Egyptian male dancer Jallil Jallil

Tarik Sultan

New member
I ran across this article on line and thought I would share it here along with my response. A few years ago I was part of a rather heated debate where I stated that there are many men in Egypt who, if given the chance, would love to be able to perform as Oriental Dancers and not just informally at parties. A few years later Tito took the international dance community by storm, starting out as a performer in Sharam el Sheikh. He has moved on to more lucrative opportunities largely outside of Egypt, but the mantle has been taken up by performers like Miro. I have never heard of Jalil Jalil, but apparently he is performing in various venues in Egypt. Not sure how much work he gets, but it is interesting that the door is beginning to open up. This would have been unheard of in 1988 when I first visited Egypt. It's not the best written interview, but I hope you enjoy it all the same.

My response:

I don't know how many people will see this article or read this comment, but I'd like to make a contribution if I may. My name is Tarik Sultan and I an a professional Oriental Dancer in the United States. I would first like to point out that the form of entertainment known to the World as Belly Dance, is based on the foundation of the social dance of the Egyptian people and is and always has been a unisex dance. This can be attested to by casual observation at any social gathering or function of the local people. It has only been the modern aspect of professional dance that was female dominant.

The resistance to receiving a man as performer is directly linked to the resistance of the idea that female dancers are and can be artists and that the dance itself is worthy of being considered an art form. There are many reasons for this, some dealing with issues of class, religious sentiments, but I think the biggest obstacle is the fact that in Egypt it is just too familiar. As I said, It is based on the foundation of the social dance and therefore, there are no schools where it is taught because people learn it informally by assimilation from the time they are children. You never apperciate anything that is too familiar. When you are too close to something, (or someone), it is very hard to see the poptential that they have to be greater than what you know as mundane and ordinary. Therefore, in a society where almost everyone knows how to dance to some degree, it is not seen as special. Therefore, the question is raised, why should someone expect to be paid to do it in public and why should they want to? Inevitably it usually comes down to an issue of economic necessity which makes it more of a job than an art and a low status job at that.

In Egypt your reputation is everything. Everyone is class concious and striving to gain status and therefore, one way to achieve that is through your profession, lawyer, doctor, scientist. The implication is that these things are firstly a service to society and secondly required a great deal of intelligence and study to master. Therefore, the idea of dance being worthy of respect as a profession..... well.... But here's what I would like people to consider. There are many fields that grew out of mundane activities that have been refined into arts. Cooking: Almost every Egyptian woman knows how to cook and yet there is a wold of difference between the respect given to your mom for doing what is considered her duty and a chef. What is the difference? Largely the perspective given. A chef does dedicate years of study to refine their craft, but those skills are based on a legacy of collecting the best techniques to achieve the best dishes.
Fashion designers: Once upon a time, all clothes were made at home. At some pointpeople began to collect the best techiques for knowing how to stich cloth to produce beautiful clothes, but it all has its origins in the humble beginnings of what was first developed in the home. Novelists: From Steven King to Naguib Mafouz, history is full of the acknowledgements of great authors, but doesn't their work stand on the shoulders of generations of mothers and fathers telling stories around fires or bed time to their children?

What all these arts have in common is that they took the elements of mundane activities and refined them, nurtured them, polished them to produce something extra ordinary. It is the waythat we looked at them and seeing the potential they had to become something greater that allowed them to develop into arts. So to does Raks Sharki have the potential to become a great art. However, as long as we limit ourselves to not being able to look beyond the physical attributes of a woman's body, the shape of her hips, the size of her breasts, it will remain what it is now and any man who attempts to engage in it beyond the level of mere fun at a party will be looked at with suspicion of his character, (just as women are looked on with suspicion of their character). However, if we can look beyond that, then we can see that Egypt is the proud heir of one of the greatest dance expressions worthy of the recognition and respect as Ballet, Flamenco, or even the Hawaiian Hula. Rather than always looking from without for artistic merit, Egypt can look within and project out to the rest of the world. To the natives of South Africa, playing with shiny rocks was a pass time for children. What a shame that it took foreigners to recognize that those rocks were in fact diamonds and make billions from it while the natives became impoverished. I'd like the Egyptian people to consider how many diamonds they have being trampled under foot everyday. God has blessed you with as many gifts as he has the rest of the world. It's up to you to recognize them and refine them. You greatest gifts are in your people and the talents that they have inside.

Tarik Sultan

New member
So, update on the article. The dancer featured is not Egyptian but Argentinian and the venues he performed in in Cairo were in conjunction with dance festivals. There are vidos of him performing at Egyptian weddings on youtube however. Not sure if he lives there or only gets these gigs when he visits, but I think the fact that he was accepted and enjoyed by the crowed and not booed off stage says something. Conversely, there are Egyptians like Miro who do live and work in Egypt and although they do not have an equal footing with their sisters, the fact that they exist at all in MHO is important.


Tarik.... This is a really good explanation... Bellydance is just a different gendre of Dance... and whatever type of dance you are doing it should be open to any living breathing human being... no exceptions...