The Competition

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The Competition


I just had my first student compete in a festival in Cairo – the  Cleopatra Dance Fest in which I was a coordinator for.

My student, who is a fastly rising star here in Vancouver, worked tirelessly for months before this competition & I was in awe watching her manage a full time job, teach & attend weekly classes while managing her family life.  I was also reminded of my tireless drive years ago to chase ALL my dance dreams while living a full life.

I am so proud of her effort & her result.  She did not place BUT in my mind she’s got a first place medal.

Competitions are a very funny part of growing into our higher dance selves.  They are EXTREMELY controversial & many amazing dancers do not or have not ever engaged in this aspect of dance.

With raqs sharqi, there is no set curriculum as there is in ballroom or latin dance.  This is what makes competing so hard.  There are the undeniable technical aspects of the dance shapes we create but we also have the emotion, the musicality, the gestures to add.  Not to mention the appearance & costume.  We work with the rhythm, with the melody, with the accents.  We dance for ourselves & for the audience. We become the tongue of the music.  It is ALOT to judge.

On a panel with non-Egyptian dancers, the scoring is extremely difficult.  While Egyptian dancers & teachers are all masters in their artistry, they look for similar things – understanding of the music & its context and how it is translated by the dancer.  This is integral – probably more than the technique (but this is important still!).  With non-Egyptians as judges, suddenly the eyes are all looking for different things based on THEIR experience and eyes – I would wager that unique technique & artistry is valued more than what an Egyptian judge would look for.  Therefore the scoring can be all over the place & often puts dancers in the placing whether or not their deserve to be there.

I competed from 2014 – 2017 fairly regularly.  I won a few trophies and then after my final disastrous competition in 2017, I decided that that was enough for me.  While I valued competition as a way to give me focus, drive, and training I was not made in the mold that so many other dancers are – I do not shine onstage in that capacity.  Instead I felt myself shrink & become so worried about how I was doing & whether or not I was going to place.

In the end it is all just luck.

I have judged many, many, MANY competitions.  I started judged Polynesian competitions in the early 2000s alongside Paul Latta here in Vancouver. He hired me as a fresh eye who had no background in Polynesian dance to observe the overall aesthetic.  The day was long – 9 hours- of continuous dance.  I learned SO much from Paul & his panel of experienced judges as a result.  I honestly love judging because I learn so much about dance & how to be a better teacher as a result.  I’ve judged dancers waaaaaay better than me & learned from their showmanship & presentation. I’ve held scared dancers hands & given them nods while onstage.  I’ve seen it pretty much all.

But to be a dancer on that stage – those days are waaay over for me.  I admire the fortitude & dedication it takes to be onstage fighting for a chance to place, the hours of work & training, the saving to buy new costumes & accessories.  It is so much work & one that needs to be loudly recognized.  It is a place that can make or break a dancer & this should never be taken lightly.

If you are thinking of competing please reach out – I would love to help you get there.

And if its not for you- the stage is still yours- just in the way you want it to be 🙂


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