Matt Harding, the 36-year-old Internet sensation who became known for YouTube clips of himself dancing in different locations across the world, came to Tahrir Square Sunday.
“Dancing Matt” who is currently making his fourth film, has been travelling around the world for two years compiling clips for the next film. This latest internet offering will feature him dancing in over 50 countries including Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq and of course Egypt.
“This is one of the hardest I’ve done so far,” Matt told Ahram Online making reference to the fight that broke out when he attempted to dance on the central roundabout. Against the backdrop of the ongoing revolution and at a time when the state has been encouraging a fear of a “foreign plot” following the trial of 29 foreign NGO workers, a dancing American did not go down too well.
However Matt persevered.
As advertised on his Facebook page, Matt appeared at the square’s central garden at 2pm, in among bemused looking onlookers and the revolutionary tents that have been staging a sit-in since last year.
“This is how I dance. Left, right, left, right, elbows like this, then snap your fingers and then big smile,” Matt demonstrated to the 100 or so young people who enthusiastically joined in.
Matt’s team managed to film for one uninterrupted minute, before the problems started. A group of a few men appeared around him, yelling for him to leave the square.
“You’re dancing while our [slain] children have not rested in their graves. People have died here, what are you dancing for? Get out now,” shouted the man, who turned out to be a one of the fathers of a January 25 Revolution martyr. The families have been staging a protest on the square for months.
Another group of men talked about how a dancing video in Tahrir Square could be misused by the media to spoil the image of Egyptian protesters. “Adams,” the self-proclaimed manager of Tahrir’s sit-in, then brought a couple of his cronies, who threatened to take the equipment.
The reactions of onlookers reflected the extent to which Egyptians have been affected by recent anti-foreigner media rhetoric.
Forty-three NGO workers who currently face trial have been accused of operating illegally and attempting to “destablise” the country, sparking further conspiracy theories about the dealings of foreigners in Egypt.
There was public uproar when a travel ban on at least 13 of the accused foreign NGO workers was abruptly lifted on Thursday and they were flown home in a US military plane. So much so Egypt’s de facto leader Field Marshal Tantawi did not attend the all-important joint session of parliament he himself called, allegedly, for security reasons. In addition Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri and members of his Cabinet have been summouned to parliament on 11 March in order to explain themselves.
“See those Americans; they’re rubbing it in our faces,” an onlooker said in Tahrir Square. “They came here to dance and celebrate the release of their NGO workers by our very own authorities.”
“Do you think it is right that he shows us as in this [symbolic] square dancing like fools?” added another.
“Why isn’t it true that we’re fools? The military council has been making fools out of all of us [since the uprising], especially after what happened with those foreigner NGO employees,” one man replied to him.
Undeterred, the dancing crowd regrouped at an aisle garden opposite to the Egyptian Museum. This time, Matt and his excited fan crowd were left in peace to film two separate one-minute shots of two different dance routines.
“I wanted to make the point that people are the same everywhere you go,” Matt said, as he rested after his dance-off, “I wanted to make that even more clear in this film and include places where you do not expect to see people dancing and celebrating.”
“In Egypt people told me I have to come to Tahrir, so I did… I dance with people from the places and they usually help if there is any trouble, like they helped me here,” he said. “Today was not easy.”