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Introducing Shareen El Safy

Introducing Shareen El Safy

By Baraka

San Francisco, CA

Elegant, disciplined, precise, knowledgeable, strong—these are only a few of the adjectives that have been used to describe Shareen El Safy’s interpretation of Oriental dance. From her early beginnings in 1967 with Jamila Salimpour, the West Coast doyen of the dance, to her numerous forays to Cairo to study with such luminaries as Nagwa Fouad, Sohair Zeki, Fifi Abdou, Mahmoud Reda, Mohammed Kalil, and man others, Shareen has absorbed and refined the teachings of many of the finest performers to bring a unique interpretation and technique to American Oriental dancers and audiences.

Shareen El Safy

Her early dancing years were spent in California’s central coast area, where she was known as “The Traveling Teacher,” covering thousands of mile to teach in rec centers, dance studios, alternative schools and private homes. She also appeared as a soloist in the Los Angeles area, primarily at Sinbad’s and Haji Baba’s. Since breaking onto the national scene, she has given seminars throughout America and Canada, and has led dance study tours to Egypt. Shareen will teach and perform on a European tour in Fall 1993.

Shareen’s eight instructional videos share her rich dance vocabulary, experience and understanding of the basic mechanics underlying the Egyptian style with her legion of viewers. She is also known to the readers of trade magazines such as Habibi and Arabesque for her articles and interviews with many notable dance personalities.

By making frequent trips to Cairo, Shareen has been able to study and meet with many of the most respected names in Egyptian dance. The glowing praise she has received is truly a tribute to her dedication to the dance. Nagwa Fouad said, “I am astonished by your dancing! You are American, but dance Arabic.” Sohair Zeki enthused, “I have seen many dancers from the U.S. and Europe, but you are the only one who does this dance well, perfectly. It makes me very, very happy.” In 1989 she was one of the rare non-Egyptian dancers who received the Egyptian Artist License necessary to perform in Cairo, where she appeared at the Parisianna and El Leil, the largest nightclub in the Middle East. In 1990, she opened for Sohair Zeki at the Sunset Club, and in 1991, she again returned in 1992 to perform at the Sunset and the Siag Pyramids Hotel. On her last trip Shareen was able to hire her own ten-piece orchestra and vocalist, performing to music composed especially for her—“Rakset Shareen.”

Shareen views Oriental dance as a science kept alive for thousands of years whose basic root movements have evolved into the modern interpretation practiced in Egypt today. Her approach to instruction comprises three levels: the root concept of a movement, the musical integration and flow between steps, and the nuance of feeling and focused intention of the performer. This comprehensive approach allows each student to excel on an individual basis while gaining useful insight into the emotional qualities of the dance.

From a personal standpoint, Shareen is not only a superb teacher and dancer, but also a warm and outgoing person. She understands the difficulties American dancers face in performing what is essentially an alien cultural form, and while she is unabashedly American, she dances with all the soul and charm of the finest Egyptian dancers. She is both refined and earthy, strong and yielding, graceful and emphatic, humorous and tender—and makes learning challenging and fun.

Baraka is the director-instructor of Bastet Studio and the Bastet Dancers in San Francisco, and has recently given seminars in Reno, Nevada, Stockton, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. She has been an Oriental dancer for 21 years, and credits Jamila Salimpour and Bal Anat for the basis of her own dance, which is best described as Modern American Oriental dance, incorporating the basics of classical western dance with the discipline of the Salimpour technique. Her dance has been described as “skilled and graceful” by Shareen el Safy. baraka@stanford.edu

Copyright © Habibi Publications 1992-2002, Shareen El Safy, Publisher.

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