kuva Harri Paavola
Oriental dance entered into my life in 1987. I was lucky to notice an advertisement of oriental dance lessons in the newspaper and ended up at the most wonderful workshop ever. During that time I was studying in Helsinki University and besides studying I took jazz dance pretty seriously too. However, when oriental dance hit me I forgot all about jazz dance and my studies changed their direction.
In University I studied comparative religions and international politics. In the beginning I was interested in African cultures mainly East Africa. Gradually my interest shifted to Arabic countries and islam and what a good cocktail it was: learning the cultural background in university and getting the fun part too dancing!
After graduating my family excpected me to find a "respectful" occupation from cultural field well, so did I but the economic depression hit Finland seriously and no such jobs were available. So, having already taught some elementary groups during my studies, I started to teach and perform for real, and how convenient: I found myself riding on the rising wave of the big boom of oriental dance in Finland! And now that I think of it, it wasn't too far fetched from what I had studied dancing is a part of arabic culture, and I do work as an intermediator between two cultures, as I had planned when I began my studies in university. Also my family and relatives started to understand and accept this after having taught ten years or so...
Thus I graduated from University, but I guess my studies on oriental dance will continue forever. I have travelled in Egypt, Turkey and Libanon, but actually we have had a regular flow of respected teachers visiting Finland since the beginning of 1990.
Mahmoud Reda, Raqia Hassan and Yousry Sharif have taught me for years, and whenever a "new" teacher is invited to give a workshop in Finland, I try to attend. I have learned something from everybody also things like how very different the approach to oriental dance can be.
One highlight of my dance career was getting my book published "Itämainen tanssi" (Oriental Dance 1993).
I wrote this guide book during my first maternity leave. Why? Partially because my students often complained how they didn't remember dance movements at home and wouldn't it be nice to have something written down...
So I wrote down the basics of oriental dance. And I needed not to be miserable because I couldn't dance for a while I could write about dancing!
Nowadays I have two dance studios: Tanssistudio Sahrami (1997) and Tanssikeidas (Dance Oasis). I founded Tanssikeidas with Saara Soikkeli in 1995 we were lucky to get an exceptionally good location for the studio in the very center of Helsinki. Tanssistudio Sahrami is situated in the neighbouring city Vantaa, only 5 minutes from my home, so it is quite obvious why I founded that too...
I am lucky to have a few oriental dance teachers working for me. One of them in Sahrami concentrates on teaching young girls, which is wonderful these girls are so skillfull, charming and clever. They also raise the image and reputation of oriental dance: the old cliché of sensual and provoking women could be thrown to waste basket. This is also one of my goals as a teacher: to educate people to value and appreciate oriental dance as a beautiful, artistic dance form and a very enjoyable part of Arabic culture.
I manage to fill my schedule also by producing oriental dance performances. Lots and lots of work and practises, booking theaters, making costumes, writing manuscripts but every second worth of it, especially when the show is over... No, of course I enjoy very much also during the process working with a good team together with the best dancers in Finland is something to be grateful of.
Every now and then our dance group Keidas Ensemble performs with live music, which is most exciting and rewarding. Working with musicians lead me to produce an oriental music CD Samarkand Orient Unlimited (2004), where I also played some of the rhythm instruments.
Besides dancing I have lately grown an interest in other aspects of performing arts as well. Theater as a hobby has brought me back to student life: I find myself now studying drama education. I believe that performing skills can be practised and improved as well as technical dancing skills. I hope I can encourage students to feel free with the most beautiful dance ever oriental dance.
page updated November 28 2014
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