Pinky Selim is an AUC graduate who founded the AUC Alumni Folklore Group. Pinky has always been passionate about the folkloric performances of Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, and the golden era of black and white Egyptian movies. Although banking is her profession, dancing is her passion. She is a proud mother to a lovely 8-year-old “Clara”. She is also blessed with “Louly”, her twin sister who has shared a deep love for dancing and performing with her. Pinky is an outstanding figure, her performances and choreographies have helped shed light on Egyptian Folklore as a forgotten art among younger generations. Pinky Selim’s goal along with AUC Alum Folk is to revive the Egyptian folklore dance in Egypt by encouraging people of all ages to take a step and learn more about Egyptian heritage.
We sat down with Pinky Selim to know more about her amazing journey!
View this post on Instagram
How did your love for dance start?
Like many young girls, I started dancing classical ballet at the age of four and continued doing so for 10 straight years. At the time, my father had his music group which also featured dancers. So my sister and I made a habit of attending their rehearsals, we would often dance with them. As I grew up, my passion for dancing grew so much that I would try to imitate legendary performers; such as Farida Fahmy, Nelly, and Sherihan from Egypt and other legendary dancers worldwide. Throughout my teenage years and adulthood, I studied and performed other genres of dance such as Hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, Latin, and others.
After graduation, I started learning more genres such as salsa, bachata, and Argentine tango. I’ve always believed that being a versatile dancer is a powerful key for any dancer. This is what I’ve been trying to accomplish until this very day.
What drove you to Egyptian Folklore?
I grew up loving Egyptian black and white movies and all the dances featured in these beautiful movies of this golden era of Egyptian cinema. I was particularly fond of the movies made for Reda Troupe. Their captivating melodies, creative moves, and of course, the incomparable legendary duo of Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy.
Eventually, when I enrolled at AUC, I discovered a Folklore Club among the university student activities. And because of my dancing experience, I progressed fast and quickly became one of the main soloists.
Later on, my dance teachers at the time Dr. Zakaria Abdel Shafy, Atef Farag and Magda Ibrahim (all were former soloists in the Reda troupe) could tell that my love for this art was deeper than just a student enjoying herself. They helped me excel even more.
It was Dr. Zakaria who gave me the biggest push when he suddenly appointed me as assistant trainer and choreography became one of my duties. My first debut as a choreographer was at a folklore festival in France in 2010. It was a “melaya” dance on Soad Hosny’s song “Bano Bano”.
How do you feel when you dance?
The idea of interpreting music and expressing emotions through body movements captivated me from a very young age. Dancing felt like home to me. I am able to express myself through dance more than through words. The stage is where I’m most comfortable. A studio with mirror walls and hardwood floors is my home. It feels the weight of the world flies off my shoulder once I set foot in the studio. The watchful mirrors judge my every move and push me to improve. The feeling of my feet sliding, jumping, pointing, flexing, balancing, and spinning across the wooden floors. It is the moments when I’m so caught up in the music that I find myself smiling despite my physical exhaustion.
View this post on Instagram
To me, dancing is freedom. It is the time when I’m truly myself; what keeps me going. It’s my happiness and my peace of mind. Also, it’s one of the main things that taught me discipline, humility, respect, and perseverance. It’s simply something I cannot live without. Dancing causes some kind of contagious joy that can be transmitted by the performers and easily felt by the audience.
You don’t have to be an experienced dancer to feel the joy it brings. look at the faces of people dancing at weddings.. that’s dance!
How can someone join your classes if they want to start the journey?
Anyone at any age can start taking classes, as long as you have the heart for it. We offer classes with several partnering studios (Soul Motion studio, Brass Monkeys studios, and Goodspace studios).
When did your love for Mahmoud Reda start?
One of the highlights of my life was meeting Mahmoud Reda in 2009. Then, was meeting Farida Fahmy 10 years later in 2019. Our trainer Dr. Zakaria surprised us by taking us to an old building downtown and suddenly the door opened and there was Mahmoud Reda!
He spent two hours teaching us a full dance and then took us on a tour of his study. He showed us the camera that he used to document his journey across all of Egypt to study all the different dances of our country.
Also, he shared his story and said something that I still hold dear until this very day: “the whole world is a dance. Picture a scene of a lady stepping out of a taxi, a group of kids walking and playing down the street, a couple bickering on a bench and add music it becomes a dance”.
This man invented the way Egyptian folklore dance is represented to the rest of the world. Before Mahmoud Reda, we never had this. And after him, millions around the world are still learning his repertoire and performing his dances. Through his dancing, he made tens of millions fall in love with Egypt. This man left such an incredible legacy. I feel like it is too precious to let go. Somehow, I feel like it became my responsibility along with all the members of AUC Alumni Folklore group to try to preserve his priceless heritage.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It was, by far, our latest and biggest show “Reviving the Art” in November 2019. We were a group of amateur dancers from different generations. We were all sharing the stage to show our love for Egyptian folklore and trying to get people to fall in love with it as well. To our surprise, it was a sold-out show, we received a standing ovation and the audience even requested an encore!
We couldn’t have dreamed of a bigger success. Unfortunately, Covid hit afterward and we haven’t been able to perform a full show in our name since. But it will happen soon.
What are some of the misconceptions people might have about dancing?
The idea that it’s OK for kids to learn any genre of dance and excel in it except folklore is baffling to me. Farida Fahmy was able to break this belief. In doing so, she made everyone respect her and the art she was representing because it was simply considered “our country’s art”. I feel like instead of taking steps forward, we went a thousand miles backward.
Mothers think it’s not appropriate for kids to learn this type of dance while it is totally acceptable to learn any other style. This is the main misconception that we, members of the AUC Alumni Folklore Group, are trying to eradicate. Our work aims to invite Egyptians to love, respect, understand, cherish and promote the Egyptian folkloric dances that have been an important ingredient of our country’s identity and culture.
Egyptians should be able to do so proudly, not shy away from it while the rest of the world is dancing our dances on our behalf.
What message would you like to send through your dance and through reviving Egyptian Folklore?
The idea of “Reviving the Art” stems from a much more serious problem that has slowly been developing through recent decades; mainly affecting younger generations: losing our sense of identity. If you look closely, younger generations can’t wait to “get out of their own skin”!
I’m all for being open to different cultures but never to the extent of losing our own identity, culture, and heritage. I believe one of the core solutions to this issue is to somehow integrate our local culture and heritage in schools from the early stages; especially in international schools.
View this post on Instagram
Kids just need the exposure and they will surely love it. For example, the unforgettable Golden Mummies parade that was impeccably organized last year. It was one event mainly based on dancing but it managed to unite the whole nation and, additionally, broadcast such a lovely artistic message of our culture and our heritage to the entire world. I am also pretty sure that children and teenagers were captivated by it. We need more of such efforts. We need to deploy Egypt’s soft powers, namely, its very popular colloquial language, poetry, music, and dance to popularize our heritage, making it accessible to Egyptians, and attractive to tourists around the world.
What were the challenges that you faced throughout your career? And how did you overcome them?
Allocating time for rehearsals, juggling work and family obligations, and seeking funding to cover our production costs are all among such challenges. It must be said that without the continuous support of the AUC Alumni Office, we wouldn’t have been able to keep going until today. We do not aim for profit, therefore all proceeds generated from our shows go to the AUC Scholarship Fund.
However, we do need sponsors and the Ministry of Culture’s support to grow. And be capable of producing bigger shows and hopefully represent Egypt in international folklore festivals.
What advice would you give to someone who might be too self-conscious to start dancing?
Everyone is a student in dance; even the most seasoned instructors.
True dancers have no ego. They go into their studios to learn and they avoid judgment. Learning to dance does not mean you’re obligated to perform; though I can assure you, that once you learn how to dance you would probably want to show the world what you can do. It’s simple, just take the first step and with the right teacher, self-consciousness will go out the window.
What are your future goals?
Hopefully, one day we get to open a full-fledged school to teach our folklore dance; as part of a larger national initiative to preserve and celebrate our heritage. The school’s objective would be to train its students to represent Egypt worldwide ultimately.
View this post on Instagram
Then hopefully branching out to preserving other forms of art such as certain Egyptian musical instruments, making of garments, Arabic calligraphy, singing, and poetry. Another dream is to one day make the same trip around Egypt that Mahmoud Reda did and to study all forms of Egyptian dance firsthand and integrate them with my dancing background. I want to be remembered for trying or hopefully succeeding in reviving Egyptian folklore.
Any last messages?
I would like to point out that the dances that we perform are our own choreographies. We do perform 3 or 4 dances that are Mahmoud Reda signature pieces, but we perform these dances as a tribute to his great legacy.
Also, the idea of the Alumni Folklore Group could have never come to life without the valuable contributions by each past and present member as well as the continuous generous support by the AUC Alumni Office. No thank you would be enough for their support, dedication, love, and belief in what we are doing.
You can follow Pinky here for more!