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Lucy (لوسى) was one of the star dancers of Cairo in the 1980s and 90s. She is an actress, singer and dancer (El Safy, 1993a) and danced at the Parisiana, a club in Cairo owned by her husband (Taylor, no date; Rose, 2006; TheCaroVan, 2015c).
Dancer Yosifah (Rose, 2006, para. 3) loves Lucy because to her, ‘she represents the last actively performing fannana (artist) of Classical Raqs Sharqi of our time’.
I have not been able to find any movie scenes in which she danced, but she acted in movies and won ‘an award at the Alexandria Film Festival in 1996’ (TheCaroVan, 2015c).
I have found some scenes of her dancing at the Parisiana available online, taken from old videotapes (hence the images are not very clear).
After she retired from her club work, she performed at festivals, such as The Nile Festival in Cairo (Enan Egyptian Troupe, 2007), and taught workshops internationally (Rose, 2006).
Cairo Unveiled and Lucy
Lucy was interviewed as part of a National Geographic documentary, Cairo Unveiled, in 1993 directed by Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman (Simon and Goodman, no date).
From this documentary, we know something about Lucy’s origins and her view of the dance.
Lucy grew up near Mohammed Ali Street, in Cairo, famous for being the place where many entertainers used to live (Van Nieuwkerk, 1995, p. 50).
Lucy says about Mohammed Ali Street (Simon and Goodman, 1992): ‘Even though I moved away years ago, Mohammed Ali street will always be home for me . . . I am from here . . . I grew up in a very poor section of Cairo’.
Lucy’s Belly Dance Style
Table 29 summarises Lucy’s dancing style. She is very soft and elegant.
Her image is not bint al balad, but she reminds me more of Samia Gamal. Indeed, El Safy (1993b, para. 4) defines her style’ delicate, refined and intricate’.Yosifah comments (Rose, 2006, para. 10):
Lucy always holds herself in a very balanced, elevated, and graceful and centered posture. This gives elegance to her movements . . . Lucy seems to float . . . Lucy uses her shoulders, arms, and hands in fluid and graceful movements. . . . 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.Rose (2006)
Musical Feeling and Improvising
Another characteristic of Lucy is her deep feeling for the music and the fact that she always improvises during her performances.
She ‘does not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance with a set choreography’ (Rose, 2006, para. 10).
Improvising (except for group dances) was and is something that most Egyptian raqs sharqi dancers do and so is paying attention to the emotional connection with the music.
On YouTube, under a video in which Lucy performs to Lessa Fakir, one of Oum Kalthoum songs (NormaDancer2, 2009), I have found some comments which are very telling about Middle Eastern attitude towards music, dance, lyrics and emotions. In particular, Omid Aghajari writes:
I can honestly say no one dance has ever touched me so much. . . . Look at the extremely delicate and subtle movements she does to embody the music and the spirit of the song . . . I am honestly crying seeing this.Omid Aghajari
Yosifah comments, about a workshop in Dallas with Lucy that (Rose, 2006, para. 10):
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. . . . Thus, Lucy instructed workshop attendants repeatedly, “Listen to the music! Feel the music; dance to the music!”Rose (2006)
Videos Used in the Analysis
The videos I used in the analysis are both from live performances, with big bands. The quality of the videos is not great, but it is enough to be able to see the main characteristics of Lucy’s style.
In the first video, she is dancing to the Umm Kalsoum’s song Lessr Fakir (Do you still remember?) (TheCaroVan, 2015b). Noteworthy, in this video, is the way in which she interprets the music and her connection and communication with the musicians.
The second video (TheCaroVan, 2015d) is another live performance, in which she moves around the stage more than in the first video and in which her elegant style can be appreciated.