Ballet dancer

Egyptian ballet dancer performs internationally despite bullying at home

In 2013, Luca Abdel-Nour, then 11 years old, traveled from Cairo to Zurich to undergo professional training in classical dance, an art which continues to fascinate him despite the bullying and mockery of some Egyptians who do not believe that men should do it. participate in classical dance. Once in Switzerland, Abdel-Nour placed second in the prestigious Lausanne ballet competition. Yet, it still wasn’t enough to stop the bullying.

While Egyptian and Arabic newspapers shed light on the story of Abdel-Nour, who has been touring European theaters since March 2020 as part of international shows after achieving international fame and the Prix ​​de Lausanne on February 8some Egyptians continue to mock his achievements.

“That’s a shame.” “He needs a reset.” “What hair removal cream do you use for the legs?” I need it for my wife,” people sarcastically commented on social media.

In response to online harassment, Abdel-Nour calmly responded in an interview on March 8 on the Egyptian channel DMC, “There are certainly negative comments. But there are many people who have been supportive. There are those who said that I inspired them to do ballet in a not so encouraging society. He said most of the votes that won him the People’s Choice Award at the Prix de Lausanne came from Egyptians.

Abdel-Nour, a dual Egyptian-French citizen originally from Upper Egypt, may have applied for the Prix de Lausanne to prove to himself and to the world that he is at peace with Egyptian society despite the aggressiveness of some.

In his interview with DMC, Abdel-Nour, now 17, says that when he was still a student at the Oasis International School in the district of Maadi in Cairo, he took part in the shows organized by the school with the moral support of his teachers and trainers. The school chose him as the principal dancer in many of its annual performances, he said.

Commenting on the social reaction to male classical dance in Egypt, Ali Hassan, private classical dance coach and former teacher at Higher Institute of Ballet in Giza, told Al-Monitor that many aspiring male ballet dancers refrain from attending training classes for fear of being bullied and teased. The farthest point that many male ballet students and practitioners in Egypt can reach is to teach at the institute or another private ballet school, without going out in public to theaters or having to face to society as professionals, he added.

Hassan said there are many stereotypes preventing men from doing ballet, mainly that ballet is only for women and it is shameful for a man to have a flexible body or take up dancing as a profession. . Such misconceptions view male dancers as not being masculine enough, he added.

Speaking about the official Egyptian role – represented by the Ministry of Culture and the Cairo Opera House, where most ballet performances in Egypt take place – Hassan said the state has provided the necessary support to finance the training of dancers and the organization of shows where men dance. dancers perform. He said the Ministry of Culture and the Opera House organized the first show to include male ballet dancers in the 1960s. This encourages other ballet dancers to openly pursue this career, even if not not a significant number.

“It seems that the support of the Ministry of Culture or the Cairo Opera House is not enough in the face of the society that opposes men dancing ballet,” Hassan said, calling on the media to launch protests. campaigns to change stereotypes by promoting the achievements of Egyptian ballet candidates on the international stage, such as those of Abdel-Nour. He also suggested awareness campaigns aimed at school pupils from an early age on the importance of the arts and the right of everyone, man or woman, to classical dance.

The Ministry of Culture and the Cairo Opera presented in 1966 “The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.” It was the first ballet performance involving a number of male dancers as principal dancers – namely Rida Farid, Yehya Abdel Tawab, Wageeh Yosef and Mansour al-Ginedi, who danced the roles of Tatar monarchs and soldiers. The show ran for 12 years, and the men had to continuously shave their heads during that time, as requested by a Russian director who paid attention to the smallest details.

Magida Saleh, the first Egyptian ballerina in Egyptian history and who has been performing since 1958, told the press in 2019 that male ballet dancers had suffered greatly due to stereotyping and bullying as some of them kept their work as professional ballet dancers a secret.

She called for an end to stereotypes, which have denied many talented people the right to practice the art of classical dance.

The Egyptian government has continued to show appreciation for male ballet dancers. The Ministry of Culture named in January 2018 Magdy Saber, one of the best Egyptian ballet dancers, president of the Cairo Opera.

Although Abdel-Nour has yet to achieve any of the state’s top honors, Nabila Makram, Egypt’s Minister of Immigration and Expatriates, commented on one of the her Instagram pictures that she was trying to reach him, without explaining why.

Abdel-Nour will soon join an international ballet troupe and could be one of the youngest professionals in the world, a former colleague of his has told the First Ballet Academy in Maadi. The colleague, who declined to be named, told Al-Monitor that Abdel-Nour would prefer to keep the name of the troupe unknown for now.

He said private entities and civil society organizations provide strong support to male ballet dancers in the face of bullying, noting that the Premier Ballet Academy, led by Ahmed Yehia, has played a major role in refining the ballet. Abdel-Nour’s talent and encouraged him, with the Oasis International School, until his arrival in Zurich.