Dancer Samia Gamal

Born in Singapore, Sultan began her dancing career in ballet. When she moved her focus to belly dance in 2014, she was shocked by a culture where performers compete to wear more revealing costumes and often undergo cosmetic surgery and breast augmentations. Belly dance, she says “is a term that was invented by the French colonialists in Egypt. They took it back to France and called it danse du ventre [dance of the stomach], but we never call it that in Arabic.” Her programme for young dancers is run along similar lines to ballet training. Students are taught to dance in the style of stars from Egypt’s “golden age” of cinema, such as Samia Gamal and Naima Akef, and to distance themselves from the more sexualised styles found in nightclubs, where Sultan says the traditions have been diluted with other dance styles.