Tuesday, May 27, 2014



As dancers, whether we are students or professionals, we often look for validation, from the audience; our peers are the musicians we work with.  No matter what level we’re at, we wonder if what we are doing has merit, if it has value. Sometimes we even wonder WHY we continue to dance…and belly dancers in particular also question our own presentation and the artistic license we take while performing the dances of cultures that are not our own…

 What you are about to read below is a beautiful essay on this very subject, but it wasn’t actually planned to be an article! It is a heartfelt and possibly spur-of-the-moment Facebook post by musician Jonatan Gomes Derbaq. Jonatan is Brazilian, but his knowledge of Arabic music and his brilliant oud and tabla playing know no cultural boundaries!

 Jonatan is as eloquent in expressing his love of belly dance as he is when he’s playing Arabic music, and I thought you might be as inspired by his beautiful thoughts as I was.

 Here’s his writing- enjoy!

What is Raqs Sharqi (Belly Dance) to you? Is it some form of erotic display of the feminine that should only be reserved for the intimate confines man and woman on a wedding day? Is it dance that has been saturated with negative connotations for centuries, only to now develop into a legitimate and sophisticated art form that continues to evolve? Is it a means for trashy women to lure men into a web of debauchery? Is it a fever that has stuck the Occidental mind and become convoluted with absurdities, or is it a fever that has struck the Occidental mind and allowed it to strengthen and grow and explore new artistic forms of self-expression?

 No doubt, it is certainly all of the above, depending on the individual who choses which form.

 But just me personally, as a musician who has fallen in love with the Artistry which was defined by the Egyptian Masters during the Cinematic Golden age such as Naima Akef, Taheya, Samia Gamal, Fifi Abdou, Nagwa Foaud etc. Choreographers like Mahmoud Reda and composers like Mohamed Abdel Wahab shaped it, and it has grown and evolved, taken new shapes and turns in the means of artistic self-expression.

 One hand, the Golden Cinematic Age helped to explore and develop new and progressive ways to empower and strengthen the woman in society, while in other ways, because certain viewpoints had already been shaped by the negative social connotations, it only served to enhance preconceived notions...either way, no matter, this is “the here and now” I am talking about...and in the here and now, what I see in my work with the many dancers that I’ve worked with and have the great fortune to call my friends and sisters, belly dance  is an art form that extends far beyond  self expression and even the artistic representation of beautiful music.

 In no way could it ever be confused for anything less that an absolute perfect representation of musical ingenuity with the highest level of class and dignity. To me, it extends beyond this even. Over the years I have witnessed so many beautiful women of all types and cultural demographics find confidence, strength, comfort and a means to express themselves and learn to appreciate the beautiful essence that makes them who they are through this art.

I express my deepest gratitude to ALL OF THEM; we are of same heart...


Jonatan Gomes Derbaq

  Jonatan Gomes Derbaq, Amani Jabril and I are appearing in Memphis, Tennessee  August 1-3, 2014 doing workshops and shows!   Our show is August 1 at The Rumba Room, and the workshops will be Saturday and Sunday.

With  the beautiful Amani Jabril

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