Fifteen Sesostris Street, Downtown Alexandria may appear as an unlikely location for a dance center. Smack in the heart of the city’s financial district, it is more accustomed to pinstripe than pirouettes.
This and many more obstacles were presented to Lucien Arino as he set about his mission establishing a dance center; no grants, no external funding, just a deep-rooted passion and a strong belief that Alexandria needed it.
Rezodanse was the result. An ambitious project that has dramatically transformed a shanty apartment that hadn’t seen sunlight in over two decades, it is now on course to becoming the city’s most creative dance center.
Of course, it takes more than just a good idea to ensure a center like this can succeed. Aside from the hard work and determination, there had to be a marketable product at the end. Luckily for Lucien, his dance background has provided exactly that and ensured enrolment is catching on.
Trained in the Paris Opera School and Paris Conservatoire, Lucien is a professionally qualified ballet teacher. Using his experience as founder of a dance festival in the South West of France, Lucien set about finding a suitable location to fulfill his objective “to install a new dynamic to the Alexandrian dance scene by raising the standard and variety of tuition.
Simple enough in theory, but not when you have a limited budget, are unfamiliar with legal procedures in a foreign country and are confronted with disapproving landlords at every turn. Ballet, it seems, is not considered a respectable enough venture, especially when the instructor is a man.
Sifting through the photographs of the apartment prior to renovation, the space, some 400 square meters of it, complete with office furniture and stained wall maps, looks like it has recently been evacuated, as if the inhabitants could return any moment and continue their daily tasks. Office stationery including vintage hole punchers and dried ink pots lie discarded on the antique desks, typewritten letters fill the metal filing cabinets and copies of decades old telephone books lie open next to wooden telephone switches.
All are veiled in a thick layer of dust, untouched since the then insurance brokers closed the large wooden shutters for the last time in the 1980s. But stationery and furniture were not the only ‘assets’ Lucien inherited. The apartment was no longer connected to the mains, all the windows were broken and water from other apartments was causing structural damage.
Then there was the fact that the apartment had a 110v electricity configuration requiring a total revamp. The whole apartment had become a dump, was incredibly dirty, run down and in need of a great deal more than a simple lick of paint.
Two months later, with hard work and patience, the change is astonishing. In place of the damp and dirty office is an 80 square meter dance hall complete with full length mirrors and bars. Spacious changing rooms, a fully functional kitchen, toilet, reception hall and three offices complete the center.
Classes on offer include ballet (both for children and adults), salsa, oriental, soft dance, contemporary dance, choreography and tango. In addition, theater workshop projects are on the horizon and the center is currently allowing various organizations to use the premises for free to help out small groups in the field of performing arts to rehearse.
Rezodanse has been well-received, attracting all ages and skills, Egyptians and foreigners who were won over by Lucien’s determination and ability as a dance teacher. As one mother said, “we feel truly privileged for the opportunity for our daughters to train under the top-notch instruction of Lucien. Our daughter has developed better technique and more confidence under Lucien’s instruction than anywhere else in the city.
Yet it is not only Alexandria’s budding dancers that can benefit from the project’s success. Future enterprises could well be encouraged to relocate to Alexandria’s Downtown area, injecting some much-needed life and business into what has become a tired location despite its abundance of beautiful architecture, landmarks and central location.