On Poetry and Culture Shock

The North African dance conference

In case you wanted to know how many hours of dancing I can accumulate in these two hips before they collapse: 15. I have done about 15 hours of dancing in three days. First shock: many people organise this sort of thing, it happens very often. It is a wonderful way of getting first-hand knowledge of other people’s techniques, but I wouldn’t want to do this sort of demanding physical work more than once or twice a year. But then, I’m not a professional dancer, and I guess that for people like June, three to ten hours of dance a day are just like my three to ten hours a day at the library.

It was wonderful to see dancers of all abilities, shapes and sizes have fun and learn new things. It was, in a way, a very geeky atmosphere: like a convention of extremely dedicated fans of a very obscure sci-fi series, although instead of talking of characters, actors, and whether the original comic book was better, we talked about the advantages of coin belts over hip scarves or about belly roll techniques (I want to be Émiline when I grow up). There may be a few divas, but the professionals have all the time in the world to talk to the newbies.

In spite of all the fun, something that I find very sad about Middle Eastern dance now is that even though there are many things I cannot do yet, I hardly ever watch a belly dancer and think “How the did she do that!?”; I know the theory behind nearly everything. Now it gives a different level of enjoyment, but there isn’t any mystery and that’s sad. I need to see the “How the did she do that!?” look in other people’s faces to remember that there is magic in it.

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