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The winner was Madrinah from Tampa, Florida. Second place: Viviane from College Station, TX. Third place: Leyla Zahar, Puerto Rico. Judges standing to right are Raqia Hassan and Mo Geddawi
Gilded Serpent presents...
The Queen of Raks Sharqi Competition
Ahlan Cairo Nights
Dallas, Texas, August 4, 2005
by Catherine Barros

I have to say right up front that I am not too keen on dance competitions.   How can one really judge something that is so subjective?   I don’t like to think that you can score a dance performance as they do gymnastics or ice-skating competitions!   When I watch those competitions, I feel that there are always elements of politics that play into the scoring.   How does one score artistry and personal interpretation?   In the face of variations in choices and style of music, how does a judge remain objective?  What are judges looking for in the dancer that they select as the best representative from amongst a large group of dancers?

These are the criteria used for the Queen of Raks Sharqi Competition
(Dr. Mo Geddawi’s “Dance Evaluation Method”).  Scoring on a scale of 1 to10:

  1. Dancing Ability & Technique
  2. Musical Ability & Rhythm
  3. Personality & Stage Presence
  4. Costuming & Appearance
  5. Creativity & Originality
  6. Entrances Exit & Choreography

Although this seems a massive task to meet all these criteria, everything on this list represents an element that we as dancers are constantly striving to gain and improve (and gaining a few more costumes is probably the most fun part of it).

A night where there are almost thirty competitors is bound to present massive dance overload.   There was a wide range in dance ability, size and age, but one thing that all competitors appeared to possess was a confidence in their ability. 

I found no shortage of egos in this room, but that doesn’t mean that those egos dominated in a negative way.   It is healthy to have confidence and to be willing to put oneself out for a challenge.

  In fact, that was one of the reasons that some of the dancers mentioned for entering a competition.  They wanted to challenge themselves.   That seemed like a very good reason to me, and really a much reason to enter the competition than thinking “I am the best dancer and will win.”    After wanting a challenge, I think some of the reasons are: just for the experience, to have fun, meet a personal goal (choreography, costuming, poise, attitude, stage presence) and, possibly, take oneself to the next level as a dancer in many facets.

I have to laugh about this because it surprised me so much, but someone came up to me before the competition started and asked me if I was competing!   It never occurred to me to even attempt something so serious and nerve-wracking.   OK, so I have been dancing for over 20 years, which does put me in a category of knowing lots of technique, understanding the music very well, having quite a bit of performance experience (for a super-hobbyist dancer), appearing confident on stage (while shaking like mad under her costume) and being comfortable enough to let my feelings show through.  I appreciated receiving the vote of confidence from someone who knows me and has seen me dance many times.   I feel that my own personal criteria (my age and weight being major ones) would not let me enter such a competition. Additionally, I felt that this was a competition for younger up and coming dancers.  Admittedly, all of the top competitors were attractive, had trim figures (not necessarily thin but leaning more in that direction), and appropriately costumed, with plenty of stage personality, and, of course, one’s all-important ego.

The competition started a bit after 6:30 p.m. and continued on to 1:00 a.m. and the final declaration of the winners. The judges for the competition were: Farida Fahmy, Raqia Hassan and Mo Geddawi with the scores being tabulated by an independent panel including, Meleea, Daungerous, Rita and Bud Benner. I think I must have fallen asleep at one point because I totally missed someone near the end.   The contestants came from all over the United States (with quite a few from Texas) but also with more than one from out of the country (Canada, Puerto Rico).   For some reason, the program didn’t list each dancer’s home town.   I forgot to write in places of origin, but this is the order of the dancers:

  •  Alimah,
  •  Nadirah Johara (TX),
  • Shayna,

    About the Champion,
    Madrina

    Madrina is no stranger to competitions.  She was also crowned winner of Sultanate al Raks Sharki 2005 in June, sponsored by Najla’s creative designs in Orlando, Florida.  In 2004, she was a finalist in the Belly Dance Superstars Competition and in 2003, she was first runner up at the Medina Competition.    She has been a featured dancer in many dance showcases across the United States.  Anyone who has had the chance to see Madrina dance will agree that she inspires her audience with her interpretation of her musical choices and is truly a gift dancer.

    Madrina keeps herself busy teaching belly dance classes and dancing at restaurants and events in the Tampa Bay area.  She is also the director and choreographer for her troupe, Sesen Middle Eastern Dance Company
    -- by Kristin Konecy

  • Samar Nassar,
  • Rivkah (TX),
  • Melissa Amira (TX),
  • Alessandra,
  • Mirah Ammal,
  • Lily (TX),
  • Tracey Farmer,
  • Lilah,
  • Jenna,
  • Stacey Lizette (TX),
  • Viviane (TX via Brazil),
  • Na’ama Rose,
  • Maya,
  • Madrina (FL),
  • Eshta,
  • Maribel Rivero (TX),
  • Katayna,
  • Tahirha,
  • Victoria (TX),
  • Karina Rasheed (TX),
  • Shahrahzad,
  • Leyla Zahar (Puerto Rico),
  • Aliyah Ammal,
  • Vanessa,
  • Shannon (TX).

I was thinking that it would have been helpful to me to have had an elimination round earlier in the day or the day before, so that we might have had the top 10 participants for that evening.  However, I’ve never run a competition, and I’m not sure how all that could be organized.   Imagine trying to run the Miss America pageant with 50 or so competitors . . . and they only show you 2 or 3 hours when they air the competition on TV and they have been in Atlantic City for a week!    Regardless, it was an interesting evening for everyone and the three winners were all good dancers.   I didn’t have much to complain about other than I was too tired the next day from being up so late.   Perhaps I complained because I couldn’t figure out how they determined that one was better then the other, etc.  Also, they did mention that the voting was extremely close for the top dancers. I sure wish I could have seen how the rest of the top ten stacked up, but that is irrelevant now.  A very good and deserving dancer won, Madrina, whom I’ve seen perform 3 times now – twice in Florida and in Texas. I hope she enjoys her trip to AWS in 2006 and her opportunity to perform at the opening gala.   Maybe I will need to go –just so I can see how she represents all the American dancers in Egypt!

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