News / Arts & Entertainment

Choreographer Uses Egyptian Dance to Bridge Cultures

Diana Calenti brings a taste of the Middle East to American audiences

Diana Calenti says she connects cultures by showing how different people share human expression and feelings.
Diana Calenti says she connects cultures by showing how different people share human expression and feelings.

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Mohamed Elshinnawi

Diana Calenti's love for Egypt is not something new. She first traveled to Cairo years ago to teach modern dance. While there, she developed a unique style of her own, blending various elements of ballet, American modern and Egyptian folkloric dance.

Now, the renowned American dancer and choreographer is introducing Egyptian folkloric dance to audiences in the United States with her new troupe of American dancers. It's her way of connecting the two cultures.

"Our hearts are the same. We all love. We all have the same feelings of sympathy," said Calenti. "We all love our children. We love our parents. We love our homes so we can always meet on those common grounds. And what better way than from the artists because we always speak to the heart and the soul."  

Dancer Alexa Wehlan says her experience dancing to Egyptian songs is a mix of learning about the culture from Calenti and self-reflection.

"She would explain the song to me then really you have to feel it. I do not know all the words of the song. And I just use my personal feelings and situations to put towards the dance," said Wehlan.

Diana Calenti first traveled to Cairo years ago to teach modern dance.
Diana Calenti first traveled to Cairo years ago to teach modern dance.

The Egyptian American Cultural Association in Washington recently staged a program of Calenti's work.

"They can see how the performers connected right away and they move very freely, very passionately with the music as if they feel and understand every bit of it as a cultural native of that particular culture," said Magda Kandil, vice president of the association.   

The American audience seemed to appreciate the performance.

"It seems that Diana is trying to put the two together, just adding clips from Egypt and parts from America to form a melting pot of the Egyptian American cultures. So we really enjoyed the performance," said one man in the audience.

Calenti says she deeply believes that dancing connects people.

"Once you reach the hearts of people, it doesn't matter what language they speak, they feel something from the artist."  

Calenti says she will continue her mission of connecting cultures by showing how different people share human expression and feelings.

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