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Aida Nour in Cairo 1991 in Khaleegi thobe
Gilded Serpent presents...
"Just Dance," Says Aida
A conversation with Aida Nour
by Lynette Harris

When Aida Nour came to Southern California to teach a 3-day workshop in Los Angeles, Gilded Serpent took the opportunity to ask this master of Egyptian Oriental dance a few questions about her life, her thoughts, and her plans. Thanks to Nora Assad and Debbie Lammam for their translation and editing assistance!

Aida Nour began her dance career at age fourteen by joining a folkloric company in Alexandria, her hometown. She went on to join the Reda Troupe of Cairo. Because she was doing folkloric dance, she had the support of her family and she is the only performer in her family.  In 1981, she left the Reda troupe and made the transition from folkloric ensemble work to solo Oriental dance. This was not only in order to advance her career, but also in order to develop her love of dance and explore the expressive and communicative possibilities of the Oriental form. She likes the immediate feedback of the audience and communication with them.

When asked about how she listens to the music, she said that she usually has an immediate response to a song and if she likes it, she uses it. She said that she finds it difficult to use choreography in performance, although when she teaches she uses choreography in order to structure the material for a large group. In this way her folkloric dance training did help her to be a better teacher.

She likes improvisation, and says that if a dancer has very good technique and a good ear for the music she should “just dance.” Aida believes that oriental dance is about a women’s femininity. Because each woman has her own feeling, each one will have her own unique expression. “It comes from here” she said, as she tapped her chest.

On the subject of foreigners studying Oriental dance, Aida said that from Japan to California she has seen non-Egyptians learning Oriental dance well, that anybody can have the feeling for dance, and that Egyptian dance gives women femininity. Rather than noting different regional styles of Oriental dance around the world, she believes that each dancer has her own individual style.

In Aida Nour’s career, she has commissioned music from many composers, including accordionist Wahab el Hassan of Alexandria, Abdel Raffar, and others.  Although none of this music is yet commercially available, she plans to release it in the future. She is also working on her life story, reflecting on 32 years of dancing, which she plans to release as a DVD including pictures from her childhood. She hopes to have this, and the music CDs, completed within the year.

As for teaching in the future, Aida is next heading to Toronto to teach for Yasmina, to the Stockholm Festival, and then to Brazil in September. She will produce dance festivals in Cairo in April, June, and November with the Nile Group. She commented that Cairo is so big that it could probably hold 50 dance festivals a year, and there would be no problem between any of those 50 festivals. In addition to this heavy schedule, she is also in the business of designing and manufacturing dance costumes.


Aida asks to pose with Tracy, Feb 2006

Aida also answered some of our random, more personal questions:

  • “I have one son who is 25 years old, but I do not have any grandchildren yet because my son just got married. No, I am not married to a doctor!”
  • “I have known Yasmina for 29 years. She was the first person for whom I gave a workshop. In 1981, I was in an Egyptian festival in Montreal and it was there that we met. I gave her good feedback about her dance and told her she was good when I saw her dance in class.”
  • We asked Aida: Why did you ask specifically to be photographed with Tracy Farmer? She answered: “She has my same complexion; her face is round—just like my aunt’s face. My mother was Nubian and Tracy looks like my family.”
  • Was there any hierarchy in the Reda troupe, we asked? Was there any problem working your way up in the troupe?  Aida replied: “Everybody is equal in the Reda troupe; only Farida was a star. The rumor is not true about skin color being a problem within the Reda troupe; there were no problems with skin color!”
  • We observed, “You are very fit,” and asked her, “What is your training routine?” and Aida responded: “I don't train every day because I am now also a designer every day. My experience here at this workshop in L.A. is that all of the dancers are good, and they all have good stamina; yet, I do not even feel tired! I have felt appreciated!”

Aida's show in Cairo in 1991

When asked about her relationship with Aida, Yamina adds the following information-
"Aida was here in Toronto in 1982 as part of an Egyptian Tourism promotion campaign. She performed at the Sheraton Hotel for a week with a great band and another folklore dancer named Hosni. The night club I was performing in called Nefertiti invited Aida to come and perform. She saw me dance when she came to the club. At this point in time I had no teacher. In fact, I was just about to give up Bellydancing because no teachers in Toronto wanted to teach me and they were in general not welcoming me to the scene. Aida was very encouraging with me, gave me confidence and the courage to continue. She gave me 3 of her constumes as gifts and later sent a Shamadan from Mohamed Ali St. She did not teach formerly at that time. I went to her hotel room everyday during the week she was here and we practised in front of the mirror on the dresser. The shimmy was the first movement I learned from her. She did not speak a word of English and I spoke no Arabic but being so close beside her, I just tried to breath her in. She is the reason I became dedicated to Egyptian style."

Aida's workshop with Little Egypt in Los Angeles had about 50 participants. In Toronto at Yasmina she sold out with 150 students!


Aida's Sunday workshop participants, Feb 2006 in Los Angeles

 

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