.
What is your star sign?
What is your favourite colour and why?
Purple. I like its depth and mystery.
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Egyptian Gestures’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
One of the things that connects us as dancers to the songs we choose to dance to is a knowledge of the meaning of those songs. Learning how to express some of that meaning through physically gestures can help ground us while we dance and put us right there inside the story that the song is telling. Even without learning Arabic, many gestures made while dancing are repeated motifs that recur in lots of different songs, and can help give your dance a more ‘authentic’ feel. I’ll be going through the most common ones and how to use them effectively. To join us at Fantasia buy your Fantasia Dancers Day Ticket
You are also holding the first bellydance seminar ‘Perceptions of Bellydance’ – tell us a bit about what to expect:
Do dancers the world over get a bad rap? Perhaps, but belly dancers in particular have to deal with wrong perceptions and ignorance, from the public and also sometimes from the wider dance community. We will be discussing this topic both in relation to the reputation of the dance in Egypt and its standing in the rest of the world.
Do you have any projects coming up that you would like to tell us about?
Kay Taylor and I are planning a study and dance trip in Egypt. We discussed how useful it would be for people who had completed the History and Culture and Music courses to consolidate that study in Egypt. We have planned the trip of a lifetime – a real belly dancers journey of discovery: ‘Essence of Egypt’. You can read more on the Farida Adventures web site.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
I hope to still be making a contribution to the world of belly dance, sharing my knowledge and being actively involved. I have always found that for me creativity is key to happiness, so whether it’s through dance, photography or writing I shall continue! I intend to make the best of both worlds being both in Egypt and the UK, as both places hold pieces of my heart.
Photos of Yasmina by Andre Elring
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