This weeks Dance First Member Insight is from Egypt-based Leslie Zehr, creator of The Alchemy of Dance.
Moving through the Pandemic
Interesting times. Fortunately for me, the pandemic was not a great struggle—but there are always limits. Being an introvert, I have a high tolerance for being alone. My children and grandchildren all live in Egypt. We made a pact to only interact with each other—so I had contact with them.
Five years before the pandemic, I moved all my courses and events to my online school when I closed The Centre for Sacred Arts in 2015. Technologies improved vastly during the pandemic, so it was an opportunity to up my game.
I felt a lot of inspiration from March to May 2020. I was motivated to do more online gatherings and create new courses—but summer hit with a bang. It was a summer of unrelenting heat and humidity. I swore two years ago that I would never spend another summer in Cairo, but the pandemic made escape impossible.
So, I spent the summer of 2020 (June to September) on my couch watching Netflix, YouTube, or reading on my Kindle. I had to be right in front of my fan, or I would escape to the one room I have with air-conditioning on sweltering days.
The humidity made it impossible to move without pouring sweat, even in the AC. So doing live online classes was no longer an option. Being forced to stay home in my sacred space was not a hardship for me, but when the atmosphere around me became unbearable with heat—I could imagine what it must be like for others to feel trapped in their environment, unable to escape.
Like many others, I took the opportunity to educate myself. I watched videos, podcasts, and lectures. I would search for the author of any book I read and delve deeper into their research and theories. I began to enjoy watching people have conversations. And out of this experience, The Universal Dancer Podcast was born!
I had produced four Sacred Dance Summits and scheduled to do another one in November of 2020, but that didn’t feel right anymore. I felt bombarded with online events. A podcast would fill the need to know more, meet new, like-minded people, and have deep conversations with them. But unlike the summits, I would do it over time, once a month instead of five in one week—with more reverence.
And on the other side, most of the people I was speaking to were now more proficient online. They were more familiar with the technology and had online offerings out of necessity. It was a perfect match.
The modality I created here in Egypt, The Alchemy of Dance, was downloaded entirely through personal experience. I know that many people are out there doing similar work to my own. I wanted to understand how they created their modalities. We all seemed to arrive at a similar place but coming at it from very different directions.
I came to Egypt in 1986—before the Internet. There were very few places to buy English books, and I only traveled outside Egypt every two years. So I was not exposed to other people’s work in the field. I did my best to stock up on books, but books are heavy to carry in luggage, so even that was limited.
I had come from a science background. As a researcher, I learned to build on everyone else’s ideas. But that was no longer an option. In retrospect, I feel that vacuum was a gift. It forced me to connect and learn from experience rather than others.
Fast-forward 35 years and the world has changed. Even in lockdown, we have many resources. The universe gives us what we need just before we need it, and we had the technology. Technology offered me a chance to learn, grow and collect pieces of the puzzle that I didn’t have.
I am not unaware of all the suffering and loss that many people have undergone during this period. I feel great compassion for their struggles. Standing in stillness, we search for depth. Sometimes that depth takes us into the darkness, sometimes into the light. I hope that eventually, it will lead us all to illumination. For me, the pandemic has been an opportunity to grow and learn—one I might not have taken had I not been forced into it. I hope in the end, this crisis brings a gift to everyone.
To learn more and listen to the podcast, visit: