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Gilded Serpent presents...
Territorialism
Event Sponsor's Efforts

Interview with
Dee Dee Asad
by Lynette

A Note 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!

Open discussions 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.

Toward 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.

"Yes! 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.

Raqia is the one who convinced me that I should start bringing Egypt dance stars to the U.S.

The first 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.

Negotiations with Stars:
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, Raqia, Magdy, Aida, Mona, and others.

Now, however, 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.)

Florida
"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!"

Texas
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 to Dallas.

Here is 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.

She called me and demanded, “Dee Dee! You have to change your date!”

"I can't!" I told her. "I called Mia Bella and made sure that the dates was clear!"

"You 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.

Tambra 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!"

Dee Dee 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.”

“It 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.

Sometimes 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.”

“Some teachers 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.”

Lynette: 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 community.
  • Debbie 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 have.
  • Linda Grondahl 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 her why!”
  • Masouma 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.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other viewpoints!

Ready for more?
3-10-06 "Just Dance," Says Aida, A conversation with Aida Nour by Lynette Harris
She 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,

3-30-06 Interview with Magdy el-Leisy by Lynette
Ballet 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- CASUALS

5-17-06 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.

6-1-06 I Love Lucy: Confessions of a Dancer by Yosifah Rose
Lucy does not believe that one can properly perform Oriental dance with a set choreography.

9-7-06 Amani's Oriental Festival 2006: June 20-25, 2006 by Beverley Joffe
Delving into Oriental Culture, Dance and Surviving Israeli Military Attack.

9-5-06 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 inside me.

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