Expo 2020 Dubai: Female Muslim US hip-hopper urges ‘girls to feel powerful’

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Muslim American hip-hop dancer, choreographer and activist Amirah Sackett urged women and girls to feel empowered through hip-hop dance, and explore the art form in a way where they are not objectified, she said after a stage performance at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sackett explores and embodies her Muslim American identity through hip-hop movement and Islamic themes and is widely known for her creation of the choreography and performance group known as, “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic”, which reached viral video fame.

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Speaking to the Expo media team, Sackett said: “I want girls to feel powerful and strong.”

“To express themselves in dance without being overly sexualised.”

"By teaching a girl breaking, which is really an athletic endeavor, [or] teaching her popping, which is theatrical and creative, she has a power that is not just based on her looks – or how she can attract men … For young girls especially, I think seeing me is a powerful reminder that dance can be something that is beautiful and powerful – and you can be a woman doing it, but you can also do it without being objectified.”

She continued: “It’s all a choice. I’m not hating on anybody; you’re an adult, you can do what you want. But when it comes to young people, I worry about the images they’re being fed through social media versus what they’re being told [such as]: ‘Love yourself, embrace yourself’.”

Trained in classical ballet at a young age, and with a jazz musician father, Sackett said she fell in love with hip-hop from an early age: “The first part of the [hip-hop] culture I fell in love with was definitely rap. And then I got into dancing a little bit later, but I was always dancing. I loved all kinds of dance.”

Sackett, who currently teaches breakdancing in a Chicago studio and uses her voice to combat negative stereotypes about Muslim women, said her work also focuses on addressing misconceptions around hip-hop culture, particularly within the Islamic community.

“When the average Muslim hears ‘female hip-hop dancer’, the idea that comes to their mind is not what I’m doing. There is an educational aspect [in] letting people understand hip-hop culture, letting them know the root dances of hip hop, understanding [its] underground culture.

“There’s a competitive part of our dance, too. I battle people and compete. It builds a lot of self-confidence and has all these great outcomes, [especially] for young people.”

Expo 2020 Dubai runs until March 31, 2022, inviting the world to join a celebration of unity, opportunity, creativity and sustainability that will help to shape a better, brighter future for everyone.

Expo organizers have declared the first month of the world’s biggest cultural gathering as a huge success, with more than 2.35 million visits recorded to date.

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