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.
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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