Lisa Hartt Vividly Recalls The Night I Learned To Dance

The veteran Canadian singer-songwriter weaves the story of a hot desert night.

Lisa Hartt takes an exotic trip back in time with her new single and video The Night I Learned To Dance — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

In her joyous, wistful new single, the Montreal-born, Ontario-based singer-songwriter weaves the story of a hot, exotic desert night that seems almost like yesterday. In the late ’60s in London, Hartt joined an all-girl big band called The Christine Lee Set. In a spirit of adventure, the band signed a contract to play in Cairo, Egypt, at the Sheraton Hotel. “One of our tasks was to play for the cabaret, and then the belly dancer Nagwa Fouad would come on and she was the star turn of the evening,” Hartt remembers. “My secret joy was to sneak behind the chorus of the Arabic orchestra and sing the ululations with the ladies while Nagwa twirled. She was simply entrancing.”

One steamy, star-filled night Nagwa asked if the group wanted to go out to the oasis at the pyramids of Giza so she could teach them to dance. The other musicians in the band were hesitant, but Hartt was game. “I got in a Jeep with some military guys and Nagwa, and before long we were driving into the desert night to the mystery of learning belly dancing. I have never forgotten this night — it was magical. The Night I Learned To Dance has all the magic I was feeling.”

“It was so hot the night I learned to dance
I was aware before the trance
An aged scheming temptress
Placed a shawl around my hips
She tipped the silver chalice, honey nectar to my lips.”

The Night I Learned to Dance was lived over 45 years ago, but it only came to light when Hartt was introduced to Jonas Gideon while they were performing at Lillaby Festivalen 2023 in Rinkaby, Sweden. “Jonas asked me to enter an experiment and write some lyrics that he then would put to music. Well, I was thrilled to have made this musical connection and I started writing immediately. The result was The Night I Learned To Dance.”

Another cool coincidence: Mayada, the lead dancer in the song’s video, studied with Fouad, the dancer Hartt writes about in the song. Nagwa is still alive at 87 in Cairo. “I can’t wait to reach out to her and reconnect,” Hartt says. “Life is magical, and we are the sum total of all our memories.”

Hartt has had quite a memorable year, relaunching her career at full steam with singles, an EP, and two tours to Sweden. With a career that dates to the late ’70s, Hartt topped the charts with Old Time Movie, going on major tours around the world. The band broke up, but she never stopped honing her craft. Life had some twists and turns that stopped her from performing, but she continued to write and devote her time to celebrating her music. Gideon and Hartt are now continuing to write together, with new songs for future release. “This experience has shown me that the best is yet to come, and age, time and space do not matter,” Hartt said. “It’s all about the magic of the music.”

Watch the video for The Night I Learned To Dance above, sample more from Lisa Hartt below, and keep up with her at her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.