Meet Engy El Shazaly, Egypt's hijabi ballerina



Wed, 21 Jun 2017 - 04:30 GMT


Wed, 21 Jun 2017 - 04:30 GMT

Engy Shazely Breaking the barrier of hijab and ballet.
Hijab can't stop you from dancing or performing Courtesy of Engy Al Shazly

Engy Shazely Breaking the barrier of hijab and ballet. Hijab can't stop you from dancing or performing Courtesy of Engy Al Shazly

CAIRO – 21 June 2017: While some might think the term “hijabi ballerina” is an oxymoron, 30-year-old Egyptian ballerina Engy El Shazaly has proven it is not, after all, impossible.

At the age of 10, Shazaly started synchronized swimming, but her dream was always to be a ballerina dancer. She wanted to start ballet when she was around 11 years old, but those around her told her she was “too old” to learn ballet at that age, Shazaly told Egypt Today.

At the age of 27 Shazaly, a graduate of the Faculty of Arts, English department, at Cairo University, finally began taking ballet lessons, and she has been working on her dancing for the last three years.

It all started when she was scrolling through Facebook one day and found an advertisement for a ballet academy that offered lessons to students aged 18 to 45. She applied and soon began her lessons, she said.

After a year of practicing she went to the Russian Cultural Center in Cairo and started performing on stage. She performed twice on stage while wearing her hijab, something she herself could “hardly believe was happening,” she said.

Egypt Today interviewed Shazaly, who said her costume was not so different from those worn by the other, non-hijabi, dancers. The only differences were that she had her hijab on and sleeves that covered her arms, she said.

These days Shazaly is pirouetting her way into Egyptian cultural history as one of the few ballerinas around who wears the traditional hijab, or headscarf.

Shazaly said she faces a lot of criticism from people who wonder how hijab and ballet work together. Others, however, support her, she said.

Despite the fact that some people “talk” and do not appreciate the fact that she dances and wears hijab, Shazaly said she is “committed to my relationship with God and also doing what I love,” refusing to give up either dancing or wearing the hijab, typically seen as a sign of modesty and dedication to Islam.

Shazaly’s parents and friends have been supportive of her and attended her two performances, she said, and the audiences were very sweet and gave her positive comments and compliments.

“Therefore, I became so happy and proud of my achievement,” Shazaly told Egypt Today.

She currently is teaching at ballet school in Cairo and her dream is to up her own academy. She is planning to open her own ballet school for adults within the next three or four years, she said, but needs to take more lessons and gain more experience in ballet first. Plus, she wants to improve herself.

“What is going to be special about my school is that I’m going to concentrate on adults, who wish to learn ballet in old age,” she said.

The unique ballet dancer stated that, “Hijab is not an obstacle for anything, and I’m proud to be a dancer and wearing the hijab at the same time.”



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