Egyptian Nights

At Night, They Dance gives us a unique insight into the daily life of Cairo’s belly dancers. Norwegian belly dancers Hilde and Helene give their comments about the film.

Belly dancing: A tradition or not?

Helene Skaugen from Studio Orient and Hilde Lund from Navlen Dansestudio visited the Arabian Filmdays’ office to see and give their opinions about the film At Night, They Dance. Both of them are teaching sensual hip movements to Oslo’s dance lovers daily.

– Belly dancing is something soft and feminine – it’s beautiful, we can’t say anything else, says Hilde. She is aware of the situation in Cairo – the Mecca of belly dancing.

In the 1920’s, the Libanese Badia Masabni opened Casino Opera in Cairo: the first stage for Raqs Sharqi

– the dance from the Middle East. The roots of belly dancing can be traced back to the popular traditions in the Arabian world.

– The Egyptians love belly dancing, says Helene.

Some belly dancers live a glamorous life as celebrities. At home, women are dancing to all occasions, like at a party or in the kitchen.

Yet still, the everyday life of belly dancers is anything but glamorous. – Dancing in a social setting and dancing on a scene are two completely different things. Belly dancers are often compared with prostitutes. They are women no one wants to have as daughters in law, Hilde tells.

Courage or discourage?

In jeans and short tops, the girls are walking down the streets alone at night, negotiating with club owners and fixing things by themselves. “In our profession, everything is possible”, says a 15-year-old belly dancer while smiling softly at the camera. It is a dangerous life they are living, a life that is not a choice of their own. – It is the last solution before starting as a prostitute, says Hilde

Wearing short sequined skirts, long wigs and a heavy layer of make-up as a complementary mask, the belly dancers take the folkdance to the scene, awakening fascination and blasphemy. – There is nothing wrong with the dance itself, it is the fact that they are breaking down the norms of how to dress and act in social settings in the Egyptian culture, says Hilde.

The documentary is giving a true picture of how the everyday life of Cairo’s belly dancers really is. It opens with questions concerning women, religion and tradition. – Besides this, we get to know strong personalities, fantastic Muslim women with lovely replies, Helene sums up.