With a kaleidoscope of multicolored robes unfurling around the dancer’s twirling body, the Tanoura, or Whirling Dervish, is a visually arresting dance that developed out of the meditation rituals of Sufi mystics. Yasser Darwish, whose name derives from this physically demanding art, is a master of the Egyptian Tanoura, a distinct secular variant performed primarily at weddings and other special occasions.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Darwish grew up immersed in Egyptian folk dance. He learned first from his uncle, who led a semiprofessional dance troupe. At age 18, Darwish went to study with the Alexandria Folk Dance Troupe of Egypt, the state dance company that trained promising young dancers; after one year, he was invited to join their professional company. Ten years later, Darwish joined the National Folkloric Troupe of Egypt, where he spent five years of intensive study to perfect his spinning and master the Tanoura; he also specializes in the Tahtib, or Saiidi Stick Dance, which is strongly associated with rural life in Upper Egypt.
Now based in New York City, Darwish founded Egyptian Celebration in 2001, bringing together accomplished musicians from across the Middle East to present the rich culture of Egypt and the Middle East to people worldwide.