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"Mo Geddawi, an Egyptian instructor, performer and composer, said I should incorporate my ballet technique with Orientale, that Egyptians would if they physically could. He said there are no real rules, so I have been experimenting with it, using some of the steps, but keeping the arms Orientale." Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.

Autobiography: Confessions of a Male Bellydancer

I had the opportunity to read Horacio's out-of-print autobiography when several copies showed up on E-bay for $60. The impetus was an article on the Gilded Serpent by a male dancer who was determined to describe in detail his own facials, tummy tucks, eyebrow shapings, manicures, pedicures... you get the picture. It seemed sad and unprofessional. Somehow I couldn't see Mr. Cifuentes, the epitome of dance elegance, carrying on about his personal hygiene in public, but the only way to prove it was to buy his book.

Well, it's a very good book. It's not a great book (that may have to wait for a biographer) but Horacio's life, as he recounts it, has had enough U-turns and crazy corners to make his simple recitation of the milestones in his life memorable. He starts with a description of his early life in South America; beautiful mother, constantly pregnant, unable to cope with his father's infidelities or the demands of everyday living; handsome father, rich, generous, but emotionally on another planet; adoring grandmother who disliked everybody else. Add in a little brother who castrates a sack of kittens (at 4 years old) and experiments on the eyes of living animals with a nail; a sister who has an epileptic fit whenever she is told to go to school or even out of the house; and a year of spiritual enlightenment via the agency of 200 tabs of high quality LSD— and I'm surprised Horacio can walk and talk at the same time, never mind dance divinely.

Horacio came to America to study ballet in his teens. He was 6'4", heterosexual, dark-skinned, coming late to ballet, and unwilling to do sexual favors in return for artistic preferment, so he found life as a ballet dancer difficult and sometimes disillusioning. Nevertheless, he stuck with it, and by the time he retired at 34 he had molded himself into the classical dancer he had dreamed of becoming.

His interest in belly dance, yoga and meditation started when he was in his twenties, and his autobiography reflects his increasing interest in full spiritual consciousness. His goal, as he describes it, is to live fully awake so that physical dying results in no loss of consciousness.

His career as a belly dance workshop teacher accelerated quickly after he retired from ballet. He discusses some of his mistakes with an artist's critical eye. His initial meeting with his to-be wife Beata is described through the eyes of an star-struck fan; she was a glamorous legend when he met her at a large festival and he approved of everything he saw, including the mild spark between them when they were asked to demonstrate a combination on stage. Two years later they met again, hooked up, and got married.

His description of his business alliance with Beata is quite tasty and I wish there were more of it. He and Beata run a successful dance academy in Berlin and travel to Egypt several times a year to commission music, costumes, and choreography for their famous Oriental Fantasy show. He gets quite emotional when describing his exposure to Egyptian orchestral music; he realized how important the live music was to bringing out the best in the Egyptian dancers, and incorporating that live music into their Berlin show became a commitment for him.

He does take the time to share some wicked insights. At one point, he and Beata decided to create a show to honor and celebrate the great Golden era Egyptian dancers; but only one of them, Tahiya Karioka, was still alive at the time. They flew her to Berlin with an escort, at which point the fireworks began. She didn't approve of her accommodations and insisted on being moved to a five-star hotel. After she was installed in the five-star hotel, she continued to sulk over the alleged slight and refused to attend a scheduled press conference to promote the show, screeching about being a Big Star, a Really Big Star. Horacio lost his temper and told her she HAD been a Big Star, at which point Beata stepped in and took over negotiations. After the fuss subsided, Tahiya proceeded to inform the Egyptian embassy of her presence and spent most of her time in Berlin with the ambassador, giving dinner parties (on Horacio and Beata's tab) and going to parties without inviting her Berlin hosts to accompany her... in fact, Horacio heard that Tahiya tried to convince the Egyptian ambassador to have Horacio declared personna-non-grata in Egypt for being a very bad man. Despite this, Tahiya had no problem inviting ELEVEN members of the consulate to the SRO concert (with 5 free front-row tickets already reserved for the ambassador), which caused a front-row fuss when they arrived. Horacio's conclusion? The concert was a huge success, he and Beata slept for two days afterwards, and they decided never to have anything to do with Egyptian Stars again.

A good book and a good read.. and inspirational as well, without being sappy.

Horacio's Dance Art

From an interview by Aliza in 1988 edition of Middle Eastern Dancer:

"When Horacio Cifuentes first began performing Middle Eastern dance in addition to the classical ballet for which he'd become known on international concert stages, he feared the wrath of both dance communities if he merged the two art forms. Several years later he's had the blessing from some of the top performers in both fields to not only incorporate some of the movements from one to the other, but to extend, explore, adapt and create within both.

"'Tatiana Grantzeva, one of the most celebrated teachers of ballet, from Paris, was a guest instructor at my ballet instructor at my ballet school for several years... The day after she saw my show, she stopped the ballet class and raved about me. She's been my greatest fan since.'

He received equal support from known Middle Eastern dance world figures.

"'Mo Geddawi, an Egyptian instructor, performer and composer, said I should incorporate my ballet technique with Orientale, that Egyptians would if they physically could. He said there are no real rules, so I have been experimenting with it, using some of the steps, but keeping the arms Orientale,' explained Cifuentes, also noting that in performances of the Egyptian Mahmoud Reda troupe, he witnessed balletic leaps and movements within their repetoire.

"'Principle ballet performers nowadays can execute a quantity of technically accurate moves with high extensions. They have beautiful muscle tone, but they aren't dancing gracefully and not from the heart... Orientale dance has reawakened that aspect of my dance. I think ballet dancers should all take some sort of ethnic dance, if not Middle Eastern, then any with earthiness,' said Cifuentes, who himself began with flamenco at the age of seven when his father's business took the family to Seville, Spain, where the youth studied with Maestro Realito."


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