Gilded Serpent presents...
Emam, Khaled Mahmoud, and Aida Nour
at the Stockholm Belly Dance Festival 2005
The Nile Group Workshops in Cairo
people are wondering why we were organizing a festival in Cairo,
Egypt at the same time as another Egyptian festival? After reading
the review for Gilded Serpent
about the Cairo dance festival by Shira we would like to set
a few things straight.
Belly Dance Festival
First of all, The Nile Group is not arranging
the annual Stockholm Belly Dance Festival as Shira
wrote. The first festival in Stockholm was June 1-4 of 2000 (before
the other Cairo festival).
of the Stockholm Belly Dance Festival is Mohamed Abou Shebika.
The festival is organized through our dance school in Stockholm
“Egyptian Cultural Centre,“ or Egyptiskt Kulturcentrum.
festival in Sweden featured only three Egyptian dance teachers
and about ten local Swedish teachers.
In the following
years, the festival has grown continuously. At the last festival
we brought in 15 local teachers and these ten master teachers:
Lubna Emam, Khaled Mahmoud,
Magdy El Leisy,
Ahmed Fekry, Ghada Hafez, Soraya,
is when the problem began!
We received a phone call from Aida Nour about
three weeks before our festival was going to take place. Aida
said that Raqia Hassan called her and told her
that she was not intending to travel to our festival. Because
Raqia thought that by bringing all these teachers to Sweden we
were trying to destroy her festival!
absurd 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? People travel to Egypt for many
reasons, not only for the teachers. How could we in Sweden compete
with the magic of the pyramids?
When we received
this message from Aida, Mohamed called Raqia immediately and asked
her how she had gotten this wrong idea about us. He explained
to her that everybody has the right to work; this was our work
in Stockholm. Further Mohammed commented that our date is not
even near her festival date. Our festival took place from the
5th to the 8th of May, 2005; whereas her
festival ran at the end of June, 2005. He further explained to
Raqia since 2000 we have been bringing groups of dancers from
Sweden and the rest of the North to her festival. We have always
spread the latest news of her festival in all our advertisements
and on our website. We have attended every one of her festivals
call ended with Raqia assuring us that she was going to travel,
saying that she wanted to sit down with us before the upcoming
festival but the teachers we were bringing would not be allowed
to work in her festival. We had no intention to agreeing with
this, as the teachers are free human beings and have the right
to decide where they want to work for themselves. Raqia expressed
that she was also upset over our bringing the Brazilian dancer
Soraya, and accused us of stealing her teachers.
However, we have been working with these teachers since 1995 in
Sweden, bringing them for workshops several times each year. In
fact, she is the one who has been contacting some of the teachers
we had first, and she brought them to her festival after she saw
that they were popular and successful in our festival.
Ahmed Fekry, Magdy El Leisy and Khaled Mahmoud were
three of those teachers.
time for the Stockholm Belly Dance Festival drew near. One week
before, we heard that Soraya could not travel
to our festival because the hotel in which she was working
wouldn’t let her. Even though Soraya had been teaching and performing
in our dance school only two months earlier without any objections
from her hotel. She had signed the contract a long time ago. We
would have preferred a direct phone call from Soraya herself.
a few days before Raqia Hassan was supposed to
travel to us, Mohamed’s brother in Egypt called to confirm the
time for the flight to Sweden. When Raqia answered, she said calmly:
“I am not traveling to Stockholm. I am sick.” His borther asked,
”Does Mohamed know that?” She answered “No.” Without any intention
to tell us that she was not coming, she stood us up just a few
days before the festival.
didn’t want to think badly of Soraya.
She actually called Mohamed her “brother” in
Sweden. She phoned us twice after her return to Cairo, to say
thank you for the nice treatment and the good time she had with
us. We were not aware of her being upset with us for any reason.
Was Raqia using Soraya to punish us for arranging
a festival she thought competed with her festival in Egypt?
Fortunately, with the speed of a comet, we were fortunate to get
two replacements who cancelled their own work in their respective
countries to help us out: Nesma from Spain,
and Zahra from Algeria, with whom everybody was
more than pleased. We cannot thank them enough!
All the Egyptian teachers at the Stockholm Belly Dance Festival
at that time objected to Raqia´s behavior. The dance teachers
started to share their bad experiences and dissatisfactions amongst
themselves regarding her way of dealing with them. It turned out
that most of the teachers had a personal experiences regarding
their own work with her. Something had to be done... the Nile
Group idea was born.
make the Nile Group different, we wanted the teachers to have
the possibility to work many times in the year, and at the same
time, give the participants many choices of dates to travel. When
we were planning the first festival of the four, we didn’t intend
to choose the exact same date as the other festival. However,
there were no vacancies at the hotel on the other dates, and most
of the teachers were already in Egypt at that time. It became
the most suitable date. We tried to plan the workshops so that
they would not disturb Raqia's festival. We had our own visitors
who had booked with us in advance, and the hotel rooms were sold
out in a short time. We scheduled our festival so that the teachers
who taught in both festivals were scheduled to not clash with
Emam, for example, was going to teach in both festivals
until Raqia called her and forced her to choose.
chose the Nile Group. We were not “recruiting away people.”
Raqia altered her schedule at the last second for one of the teachers
who was going to teach in both festivals so that he was not going
to be able to teach for us.
of the teachers in Egypt are unhappy with the fact that Raqia
is controlling them this way, both inside and outside of Egypt.
When dancers around the world start asking about these teachers,
they are told these teachers are not allowed to work except once
a year at her festival. Some of the teachers told us stories about
workshops that were cancelled for them in other countries suspecting
Raqia. (Not openly, of course, but they believe Raqia is behind
of us working in the Nile Group, think that the Nile Group is
a good and necessary thing, to promote friendship between
the artists. They are happy to meet many times throughout the
year, respect each other, and have a good time together sharing
their knowledge and experiences with each other.
we broke the news about the new festival, we had many letters
around the world sending us their congratulations and wishing
us the best of luck. The reactions from the people were positive,
and that they welcomed the idea.
simply helped these teachers to organize themselves and become
more independent. We believe they deserve respect as they are
all professional artists with many years in the field. The Nile
Group maybe the start of a teacher's union.
want to give the teachers many opportunities to work, when and
where they want. The students should feel welcome, and they should
get the most fun possible out of the money they pay for classes.
Too many dancers are often squeezed in to the classrooms, and
the result is that the students cannot see or hear the teachers.
The festival is well attended but this is for the benefit of whom?
The festival should be able to accomodate everyone's needs in
a beneficial way.
have four festivals scheduled so far- three within the next year.
The first one will be this November in Giza.
heard that Raqia's assistants were guarding the hotel doors, stopping
people, and asking them rudely where they where going! One girl
came back from the other dance festival, crying. She told us that
because she had been performing in one of our parties the night
before, she was no longer welcome to their festival again! Another
famous dance teacher called one of the Nile Group organizers and
said "Congratulations, I would really like to come and visit
your festival, but I cannot go out of the hotel, as they are guarding
all the doors."
The stories we heard were amazingly different. It is nice to
hear that some people had a good time at Raqia's festival, but
there are two sides to every story. Our goal is to improve conditions
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Dance in Brazil by Thania
are trying to organize a Code of Ethics
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festival began with a show at Oslo Concert Hall, and this year's
guest star was Lulu Sabongi from Brazil, who
opened this year's show.
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dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally
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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
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Interview with Mahmoud Reda
Part 2: The Troupe by Morocco
what I call my choreography is not folkloric. It’s inspired
by the folkloric.