Interpreted by Farida Fahmi
Article by: Keti Sharif
You may have heard a relatively new Raqs Sharqi dance term ‘Mejance’ used a great deal lately, in terms of dance or opening music. The term is a bit of a 'twisted truth', it is neither Egyptian nor French, but nonetheless has become a part of current dance lingo. How did this come to be?
Farida Fahmy was telling me how Egyptian teachers, although often not French speaking, have been using French ballet terms to give Egyptian dance a bit of extra pomp, when articulating the dance to students. Perhaps, because the Reda troupe often used ballet lingo in training (with Russian ballet masters), many current Egyptian choreographers hailing from Reda lineage as students or troupe members, also frequently use ballet terminology.
The term Mejance was unintentionally created/morphed from what was meant to be the French word Manèges (pronounced ma-nehj) - a classical ballet term meaning “circular.” It describes when a ballet dancer steps in a circular pattern around the stage, usually using a repeated series of one or two main gliding steps. Its inception occurred when an Egyptian teacher training students in Russia, wanted to describe the circular Raqs Sharqi stage entry as Manèges (in French). However they could not articulate it properly, and rather than appearing ignorant, decided to ad-lib linguistically, changing the word to Mejance (megance, magency, meyanse, etc). The new buzz word filled a void, finally giving this very important part of the dancer's repertoire a name, and after being repeated by teachers and students worldwide, eventually became the defining word for a Raqs Sharqi 'entrance dance' for the stage.
Interestingly, the term Mejance was originally a by-product of mispronunciation in the 90's, yet has now become accepted within the dance community to mean the music for an ‘opening dance’, or an ‘entrance dance’, often tailored to preview a dancer's signature moves or style.
For the sake of clarity, there is really no history on this term except for that fact it was a French word that was colloquialized by teachers who didn't know better and the word in its many forms (spelt at least ten different ways) has made a grand tour around the Bellydance globe. And today, Mejance is, indeed a word recognized for its definition of the initial part of the dance. It has become quite integrated into Middle Eastern dance language, and is used by many prominent teachers, and musicians - both in Egypt and abroad.