Global Water Dances-Art as a Medium for Social Change

We hear that phrase over and over again ‘art is a medium for social change’. What does that mean? Why is ART a medium for social change? Because art makes us feel, it makes us experience. It is a right-brain activity so it moves us more deeply than words and logic, which are processed by the left-brain. If you want to move someone to action you must make them ‘feel’. Thinking just produces more thinking. Change is action that comes from e-motion.

In order for there to be real change we need a vision, and artists are visionaries. They can see that which does not already exist. And if the new vision cannot be put into words it can be put into form though other mediums, music, color… hence it becomes the medium, the matrix for change. Through art we can experience or glimpse the change before we step into it.

Dance is movement, like water is movement; so it makes sense that dance would be the perfect art form to bring people in alignment with water issues. Global Water Dances was a vision turned into reality in 2011. We, GWD-Cairo, were honored to be part of that reality with an event at the Swiss Club.

We participated again in 2013 with our event at Sawy Culture Wheel in a larger space with more participants. Now with the 3rd event less that a year away it is time to beginning thinking and visualizing the next event with new and innovative pieces designed to make people more aware of the water issues that face us as inhabitants of this planet earth. If you are here in Cairo or wherever you are in the world you can join the event, or create your own group if there isn’t one already. Go to and find a group in your area.

Below is a blog post from my previous blog Contemplating the Universe about last years event. There are some beautiful pictures and links.


Global Water Dances-Cairo 2013

GWD safe water for everyoneIn June 15th 2013 Global Water Dances-Cairo presented their second event in Cairo. This year’s event was held at Sakia el Sawy Culture Wheel in Zamalek. The first event in 2011 was performed at the Swiss Club. Global Water Dances is an opportunity for artists and audience to come together locally and globally to celebrate the gift of water.

Both the events in 2011 and 2013 were produced and directed by Leslie Zehr. Leslie is a local author, Sacred Dance teacher and Media Manager for Channel Z Productions. The inspiration to produce the first event came when Leslie met Marylee Hardenbergh, director of GWD, in 2010 at a Sacred Dance conference in the USA. Marylee expressed to Leslie how much Global Water Dances would love to have Egypt participate in this global event.

In January 2011 just as the Cairo coordinators were ready to begin work on the 2011 event the revolution in Egypt began. As many of the people involved in the revolution were artists it was difficult to get people to commit to preparing pieces for the 2011 event which would take place in June of that year. Even so Leslie gathered a group of participants and the event was produced. At the 2011 event dancers performed the Global piece as well as one original piece choreographed by Leslie herself. The event was a success and participants were enthusiastic to perform again at the 2013 event.The idea for the Global Water Dances project was brought forth by a group of visionaries seeking to raise awareness about global water issues.

“The initiators of Global Water Dances are an international network of dance and non-verbal communication experts. In working with local choreographers around the world, we draw on Rudolf Laban and Irmgard Bartenieff’s practices with human movement to mirror the universe’s dynamic patterns. Using Laban’s technique of Movement Choirs, the choreographers create dances which will not only move the participants, but also the observers.

The activities in Global Water Dances will be simple; creating bonds using time, space and rhythm. The dances are professionally choreographed and people of all ages and abilities from the local communities participate. Each dance event reflects in its own way the importance of water locally and in the eco-systems we share world-wide.

Flow, the medium of dance, can connect communities, just as water connects us. Communities grew up and were often defined by the water nearby, like Egypt in which people settled mainly along the Nile. Through Global Water Dances we want to connect the local to the global community to safeguard that all humans have access to clean drinking water, so that the water flowing through us is sustaining and not harming us. Taking responsibility for, valuing and protecting water can shift people easily into other ways of caring for the planet.

The water crisis is a devastating crisis. It’s been estimated that more than 2.5 billion people – almost one-third of the world’s population – live without adequate sanitation. Each year, five million people die from polluted water. By 2025, more than half of the world’s population will face water-related problems. A child dies somewhere in the world every 20 seconds from waterborne diarrhea. Overall, WHO figures show that unsafe water kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. And unclean water is not the only crisis.

There is a lack of fresh water, a problem that increase with climate change. As burning fossil fuels heats up the atmosphere, local climates are changing, often for the worse. In some areas, rainfall is disappearing, producing drought and crop failures; and in other areas, abnormally heavy rainfall has produced catastrophic flooding.” -Global Water Dances.

Nada Jan- Global PieceWater rights are another problem we are facing now, and in the near future. As water becomes scarce governments and individuals will lay claims to their sources reducing access to fresh water for many. The time to think about this is now. The sooner we remember our connection to water and Mother Earth the sooner we will find solutions to these problems.

The event was an opportunity to celebrate water, to remember and reconnect to her beauty and importance. All of life springs from water. As it says in the Koran “and we created from water all things alive”. In this celebration all forms of dance and movement were used, the dance of music, sound and color. There were original songs celebrating water and the critical issues we face about water in our future, as well as poems and dances demonstrating our relationship with water.

The event was truly a community effort. Many people volunteered a lot of time and effort to make the event possible, demonstrating through their effort, that people CAN come together with a collective vision and make beautiful things happen. As well as the volunteers who produced and performed at the event, Sakia El Sawy Culture Wheel donated the hall and the sound equipment, and the Embassy of the German Federal Republic in Cairo funded the costumes for the Global Piece.

Zeina with Circle of Sound Crystal BowlsThe event began with an opening ceremony. In the opening ceremony four crystal bowls, donated to Egypt by Circle of Sound, were played. The bowls were played by Johanna Juva, Zeina Mourad, Mona Yousseff and Cosima Lukashevich accompanied by Kabo Hosny and Tamara Yousry on drums. After the opening ceremony introductions were made by Leslie Zehr and Maryam Massoud the event’s hosts.

After the opening ceremony several original pieces were performed, some written specifically for this event. The program started with two pieces performed by Oscarisma. Oscarisma is a local band established in 2008. The original members were stage actors. When the songs were more popular than the plays themselves they made the decision to form a band.

Oscarisma sings about the challenges of people from all walks of life, such as doctors, drivers, teacher, government employees and street vendors. Oscarisma has performed in many different cultural centers, at festivals, theaters and parties and was invited several times to perform on national TV. The band uses a variety of styles such as reggae, blues, oriental and folklore.

OscarismAt this year’s GWD event they performed two original songs. The first was H2O a song about the importance of water to the planet, and how we won’t realize the value of water until it is gone. The second song Batn ElZer speaks about people’s desire to own the Nile through contracts and agreements when in fact the Nile belongs to God and is part of nature. It cannot be owned by anyone.

The band members are Ahmed Nagdi Ahmed Essam, Nada Jan, Mohamed Morsi, Shady Maher, Kabo Hosny, Tarek Reda, Mohamed Mokhtar, Salah Ebada, Helal Elhakmi, Maysoon Hussein, and Ahmed Alfouly. Their Slogan: ‘Do not just listen; Watch the Music!’

The event program was very diverse incorporating many types of movement such as yoga and Tai chi. ‘Rise, Fall, Evolve’ was an original dance piece choreographed and performed by Noha Sayedalahl to an original piece of music, ‘Morning Mist’, by PsySpirit.

Noha is a Yoga and Dance Teacher. She has practiced yoga since 2002. In 2010 she performed an Egyptian Folk dance solo at the Monterey First Night. Noha is also a visual artist and sings with the band Egybadour. In her piece, fusing dance and yoga, Noha took the audience on a journey through the history of water.

Coach Elgohary Sayed Mohamed and his students: Annemarie Veltman, Mohamed Kamel Abd ELhady, Farida Tarek Saad, Nour Mohamed Ebrahim, Fatma Mohamed Abd Elrahman, Mohamed Atia Adam and Doaa Atef Ahmed performed wonderful piece called ‘Tai Chi, The Flow of Water’. In this piece students as young as 6 years of age performed a variety of Tai chi styles including swords and fans.

Coach Elgohary is a Wushu and Tai Chi coach. He has participated in many national and international Championships winning gold medals for his performances and has been training the Egyptian National Team since 2008.

“The Art of Tai Chi is often described as a flowing river or ocean waves. The external appearance of gentle flowing movements is generated by the internal flow of energy. Water is the inspiration for Tai Chi as it flows smoothly and offers no resistance. Its fluidity, power, adaptability and softness are all qualities one tries to emulate when practicing Tai Chi. Water is able to go into any space available and it takes the shape of its container as quoted by Bruce Lee:

“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless – like water
If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup
If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot
Now water can flow or it can crash
Be Water, my friend”
Tai Chi is interlinked with Water and as much as Water is a necessity in Life, so is Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a Way of Life!
Enjoy Tai Chi, The Flow of Water!”-Coach Elgohary.
As well as songs and dances there was poetry. ‘I Am Water’ is an original poem by Chris Aziz. Chris is a British author, poet and playwright. The piece expresses what water wants to say to Us. She performed the piece with Maryam Massoud. Maryam is an English teacher as well as being a writer and performer on her own YouTube channel, and one of the hosts of the GWD-Cairo event. The poem was beautifully accompanied by Mohammed Abu Zid who also composed the music for the piece. Mohammed is an assistant teacher in the Faculty of Music Education and leader of the Egybadour band.

Another original song presented at the event was Return to the Nile by Tamara Yousry. Tamara has been singing for as long as she can remember, and has been writing poetry since she was an adolescent. At 19 she began playing the guitar and writing songs. She’s had the opportunity to record some of her original songs in both Egypt and Germany. She was also part of a band called The Tamariam Experience with Mariam Ali.

The piece was inspired by her recent trip to Aswan. Return to the Nile is based on her own personal experience visiting with the Nubians in the south of Egypt, drinking from the fresh Nile Waters and realizing the severity of water scarcity issues both in Egypt and around the world. The song asks the question: “Do you respect the earth on which you reside?”

The last original piece performed at the Cairo event was a song by Mohammed Issa. Mohammad graduated from the college of engineering. He has been singing for a year and a half and has performed at several local and international events. Mohammed gave a wonderful a cappella performance showing off his vocal talents. His song Ancient Battle is about the battle that has been raging long before humans roamed the earth, but in this battle instead of spilling blood, it springs life.

DSC01923The final dance piece at the event was the Global Piece. The Global Piece was choreographed by the GWD committee and interpreted by local choreographer Leslie Zehr. At each site, worldwide, dancers performed the same 8-1/2 minute piece to music written by Marcus Wise, Reid Kruger, Afrodrumming and Mystic Warriors celebrating the importance of water. In Cairo the piece was performed this year by Annemarie Veltman, Dina Nouayem, Injy Manga, Amr Hafez, Maryam Massoud and Nada Jan. The dancers wore original hand-painted costumes by local, German born, artist Cosima Lukashevich.

It was a joyful event. Hoping you will all be inspired to join Global Water Dances in your area in 2015!


Photo © 2013 Leslie Zehr

Photo © 2013 MoKhaa PhotoGraphe

Photo © 2013 Zeina Mourad

Copyright © 2013 Leslie Zehr


  1. Devi Lockwood Avatar

    “Change is action that comes from e-motion.” –– I love this.

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