In his series titled Ballerinas of Cairo, Egyptian filmmaker and photographer Mohamed Taher, and Ahmed Fathy capture captivating images of dancers clad in billowing skirts and ballet flats pirouetting, piqué-ing and leaping in mid-air with the Egyptian capital’s cobblestone roads and ancient architecture as the backdrop. “The main message of the project is to explore the city we live in from a fresh perspective and show the diversity within it,” explains Taher in coversation with Vogue Arabia. “Eventually, several layers were added to the project.”
The visual series, which was inspired by the Ballerina Project launched in 2009 by New York photographer David Shitagi, is gaining momentum online for shining a spotlight on the dark side of Cairo (ie. poverty and pollution) while simultaneously empowering women by giving them a platform to gracefully fight the street harassment epidemic that plagues the North African country.
“There’s a huge problem for women in Egypt streets,” Taher told Upworthy. The website describes Ballerinas of Cairo as “more than just a cool photo project,” but a way for women to reclaim the streets. Indeed, street harassment is an ongoing issue in Egypt, where nearly all of the women have experienced some form of heckling by men in the streets, according to a 2013 United Nations report. “It’s the first time to have an edition of this project in a conservative Middle Eastern country where the streets of the cities aren’t very friendly to both [the] women and photographers,” said Taher speaking to Vogue Arabia.
Egypt is a conservative country where ballet and dancing in general are typically frowned upon. However, the ballerinas admit that they give little attention to what onlookers and passersby say or do. How’s that for dancing like nobody’s watching?