Gilded Serpent presents...
dancers with Musicians of the Nile
Wa Sahlan 2005, Cairo
a review and diary by
On July 18th,
I boarded a plane at San Francisco International airport to begin
my annual visit to my home away from home, Cairo, Egypt. Many
of my friends and relatives wonder why I go to a hot country in
the summer. My dancer friends, however, understand why when I
tell them that the 2005 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Oriental Dance Festival,
organized by Raqia Hassan, would run from Monday,
June 27th, through Sunday, July 3rd. To me, it's an event not
to be missed.
Monday night, the opening gala was a great success in all senses
of the word! It was one of the best large scale events I've
attended. By all estimates, there were about one thousand people
attending from Egypt and all parts of the world.
Maazin, right, and her two colleagues, resting after their
As in last
year's opening gala, the outdoor pre-show, began with an Egyptian
dance troupe performing a Pharaonic tableaux. Then Khaireyya
Maazen, the last actively performing Ghawazee, with two
other ghawazeeyas performed with the Musicians on the Nile
from Luxor. Last to arrive on this scene was the dancing horse
with its rider. I arrived a bit late and missed the Pharoanic
show, which I'd seen in 2004, and only saw the end of the Ghawazee
performance. When the horse arrived, I went inside. I've seen
plenty of dancing horses and, beautiful as the horse was and skillful
as its rider was, I did not need to see another one. Besides,
I was anxious to find a place to sit in the ballroom for the rest
of the evening.
To my great
satisfaction, I found the ballroom set up with enough tables and
chairs for everyone. After the show started, the dozen or so
waiters served an appetizer salad while the festival band played
and a movie with clips of "old time" dancers, such as
Tahia Carioca, Samia Gamal,
et al, and a tribute to Raqia Hassan was shown.
When the dinner buffet was announced, we found several complete
buffet tables and at least two dessert tables. Because almost
everyone had eaten the appetizer, there were virtually no overly
hungry and anxious people poised to attack the buffet tables as
in some previous opening night shows. Most people waited in line
to obtain their food in an orderly fashion. As far as I could
tell, everyone was able to get the food they wanted with few,
if any, problems. This was a great accomplishment for Raqia,
her son Yasser, and her staff of organizers.
started with a percussion ensemble formed by Khamis Henkesh,
the world-famous Egyptian drummer who played for Soheir
Zaki, Negwa Fu'ad, and many other stars.
He played about half an hour of amazing drum solos with his ensemble,
which included several members of his family, backing him up on
other percussion. Then the Ahlan wa Sahlan band, formed
by Mr. Henkesh for Raqia, played a few numbers while people were
getting their dinners.
World famous drummer Khamis Henkesh, at far R, and his percussion
dancer was Soroya, Raqia's Brazilian protege
who performs professionally in Cairo. She's an accomplished dancer
who has hit her stride as a professional. While most of her costumes
were lovely, the one she wore for her first number made me want
to update my "Cairo's
Costume Disasters" article published in The Gilded Serpent
in September, 2000.
was a bedla made of white knit fabric for bra cover and skirt,
printed with blue sketches of cowboys, horses, etc., and in
4 inch high letters the English words "Texas" and
"Western" here and there at varying angles to the
images. The belt and bra decoration was black chains with black
metal 3 or 4-inch horseshoes, stars, and crescent moons. The
only thing missing was the lasso! "Ride 'em Soroya!"
enforced "no cameras" rule prevented my having a photo.
In one section of her performance, she showed us the Brazilian-Sharqi
fusion style which she was going to teach later in the week. Another
of her costumes was a bedla of black fabric, covered with sequin
flowers on both bra and straight power-net skirt. The floral
design on the skirt didn't quit go all the way around, leaving
most of her left side covered only by black power-net. The jury
is still out on her underwear. Hers was an enjoyable, entertaining
Kamel was next with some of the best "squishy"
moves and shimmies I've ever seen, both done "solo"
and in many layered combinations! She always performs with grace
and style along with a good dollop of sauciness. She is one of
my favorite Egyptian dancers. One her costumes was royal blue
bra partially covered by royal blue thule choli, thule pants with
royal blue satiny blue godets flaring out from the knees down.
The "panty", which substituted for a belt, was royal
blue sequins with abstract design in silver, decorated with large
turquoise scarabs with silver crystal beads and sequins. The
"panty" legs were cut a bit high in the back ... sort
of a "boy leg" style. The pant legs had a crisscross
design of sequins, beads. I was so busy watching Randa dance that
I forgot to write any notes about her costumes. I wish I could
have taken pictures so I could remember her other costumes, but
cameras were forbidden.
but NEVER least, Dina! She did the same show
that Zohra and Nashwa Ahlam
and I saw in March with some different costumes. I found it as
enjoyable this time. I won't go to great lengths to describe
her show except to say that I loved it! Her entrance piece, which
had many tantalizing rhythm changes, was a showcase for her ability
to combine movements in surprising ways, always true to the music.
The other numbers showed her range of performance style and technique.
Her appearance closed the Opening Night Gala.
Of the classes I took, first came Dina's on Wednesday
afternoon, Randa's and Magdi el Leithy's
over the next two days, then Raqia's on Sunday.
All four classes were full of fine choreography, interesting combinations
and basic principles. I took a lot of notes! There were many,
many more teachers offering a plethora of technique, style, choreography,
ethnic dance, music interpretation and drumming. However, paying
attention to both my capabilities and budget, I chose to enroll
in only four.
the largest classes, such as Dina's and Randa's, there were
larger than life projection screens located on either side of
was mounted on a platform on the opposite side of the room from
the stage so that its view of the teacher was unobstructed. As
a result, students could watch the instructor on one of the screens
if it was not possible or convenient to watch her/him directly.
I found this helpful because I often found myself on the side
of the room which gave me only a profile view of the instructor.
When I wanted to see the instructor in a front view, I just looked
up at the screen nearest me.
nightly party, Mona Said center with microphone along with
other festival teachers who'd been invited to the stage
"summer parties" as the nightly open stage parties are
called, are a great opportunity to watch the festival participants
and some of the teachers perform. When registering for the festival,
one can sign up to dance at one of the parties to CD or with the
Ahlan Wa Sahlan band, for a small fee. At each party there was
a broad range of performance styles in both solo artists and troupes.
Some of the dancers decided to participate in a dance contest, the
prizes for which were lovely dance costumes from one of the vendors.
Others, including me, performed only for the joy of it!
Said danced at Tuesday night's summer party. She was
"pure Mona", very emotional and engaging.
She is another
one of my favorite Egyptian dancers. Not long ago, she retired
from performing so I was thrilled to see her. Many of the other
teachers, including Americans Morocco,
Jehan Gamal, Jehan Kamal, Tamalyn
Dahlal, Cassandra, Brazilians Lulu
Sabongi and Hayat el Helwa, many Egyptians
and teachers from elsewhere. It was wonderful to see such a huge
amount of talent from all over the world.
Banu in Snake Costume and in mesh costume below
evening, we saw Princess Banu from Turkey. She
was fun to watch. Her Turkish style, although a little "toned
down" from what we see on a lot of the videos on the market,
was unique at the festival. As far as I know, no one else performed
that style of dance. Her costumes were remarkable. One featured
appliqued green snakes with red tongues and the other featured
a lot of black beaded fishnet with BIG mesh exposing a lot of
performing with that wonderful band at Saturday night's
evening I performed with the eleven-piece Ahlan Wa Sahlan band
with Khamis Henkesh as the "iqa-a" (lead drummer).
It was heavenly to dance with such a fine group of talented
Egyptian musicians for such a large supportive audience.
The Closing Gala was as exciting as the Opening Gala. The food
service situation was calm and orderly just like the opening night.
Everyone seemed satisfied with the food, its quality and quantity.
the show was the Mitqal family. Hagazi
Metqal, the son of the singer Metqal Qanawi,
is continuing his father's tradition of singing folkloric songs,
mostly from the south. Musically taking us to the countryside
of southern Egypt, he sang his father's best-known songs while
his large ensemble played traditional instruments. Several times
he toured through the audience with his tabl balady (large bass
drum, played on both sides with sticks) player pulling audience
members up from their chairs to dance while he sang.
a rising star in Cairo, was the first dancer of the evening.
With her energy, grace, and precise technique, she is definitely
one to watch as she comes into her own as one of the top performers.
Said danced beautifully at the first summer party, but
she was even better when she danced, again informally, in her
evening outfit, an assuit skirt slit up one side with an assuit
top, when the popular Egyptian singer Rico invited
her to the stage. Rico proved he can really excite a crowd with
his singing and dancing and Mona showed the technique and emotional
qualities which make her a star.
that Lucy was the first big surprise of the evening
when we saw her name on a bulletin board at the entrance announcing
her performance. The other big surprise was her inviting the
retired singing star Ahmed Adaweya to the stage
to sing for her. He is one of my favorite Egyptian singers so
it was a treat to hear him in person. Because of an injury he
has retired from singing, so this was a rare treat.
Lucy and Leyla after the Closing Gala
with musicality and lovely technique, as usual, ending with a
bit of humor. Lucy's last number was a balady number, the entrance
for which was a tour through the audience with her tabl balady
and mizmar players. She wore a black balady dress with black
hip and head scarves decorated with silver paillettes and beads.
On stage, toward the end of her number, she took off the head
scarf, tossed it to a band member and started to toss her waist
length hair from side to side and then around in circles, stopping
while bent over forward, allowing her hair to hang in front of
her body. While still bent forward, she grabbed her hair, making
a ponytail, and twirled it as if she were stirring a large imaginary
pot of soup! The crowd was beginning to laugh at this point.
She released her hair and stood up straight, allowing it to hang
in front of her face, danced for a few seconds, then flipped it
back to hang down her back.
She put her
shoulder length real hair into a bun on top of her head and finished
her show. When I saw her after the show in the lobby and told
her how much I enjoyed it and how I loved the "wig thing",
she exclaimed "But of course I play with the wig. It's only
part of my costume!"
There were more
performers after Lucy, but by the end of her show, I was exhausted
and didn't stay to see Katia and Kosoumi.
I'm happy that
I went to the Ahlan wa Sahlan 2005 festival. I saw Dina, Lucy,
Mona Said, Randa, and many other wonderful dancers both Egyptian
and non-Egyptian, took classes with Dina, Randa, Magdi el Leithy,
and Raqia. I came home with wonderful memories ... the shows,
the people I met, the beautiful dancing I saw, the stars, the crowds,
the excitement! Dr. Mo Geddawy announced at the
closing that there were more than 840 festival participants! I'm
planning on returning next year
this point, she moved both hands up to her head as if to frame
her head while she shimmied, pulled off the wig and twirled
it high above her head, in time to the music, of course, then
tossed it to a band member. By this time everyone around me
was laughing loudly and I was laughing so hard I almost cried
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
wa Sahlan 2005 Begins by Shira
is back at Raqia's Cairo festival again this year. Many improvements
The Nile Group Workshops in Cairo
it sounds! How could we, in a small country that a lot of people
couldn’t even locate on a world map, compete with her enormous
festival in Cairo?
Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
7 by Edwina Nearing
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers
Hassan's Dance Festival (Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2000) By Latifa
Then my dance
idol, Suhair Zaki, walked in, creating eddies of excitement that
ran through the crowd.
Travels after 9/11 by
I feel safer there on the streets than any place in the U.S.
Giza Academy Awards
of Middle Eastern Dance Video 2000 by
And the winners
are.... Photos added on 5-1-01 take another look!