Khadija: The Power of Movement
By: Elise Hugus, November 25, 2011
For the past 12 years, Katrina Valenzuela—better known as “Khadija”—has offered free tickets to Egypt through her monthly “Evenings in Egypt” at the Cape Cod Chat House in Dennis.
A lifelong dancer who teaches Middle Eastern dance and culture at Cape Cod Community College, Khadjia is a firm believer in the transformative power of movement.
“My goal as a teacher is to help women—and men—empower themselves,” she says.
Khadija says she has seen women in her classes “truly heal their sense of self,” sometimes crying or achieving other emotional breakthroughs through dance.
There is no special word for “belly dance” in Arabic, Khadija says, because it is understood that there will be plenty of hip shaking and graceful hand movements. The best thing about this style is that it allows people of all ages, sizes, and abilities to participate, she adds.
Khadija says she was drawn to Middle Eastern dance for its “intrinsically freeing” qualities.
“Dance is a woman telling the story of her life. The older you are, the more you have to tell,” she says. “There’s a whole language through the body and emotions. I like for women to know the power of that presence.”
Whether dancing it or simply appreciating it, Middle Eastern dance allows Americans to connect with a culture that they’re often leery about.
If you go...
An Evening in Egypt @ Cape Cod Chat House
Cape Cod Chat House, 593 Route 6A, Dennis Village
Arrive before 7 PM for best seating and enjoy dinner with a glass of wine or beer. There will be door prizes!
“There is a lot of fear, prejudice, and stereotyping, which is unfortunate because the vast majority of the people in this world are good. Muslims are wonderfully kind-hearted,” she says.
Khadija should know. As a teenager, she lived with her Egyptian godfather’s family, and began visiting the country in the 80s, even guiding groups from Boston.
She describes that period as “a high point in dance in the US and a happy time in Egypt,” lamenting the increased influence of Mubarak's totalitarian political regime.
“Egypt was at the center of arts and music, forever, until the 90s. It used to be such a rich culture. Egyptians are really fun loving and artistic people,” she said.
Though she is hopeful for the transformations promised by the Arab Spring, Khadija is waiting to see whether Egypt’s impending elections lead to a more “oppressive or expressive” society.
In the meantime, Khadija is glad to share her passion for Egyptian culture closer to home. In addition to her dance and culture class, she is pleased to offer a new Arabic course at 4C’s starting in the spring semester. Open to all students, this three-credit course will focus on conversation and “intuitive learning,” she says.