Fragment from promotional media (official Facebook event)
CAIRO- 31 August 2017: The first ballet school in Miniya governorate, Alwanat Ballet School, showcased their first ever ballet recital on August 30.
Founded in 2015, Alwanat Ballet School aims to provide a platform for artistic practices in Minya and other governorates in Upper Egypt. Their primary focus is to merge art with everyday life, whether it is to practice art or just enjoy it.
By introducing art beyond Egypt’s cultural hub of Cairo, Alwanat created a trail for cultural practices to reach other parts of Egypt, especially Upper Egypt. They host workshops, seminars and trainings to create a “clear cultural shift” towards an environment that nurtures art and creativity.
Through their work, Alwanat is breaking the stereotypical view that is associated with Upper Egypt, especially in regards to girls and creative practices such as drawing, singing and dancing, amongst others.
“When we first started, we had very few supporters, but eventually people became more receptive to the idea and we got more and more applicants,” Marco Adel, owner of Alwanat, shared.
The people of Upper Egypt are a very conservative community who won't appreciate their young girls and boys dancing around in white or black tights and leotards. This created a barrier restricting the activities of women and men.
Women receive limited, if any, education because of the culture-inflicted gender roles. These restrictions isolate women from the outside world, preventing them from being exposed to different cultural identities.
However, some constraints apply to boys as well. In Upper Egypt, many young boys are the subordinate breadwinners of the family; hence, they work in manual labor to get enough experience and money to support their families.
Therefore, it is not usual for boys to deviate from that path and spend their time practicing other creatively intriguing activities such as ballet.
Alwanat is also reshaping the cultural perception of art and artistic practices in Upper Egypt. There are still certain stereotypes and critics that are associated with artists around the region, including Cairo.
The preconceived notions of artists are dictated by culture and tradition which make it more difficult for artists to practice and showcase their artwork.
Alwanat introduced art practices in a new way in a place where dancing is not acceptable for women inviting the community to experiment with other forms of expression and other methods of leisure.
Young children usually come home to help their mothers around the house and their father at work, especially during the harvest season. However, with the introduction of leisure activities, parents in Upper Egypt are giving their children the opportunity to pursue their own interests, rather than prioritize their house chores.
Regardless of all the obstacles that stand in their way, Alwanat is building the pillars for a cultural and artistic scene in Upper Egypt. “Many people wanted to practice ballet when they were young, but didn’t have an outlet, so they are living their dreams through their children,” Adel added.
By introducing artistic practices, Alwanat Ballet School is reinventing leisure for young boys and girls, which alters the one-sided perception linked to Upper Egypt.