Jehan... Dancer, choreographer, singer, composer, director, producer -- mega talent! Mosaic Dance Theater Company is delighted to collaborate with her for "Beyond the Image."
I don’t think there was ever a choice for me to be a dancer. It was all that I ever wanted to be, so I must have been born like that. I had a lot of energy as a child, and needed to channel that energy. So, I was enrolled in dance classes in ballet and tap when I was 6, but I dreamed about being a belly dancer.
Middle Eastern dance has always been a part of my life. Being half-Iraqi, I was surrounded by the culture, seeing movies, hearing music, and loving the beauty and grace of Oriental dance. My bedtime stories were the tales from the Arabian Nights. So, when I actually began my dance career many things felt familiar and natural, and the dance gave me so much confidence as a performer. I knew instinctively that opportunities existed, as Middle Eastern dance is a very social and celebratory dance. I am fortunate to have performed all over the world, and often in very luxurious settings, but the dance brought me in contact with every level of society. I was surprised by how many great people I met – customers (both men and women), other dancers, musicians. Many people think of this dance form as a solo art, but another surprise is how well it works to build a community among dancers -- building relationships.
The history of this dance enriches my artistic vision, helping me grow, not only as an artist, but as a person as well. It surprised me how much I would like collaborating. I love the potential of the human body. Dance allows us to release our feelings and emotions.
As dance creators, it is our responsibility to translate and pass on the ancient dances and folkloric dance traditions. Of the many diverse folkloric dance styles in the Middle East, Egyptian and Iraqi folklore are my favorites to perform. And the Moroccan tray dance – I like prop balancing!
But then, there are the challenges: technical support to get the work out to the world; getting money to produce big shows, to produce one’s vision; scheduling dancers to rehearse at the same time; choosing certain projects over others, and then manifesting them on stage, with time to rehearse, time to develop, time to rest; constructing and storing the opulent sets, props, costumes for Arabian-themed shows.
Music has always been a part of my life. I studied violin and piano, and loved singing as a child. I began creating my own music -- a new kind of music to merge cultures and music, a fusion of East and West – because when I needed music it didn’t exist at the time. I love the musicality of the language of oriental music. To me, it merges heaven and earth, with the ethereal sounds mixed with the earthiness of drums. I try to create other worlds with my music, and make people feel. Muses of love and beauty inspire me. Music transports us, freeing us from what can be a very ugly world. When I feel an impulse, I write – usually a lyric first, or a theme. And when the composition is finished, I choreograph a dance. It is impossible to manifest everything. “My body is a temple; dance is my prayer. There are many rooms in my temple—enter and be loved a thousand and one ways.”