Your training years, how, when did you start dancing, your first memories of dancing.
Taoufik Shanderly: I started dancing around 2011 which means I’ve been dancing for about eight years and my first memories of dancing were through dance shows. I used to go out with my family and watch street dance performers. In Dubai, street performances are held in malls. There was a family friend from my country, Morocco, my family knew and they recognized him dancing in a dance show. I went and spoke to him and that’s how I got into dancing.
My first memories of dancing were in a park. I used to go by myself after watching YouTube videos. There was a racing track where I would actually practice.
How do you feel when dancing?
Taoufik: Let me start with the reasons for dancing. Basically, dancing was first to attract my interest because growing up in the city, you would desire to get attention. But, afterward, it felt like a connection. Something that connects you to the music. Some people describe it as freedom but I would not say freedom because that’s too abstract. I would say that is a very unique feeling that I cannot describe. Something more personal that you cannot really share with anyone. Something you can only feel.
What is the opposite of dancing? (one word can be enough)
Taoufik: So first I would say that dancing is, in one word: emotion. The opposite of dancing is therefore being emotionless or having no emotions.
Do you feel you have a responsibility towards society as an artist? If yes, in which sense?
Taoufik: Of course, any artist would feel that they have a certain responsibility not only towards society but also towards oneself. Being in the community it’s more a mirror effect; so if you grow yourself as an artist, your community would see it in you and your community will grow too.
Ok, and especially in this society (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), how can you explain the responsibility towards Dubai? Can you also present yourself personally?
So, first I will present a little bit more myself, my name is Taoufik Shanderly. I am a hip-hop dancer, house dancer, breaking dancer and I have lived in Dubai for around eleven years. I am 22 years old and my responsibility towards Dubai as a society, as a community, is to teach people that dancing is not wrong. To give them a message towards that emotion, that connection, the thing we are missing out on the connection with arts. It’s not just something like going to galleries or the theatre, it’s more of a personal connection. So, that’s what I think my responsibility towards Dubai is. It’s to showcase it and to bring out into the community and for people to understand the meaning behind every movement. Every single movement, every emotion has a background, so that’s my responsibility, it’s to show it.
In this community in Dubai, it’s very hard. People don’t value the art form (hip-hop). So as an artist, I have to give it value in their eyes.
Can you dance openly here?
Taoufik: Well, it has evolved.Within hip-hop dance, during the last eight, ten years, it was really hard, people would never accept it. It was associated in their mind to violence and negativity. As it grew, people slowly started to accept it but not in the right way, it was more a type of stereotypical kind of acceptance. People would rather go with what is stereotypical than understand what it really is. It’s slowly growing, but very slowly.
But, don’t you think it’s a paradox here in Dubai because Dubai is very well known for its night clubs and there are always playing hip-hop and the people would dress in hip-hop style? They don’t really accept the dance itself but they accept all the things surrounding it.
Taoufik: I think it’s hypocrisy in a sense. As I said, people would go with what is stereotypical. Anything that is stereotyped. For example, hip-hop music now, it’s booming. In Dubai, it’s very well known that it’s a city and it’s an accepting city and people are open towards everything and the clubs are all about the hip-hop. Now, hip-hop fashion is also evolving. Now people are associating hip-hop with high fashion lifestyle so it’s a paradox because people don’t really accept the dance because, in my opinion, they don’t really understand it or they don’t give it value in sense of the music or the fashion. It’s a huge paradox. People need to be educated in that particular sense.
What Dance can do… and how does this resonate with you according to your own life and experience? And how dancing was accepted in your environment, your family, friends…
Taoufik: Dancing can definitely do a lot. More than just to society but to me as a person, my body and soul. In my society and community, in the beginning, it was not accepted at all. Maybe twice, I was caught and went to jail or stopped for a day because I was dancing on the street. Especially for a cypher which is a circle or a place where people would dance. I know it looks messy perhaps but that’s how dancing is in hip-hop. In hip-hop, you always have to cypher, but here a cypher is directly related to a fight or misbehavior. In my opinion, it’s unacceptable but it’s hard to educate people in a sense of “ok this is only dance”, because they already have a stereotype they are following and they see it as something they fear. It would be very challenging to change their view but we keep going!
Can you speak about the fact that for a long time now there have only been a few people dancing and living here?
Taoufik: Ok, so I would speak about the scene. The scene in Dubai is made of outsiders. It is very small because firstly it’s very hard to live in Dubai. You have to work because Dubai is a very expensive place to live in. As a foreigner, you never get a permanent visa residence, etc…The people who started in the whole UAE (United Arab Emirates), you can actually count them, there are maybe ten or less who actually started here and live here and stayed here for some time. The rest of the dancers are mostly coming from outside: Europe, the US, North Africa, the Middle-East. They travel for work and they work as an artist here, which is not very beneficial for the dance scene because they only focus on their work, they don’t really put in any inputs or knowledge. They don’t help the dance scene, it’s not a sustainable movement, just people coming for work, they make money and then leave. There is no connection. People don’t get to know each other. Everyone is far, everyone is distant. There are no classes, there is no real knowledge being passed down. It becomes more of a robotic thing rather than an art form. It becomes very commercial because now you can learn two moves on YouTube and you can make so much money in a dance show here, so it’s no longer an art form.
Do you think that dancing has the power of transformation regarding your body and your mind? Could you live without dance?
I’ve tried to stop but I can’t. In Morocco we say “shoukka”: something inside you that you cannot take out. Once you start dancing, once you feel that connection to music, you cannot stop. Now if I stop dancing, if I hear music, that feeling comes back. Even if I want to stop, I can’t. At some point, it’s just there, I cannot take it away.
Once you feel music in your heart, it goes through your body and that connection with your body allows movements to come out. I think it’s one of the most interesting things, almost impossible to quit.
Do you think it’s a necessity for society?
Taoufik: I would not say it’s a necessity but without dancing, how can people celebrate?
Dancing is not only physical, it also is a celebration. Dancing is something that comes naturally with the music. For example, if you feel lonely and hear music and start dancing maybe someone will dance with you. So it’s very simple, it doesn’t have to be a big deal where you change a life, it can be as simple as just a small connection that can improve your communication with people.
Interview: Yeocheva Gabbay
PC : Taha alias Shibl