“The beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is it? Or maybe there is something more...
If you are an Oriental dancer or remotely interested in Oriental dance, you are most likely bombarded with IG videos of “Mahraganat” dancers in Egypt at weddings, parties, clubs on bar tops, or elevated on minuscule stages, wearing Bellydance costumes designed to look extremely revealing. I can imagine how depressing it must be that the majority of Instagram clips being shared are from Egypt… I’m pretty sure you are asking yourself, “what happened to Oriental dance”? “Is this the future of the dance and music”? “Have I wasted my time, money, and effort learning about rhythm, musicality, and complex dance combinations…”?
As a master teacher who values his culture’s past and present, I want to be clear and straight to the point with you—here are some facts and clarifications.
“Maharaganat” music started around 2009, and it became very popular after the Egyptian revolution in 2011. The word “Mahraganat” literally means “Festivals”— it was called this for its style of electronic remix of rap and techno instrumentalist sounds with Shaabi lyrics, followed by a certain style of street dance. “Mahraganant” songs were faced, and rightly so, with very strong opposition by the overwhelming majority of Egyptian artists and the Egyptian Official Artists Union.
As SOME of the foreign dancers became familiar with it, they started to copy these young men and incorporated it into sections of their routines. They added sexual gestures and moves that surpassed what we have formerly known as being sensual or seductive: Vulgarity became the norm.
It seems like each dancer is trying to outdo the next by adding even more and more vulgar moves and gestures to the point that the entire dance routine became just that.
This dance routine is missing almost all the standards of Art. The femininity has been replaced by a more blatant, titillating sexuality - if you see this for the first time you may be shocked with of extreme vulgarity.
Let me clarify yet again, I’m not insinuating that all foreign dancers are participating in this, I’ve always stated “some” foreign dancers, and of course few Egyptian native dancers as well, who only started doing this to copy the foreign dancers out of fear of losing their gigs to them, and while the majority of dancers who dance in Egypt are practicing Oriental dance, they are hardly visible and all we see is something else entirely.
I know first-hand, that some club owners want the dancers to wear less and less and be more revealing, exploiting them and their sex appeal to benefit their establishments, while we all fight every day to elevate our art and make it respectable some of our own are working to degrade it. yet again, these dancers seem to find this form of entrainment acceptable and want to push it on the culture as another form of Oriental dance or folklore. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but it is NOT. Feel free to call it anything you want but don’t call it Oriental dance.
Mimicking young adolescent street men with crude moves at a wedding or a club deviates completely from the styles of beloved Egyptian star dancers and many other dancers in the last several decades. This practice is a severe decline of what we hold dear and with respect. Replacing what is profound, inspiring, elegant and beautiful by the new, different and vulgar…it doesn’t make it better.
Like most art forms, Oriental dance has standards and is built on a solid foundation that I, as well as many master teachers, have been teaching for decades. When we see a dancer dressed in an Oriental dance costume performing this kind of vulgar aggressive dance on the stage, we are deeply offended. We must speak out and make it known that this doesn’t ever become acceptable to us. Now we are not saying don’t get up and dance to this music at a party and be as goofy as you want to be (as it is your right to do so and it is fun), but we will not approve and accept dancers performing or teaching to generations of students this “Mahraganat” and call it another form of Oriental dance without expressing our contempt.
I speak this as an artist, as a master teacher and as a native Egyptian who knows his culture and his culture’s arts, I have spent decades elevating and empowering women all over the earth to express themselves freely and to be true to their hearts and art, I stand firmly to defend women’s right to be free and dance as they wish, I stand firmly against men exploiting women’s sex appeal.
To all the dancers that will read this: I urge you not to be fooled by the countless videos you see on Instagram. stay true to your art and what you have spent years learning: Be the instrument the music wants to play. Demand of yourself to keep the highest standards of excellence and continue to aspire to the highest quality attainable, remember what first attracted you to the dance.
Stay an Oriental dancer and don’t become a Mahraganat dancer.
Keep Your Heart In Your Art
I will leave you with one of the best quotes about quality in art
“Quality in art”, is not merely a matter of personal opinion but to a high degree... Objectively traceable.”
Yours In Dance