Gilded Serpent presents...
I Love Lucy:
Confessions of a Dancer
by Yosifah Rose
April 11, 2006

I have been and will continue to be a life-long Lucy fan. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that I love Lucy! No, I am not talking about Fred and Ethel's zany neighbor. Even though Lucy, the American comedienne, entertains with antics on television reruns, I have not spent countless hours studying the performance techniques and style of that Lucy…

The Lucy to whom I refer is a dancer in Cairo, Egypt. My Egyptian Lucy is an accomplished actress and singer with talent who is held in high regard.  However, it is her Raqs Sharqi that has stolen my heart!

Lucy is special to me because she represents the last actively performing fannana (artist) of Classical Raqs Sharqi of our time. At her nightclub, the Parisanna, in Cairo, Egypt, Lucy still performs a five-part Egyptian Cabaret set seven nights a week, dancing with a 16-piece traditional Oriental orchestra (nine of whom are Arabic percussionists). According to Lucy, there is no drum machine, nor is there a mazhar in her band, because she considers both to be too loud for her taste.

The single most striking element of Lucy's virtuosity is that it embodies the music to which she performs: she becomes the music and conveys it with her emotions, her movements, and creates her dance with genuine warmth, love, and joy for her audience.

Given my enthusiasm for Lucy, you may imagine correctly that I have long dreamed of meeting her and seeing her dance—in person. Walt Disney was right: Dreams really do come true! On April 7-9, 2006, I had the honor of meeting, dancing for, and studying with Lucy of Cairo, Egypt! For this thrilling opportunity and "I can't believe this is really happening" experience, I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude to Dee Dee and Ahmad Asad and their company Little Egypt for sponsoring Lucy’s workshop and show in Dallas, Texas.

For those of you that have not yet attended an event sponsored by Little Egypt, I am happy to report that Dee Dee, Ahmad, Noura, and all of the Little Egypt family and staff more than lived up to their reputation for excellence, kindness, and hospitality.

As for Lucy…her WOW factor cannot be overstated!  Lucy is a true alma: a gifted actress, musician, dancer. Add to this, her beauty, warmth, love for dance and willingness to share her knowledge with others, and you have the ingredients for an extraordinary dance teacher! Let me briefly share with you an overview of Lucy's approach to Oriental dance and why, even more than ever: I Love Lucy!

While Lucy shared much more with us in her two-day workshop and in her performances, I hope that my brief overview will inspire you to learn more about and from Lucy also!

Lucy's TOP 10 Tips (as I gleaned from her Dallas, Texas, Workshop, April 8th   and 9th, 2006)

  1. Lucy does not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance with a set choreography. Lucy does not dance choreography. Throughout the weekend, she emphasized this fact. Therefore, she did not teach us choreography. Instead, she urged us to follow her as she danced extemporaneously and to learn from her techniques.
  2. Lucy’s dance is 100% tied to the music. She has a profound understanding and feeling for Arabic music. When she dances, she becomes one with the music. The nuances of the melody, the rhythms, the cultural context of the arrangement (or the song), and the emotions contained in the music transfer through her soul and translate her body movements into dance. While Lucy's movements are from the "vocabulary of Oriental dance," she gives these movements a voice that is uniquely her own as they communicate the message of the music to her audience. Thus, Lucy instructed workshop attendants repeatedly, "Listen to the music! Feel the music; dance to the music!" 
  3. Lucy believes that each dancer has a unique gift to share and must allow her heart and personality to shine throughout her dance. She urged us to be proud of being dancers and to always enter the stage with confidence that our dance is a gift that is worth giving.
  4. Lucy’s dance center is in her core (the solar plexus). She emphasized, just as my dance coach, Najia Marlyz, teaches, that all of a dancer’s movements must originate from her core. Even Lucy's graceful hand and arm movements radiate from her core. When she was demonstrating for us her beautiful hand, wrist, and arm techniques, and when she corrected dancers, she repeatedly pointed to their upper oblique muscles of the rib cage and said "dance from here."
  5. Lucy always holds herself in a very balanced, elevated, and graceful and centered posture. This gives elegance to her movements. Lucy also holds her dance balance (her weight) in her core. Again, this concept supported what I have learned from my dance coach, Najia Marlyz, and I felt in accord with the concept. When executed thus, a dancer’s steps never make her appear heavy, but instead give her an appearance of floating! Lucy seems to float and her dance appears deceptively effortless.
  6. Lucy is very conscious of her body alignment and repeatedly corrected dancers who executed movements by turning their knees inward. She would say, "No, no. Not this!” while demonstrating a knee twisted inward. “This is bad, --ugly. You will hurt yourself!" she emphasized again and again. Then she would demonstrate how to execute the movement with proper body alignment and a dancer’s balance.
  7. Lucy is true to classical Egyptian Raqs Sharqi form, using downward movements on the "doum."
  8. Lucy uses her shoulders, arms, and hands in fluid and graceful movements because (she explained) Raqs Sharqi is a "feminine dance," and therefore, it should reflect soft feminine beauty, not blatant sexuality. She elaborated that Samia Gamal was the first Raqs Sharqi dancer to incorporate beautiful arms and upper-body movements in her technique. Lucy believes that, after Samia Gamal, she is the second Egyptian Raqs Sharqi dancer to excel in the most graceful arm and upper body movements.
  9. Lucy advocates and uses understated shoulder shimmies, and during her workshops, she corrected dancers who were executing vigorous inadvertent or intentional breast tosses. (I also noted that upward chest “pops and locks” were not included in her dance vocabulary.)
  10. Finally, Lucy repeatedly told us that she loves to dance! She said that she dances and practices every day.  She advised that we should dance a minimum of 30 minutes every day. She commented that sometimes she even practices with no music playing, dancing only with the music inside her head and heart.

To me, Lucy’s tenth tip demonstrated how deeply she loves and feels her Oriental music.

Lucy is a true alma and Oriental music plays within her very heart and soul.

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