On the 13th of December 2019, I was one of over 50 people who performed at the opening ceremony of the World Youth Theater, which is an important arm of the World Youth Forum. Amongst other world leaders and their representatives, the president of Egypt was in attendance. It was a life changing experience for me. I met people from different parts of the world and got to learn about different cultures of the world. I also met people who would remain lifelong friends. But most importantly, I got the experience of a lifetime working alongside professional actors and artists, not to mention, a world renowned director, Mr Khaled Galal. Looking back and remembering rehearsals everyday, the laughter, some sleepless nights, learning choreography and learning songs in Arabic, I am grateful to have had such an amazing experience.
At first, I thought I was going to Egypt just to dance because the email I received stated that I was selected to perform, as well as participate in a play. Naturally, I assumed I was going to be participating in two activities. The first would be my own performance and the second, the play. I was overjoyed. I didn’t care much for the play because I wasn’t really interested in anything other than dance but also because I had already pictured myself dancing in front of thousands of people. I had pictured myself on stage, dancing my heart out and hopefully receiving a standing ovation. I had prepared and packed my costumes, I had prepared two different routines to perform, just in case I wasn’t too confident with one of them. I was so prepared for this. So you can imagine how devastated I was when I was told that I would not be performing. None of us who were in the play would get to perform. There were amazing singers and musicians in the play who were told that they wouldn’t get the chance to perform. By the time we eventually figured out that we wouldn’t have our individual performances, we were already deep into the rehearsing the play. Most people accepted their fate immediately and just went on with rehearsals like it was nothing. I was devastated. I don’t know how to move on quickly so it really affected me. For about 2 days, I was down, I didn’t give my best at rehearsals, I didn’t put my heart into it. I just wasn’t present. I was doing poorly at rehearsals, my heart wasn’t in it anymore, I was just sad. So no one would see me dance, I thought to myself. That thought gave me anxiety. That was why I came to Egypt. That was the reason why I was all excited. So I wasn’t going to dance in front of an audience of people from different part of the world. It was annoying.
On the third day of my sulking, I woke up early, showered, went for breakfast, came back to my room to get some more sleep. On my bed, I began to think about the play and message behind it. In that moment, I felt selfish. Yes, I still wished I was dancing but I realized that it was an opportunity to learn. I’d always known that art is universal but I didn’t realize that learning can transcend from one art to the other. I was lying on my bed, a dancer, yet, I discovered ways to become a better dancer just by watching the professionals do their thing. The singers sang with so much passion that it inspired me to dance with passion. I met people who had stories behind their craft just like how I have a story behind mine. We all came together to act, sing and dance in this theatrical play to pass a message of humanity to the audience. And to top it all, I met and became friends with one of the best contemporary dance teachers in all of Egypt. He would instruct and direct me when I would just freely dance in between rehearsals. He would give me tips on how to properly execute a technique. I was being selfish. So I picked myself up from the bed, went for lunch and then to rehearsals. From that moment, I gave it my all. I was even more present than I was before I found out I wasn’t going to dance. My new friends were there to encourage me. We encouraged each other. We talked about our countries and how we lived our lives so differently. We went out and had lots of fun.
On the 12th of December, we had to perform in front of the representative of the President of Egypt because the play had some sensitive content concerning current issues in the world today. It felt like the real performance. Backstage, we were preparing; putting on stage makeup, getting our costumes ready, bracing ourselves. I was shaking because I get stage fright. I was walking around trying to keep myself calm, praying that I didn’t mess up. After we performed, the representative of the president approved the play and we were set for the opening of the World Youth Theater.
The day finally came, everyone had a somber mood. No outings, no sunbathing, no going to the sea, nothing. We were all told to prepare for the play. We were setting the standard for the theater team. We were going to introduce the theater to everyone present that day.
When it was time, we gave a stellar performance, the first lady of Egypt was moved to tears. We could tell that the president of Egypt was pleased with our performance and with the message behind it. By the time we gave the final bow and left the stage, I didn’t know when I started crying. Tears of joy because of what we had all accomplished and tears of sadness because I’d soon leave these people who had become my family. It was emotional backstage. We were all experiencing a bittersweet moment. For almost thirty minutes, we were all hugging and crying.
It was a historic moment for me. Never in my life did I ever think that I was going to be part of something like this. The days I spent in Egypt were my best days in 2019 and some of the best days of my life. The year 2019 started out really rough for me. I was questioning myself and the choices I made, I was questioning my skills and abilities. It was the year I almost quit dance. Nothing was making sense. Everything I tried had failed, I was getting depressed. I don’t know how I got through the year till November but the moment I got the email from the World Youth Forum, I knew that my life would be different from then. Memories from Egypt would always hold a special place in my heart. Egypt was a turning point in my life as a dancer. I didn’t dance but I was reminded why I danced, I was stirred to keep striving, I was inspired to keep dancing!