I cannot begin to describe the excitement I felt when I heard Nada el Masriya was coming to Tulsa. She was one of the dancers I had come across in my previous explorations of the baladi style, and I adored her energy and her attitude. I couldn’t wait to learn from an actual Egyptian woman, a native of the culture I have fallen in love with.
The first day was four hours of just baladi, my dance bread and butter. Working with her was an absolute joy and I learned so much about the cultural context of the style and the idea of the character of the baladi woman. I had heard of the concept of characters in Egyptian dance, but I’d not really learned about the idea. As she described it, I began to realize why I connected so strongly with that style.
She said a baladi woman is a strong woman, confident, fully embracing her femininity and her sexiness, but still ready and willing to get her hands dirty to help people and take care of her home and her family. She is beautiful, yet unrefined. Earthy and grounded. She is voluptuous and her movements are deep and gooey.
“Whether you’re 50 kilos or 100 kilos, dance like you’re 100.”
As a large-bodied dancer, I can’t begin to describe how inspiring that one statement was. I mean, I’ve got that 100 kilo thing covered. I’ve always been fairly self-conscious about my body, especially when I first got into the workshop scene, surrounded by all the lovely professional dancers with their shapely, much thinner bodies. But the dance community has always been one of the most accepting and supportive groups of people when it comes to appearance.
But hearing that the goal was to dance like I weighed what I already weighed? Yeah, that felt good.
She still kicked my butt though, and the butt of everyone else in the class. I never thought dancing baladi could be so strenuous. Finding that deep movement was difficult. When I woke up the next morning, muscles were hurting that I didn’t know could hurt. I mean, my hips hurt. Like, how? I always come away from a workshop weekend with sore legs and feet, but we found some muscle groups I didn’t even know existed.
I loved it. I loved everything about it. I learned about the character, the attitude, the movement, the culture, and even the styling. I did Saidi that night at the show, but I did baladi hair per the description Nada gave, and I think it turned out well.
Honestly, I can’t wait to study with Nada again, and I know my dance will be infinitely improved by my experience this past weekend.