I’m so excited and honored to bring Confessions of a Belly Dancer; Secrets of the Hieroglyph © to NYC for the Off Broadway production. The team is very excited, too – it’s been a collective dream of ours to go to the performing arts capital of the world and showcase our full-length theatrical show just minutes from Times Square, in the heart of Manhattan.
In anticipation, I share the opening comments from the Chicago debut, which was performed to a sold-out, standing room only audience last year.
“It has often been said women share their stories not to resolve issues, but from a deep need to confess inner thoughts and feelings. We do this to learn, to teach, to encourage and to grow. There is a freedom in confession.
From the beginning of humanity’s traceable history, women have shared their joys, triumphs, passions, grief and struggles with each other. Regardless of age, ethnicity or location, these struggles and joys vary little and, in truth, have remained fundamentally the same for millennia.
The stories of motherhood’s joy, the sorrow of loss, our passions with men, our continuing fight for equality, the unique female perspectives of illness and recovery, of triumphs of the spirit and the weakness of the flesh … these stories are our collective feminine culture and have been since the time of Queen Hatshepsut (the only female Egyptian Pharaoh, whose male successors attempted unsuccessfully to scrub her from history) to Hillary Clinton, the once-Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State to the United States of America.
The ancient question of women’s place in society is an eternal question around the world; in every culture, women constantly strive to make their voices heard.
Middle Eastern dance, properly referred to as Oriental dance and commonly known as belly dance in the Western world, is uniquely feminine. This beautiful art form is rich in music, feeling and spirit. In places like Cairo, Egypt, prime time entertainment in 5-star establishments such as hotels, dinner cruises and clubs feature an Oriental dancer with her 21-plus piece orchestra, complete with singers, violins, accordions, kanoon and a percussion ensemble. Local residents, who can afford it, often treat friends and loved ones to this high-end experience as an indication of the host’s wealth and social position. Fathers, giving their daughters away to the lucky groom, know full well that it is a status symbol to have a dancer and her orchestra lead the wedding procession.
The origins of this dance are quite interesting. Belly dance is the oldest recorded dance in the history of humanity with roots tracing back to Pharonic times as ancient hieroglyphics on temple walls. In the beginning, and even through to present times, the various forms of the dance have been passed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter. Middle Eastern women dance primarily for other women. Dancers are brought in to help expectant mothers learn how to work the muscles of the abdomen
in preparation for child birth. Privately, women dance for each other to entertain, enjoy and pass the time.
The perception, by some, of the art form is quite the contrary. In Middle Eastern society, there is cultural pride in the art, but the professional dancer is kept at arm’s length – most likely because she does not conform to strict dress codes and unspoken modes of behavior. Her undulations and sensual body movements create visceral responses from men, responses which are never discussed in a polite society.
This reaction to the Oriental dancer is not exclusive to the Middle East. Oriental dance was introduced to Western culture during the Victorian era. The un-corseted gyrations of the dancers were shocking and sometimes dancers were arrested and fined. Burlesque theaters adopted forms of the dance and referred to it as “the hootchie kootchie.” The stigma remains in Western society to present day and dancers struggle to elevate the art form.
Those who “belly dance” know this ancient dance is special. It is a dance of healing, a dance of sisterhood – it crosses normal boundaries of age, size, race, economic class and geography. There is something spiritual about the dance; something indescribable that continues drawing women together, strengthens them, empowers them – both on the individual and the community level. The expressiveness of the feminine culture is cultivated through the power of this art form and calls women of all nationalities.
I am a professional Oriental dancer. Through the course of nearly two decades, I have traveled the world as a teacher and performing artist. I have been blessed to meet many women from various countries and heard many of their stories. They have confessed, revealing their innermost secrets. These stories are real, raw and emotional. You will not find political correctness here and not every story comes neatly packaged, beautifully wrapped with the ribbon of a happy ending. Every story contained in this work is either an actual true confession or tightly based on actual experiences.
The primary goal of Confessions of a Belly Dancer; Secrets of the Hieroglyph© is to give a voice to belly dancers around the world and their first-hand experience of the changing, transformational power of the dance. It seeks to elevate the art form and the artists who create beauty through their movements and interpretation of the music. Presenting the theatrical adaptation of Confessions© on the majesty of the theatrical stage is one way this lofty goal is achieved. It lifts Belly Dance up from the backyard birthday parties and the restaurant club scene to new heights rarely seen from Oriental Dance in the Western world.
Just as important as the venue is the artistic partnership between me and two of the most recognized and respected names in Oriental Dance: Momo Kadous and Dr. Samy Farag. Standing side by side with Momo Kadous and his artistic genius to co-produce Confessions© has been educational and inspiring. Dr. Samy Farag’s music was the perfect choice to bring women’s secrets to life through dance. Their leadership and guidance has been instrumental in this creation. Standing in concert as a unified voice with these two remarkable men gives credibility, authenticity and stature to the work of this international ensemble. I am extremely humbled and honored to have lived this experience during my artistic career.
Confessions© also aims to preserve and share the collective experiences and cultural anthropology of Oriental dancers. The compilation of vignettes exposes what is underneath the striking costumes, the mesmerizing music and the glitter of the stage … shining a bright light on the heart of the woman. Belly dance, in a deeply organic way, enables us to honestly and tangibly realize our personal power. It allows us, like the ancient Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut, to leave our mark in the hieroglyphs.
Enjoy tonight and may you leave enlightened, touched and connected with the spirit of woman.”
Come and join us in the city that doesn’t sleep … the Big Apple!