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American Dancer/Choreographer Creates Cultural and Artistic Bridge Between US and Egypt


There has been a lot of talk lately, following the controversy over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe, about the conflict of civilizations between Islam and the West. But an American dancer and choreographer has created a bridge between her country and Egypt, which is mostly Muslim, by linking American contemporary dance and Egyptian folkloric dancing.

Diana Calenti is an American dancer and choreographer who has spent years of her artistic life in Egypt. Her love for the land of the Pharaohs began with Egyptian music when she was a child.

"I was used to be -- from the time I was very young, a child of 7 or 8 -- moving and listening to different kinds of music, so I did not find it hard to think about folkloric movement with ballet and modern and mixing them together. So I was experimental even as a very young child," she said.

The American artist went to Egypt in 1984 to teach dance at the American University in Cairo, but another door opened up for her:

"The Ministry of Culture asked me to work with the ‘Reda Dancing Troupe,’ and I thought this is a wonderful opportunity: they are 40 dancers to work with, what is better?” thought Ms. Calenti. “And I wanted to do a piece that was very, very folkloric. And we put together a story, a simple story. So I taught them classes, at the same time I worked with them on the choreography and they performed it for many years."

With her success in mixing various types of American and Egyptian dancing, Diana Calenti soon became a celebrity in Egypt. She was granted Egyptian citizenship and was given the chance to form a modern dance company:

"I was working with dancers just coming to be part of this new group, and I worked with a very talented young composer, Bassem El-attar, who made the music and we made it a 35 minute sweet story of "Bahaya - Symbol of Egypt."

With the help of her Egyptian-Canadian husband, Calenti co-produced a fictional movie called "Search for Diana" in 1992, which resembles her early attachment to Egypt.

"It is the story of a young woman who feels somehow she is drawn to Egypt, and she somehow gets involved with an archeologist, who is uncovering tombs in Egypt. And there is an obvious connection with them that goes back to the ancient days."

Diana Calenti is planning to go back to Egypt soon to work on another project:

"I feel that I have a duty and an obligation to take what I learned over there, because it is not that I developed something in Egypt. I took what was my knowledge from here, I went over there and was able to absorb and learn and add, so I would like to take what was grown in Egypt, to bring it over here to North America. I want the people in North America to see the wonderful artists and the wonderful creation that was made over there."

Diana Calenti feels artists can connect the East with the West because they see no separation between the two; because people in both areas have the same human feelings.