Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Liza Laziza: "What's wrong with being a dancer who just loves to dance?"

By: Will Cottrell

Liza is an early fortyish woman, born in Iran and raised in London. These days she lives and works as a dancer in Cairo and commands a salary of 'thousands' per party, except in her favourite venue back in London, where 'I couldn't ask anything like that'. We talk in her flat in Cairo's fashionable Zamalek district. The flat is richly decorated with oriental furniture. On the walls are pictures of her dancing in the desert - blue costume against the white sand, shiffon scarves trailing in the breeze.

"Once my bra strap broke mid way through a perfomance," she begins. "I managed to get off stage - but my dressing woman had it back together and I was back on stage within thirty seconds." She's even had a whisky glass thrown at her: "that was my fault, my Arabic wasn't so good then and I think instead of calling someone my brother I called him a homosexual - not good in Arab society," she smirks.

"Belly dancing is not only to do with the belly: it's in the hips, the arms, the waist - it's the whole body. I'm translating the rythmn and melody into my body. It's a powerful expression of women without words. It's saying it's OK to be sexy and powerful - but not vulgar. It's being dignified."

What can western women gain from belly dancing?
"A lot of women want to do it because they love the music. There's others who want to tone their body. Some need it cos they're shy and low self-esteem. Taking lessons and performing in groups gives them self-esteem - an acceptance, an acknowledgement. It's both very personal and very public. The women that are drawn to it are definitely interested in the woman side of it. I had one woman - she was an engineer - she said, I'm not in my body at all. I want to find myself as a women, she said. It's a very feminine dance."

What's so special about Egypt?
"It's the only middle eastern country that is - possibly - democratic. It has alcohol - and as far as the dance is concerned it's as old as the pyramids. Cairo is the heart of the dance. Thirty years ago there was nightclubs everywhere. Every four or five star hotel had a nightclub -the money was huge."

"Then the rot set in. If you look at movies of the last ten or twenty years they all depicts the dancer as a theif, a liar, a prostitute, man eater. Recently Dina has declined to act in any film that depicts dancers in a negative light. Several months ago Fifi Abdou was interviewed, the interviewer was making out that dancers are bad - she said 'what is wrong with being a dancer who just loves to dance?' I always think what's your issue, why can't you handle it. It's your dirty mind."

Source: YogaTravel

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