AMANI, the culture and creation of Belly dancing

Article extracted from Lebanon.com

 

 CHILDHOOD

 

One day, there was a little girl who had to go to school like her brothers and all the kids of the world. She hated school and, eagerly awaiting schooling years to end. Afterwards, she unsuccessfully, tried to escape this burden. She was dreaming of dancing and nothing else.

 

She took advantage of every moment and hour to exercise in her own room at her big house and enjoy oriental dancing in front of the mirror which became her companion loyal all the time to get away from the whirlpool of studying to dancing.

 

Oh! I forgot to mention her name. She's Angel Ayoub from a town called Hamat in North Lebanon. In spite of that, Angel was not lazy at school except for the French literature class which she preferred eating seeds, potatoes and chocolate or competing for the biggest chewing gum, to it .

 

Though she had an inclination to study medicine, Angel unwillingly entered the university to receive a degree in Social Sciences and another one in Beautification, "because it's Faster," she explained. It was her father's, Nabil Ayoub, condition to grant her the key to freedom only after she had finished schooling and received a university degree.

 

My God! at last the distress is done with . "Now I can dance, "Angel couldn't believe herself. She began preparing for her start in the artistic world a month before she graduated and chose a new name, Amani, that was suitable for oriental dancing, and which means "Wishes" in English. The name has a long story which I will relate to you in the following lines.

 

 

A COINCIDENCE OR A DESTINY FOR DANCING?

 

At one of her relatives' engagement party where there were a crowd of important artists and journalists, Angel responded to a friends' request and performed a dance which was met with admiration (all the doing of the mirror), and that urged one of the distinguished journalists, Mr. George Ibrahim Al Khoury, to ask her for a second dance after being introduced to him by that friend. A small incident that has changed the course of her life and encouraged her to enter the artistic world. Days passed away, till a letter was published in the most important artistic magazine with the title: "An Educated Girl Asks: Should I Take Oriental Dancing as a Profession ? "

 

The letter was signed by the name Amani and sent by the teen-ager while she was still a university student, asking the distinguished journalist his opinion about that matter to which he gave his famous answer:

"There is no such thing as trite dancing, but there is a trite dancer. It's the person himself who shapes his future, and not the other way around." And he asked her to use "Amani" as her name when she starts dancing professionally.

 

In spite of the opposition she faced from some people, and the society in particular, Angel went on pursuing to fulfill her wishes and dreams on the first of April, 1987 using the name Amani.

 

The 1st. of April ? Ha...Ha ! It's April Fool's Day ! or the NEW YEAR according to the ancient world calendar ?  Is this teen-ager playing a practical joke on us all or what ?! Or is she a diva coming from the ancient world time to fulfill us with her authentic soul  in dance?

 

 

AND THE THOUSANDS AND ONE STEP BEGIN  

 

In 1987, the war was still going on in Lebanon, a fact that hindered Amani's recognition in Lebanon, Her own homeland. But this didn't stop her from working abroad and strengthening her artistic footsteps in every establishment she worked in and where contracts were renewed more than once.

 

She traveled to many countries, Arabian and Foreign, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Tunisia, Italy, France, Syria, Australia...

 

When Amani took a final decision to enter the artistic world, she telegraphed  Mr.George Ibrahim Al-Khoury, under the name Amani, and told him about it and  invited him to a dance party where she would be performing. Thus ,he accepted the invitation and then wrote an article titled "Amani Holds Me Responsible for Her Oriental Dancing", and which he concluded with one wish:

"All I hope for Amani's reputation is to remain as white as the snow that covers her beautiful town, Hamat."

 

During this time, Amani was introduced, through the famous writer, to one of  Lebanon and Arab World's singing Stars, the maestro Melhem Barakat who admired her dancing singled her out as the only dancer in all his recitals inside and abroad Lebanon. Their cooperation continued for almost two years.

Then, Amani started working alone in all the Arab World. In year 1989, she started to work on her own style. She used a unique character in music and rhythms which no dancer has ever danced to. And since Amani's dancing has been characterized, and carried a new wave in oriental dancing (belly dancing) that distinguished her in the expressive new style which Amani used.

 

 

AIMS AND IDENTITY

 

Moreover, what really set Amani aside from other dancers is the fact that she is a well educated person, a character which enhanced her radiant personality to the extent that a press interview carries as much joy as her dancing, a fact that prompted the distinguished journalist to ask Amani to write her artistic life story and her opinions about it. Then, he asked her to write another subject discussing philosophy and life. In addition, Amani searched deeply into the old Arabian history books for the roots of oriental dance, and excelled in her discussion of the subject in press interviews and TV talks that people and, journalists in particular adopted her views about dancing and its history. Amani rejected the allegation that oriental dance is Egyptian and presented sufficient proofs.

 

And since , Amani aimed at purifying oriental dance from all the blemishes that distorted its beautiful image in view of the social and religious ideas and beliefs which prevailed in the old times  in addition to the dance traders ( some of them were dancers, teachers, impresarios and even journalists)  and chaotic state that spread along the dance communities  where oriental dancing lost its real identity.  Therefore , and for the aim on putting together with the dancers of the world onto one work for purifying and upgrading oriental dance , she founded her  annual educational festival Amani Oriental Festival the year 2005.

In 1993, and for the first time in the history of oriental dancing, Amani represented in a corporeal form two historical stories through beautiful dancing in an effort to introduce culture and education under the logo of  oriental dancing .

 

And since every kind of dance has its own history, Amani thought that it was appropriate to present in 1993 a show under the title "Stories"or  “Histoires “ which aimed at narrating the history of the dance or presenting a story in a corporeal form through a dance. The show was a success which motivated Amani to present a second version, "Stories II" in 1994, and a third one, "Stories III", in 1995 and stories IV in 1996.

 

Thus, Amani became on eminent personality in the art and education firmament.

Her distinguished title became the Educated Dancer or the Angel of Dancing.

 

 

THEATRE

 

There was nothing surprising. Amani was the first dancer who dared in February 1996, to move oriental dancing from nightclubs to the theater. She had such a courage and strength to put together a two hours show and stand on stage all by herself to present dances from the orient without the audience getting bored. Spring 1999 , Amani totally moved her presentation to theatre giving this art form  new dimensions in a theatrical work. Her spectacular dance shows ( Amani Around the world. Amani days and nights, Layali el hob and Orjouewan) Amani offered a wide variety of folkloric and historical  dance scenes like the Lebanese Dabkeh dances, the Lebanese Bedouin and the portrayal  through the folkloric dance of different characters in yesterday’s Lebanese woman , withal, Amani represented in a corporeal form many historical and recent routines in a portrayal of woman of today stories through beautiful dancing in an effort to introduce culture and education under the logo of oriental dancing, taking into consideration that Oriental dance is a part of her heritage. .

 

She became Lebanon's dance ambassador to the world. .

In fact, she has admirers within high-class societies, and even politicians who attend her shows and choose her for their formal and private occasions and was chosen to stage her performances in the most important events in Lebanon after the war, she was also chosen by the cultural society to celebrate the International Theater Day in recognition of one of the most prominent play writers in the orient.

 

 

PRESS  EXTRACTS 

 

1- A lot was written about her which can't be all mentioned here. Many poets and writers spoke with admiration of her dancing and innocent feminine beauty, of which is the description written by the great  GEORGE JURDAK, the writer ,poet and sarcastic critic, who said: " A gorgeous feminine fantasy which surrenders to musical tunes as Jasmine breath to the breeze of air, dancing in a beautiful dream from which the dreamer is afraid to wake up in order not to lose sight of such a charm that might melt in a cloud of white perfumed fluttering diaphanous gown..."

 

2- The writer GEORGE I.AL-KHOURY wrote after he saw her dancing at a night club: "A dancer from the orient who became, within few years, one of the proficient dancers...I was infatuated by your dancing style... a tender, flexible dancing body that deals with music as if it's a musical instrument, meets with dancing as if it's a dancing composition, and feels with sensation as it's a bulk of sensation... all with a gorgeous beauty, an intoxicated body, coquetry and provocation and hands which flexibly and skillfully move, and a gazelle's walk... I, who one day participated actively in your coming to the world of art, am very happy of the accomplishment you've done...and for the brilliant future awaiting for you..."

 

3- Afterwards, she presented her show "Stories" I "in 1993 of which AL-KHOURY wrote:" You, the youngest of the dancers, and the eldest in ranking, dancing and art. You came from the beauty of Hamat to become an oriental dancer who elevates dancing to the level of her hometown ,education and high moral standards...I am very happy with the achievement you've made with your show "Stories I"... congratulations."

It's worth noting that Mr.George I.Al-Khoury has bestowed his favors on a large number of artists, and he was a coeval of many of the art's giants such as ABDUL WAHAB and OM KALHOM in the Arabian Orient. But he always takes pride of being the one who attracted Amani to the artistic world to be one of its eminent personalities, he even once said: "How many dancers dance to the tunes of music...and how many dancers does music dance to their tunes ?! Only one, Amani."

 

4- One of the main critics journalists (ABED EL GHANI TLAYS) wrote describing her dance at the International Theater Day in recognition of one of the most prominent play writers in the orient:

 

 "Amani dances as a whole, and the dancer who denotes culture in this Arabian Lebanese art which interlocks with distant times...Amani realizes that every occasion has its particular dance...I saw her dancing or singing or, rather, flying in one of the most graceful of her performances...she was an original expressive power capable of displaying the beauty of each more and each stillness.

 

While Performing, she was the daughter of a noble, graceful and creative theater, the daughter of the real art.

 

She danced with the demanded revelation that dance which deepened my conviction in Amani's affiliation with the artistic culture. An affiliation that makes her an explorer in search of treasures...And I think that a long time will pass before another educated dancer comes along to practice dancing as an act of love, such as Amani."

 

5- The latest title he bestowed on Amani was "The carnival of dancing" because she excelled in all styles of dance such as Jazz, Indian and the theatrical, in addition to all types of oriental dancing, thus, becoming the most popular dancer and news of her reaching the two Americas.

6- HABIBI, a U.S magazine published an article about her written by Noria Tahan (Summer 95,vol.14,n#3): "Internationally known, she is one of the top dance stars of  LEBANON...She is admired and respected by the Arab community world wide...I was greeted at the door by a petite, warm and friendly young lady...There is nothing plastic or fake about Amani

 

Also she wrote:

Lebanon in Dance ...But first and foremost there is Amani, enthroned for above, a technician on the level of Mona Saiid with the grace and presence of Samia Jamal, and for several years, though still twenties, the acknowledged superstar of Lebanese Dance" (Edwine Nearing in Habibi Magazine U.S.A) .

 

 

TUITION    

 

From America to Europe, Amani visited Germany, in 1995, where she presented a dance show. She also established master class, workshop which attracted dancers from all Europe, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Holland and England...to learn her new style in oriental dancing. The experience made Amani happy and filled her with enthusiasm for the idea of workshops, because this is what she thought of as her real mission to spread new ways of oriental dancing, especially when a number of European oriental dancers called her and expressed their wishes to learn oriental dancing with her.

 

Amani, as a master teacher ,  is touring the oriental dance communities for master classes.

 

Also, Lebanese ladies and house wives asked Amani for special lessons, and there is nothing astonishing about that because she is quite popular among women, a fact which is due to Amani's spontaneousty and distinguished dancing

 

MORE...

 

The teen-ager who became now a successful woman was the first one to present, in 1993,a video clip of a dance in the orient. A video clip that depends on a dancer, and not a singer as it is usually the case. Amani’s video clips reached 7 clips each presents a different style and idea in dance

Moreover, it's worth noting that Amani have 7 CD in the international markets .  Amani starred 2 Tele series : Alissar produced by Tele LIban   and Badi3a Masabni biography Tele series produced by New TV  

Last, but not least, Amani is the only oriental dancer who has been accepted to join the Professional Artists Syndicate.

 

And why not?! it is her slogan in Life :culture, creation, stories, isn't it? When Amani represented Lebanon in an annual festival for oriental dancing, held in Germany, she addressed the audience with the following words: ... I come to you from my small country, Lebanon, to tell you and to prove that art, and especially dancing, hasn't faced a setback or died during the 17 years of civil war and destruction. On the contrary, it was renewed and improved...Hoping you'll visit our country which we are rebuilding today..."

 

So, well the world open his doors to the Lebanese artistic dancing by way of his Ambassador to the stars.. the way of Amani?!