by Luna

by Luna



Blog Intro

Hello, I'm Luna, and I'd like to welcome you to "Kisses from Kairo,"* my blog about living and working as an American belly dancer in Cairo.

Life in Cairo isn't easy for dancers, foreigners, women, or even Egyptians. It is, however, always exciting. That’s why after living here for seven years, I've decided to share my experiences with the world. From being contracted at the Semiramis Hotel to almost being deported, not a day has gone by without something odd or magical happening. I will therefore fill these pages with bits of my history in Cairo—my experiences, successes, mistakes, and observations. Admittedly, my time here has been rather unique, so I want to stress that while everything I write is true, my experiences do not necessarily reflect the lives of other dancers.

In addition to my life as a belly dancer, I will write about developments in costuming, performances, festivals, and, of course, the dance itself. I will also make frequent references to Egyptian culture. I should note that I have a love/hate relationship with Egypt. If I make any criticisms about the country, please keep in mind that I do so with the utmost love, respect, and most of all, honesty. Egypt has become my home, so I want to avoid romanticizing and apologizing for social maladies, as most foreigners tend to do. Nothing could be more misguided, patronizing, or insulting.

I hope you find this blog informative, insightful and entertaining, and that we can make this as interactive as possible. That means I'd love to hear from you. Send me your comments, questions, complaints, suggestions, pics, doctoral dissertations, money, etc., and I will get back to you. Promise. :)~

My Videos

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Creating Your Own Style

There's a recent trend emerging in the international belly dance community that's come to my attention. It's the obsession with creating your own style. Over the past year, I've had several workshop attendees ask me how to do this, and how I created mine. This is an important question, but also a bit least as it pertains to me. I didn't create my own style. It created itself. I didn't sit down with myself one day and say hey, I've been dancing professionally now for x amount of years, it's time to create my own set of moves and combinations. I mean it's OK to have that conversation with yourself, but it's neither necessary nor guaranteed to result in your own signature moves. Rather, as I suspect happens with many dancers known for being different, we stumble upon new moves as we advance in our careers. Not while taking classes, but on the stage and while practicing in the studio. I've noticed that the more we perform and choreograph, the more our bodies reveal different ways of moving to us. 

As with everything, this is a process that comes easier to some of us than others. After all, life is not fair. We don't all have the same opportunities, abilities, experiences, or resources. And we're talking about art here. Art is a very personal enterprise. It depends on factors that vary from individual to individual, such as access to training; how long you've been dancing; training in other dance or art forms; body type and overall health; technical ability; cognitive ability; personality; psychological disposition, aptitude for creativity; ability to think abstractly; intellectual background; life experience; worldview; spiritual inclinations; economic and social status; the environment one grew up in; the languages they have access to; childhood experiences, etc. Art depends on all that-- on everything that makes you unique. That's why one person's art will look different from another's. If it doesn't, that person is a copy artist.

This is why the idea that a teacher can teach you how to create a unique style is false. At most, a good teacher can give you basic guidelines (which I'll do below) and can explain the reasons for their own artistic choices. But they can't pull the art out of you. Nor is there a magic formula into which you can pop ordinary technique and out of which comes a compelling and snazzy personal belly dance style. We all wish it were that easy, but that is unfortunately not the case. You are, however, more likely to develop your own style if you perform and practice on a regular basis. And by regular I mean near daily. In fact it's almost inevitable for the few of us who perform every night for years. It's probably because the body becomes so comfortable with certain movements (or bored) that it winds up coming up with new ways of doing them--surprising itself with new variations and combinations just to keep itself entertained. This has happened to me in the context of performances and also when I'm choreographing, but only when I'm thoroughly enjoying the moment-- when the music, the mood, and the audience, if it's a show, are all perfect, and I can just be one with everything. That's when all the weirdness starts to happen... when the body takes over and you need to watch a video of yourself to know what you did. :)

I can't stress enough that this is something that should happen on its own. It is an organic experience and the result of your body becoming thoroughly comfortable and bored with the traditional movement vocabulary. It could take years, but if you're truly dedicated to the art, you'll be patient. The other option is to prematurely force it. But when you do that, you'll be imposing your intellect on the music rather than letting the music work through you-- to mold you as it pleases. And others will be able to recognize that it's not genuine. Which then begs the question of why you're doing it. A lot of what happens when we try too hard to produce something different is that we wind up creating crap. We get superfluous props. We get raqs sharqi watered down with modern dance, ballet, jazz, acrobatics, etc. Admittedly, these things have tremendous appeal in the international festival circuit. And this is probably why so many ambitious dancers are looking to create their own signature style. They realize how much praise, attention, and workshops these "different" dancers get in a community of dancers which prefers innovation to authenticity. Don't misunderstand me. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious. But when the desire for recognition and reward overpowers the desire to be a better artist just because, you have stepped out of the realm of art and into the realm of commodifcation. I find it interesting that many of the world's most cherished artists did not capitalize on their art, nor did they seek fame. The produced their work because spiritually, it was a matter of life and death for them. And though some of them may have died thousands of years ago, their work is still very much alive. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, will we be able to say the same for ourselves?

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me share some tips for creating your own style. This will be especially useful for those who already feel a personalized style starting to emerge, but who feel they could use a little more direction and encouragement.

1. Think out of the box. If you're used to hitting accents a certain way, or if you rely on a predictable set of steps to travel, test out different but similar moves to accomplish the same thing.

2. Mix percussive movements with sinuous movements in unconventional ways.

3. Let the music bring it out of you. Put the music on and improvise in front of a mirror to the same song over and over again. See what comes out of you. Prop a video camera up to record yourself. Repeat this process with different songs, because different music will bring out different moves.

4. Train in other dance forms, but don't let these forms overwhelm the sharqi. Inspire, yes. Overpower, no.

5. Embrace your "mistakes." Refine them and make steps out of them.

6. Watch and study with as many dancers as possible to see how they're inspired...which steps they do and how they connect them. Don't copy!

7. Study with as many dancers as you can and then stop. Give your body a chance to absorb everything you've learned and to reproduce it in its own unique way. Avoid taking classes until you feel you could use some extra inspiration.

8. And finally, creating your own style doesn't always mean coming up with completely new moves, although that's perfectly fine. A lot of times  it's about how you connect the moves you already know, as well as the how you execute them-- the energy you put into them.


  1. I agree with the fact that innovation has to be spontaneous and we cannot force it. Also, on the fact that practising other dance forms should inspire your raqs sharqi but not overwhelm it or water it down. However, there is something more about having your own style than signature moves. I am referring to the energy, the feeling and the character of a movement. The same movement can look different on two different dancers, even if we compare people at the same level of skill, just because they have different bodies, different personalities, backgrounds and experience. This is one of the things I love about this dance, that no two dancers look the same, even when doing the same movements. It is when someone looks exactly like another dancer, in every way, that it begins to look weird...

    1. Yeah its the feeling and the energy in the moves more than 'signature moves.' Its the presence and the connection to the music and (I know this sounds cheezy but....) the earth we are standing on.

  2. I couldn't get through your blog though it looks interesting. But those flashing stars are making me ill. No. Literally nauseous.

  3. Luna, im an egyptian teenager who wants to worship ur feet! I think u r so beautiful ! Love n kisses from giza <3

  4. Hello, Luna! Good words. I've been asking myself the same questions, and you helped me to clear my mind and find new answers... You're inspiring me inside and outside of stage. Kisses from Brazil!

    ps: you can find me at my instagram, it's @rayarabellydance :)