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First ballet school in Upper Egypt helping break society’s taboos

by Marwa Yahya MINYA, Egypt (Xinhua) -- In a conservative and narrow-minded society where dancing is not an acceptable or a preferable form of art, a group of young people challenged the customs and traditions and launched the first ballet school in Upper Egypt.

Alwanat School of Ballet and Fine Arts, the first of its kind in Upper Egypt, opened in the center of Minya province, some 220 km away from Cairo.

"The name Alwanat, Arabic for ‘colors’, signals the diversity of people and programs we offer," Marco Adel, the founder of the school, told Xinhua.

Many people at the beginning opposed the idea of a dancing school and claimed that dancing is a form of vice, while others think that it is a waste of time, Adel said.

Upper Egyptians are always depicted in novels and movies as tough, conservative and narrow-minded people on matters of arts and freedom of females.

"Our main problems are finance and the society’s rejection of this kind of art," Adel mentioned.

In the past, students had to move to Cairo or Alexandria to join the Higher Institute of Ballet, the Cairo Opera House, or some private schools, which cost real burdens for families.

"I was so happy when I read about the school on Facebook," said Noha Mohamed.

"My daughter, Gigi, was imitating the movements of a ballet dancer on TV, and I feel she will be a professional dancer in the future," she said.

"Ballet is a unique type of art and there is nothing to be ashamed of even in a conservative society.

"I’m so proud of my daughter," she told Xinhua, adding that girls from Upper Egypt are gifted and they only need a chance to explore their potentials.

"It’s a positive initiative to change the way of thinking and to open a new gate for girls to enjoy arts," Nisreen Nabil, another mother told Xinhua, noting that it is a matter of daring to dream and to change.

The school helped her daughter enjoy being a female, and encouraged her to express her feelings and become more elegant, the mother added.

Ten-year-old Sarah Amr was enthusiastic while training with her beautiful black costume.

"I adore dancing; it’s the dream of my life to be a famous ballet dancer."

"I always ask my mother to take me to the Opera Ballet show when we visit our relatives in Cairo, and Alwanat School finally came to change my province’s outlook and the way of thinking about arts," she said.

Alwanat initiative is a non-governmental self-funded organization set up in 2014. It seeks to promote the belief that every person has the right to taste different types of arts and engage in various cultural experiences to build a more open and intellectual personality.

It is not only about dancing.

The school also offers sessions on music, painting, sculpture, performing arts, gymnastics, cinematography, photography, and etiquette, Adel pointed out, adding that his eight co-founders share the love of arts.

"It took time until people saw the results and gradually changed their perspectives and judgments," the school’s founder added.

The school currently has about 150 students, most of who are girls who are four to 20 years old, Adel added.

The school’s fees are affordable and the only criterion for selection of student is a fitness test.

"I believe that Upper Egypt is a very good place to start spreading this art," Adel said.

Adel and his team are dreaming of opening more schools and widening the awareness on ballet dancing.

"We are currently visiting rural villages to discover new talents and working on a film festival, hoping one day we could gain international recognition," he said

             

 

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