“I failed at splits when I was a gymnast, my sister and cousin could easily do [them] but I just couldn’t,” Nada Mashaal started off her story, remembering when she couldn’t nail the most difficult moves as a 5-year-old gymnast.
Nada, a 20-year-old hijabi girl and a veterinary medicine student, embarked 10 years ago on a quest to find a suitable Ballet school in Alexandria when she discovered her passion for it. With no help whatsoever from anyone, Nada decided to look up on the internet for some places teaching Ballet.
“When I was 10, I was watching Egypt’s Ballerina Nelly Karim on the screen when she was dancing in a movie, I told myself that I want to do what she is doing. I took to the internet, which was rather limited at the time, picked a place and spoke to my mom about it,” Nada says.
Nada’s mother didn’t want her to get distracted from school; she thought Nada was merely overwhelmed by a movie and will get over it in a while. However, after immense pressure from Nada’s side, she had to comply with her new passion.
At first, Nada joined a modest sporting club where she held her first performance, with very simple facilities. She trained there for two years and then when her trainer left, the club decided to close the Ballet section.
Nada searched for another place to pursue her passion. She joined the Russian center and to her surprise, the assistant of her Russian trainer was veiled.
“The assistant, Sarah, is really good. She nails all the moves and the veil doesn’t seem to be hindering her at all. She truly is my role model,” Nada says.
After three years of hard work and leveling up her game in Ballet, and when she was 15, Nada decided to wear Hijab.
“I didn’t have any doubts, I was positive that this is the right thing to do. Despite my mom’s best efforts to convince me otherwise. She said I was too young and I will possibly regret it shortly after. But I went on with my plan and decided to be a Hijabi Ballerina,
“At the Russian Centre, I was constantly criticized by my colleagues who didn’t seem to absorb what I am doing, they kept on pointing out my outfits. I was trying to convey the idea that it’s fine to wear the Hijab and be a ballerina at the same time. Sarah helped me a lot during this phase. I overcame the criticism and decided to proceed with my rehearsals and my performances,” Nada explains.
At the time, a Russian instructor started training Nada; she couldn’t believe that Nada, in fact, can do Ballet with her Hijab on.
The Russian center wasn’t big. During the performances, only parents and a few people could attend due to the rather small space. Her friends tried to convince her to take her Hijab off during a performance on the claim that not too many people would attend. Nonetheless, Nada refused to back off from her decision and performed with the Hijab.
At 18, Nada joined the Opera House, bigger place, and much bigger audience.
“At the Opera, people were, in fact, encouraging and helping me dress up in better ways. I now perform before a very wide audience. Ballet experts told me that technically, everything is perfect. They didn’t comment on my clothes or on the fact that I am all covered up.” Nada says.
Nada once posted a photo of her on a public Facebook page, people criticized that she dances and a Hijabi at the same time.
“Unfortunately, what people may not understand is that Ballet is not something obscene. It’s an art and I can’t know why I shouldn’t be a Ballerina with Hijab as long as I am doing both the right way. I am not saying that I wear the perfect Hijab or I wear the perfect outfits for my Ballet performances. But I am always trying to get better at both, I want to be a Ballerina wearing beautiful Ballet suits and a Hijabi wearing the proper Hijab,” Nada concludes.
Now, Nada gives Ballet lessons to young girls at the Opera house, besides her relentless pursuance to her passion for Ballet.