What this dance is about?
Afro Fusion Sharqi Dance is a dance style or form, if you prefer, that fuses the different elements of the dance culture of Africa (from folklore to traditional and urban). A fusion between Raqs Sharqi (Egyptian Style) with Dance Movements from the rest of Africa. This dance brings together the dance elements of Africa (from North to South, East to West and Central). This is about creating bridges that connect Africa’s diversity. It is about unification.
The frame or canvas of this dance is Africa and the goal is to make it visible for whoever is watching the difference but also the similarities in the dynamic of the movement. People must be able to see that you are using movements from Raqs Sharqi with all that flow and embellishment and then you completely change to another type of dynamics and embellishment depending on which dance from Africa you choose to fuse with. I understand that this dance is present in many countries of Arab culture and Islamic religion, but also further afield, for example, Iran (descendent from the Persians’s), Turkey (descendent from the Ottomans), Greece (major religion in Cristian Orthodox), and so on but in Afro Fusion Sharqi Dance, the emphasis and focus are on the dance form performed in North Africa.
The expression “Afro” in this dance concept is used to give context to what is pretended, to create a frame of a dance style, which in this case is centered on the Africa continent. All of the dance, rhythms, culture and diversity that exist in the Continent. It does not pretend to lead to a specific timeline of a movement of liberation or a specific hairstyle. But even if one would like to use as a context or frame, I don’t believe to be a problem since this was a hairstyle, yes, used by black people mostly in the USA, but not only, and these people are African Descendants in diaspora (for the ones out of the continent).
About the word, fusion is really because this dance form is a complete fusion style. It is not the traditional Raqs Sharqi or any other traditional dance from Africa.
The Arabic word Raqs means “dance”, but there is also the word Racks (derived from Assyrian Rakkadu) which means “celebrate”. Now, one may ask: to dance/ celebrate what? Meaning that the word Raqs should come combined with other words, for example, Raqs Baladi (translating to English would be Folk Dance – in here we will have an all category of folkloric dances which Raqs Sharqi makes part of it) or Raqs Sa’idi. On the other hand, there is the Arabic word Sharqi which translating to English would mean Oriental. Putting together Raqs and Sharqi in English would mean “Oriental Dance” or “Dance from the East” or “Eastern Dances”. The problem that urges sometimes is that Oriental Dance in the Western world is vague because it could mean Chinese Dance, or Japanese or even Indian Dance. For some people unfortunately Oriental is associated with Asia culture. To avoid that misunderstanding of translations or misinterpretations and in the name of people’s culture I decided to use the Arabic word as people of the country use and in this case is Sharqi.
This chapter was designed to bullet point some aspects or if one prefers important rules to this dance style. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness, understanding and maybe even one can say knowledge about dances from Africa, their codes and traditions, and as a consequence people can find themselves greatly misconceived about African people and their culture. Ballet, Jazz, Tap Dancing or even Hip-Hop, all have their dance code. Afro Fusion Sharqi Dance is no exception. This dance has its code too that has to be followed:No Choreography: this is a major characteristic in dances from Africa (from folkloric to traditional and urban). Every performance had to be based on improvisation or structured improvisation. One has to know the movements, understand their essence and improvise.
No Movement Cues: there are no movements that function as cues, especially when you are going to the stage.
Music strictly from Africa or from live bands performances using African Instruments.
Textiles and Accessories strictly from Africa. Here I am referring to performances.
Body & Face paintings have to be a representation of exclusively African Ethnic Groups and not simply face paintings with dots and colours that don’t even exist in African ethnic groups or communities.
Objects (aka “props”): are the ones used during the dance. What I have learned is that in Traditional dances in Africa they are not even called “prop”, because every object that one uses while dancing has a purpose, which means it can not be taken from the dance. One can only use the objects based on what is found in the community and that is recognized by everyone in that community. There are no veils, wings, or any other objects that are not part of the origin of the dance or not even from Africa.
Mission, Vision and Values
First, to implant the seed of curiosity about African culture in a way that dancers will keep researching to educate themselves about dances from Africa, whether folkloric, urban or traditional. This is just the beginning of a journey that will probably never end.
Secondly, to give tools and principles to dancers so they can make their path with complete respect, honesty, integrity and honour for the culture, history and traditions.
To see more people dancing this Dance Style with total awareness of what it entails in terms of origins, purpose, roots, with complete understanding, respect, honesty, integrity and honour.
To elevate dances from Africa to such a respectful level that anyone who wishes to perform anything related to them would feel obliged to study and/ or travel to Africa and learn with the masters.
The main principle is if a person is unsure about using a specific dance, movement, music, jewelry, accessory, it’s better not to use it. Take the time to learn more, and research before making a decision.
The Second principle is Respect. One cannot choose an element just for liking it, this could be disrespectful to someone else’s culture. Honour traditions and history, while growing and discovering one’s path. Special reference to teachers (as students will learn the values) and performers (as people watching will acknowledge the respect).