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DUBAI: Amapiano, a style of house music with influences from jazz and lounge music that emerged in South Africa, has captured the imagination of artists around the world. Egyptian choreographer Yara Saleh is one of those who introduced the genre to the Arab world, choreographing a series of innovative amapiano dance routines – and she caught the attention of Spotify in the process.
Saleh – who has worked with regional superstars Tamer Hosny, Nelly Karim, Wegz and Sharmoofers – has been championed by Spotify, which featured her in its ‘Music that Moves’ series, which tells stories of locally grown music crossing borders and shaping culture around the world. .
“To be part of a global mini-documentary – with established artists and creatives – this elevated cultural knowledge was a real honor,” Saleh, who has an engineering background, told Arab News. “One of my greatest passions in life is to deeply explore other cultures and represent them through everything I do.
“Dancing has always been an integral part of Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture,” she continued. “Social media has played a major role in showcasing dance and exposing people to other styles. TikTok, in particular, has made dancing more accessible and easier for people. »
The Cairo-born choreographer believes that performative dance, for years, has been vastly underappreciated in the Middle East. But she said this “timed judgment will inevitably transform once (people) see its value and impact with the influence of globalization and social media”.
Saleh’s passion for dancing was sparked at a young age when she was introduced to ballet. The dancer, who enjoys performing to hip-hop, house, jazz funk, afrobeats, amapiano and dancehall music, said she faced a lot of criticism when she decided to become a full-time dancer.
“It was difficult because of the instability of this industry. But I always managed to find support along the way and find time to stay grounded, focused and centered,” she said.
Saleh has performed in the United States, Jamaica and the Middle East, and says she would like to perform or choreograph for Afro Nation, the world’s largest Afrobeats and Caribbean music festival.
So far, she said, one of her biggest accomplishments has been introducing dancehall – a genre of popular Jamaican music that originated in the late 1970s – to the Egyptian dance community.
“Being a pioneer is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. The raw Dancehall vibes immediately resonated with me and felt natural in my body. It’s a culture that taught me more about expression, tapping into my masculine and feminine energies,” she said. “It’s been an eye-opening and fruitful journey to see people appreciate and fall in love with the message of dancehall.”