Arabic Dance

Duration: 3:32 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.577
This story has been viewed 11735 times

Vannesa's story is about heritage and hope

By Vannesa Zandani

Other information

This story was inspired by coins from the collections at the Museum of Hartlepool

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Video transcript

Back in the nineties I saw an article in our local paper for an Arabic dance course, which included two hours theory on the history of Arabic dance. Being of half Arab descent I thought it would help me in my search for my roots and having the illness M.E. I needed to do some exercise so I registered for the course. I discovered and learnt so much about this beautiful ancient art form. That Pharonic carved wall reliefs and papyrus depicting the dance are still in existence today and after tribal wars in India the Ghawazee tribes fled to Turkey and north Africa taking their dance form with them. In the Napoleonic wars the troops believed the dancers to be prostitutes and many of the dancers were beheaded and their bodies thrown into the Nile but the dance lived on through the Almeh who they considered to be more refined as they were musicians as well as dancers. That it was a dance performed by women for women and used as a birthing right and for celebrations. I was captivated by the movements, hip drops, shoulder shivers, camel walks, head shifts to name a few. The music enthralled me, it touched my inner soul, especially the drumming. The rhythm that beat in synchronization with my own heart. When I would do a hip shimmy my hip belt laden with heavy coins sang out mystically and I would be transported to my own desert of dreams. I soon became an expert dancer and when I danced I felt pure freedom, the proudness of my own heritage innate within me being released. I danced all over including our own Town Hall theatre and marina many times and Sinai, Newcastle, Tunisia, Sunderland and appeared on North East television. Then the ultimate, Marrakesh in the famous square El Djamaa Fna, dancing with the drummers of the M'Gouna tribe. The air was hot and heavy from the night fires that burned. Surrounded by snake charmers, water carriers, soothsayers and hennaed women but all I could hear was the drums calling me. Five years ago it all ended, the illness striking me down again stopping my dancing feet in their tracks. Weeks in a hospital bed in intense pain and I had lost the use of my left arm and leg. It took me six months to learn to use them again. My exquisite costumes hang motionless in the wardrobe, no more swirling colours, shining beads and sparkling sequins. My once jingling coin belts rest quietly and my tabla sits lonely in the corner of my dance studio waiting for its pulse to be heard again. My treasure trove, hidden gems that one day will find their song because one day I will dance again.  

I am captivated by the movements as well, and do not understand why pelly dancers are still equated to prostitutes until nowadays. For me belly dancers are business women who are selling their skills and better than some CEOs who sell their morals and ethics in the process of corruption for more financial gainsPosted on 29/03/2014 at 19:11:37

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