Shaia Fahrid Explores Cultures Through Dance
probably wrong to think of belly dancing as an erotic dance form, right?
It can be a sexy dance, not unlike salsa, but it’s a
Western misconception that it’s primarily erotic. It’s visceral; you dance from
the inside out, as though the music is coming from within you. It does
complement the female form, but men do the same movements. It’s individually
interpretative and creative. It’s done at home, at family gatherings. There is
no correct age or size or body type or gender. I know dancers in their 80s who
still perform professionally. There is a different standard. Ripples of skin
are a sign of beauty.
you to it?
When I heard the music I thought, “Here’s my soul.”
It’s mesmerizing, as complex as the culture, and constantly evolving. The young
don’t reject it as the music of their parents; they make it their own with
newer instruments. The modern and the ancient coexist in it. When I listen to
great Egyptian composers, I think of Gershwin: the soulful melodies, the stuff
that rips at your heart, all in minor keys. Om Kalthoum, revered as “The Voice
of Egypt” and one of the greatest singers of all time, was the musician who
first drew me. Her songs might last two hours. The word tarab means
achieving a state of ecstasy through music. Middle Eastern music is about tarab.
You can’t come to a state of ecstasy in three minutes.
offer more than classes?
I host a monthly hafla—a belly dance party. Troupes and soloists come from as far as Chicago and Minneapolis to dance just for the joy of it. It’s BYOP (bring your own pillow), you don’t have to know anything about the dance—you can just sit and watch—and there’s food. I also lead a women’s troupe, “Serpentine Dream,” and a men’s troupe, “Extreme Taqisim,” who perform at the haflas and other events. People can find out everything at milwaukeebellydance.com—or just stop in.