Tiffany Noro shares two of my greatest passions – travel and dance. It is with the greatest pleasure I welcome her to Duende to take part in the Travelling Creative, a series of short interviews with professional creatives about destinations that have most inspired their work. I interview writers, photographers, artists, performers and designers about one place in the world where they found duende, and how that has impacted their work.
Tiffany is a professional bellydancer and assistant to Sahra Saeeda, a preeminent dance ethnographer. Together they run www.JourneyThroughEgypt.com, a site dedicated to teaching dancers about the history, culture, and vast array of dance in Egypt.
What destination have you found most inspiring and impactful on your creative work?
“This one’s going to seem obvious, but, Egypt! Dancing in Egypt to live music and learning from the sources of the dance, was immensely inspiring.
Visiting various folkloric dance shows, and more contemporary dance shows showed the multitude of dances done in Egypt and showed me how much more there really is to learn.
I think anything that shows you how much more is out there is very inspiring, as it helps you to realize how you can improve your craft and give you goals that you can work towards.”
How has this inspiration manifested in a particular piece of work?
“One thing I really took away from my time in Egypt was the depth that one can achieve through dance.
Some background is needed for this story… The word tarab is one you’ll hear often in bellydance, but may have no knowledge of it otherwise unless you are familiar with Middle Eastern culture. Tarab is an Arabic word used to describe the emotional effect of music, and has no equivalent word in English. It’s almost a trance like state in which the music flows through you (the dancer), the musicians (in case of a live band) and the audience. The three create a reciprocal energy that draws everyone further into the experience and emotion of the piece. Almost like a harmonic? It’s very hard to describe.
I had studied this phenomenon a bit with different teachers, the types of music it usually happened with, etc. before going to Egypt, but I didn’t REALLY understand it.
While we were there I attended one particular music event where trance was reached and I could see the depth of emotion in several performers. It was an enlightening experience. I knew dance could affect emotion and change, but not to this level! I had just never seen it before. Especially as dance is not treated this way in Western culture.
Fast forward a year and I’m performing in a local recital. I had recently had a miscarriage and was full of emotions and once the song started the energy just poured out of me. I could feel the audience responding and it was a perfect storm. One of the most cathartic moments of my life, and one of the times I’ve been most connected to the music while I danced.
After my performance, I was told by several people in the audience that they were moved to tears, and told by others that it was the best they’d ever seen me dance. It was quite the experience, and I think it was directly influenced by my trip to Egypt.
Unfortunately, the video isn’t available, but here’s a photo from the performance! You can see the defiance coming out of my eyes.”
Any tips for travelling to Egypt?
“Egypt is a wonderful place. I’d definitely suggest getting out of Cairo and going to Upper Egypt (it’s actually southern) – especially Luxor and Aswan. They’re absolutely beautiful and have some of the best of what Egypt has to offer.”
Music and dance are two of the most fun ways to experience new cultures. I don’t know about you, but I’m now fascinated with the concept of tarab and I’m putting it on my bucket list of experiences for this lifetime. It sounds like an amazing resonance of energy between performers and their audience – a real duende moment!
Peace, love and inspiring travel,