Cairo-Based Goodspace Is Using The Art Of Dance To Build A Tight-Knit Community And A Successful Business

"Some people don't understand that just because we want to give back to the community does not mean that we don't want to be a successful business!"

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When Layla Ghaleb and Mahmoud Shoukry founded their Cairo-based dance company Goodspace in July 2021, they did so with a clear vision built upon their collective experiences as active participants in Egypt's dance community.

Goodspace
Mahmoud Shoukry and Layla Ghaleb, co-owners, Goodspace

After all, Shoukry has been a choreographer for over 15 years, while Ghaleb is a self-taught dancer who became a professional choreographer and teacher. "We both always dreamed of creating something special; a space that is safe for everyone, for people from all walks of life to train and grow and excel," Shoukry says. "Layla and I discussed it randomly a couple of years ago, actually- our hopes and dreams for the Egyptian dance community, and how we have so many local talents here that deserve exposure and a spot in the international community's limelight. I guess that's where it all started."

The business that Ghaleb and Shoukry launched is today demarcated into three main verticals: Goodspace Studios, a dance studio open to people across all age groups, Goodspace Talents, a dance agency, and Goodspace Events, the firm's event management arm. "Goodspace Studios personifies our company slogan, 'Good people, Good company, Good souls,' by aiming to create a safe space for athletes, dancers, and performers to train towards the betterment of their craft, and also welcomes hobbyists -young and old, and from all walks of life- assisting them in their growth physically, mentally, and emotionally," Ghaleb adds. "Dance opens you up; it invites you to understand and comprehend everything that is within you and outside you, be it spiritual or physical. Within that exploration and understanding and openness, there is a sense of vulnerability that does come along with it, and when that is met with love and acceptance, tolerance and compassion, no words can express what that can do for the soul!" Shoukry adds to Ghaleb's statement, saying, "That is what we're aiming to do at Goodspace: help people grow, and have love for themselves, and everyone else around them!"

At this point, I must mention that despite this interview being done via email, Ghaleb and Shoukry's innate passion for dance, and the goodness they hope to spread through it, is palpable through their written replies. Like many across the globe who have a keen interest in the performing arts, the co-owners cite the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna as their inspirations, with Ghaleb specifically mentioning husband-and-wife choreographing duo Keone Madrid and Mari Madrid's interpretation of the Bob Marley song, Is This Love. "Watching their interpretation of Is This Love was unlike anything I'd ever seen or witnessed before," she recalls. "It told a story of a love that is old and timeless, and the innocence that can live on within two people's love. It was the first time I realized that dance doesn't just have to be about fun and sass, but it can also convey a story, a message. You can share your feelings and emotions and thoughts in a way that is soul-baring."

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Source: Goodspace

Having imbibed such sentiments and experiences into their teaching responsibilities, it comes as no real surprise when Ghaleb and Shoukry say that witnessing their students gradually journey into the process of becoming instructors and teachers themselves has been one of their biggest entrepreneurial achievements. Goodspace Studios, in particular, seems to already be enabling the sense of community and camaraderie that both co-founders so desperately hope to achieve.

"Sometimes, we've had people who are too young to attend advanced classes come in and kill it, and other times we've had people who are in their thirties and forties dancing for the first time," Shoukry says. "It's so refreshing to see their passion ignited and to see them grow into the performers that they want to be, even if it's just for fun. That's another thing that we love about this job- we are always pleasantly surprised by the different people from all walks of life that come and join our classes in search of self-love, empowerment, connection, love, and community!"

But goals centered around using dance to create a tight-knit community is just one part of what Shoukry and Ghaleb have set out to do- the other aim is, of course, to build a successful business. Within just a year of its launch, the company has been instrumental in a wide array of commercial projects, including a video for Adidas' Run For The Oceans campaign, an advertisement by UAE-based telco Etisalat that featured Egyptian actors Khaled El Nabawy and Sherine Reda, as well as a music video for Arab singer Balqees Fathi.

"The concepts of conscientiousness and succeeding are not antithetical notions; you can truly do both," Shoukry says. "Some people don't understand that just because we want to give back to the community does not mean that we don't want to be a successful business! You can carry out and implement an ethical business that betters the community, without having to compromise your morals or ethics for commercial success."

Ghaleb points out that overcoming this preconceived notion has been one of the many societal hurdles faced in building Goodspace. "The process of overcoming it is still ongoing, I suppose, but in terms of how we deal with it, we do it the way that anyone should deal with anything really: just be genuine," she says. "We are living our truth and people that have worked and trained with us see that- they see our intention, our love, and our dedication to the dream that is a bigger and stronger community of performing artists that love and support each other."

Source: Goodspace

At the time of writing this piece, the co-founders are confident that they will reach their biggest milestone yet during an event planned for the end of September 2022: Goodweekend, an international dance camp organized by its aforementioned events arm Goodspace Events, that will feature a string of globally renowned choreographers such as Los Angeles-based Nicole Kirkland and Emmy-nominated Melvin Timtim.

Set to run from September 28, 2022 to October 1, 2022 in Cairo, it is being pegged as the first-of-its-kind international dance camp in the Middle East. "To be able to say that we are getting these amazing instructors and choreographers in one place at the same time for the first time ever in the Middle East does qualify as a milestone I think- possibly the milestone of milestones!" Ghaleb says. "We are thus looking forward to celebrating our one-year company anniversary alongside this amazing line-up as well as everyone else that will be attending the camp! It will be a 'Goodweekend' indeed; an anniversary to remember!"

Open to those who possess beginner, intermediate, as well as advanced dance education levels, the camp is welcoming participants as young as 10-year-olds. And when asked what he hopes for the participants of Goodweekend, Shokry replies, "We want people to experience something they've never experienced before in the Middle East- an intense, rigorous training schedule where you will dance, learn, and connect with the best of the international dance community. We want people to walk away with a newfound love and appreciation for everything that is related to the performing arts and dance."

Source: Goodspace

And this camp will simply prove to be the first step in the many other goals Goodspace hopes to achieve moving into the new year, says Ghaleb. "I just look forward to seeing everyone's faces and smiles at Goodweekend for now, but I think 2023 will be another year to grow and better ourselves," she says. "As individuals, we've put our blood, sweat, and tears into this, and have made a lot of sacrifices individually and collectively to ensure that our dream comes to life. So, 2023 will be the year we give back little to ourselves, so we can keep the train going."

But Shoukry adds that taking things one step at a time will be the motto that drives Goodspace forward. "We are still unsure what our next step is going to be, so for now we are focused on making Goodweekend the best experience that it can be," he says "Going into 2023, who knows? Maybe we'll open up a new branch, maybe we'll dive into organizing another camp… we don't want to take on too much all at once. For now, we're just enjoying the ride."

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