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DUBAI: Amapiano — a style of house music with jazz and lounge-music influences that emerged in South Africa — has captured the imagination of artists across the world. Egyptian choreographer Yara Saleh is one of those introducing the genre to the Arab world, choreographing a series of innovative amapiano dance routines — and she caught Spotify’s attention in the process.

Saleh — who has worked with regional superstars Tamer Hosny, Nelly Karim, Wegz and Sharmoofers — was championed by Spotify, which featured her in its “Music that Moves” series, which tells stories of locally grown music crossing borders and shaping culture around the world.

“Being a part of a global mini-documentary — with established artists and creatives — that elevated cultural knowledge was a genuine honor,” Saleh, who has an engineering background, told Arab News. “One of my biggest passions in life is to explore other cultures deeply and represent them through everything that I do.

“Dance was always an integral part of Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture,” she continued. “Social media has played a major role in showcasing dance and exposed people to other styles. TikTok, in particular, has made dancing more accessible and easier for people to engage with.”

The Cairo-born choreographer believes that performative dance, for years, has been widely undervalued in the Middle East. But she said that this “programmed judgment will inevitably transform once (people) see its value and impact with the influence of globalization and social media.” 

Saleh’s passion for dance was sparked at a young age when she was introduced to ballet. The dancer, who enjoys performing to hip-hop, house, jazz funk, afrobeats, amapiano and dancehall music, said she faced a lot of criticism when she decided to become a full-time dancer. 

“It was challenging due to the instability of this industry. But I always managed to find support along the road and find time to stay grounded, focused and centered,” she said. 

Saleh has performed in the US, Jamaica and the Middle East, and says she would love to perform at, or choreograph for, Afro Nation, the world’s biggest afrobeats and Caribbean music festival.

So far, she said, one of her greatest achievements is introducing dancehall — a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s — to the Egyptian dance community.

“Being a pioneer is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. Dancehall’s raw vibes instantly resonated with me and felt natural to my body. It is a culture that taught me more about expression, tapping into both my masculine and feminine energies,” she said. “It’s been an eye-opening and fruitful journey to see people appreciate and fall in love with dancehall’s message.”

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