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Interview with Egyptian dancer Mohamed Shahin

by Salome

Mohamed Shahin, born in Cairo, Egypt, felt a passion for dance early in life. He went on to earn a dance degree at the famous "El Kowmaia" school in Cairo, where he trained in classical, modern and Egyptian folkdance.

He started performing in nightclubs and hotels and appeared in numerous TV shows, video clips and movies. He later became the troupe manager of Egypt's national singer, Samir Sabri. And has performed in dozens of countries in Africa, Asia and the America's.

Mohamed specializes in Saidi, Falahi, Melaya laff, Nubian, Andalusi, Haggala, Baladi, Oriental Dance and Tanoura and his wish is to continue these rich and important traditions by bringing people together through his dance performances and workshops.

Mohamed Shahin

Salome: There are a great many enthusiasts of Egyptian Oriental dance and folk dances outside of the Near and Middle East, not all of whom portray the dances authentically. How do you feel about that?

Mohamed Shahin: Of course I think it is a shame when I see someone who doesn't understand this dance. I love to see my original culture, real Oriental dance, not something different or trying to be Oriental. When I watch Oriental dance, I want to see the real thing.

Salome: One of the many styles in your repertoire is Oriental dance. Do you approach this style with a feminine or masculine energy, and how do the Egyptian people respond to male Oriental dancers?

Mohamed Shahin: I don't perform Oriental dance. I teach it and I do it when I dance socially, but when I perform professionally I only do the men's folk dances. Of course when I'm teaching the women I try to show them the movements in a feminine style, but they have to put the feminine feeling into the movements. I show them as best I can, but they must put their own femininity into it, not just copy me because I am a man.

Generally Egyptian people, men and women love to dance at nightclubs, weddings, birthday parties, even the men dance.However, I don't think Egyptian people would generally accept seeing a man dance on stage professionally, because Oriental dance as we know it, when it's done on stage, is for a woman.

Now in Egypt there is only one man who dances Oriental professionally on stage. Outside of Egypt there are a few men who perform professionally. However, we do have a lot of men who are choreographers, like Mahmoud Reda, Ibrahim Akef, Hassan Afifi, Hamada Housam Eldin, but they do not perform on stage.

Salome: As I understand it, the Tanoura is traditionally performed by men in Egypt. Do You teach this dance to female students? And if so, do you feel it is appropriate for women to perform it?

Mohamed Shahin: Originally this was a religious dance done just by men, but I don't mind teaching it to women for the theater. However, Tanoura is a very hard dance because its not easy to learn and the skirts are very heavy. She can learn how to turn, but I don't think she'll be able to perform it as well as a man.

Salome: You teach Mahmoud Reda style Egyptian folklore dance. For readers who might be unfamiliar with him and his work, can you share in some detail what that means?

Mohamed Shahin: Mahmoud Reda was one of the first to do Egyptian folk dance on stage and he has his own style of performing folk and Oriental dance. He got his inspiration from the ordinary people in the villages and in the streets from all over Egypt.

Salome: What are your hopes for the future of Egyptian Oriental and folk dance?

Mohamed Shahin: I hope that everyone in the world who does Oriental dance will know what the real dance is because this is our tradition. I have seen, in a lot of countries, many people who are dancing but they don't really understand the dance. They just play some music and do some movements and jump around. In Oriental dance, you have to feel the music and do what it tells you to do. So I hope to see all the people doing the dance in the right way.