BEIRUT: Leila Al Zein has been dancing as long as she can remember. As a three-year-old, her grandmother took her to her first ballet class next to her house, and right then and there, she fell in love with dancing.
A year later, she switched to Caracalla Dance School at Sin el Fil, and has been practicing and dancing there ever since.
Now at 16, the dazzling costumes, the thrill of being on stage, and the adrenaline that comes with performing in front of a live audience inspires the young dancer to always set her goals high.
“Dancing can be addictive,” she noted. “Even when I come home after a long day at school, I still have the energy to dance.”
Al Zein has been balancing between her academic studies as a high school student at International College, and a Caracalla student at dance school. “I go to my dance practices twice a week, and at times, I take my school books to study for an exam during our ten-minute breaks.”
So far, she has danced at hundreds of shows and recitals, and she doesn’t see herself stopping anytime soon.
Al Zein got her big chance this year when she was selected to dance at the Byblos Festival, making her the youngest girl in the Caracalla group on stage.
“I was very happy, but also somewhat nervous,” Al Zein said. “Most of the other dancers are extremely thin and that made me feel a bit insecure.”
However, she overcame this with the constant support she has from her family and friends.
Two weeks before the festival performance was due, Al Zein went up and down from Jbeil every day for two weeks, practicing into the early hours of the morning and finishing up at 2:00 a.m. at times.
“But it was all worth it,” she said.
Quick costume changes between traditional performances that have a modern twist and dancing amongst professionals in one of the most beautiful cities in Lebanon mesmerized the young dancer.
“At the festival, I was dancing with a diverse group of people from different nationalities, and that thrilled me and made me step up my game and work harder,” she said.
Al Zein loves leading the exciting life of working with a professional troupe and doesn’t think she’ll ever stop dancing.
“I’m always on the go, between school, dance practices, and my personal life; I have a lot on my plate, and there’s no place for boredom,” Al Zein said.
However, she always had a question in mind that boggled her. How can she possibly compare with the thousands of great, professional dancers that she sees on Youtube? What would distinguish her from fellow dancers around the world?
“The world has met ballet and hip-hop, but Arabic dances are not common in the West, I’d love to take Arabic dances with a modern twist to Western stages.”
The ultimate answer to her question, like that of many young artists, remains to be discovered in their future. For now, it’s studying the books and training.
“The Lebanese American University has a great overall performing arts program, and to me, it seems the most suitable,” she said of receiving a comprehensive education in addition to dance training.
She maintains that if someone has a goal, a passion, or a purpose, they should keep persisting and working towards it even if they get tired or exasperated sometimes.
Leila Al Zein (second right from top) with a dance team preparing for Byblos Festival
Welcome to “Naya,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations — Naya Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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