Gilded Serpent presents...
Part 2 of 3: The Troupe
June 19, 2003
Transcribed by Karima
posted-Part 1 of 3-here)
did you get the inspirations for your first dances, the first
dances that you choreographed? What inspired you to pick
I was in a hurry; of course, this thing needs research.
I postponed a little bit of research and I used my knowledge of
folklore because I lived in places in old Egypt,
old Cairo. I had ideas and
I used these ideas for my first program that I called “Sketch.”
is like a character and I made an idea of a story around this
character, like The Syrup Vendor.
no dance in our folklore called The Syrup Vendor, but I used the
character, and brought girls and boys from old Cairo
- girls with the melaya to buy syrup from him, and the
vendor sees Farida, the first dancer. He flirts with her and things
happen. This is one dance.
I call the “Magic Flute”, is about a boy in love with
a fellaha [peasant] girl from the village, and the
father doesn’t like him. He uses the flute and plays
music for him and let him soften, soften the father mellow, and
he even dances with the flute, and the father agrees for the boy
to marry the girl.
For the first
program, I used my old, my existing knowledge, that I had and
made my first program that I called “Sketches” around
Are those dances still in the company’s repertoire?
Do you still do them?
Wonderful! How close do you like to keep your dances to
real folklore? Do you want them to be close to what the
people really do, or do you want it to be more like a sketch or
a tableau? What are your choices there? What do you
let me continue as before, so this is my answer to your question:
After the first program was successful and was accepted and loved
by the people, I had time to do my research.
an Aswan soq in 2002
a group of 5 or 6 of my dancers and went to Upper
Egypt. We started from Aswan, studying real folklore. We took cameras. We took recorders. We
took somebody to write.
talk to the people and record their stories and ideas and we wrote
the songs. We started from Aswan and
continued until we reached Cairo.
In every city we chose, we stayed 3 to 4 days. We brought
the people; they danced for us. We recorded the dances and
the music, and wrote down the stories and everything.
So now, with
the folklore of Egypt,
there are good things and some problems. The good things
are, this is like a treasure that nobody discovered, a treasure!
However, there is lots of repetition, whether in the steps or
in the melody; for example, they can take an old melody and
put new words, but you remember the melody was another song.
So, for example, one girl will dance and the rest of the people,
like Hagallah, in Mersa Matruh,
they will go like this: (claps) for one hour, the boys; and with
every step the girl’s hips move 3 times.
So you have
a treasure but at the same time the material is little.
You cannot take one step and choreograph a dance for five minutes
on stage. Stage and theater audience are professional audience.
When you watch the real thing, you will be happy because you can
join, because you can sing with them, you can even clap with them,
so you feel happy. But if you buy a ticket at the opera
house and sit, you don’t expect to see this. Any normal
thing, you put it on stage, is not normal. You cannot bring
a tree from its place and put it on stage, or a house and put
it on stage.
the people, when you bring them, the real folkloric dancers,
put them on stage, they look odd, they look strange.
they don’t know where to look, they don’t know, and
if they do their things, it’s very monotonous. You
better go to them and join them, and be happy. But on stage,
So what I
call my choreography is not folkloric. It’s inspired
by the folkloric. It’s inspired.
get inspired to do your own choreography, there is a risk. You
can change things, and they become something else, and the people
won’t like it. I don’t know There’s no
rule.You have to use your taste. For example: I take one step
and I imagine myself one of these people. If I am one of
these people, and I have the ability, if I want to do the variation
of this step, what would I do? She goes forward and I backward;
side; and turn… and if she sits down and I do the same step,
what she going to do? So I do all the variations possible
to this step. If you’re lucky, then it will keep the
same spirit. If you’re not lucky it’s like developing
Arabic language, then it becomes English. Not good.
So, if you manage to keep the spirit in spite of what you did
to these movements, you are lucky. I was lucky. So
I did all what I could, eh? to put variations of the same step,
but still the people watch it, and they recognize themselves in
father had something to do with this. He sits in the audience
beside some fellahin people, villagers who came to see the show.
Of course, you know how the dancers move fellahin with the dress.
It’s a bit different, and even the jar is painted, eh? --not
like the original one. Then he would say, “What’s
this? This is not fellahin dance, and this is not a fellahin
jar!” So, the people will turn to him and tell him,
“No, this is us, and this is our jar, and this is our dance.
So, he’s testing the idea, and he becomes very happy and
tells me what happened.
recognized themselves, although there is like 90% extra put
on the dance.
I think, maybe they also recognized the way they want to see themselves.
When I am doing this, I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’m just inspired, and I do things. Maybe later I
can analyze myself—analyze what I did, but when I’m
doing this, I’m doing what I feel.
From what you tell me, the audience understood what you were trying
A: Yes, definitely!
Do you have a favorite piece that you choreographed? Is
there a favorite dance that you did?
I have favorites. You
know, some dances I did, one or two that I didn’t like;
I cancelled them immediately.
example, you shouldn’t try to teach the audience something.
department here in Cairo called
me and said, the traffic policeman is not welcomed by the audience.
Can you do something to let the audience sympathize with the traffic
police? So, I did a dance to comply and the people didn’t
like it. I stopped it first performance. The dance
was good choreography, but you’re teaching the audience
to respect police? No, no, no!
have many favorites in every program. For example, I do
12 dances, I like this dance better that the other. Like
the stick dance.
famous for that; I did my own stick dance.
it, so it became one of my favorites. The “Magic Flute”
is one of the favorites and there in the Andalusi the (Muashahat),
I have one like (Layalat Awalem), one of the Andalusian
dances. I have many favorites.
Do you decide first on the style of dance you want to choreograph
and then look for music for it, or do you hear a piece of music
first and that inspires you?
You know, inspiration is a funny thing. It comes from out
of nowhere. For example, if I’m driving in the village
and I see a woman with nice costume, this inspires me for a dance.
If I hear nice music, it inspires me, and if I hear a story, or
somebody tells a joke, it inspires me. However concerning
music, we did everything; we did every way. It depends on
the situation. For example, when I started my first performance,
I didn’t have the musician, but I had the ideas, I
had the steps, I had the ideas for choreographies. I had
the dancers; I was teaching them. I choreographed nearly
all the first performance without music. Somebody plays tabla,
I tell him, “8 counts here, 16 counts there, change the
rhythm.” When I found a musician, Ali Ismail,
who was introduced to me by my brother, Ali Reda,
I showed him the dances, and he wrote the counts, and he composed.
difficulties because I count differently than the musician.
For example, a
musician counts Masmoudi rhythm: DUM DUM Rak-a-tak-a
DUM Rak-a-tak. When I choreograph or teach, I count 2.
(repeats same rhythm, but twice as fast) Easier. So
he composed more music than what I wanted because I gave him more
counts, and he thinks this is more bars, but this was the
first performance, choreographed first on tabla and then he [provided]
when we knew each other, I explained to him my idea. I told
him about the dance and how I wanted the dance. For example, the
Saidi, boys and girls: I will start with the boys with the
sticks, for how many counts, and then the girls come, and then
we put them aside, and there is a solo boy and solo girl.
We discuss it, and this dance will take about 5 minutes.
I leave him to compose, and he goes home and composes. I
start doing some experiments with steps on the rhythms I gave
him. When he finishes the composition, he gives me a piano
version. He records a piano version. Then I listen
and I can tell him, “This is too long. This is too short.”
I use this
piano version to do the choreography and then when he comes and
sees the choreography, he gets inspiration from me! I get
inspiration from his piano. Look, listen! He gets
inspiration from the way we talk at the beginning; our talk inspires
him. Then, when he gives me his piano composition, and I
get inspiration from this piano, I do the choreography.
When he watches my choreography, he gets more inspiration, things
he didn’t imagine, so he goes and plays more. Next
he makes the composition, not only the piano, but the whole arrangement.
When I hear the orchestration, I get more ideas: now the violins
are saying something and the drums are saying something else —
then I correct my work and put more ideas in it. We go like
this until it fits.
This is the
perfect way, but it’s very difficult because you can not
have a musician handy beside you to work together, but this happened
for me for some time.
It’s a lot of work.
Yes. Then he became famous, and he didn’t have a lot
of time for us. He became famous doing songs and background
music for the cinema, for the movies.
then, I remembered one time I was doing choreography of a big
opening, and I called him at home, and he was asleep.
I call him after 5 minutes, and he had gone out. After
10 minutes, he was in the bathroom.
But I needed
to talk with him!
I took my wife. My wife was Yugoslavian (you know, after
the first wife died). She didn’t know Arabic.
I took her, I took my bag, my pajama and I went to his house.
He was there working on something. I told him “I am
staying here.” My wife went to his wife. She
did not know English and my wife did not know Arabic, and I don’t
know how they communicated. We left them. I stayed
with him 3 days and nights. He played and I danced.
I showed him what the girls should do, and he wrote music.
I showed him what the boys should do, and then I danced my part,
and he writes. It was about 1 or 2 o’clock at night
when I fell asleep on the couch. At 3 or 4 o’clock
he woke me up, saying “Continue.” We continue,
OK? We did like this 3 days and nights, and the show went
told me, I have a confession.
confession?” “The first night, I was not doing
your music. I was writing a movie and you were dancing,
but I was writing the background music for the movie.”
I said, “Why
you let me dance?” He said, “You gave me inspiration.”
“Why [did] you wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning?”
He said, “To keep me company!” (laugh)
At least, he was honest.
After the first night, the next day when we were doing this, he
said, “Look, what we did yesterday. I don’t
like it; let’s do again.”
So, we did
music first, and dance first, and then we did the music and dance
together. We tried every way... [It depends on] whether
you have musician, or you don’t have musician.
Does each dance get easier to choreograph or are there always
The problem increases with time.
you choreograph one dance, you still have many ideas and many
stories but when you choreographed 400 dances, first of all, you
want to do something you yourself didn’t do before and somebody
else didn’t do before you. So, it leaves a big problem
to find a new idea, a new style, and new steps. After you
have choreographed 400 dances, the problems increase.
you do quickly. When I start to do the dance, sometimes
in 1, 2, or 3 hours, I can finish the dance. Sometimes it
takes longer. There is no rule. You don’t know
why. So you come next day and continue. The best thing
is to choreograph the dance very quickly, so you do it in one
mood, because tomorrow you don’t know what mood you’re
in. You may have different moods in the same dance. If you
finish the dance quickly, you can correct and finish and do the
finishing touches later, but do the whole thing very quick.
with Mahmoud Reda Part 3: Film & Future by Morocco
you know about photography, then it will help performing for the movies
or for television because usually the choreographer stands beside the
director of the movie.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
5-20-03 Loving Remembrance & Requiem:
the Best “School” That Ever Was, Part 1 by Morocco/
Carolina Varga Dinicu
looked at her & said, “If I can’t do better than
that, I’ll hand in my feet!” A case of having more
guts than brains.
Re-defining Belly Dance and Middle
Eastern Dance by Tasha Banat
fact is that “Middle Eastern Dance” is not an acceptable
definition for Belly Dance and let me explain why.
Sparkle Mind, Beginner Mind
by Karen Roberts
my weary bones out of bed at 5:30 yesterday morning, March 5,
2005, grabbed some coffee and headed east toward Sedalia, Missouri,
for Judy Cunningham’s Belly Dance Workshop
and Bazaar with Margo Abdo O’ Dell of Minneapolis.
Sausan’s First Egyptian
Dance Seminar by Melinda
would you think if you heard somebody say, “There are no
isolations in Egyptian Belly dance"?