Event Sponsor's Efforts
Interview with Dee Dee
from the GS Editor:
All over our globe, many musicians and dancers would like to believe
that the Belly dance community is a sisterhood, implying mutual
respect and support. However, even sisters do not always agree,
and issues of stature and control, power and politics, ethics
and strategies can often (and do) erupt into open warfare. Eventually,
in community after community, worldwide, the raw truth and disillusionment
often confronts a dancer who dares to attempt to become all that
she can be.
• Those who are in a position of power, no matter how far reaching
or how limited, wield information to their own advantage, distorting
history, hiding facts, embroidering myths until enough performers
begin to believe the deceptions created.
• Teachers, troupe directors, vendors, and organizers of events
attempt to control the existing opportunities that are available
and often succeed. They withhold information from their students
about events sponsored by their rivals.
• However, the Internet, has provided our music and dance community
with a wide-open opportunity to learn about all events of interest
close to home, whether the local power players are friends with
the organizers or not. It also provides an opportunity to see
how other communities have struggled to prevail over personality
and control issues similar to those close to home --and have won!
of such issues will help dancers, musicians and those people who
surround and support them, to recognize similar patterns in their
own local environments. Perhaps more performers will begin to
think about ways to bring warring factions together, thereby making
the Oriental music and dance community stronger and larger in
overall impact. By openly examining the roots of local conflicts
that divide dance communities, we can expect to overcome them.
that end, we invite you to respond if you have any ideas or information
that you believe will help to create fairness and balance.
I had not
arrived in Los Angeles planning to interview DeeDee
Asad, but was there to record events at the workshops
and shows featuring Aida
Nor and Magdy
El Lesy. However Dee Dee's warmth, openness, and
the passion she holds about her beliefs, soon turned our discussion
of current events into this interview. In answer to our questions,
Dee Dee begins her story.
I am Egyptian; I grew up in Cairo. After receiving a degree in
agriculture, I came to Dallas in 1983, when I was 21. My brother
was living in Dallas. I had opened my bazaar with money from my
dad. As it happens I met my sweetheart in my bazaar when he came
in as a customer one day. Within seven days we were married! He
was a certified mechanic with Honda. He quit that and now he is
stuck with me! Our business is the largest importer and wholesaler
of Egyptian statuary, gifts, etc. in the U.S.A."
I saw Raqia
Hassan the first time at the Ahlan wa Sahlan Oriental
Dance Festival. in Egypt. I had a few customers (dancers)
who came into my shop and told me about the Ahlan wa Sahlan
Festival. I said, "Lets go see it!" I met Raqia
there at the festival. We began carrying her videos in our bazaar,
and we became friends.
is the one who convinced me that I should start bringing Egypt
dance stars to the U.S.
star to come to Dallas in 2003 was Raqia. Last
year was the first time we sponsored an event in another city;
that event featured Dina
here (in LA). This year, we are bringing Dina to Minneapolis
in June because of such wonderful support from the Minneapolis
dance community -- especially from Ammala.
Dee Dee has been negotiating with Lucy about
bringing her here for 2 years. The figures started in an unreasonable
amount until everyone compromised. The amount she asked originally
included bringing 40 musicians, then she reduced the amount of
musicians to seven. Few sponsors would be able to afford her
original stipulations! In the meantime, she started bringing other
stars—such as Dina,
Mona, and others.
Lucy agreed to come for a little over half the originally state
amount, but she did not bring her own musicians. Dee Dee brought
musicians from Dallas to work with her instead, and said that
this will be the only time she planned to bring Lucy. Dee Dee
can only take this large financial risk once! Lucy promised to
do a 2-hour show that weekend, saying that she wanted to take
her time. (Sohair Zaki demanded twice the amount
that Lucy has agreed to accept; so there has not yet been any
successful negotiation with Sohair.)
"Johara is a vendor (not a 'dance teacher')
in Florida who sells out of her garage and on the Internet. She
feels territorial about the Florida area," says Dee Dee.
Dee Dee decided
to bring Dina to Miami. When Dee Dee called around the area to
clear the date with the local community, Johara insisted that
Dee Dee would have to go in on the event with her as 50-50 partners,
splitting the proceeds with her if she held it in Miami. Johara
even contacted Dina in Egypt and told her that she needed to tell
Dee Dee to split these proceeds. Dee Dee pointed out to Johara
that she was free to bring Dina herself.
When Dee Dee
continued to refuse to split the profits, she heard through another
Miami vendor that Johara threatened that she "would cut off
Dee Dee’s legs." Dee Dee responded to the threat by saying,
"Okay, then- I'm coming!"
Tambra was upset that Dee Dee was bringing Egyptians
to Texas. The Tambra group chose not to support these events.
Tambra scheduled an event the same weekend when Raqia first came
Dee Dee’s account of how it happened: “2003 is when I sponsored
Raqia for the first time. In December 2002, I called MiaBella
from Cairo to ask her about which weekend would be open. (I am
new at this; so, I had to ask.) When is she coming? Is there
a show going on in April of 2003? She replied, “No.” Consequently,
I made a contract with Raqia, the hotel and everything. Two or
three weeks later, after everything was already
signed, Tambra, put in the February 2003 NTMEDA
newspaper for the local Belly Dance community that she was bringing John
Compton to come the same weekend for a workshop.
me and demanded, “Dee Dee! You have to change your date!”
I told her. "I called Mia Bella and made sure that the dates
are going to hurt me!" Tambra said.
I told her
that if there were any damage, I would pay for it. I offered to
pay her hotel deposit. "Its easy for you to change but not
me!" I said. I could not change all the contracts that I
had already signed, including those I had made with Raqia.
said, " You started the war!"
Dee Dee continued
on: “Tambra has a history of conflicts with other members of
our dance community. She says, ‘If you dance for others, then you
don't dance with me.’ Bad e-mail rained on me. I was going to the
lawyer. I have a record of all that e-mail. Isis had a school also, and she chose to side with Tambra. Isis comes
to our events, but she hides and refuses to allow her students to
attend. Additionally, Isis will not allow me to advertise in her
magazine “The Chronicles.” She always claims,"We are full!"
continues: “I was still new, and I had advertisements in
their magazine. When we started growing, then there was no more
room in the magazine for me to advertise. (Isis claims that since Wiggle Hips and the Caravan closed, she has
no more room; the magazine is full for the whole year!) Zaghareet
and Jareeda always call before the deadline to ask if
we have anything for them. We are old customers and have always
bought two pages. Now, the Chronicles will not let us advertise
with them because our competition event will occur in
the same month as theirs.”
does not matter to what state or where we go. I want to ask:
Is what we are doing wrong? We are bringing very good teachers
and very good shows. We know we are doing something very good
for the dance community. Still, some people do not appreciate
what we are doing.
I say that this is the last year we will do this. We have been
saying that we will not do any more shows in 2007. We do not have
enough technical support to run our booming import business and
do the dance business at the same time. We have 30 students in
class today. How many teachers are here? How many of their students
are here? It feels to us as if a mafia has besieged us.”
may offer, ‘I will dance in your show, but our group does not
need the classes.’ Other teachers tell me that Americans follow
Americans. “You should have American teachers!” they say. The
plane ticket alone costs us $1460 dollars to bring Aida here this
weekend. The dinner is costly, too, at $30 per plate. Our expenses
are barely covered.”
At this point in our interview, a few other dancers who were in
the room could not resist getting involved in our conversation.
Here are some of their comments:
- Who has
benefited from this situation? We need testimonials from our
Lammam commented: "I am not into Tribal style.
I want to learn the Egyptian style of dance. We need these
artists to come here! We are so lucky to have these dance masters
come here so we can study with them! Mona Said, Raqia
Hassan, Aida Nour- they are all living treasures, museums
of the movements and the history and our dance. Especially those
that started with the Reda Troupe. This experience
gave them the ability to teach technique and convey information
in a very concise manner that successive generations may not
observed, "I have dancers who ask me 'How do you
know these Egyptian songs?'" I answer, "I spent thousands
to learn all this. You have to invest your money as well as
your time. This community is lucky to have this opportunity.
If your teacher has not recommended for you to come to one of
these workshops with the real Egyptian dancers, you must ask
Rose remembers being a new dancer and was worried
about the language issue, but language has not been a problem.
“These are good teachers and are willing to teach!” she says.
a comment? Send
us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other viewpoints!
"Just Dance," Says Aida,
A conversation with Aida Nour by Lynette Harris
likes improvisation, and says that if a dancer has very good technique
and a good ear for the music she should “just dance.”
3-17-06 Photos of Friday Evening show from
Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy Workshop 2006 Photos by Lynette
Harris & staff sponsored
by Little Egypt held on Feb. 24, 2006 in Los Angeles, California,
Interview with Magdy el-Leisy
gave me freedom to create my own style. I didn't go to folklore
school as a child so I have more freedom to express my own style.
4-20-06 Photos of Saturday Workshop
& Evening show from Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy Workshop
2006 Photos by Lynette Harris & staff sponsored
by Little Egypt held on Feb. 25, 2006 in Los Angeles, California-
An interview with Leila by Lynette
"Turning tricks," or sleeping with nightclub
or hotel owners, is not required to make it as a dancer
in Egypt, but it is a complicated and questionable industry and
there are many pressures.
I Love Lucy: Confessions of
a Dancer by Yosifah Rose
does not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance
with a set choreography.
Amani's Oriental Festival 2006: June 20-25, 2006 by Beverley
Delving into Oriental Culture, Dance and Surviving Israeli
Eilat Oriental Dance Festival,
January 2006 - Report by Sophie, Photos
by Gali Tibon
As my friends' car was making its way through the desert,
the sense of anticipation, mixed with excitement, was growing