Spirit of the Heart

Dance Performance
Suraya Hilal  

Raqs  Sharqi is Egypt’s rich and diverse female dance form. Deeply rooted in Egyptian culture, it is one of the oldest known dances. Although the past glories of Raqs Sharqi have faded, the extensive work of Suraya Hilal, her school and company are taking the dance into a new and splendid future.
Suraya Hilal was born and raised in Cairo, learning to dance in the traditional way within the family circle. While she was in America, studying various dance forms, she came to realise how important her own culture was to her. She began researching and analysing Raqs Sharqi. This was the beginning of her clarification and confirmation of the traditional technique and concepts unique to Raqs Sharqi.
The three main forms of the dance are Sharqi, or classical, Baladi, or urban folk, and Sha’abi, folk. In 1979 Suraya made her home in Britain, where she was encouraged by public response and immediate critical acclaim. At this stage her creativity began to blossom.
In the days of royal patronage in Egypt the court dancer, or ‘Almah’, worked with a ‘Takht’ ensemble, a six-piece orchestra, and danced within the intimate space of the palace and fine homes of the elite. The classical form of ‘Sharqi’ developed in the courts, reflecting high artistic standards. The Almah was well-educated, able to sing, recite poetry and dance with refinement and sophistication. In courtly presentations musician and dancer were completely united in their performance and created an environment of ‘tarab’, or enchantment.
With the modernisation of Egypt, Sharqi music and dance moved from the courts to the cinema. This was a great change. Western idioms were integrated with Sharqi music, but such in a way that the music kept its foundations. The dance on the other hand, under the influence of Hollywood, changed almost beyond recognition.
Suraya’s love for the courtly dance and the deep impressions she gained from the star dancers of the 40’s and 50’s helped her to recreate and extend Raqs Sharqi’s classical form into the 21st century.
Raqs Sharqi is a dance that cannot be understood out of its musical context. Like Kathak and Flamenco, the music and dance form an inseparable whole. The performance Spirit of the Heart was created with Suraya’s inspiration for the voice, the oldest known instrument. In the East, it is said that the voice moves the heart, body and soul.
Suraya collaborated with Rouh el Fouad, one of the few female baladi vocalists, and the traditional Baladi Musical Ensemble who still live and breathe Baladi music in spite of the over-commercialised climate they work in. With the dance, Suraya finds a new form of moving known traditional elements into unknown and unexplored territories. At the same time, her work is a celebration of the Baladi form, the working people’s art, which conveys with depth and emotion the richness of humanity.
Ancient and modern, urban and rural, Islamic-Sufic, pharaonic and universal, all are strong influences interweaving within the complex and yet simple art of baladi, forming the essence of Suraya Hilal’s new work.

Choreography and artistic direction: Suraya Hilal; solo vocalist: Rouh el Fuad; accompanied by: The Baladi Musical Ensemble: darbuka/ tablah: Ibrahim El Miniyawi, Ali Abdelalim; saxophone: Mohamed Ahmed Yosef Hilal; doff in mashar: Osman Aly; accordion: Tawfik Dawoud; loud & ney: Mamdouh Hashem; costumes and design: Chant Avedissian; lighting design and tehnical direction: Michael Mannion; coordination and administration: Sian Davies;

Management and production: Claudia Heinle.
Organised by: Cankarjev dom
The guest performance is supported by: Zavarovalnica Triglav, d.d., Območna enota Ljubljana
Main sponsor of the performing arts season: Petrol - Slovenska naftna družba.
Cankarjev dom thanks: The Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Cairo

Date and time of event: 
Oct 20th 20:00
Place of event: 
Cankarjev dom