Mr Madgy does a Fellahin dance for the Saturday evening
Magdy el Leisy
hearing so many positive comments on Mr. Leisy's inspirational
workshops, we finally caught him for this interview over his breakfast
on Sunday morning during Little Egypt's weekend workshop in Los
Angeles in February of 2006. Intending to wait until he had at
least eaten, he graciously asked me to join him anyway, saying
that he loved to eat and visit at the same time. He proved to
be very sweet, humble, and open.
career started in sports with gymnastics. I competed in all six
events: floor, highbar, pommel horse, vaulting, rings, and parallel
bars. A friend of my brother's noticed how flexible I was and
recommended I start ballet. There is no stigma in Egypt for a
boy to take ballet and my family was very supportive. I went to
a good Russian Ballet school. The transition was easy to do other
dances including Oriental after you have a good basics in ballet.
I joined Kamal Naim's troupe called the Kalmaya
National Troupe. He wanted to make a separate troupe to travel
to other countries.
Reda Troupe was supported by the government and with them you
were an employee with a salary every month. I was not part of
the Reda Troupe.
I went straight
from ballet to the Kamalya troupe which was private. The Reda
Troupe also had a separate touring group which was also privately
funded. We traveled to mostly Arabic countries but others too:
Switzerland, Spain, England, Iran, Iraq, Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait,
and Lebanon. Our troupe had about 15 people, usually 7 men and
8 women. I learned to dance with ballet by Kamal Naim who gave
me tremendous experience for folklore and Oriental styling. I
was with them intermittently for 5-6 years. We did multiple styles
that were presented very separately. Solo dances are more difficult
because it takes more special steps. I use more ballet when dancing
solo. With a troupe you have to keep the steps more simple and
focus on precision.
How is my
style different? Most teachers belonged to the Reda Troupe and
I had ballet and then the experience with the Kalmaya troupe.
Many others start folkloric training from very young.
can be very hard to get out from this style even with your own
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. How
do you describe your style? "Its okay" [Laughs, modestly]
Ballet gave me freedom, your body becomes your instrument because
of the ballet training. It becomes easy to adapt to different
I went around
to the different countries with the troupe. I worked in the nightclubs
in the evening and then in the morning I wanted to do my training
to stay in good form. When we were in Tehran, I went to the Opera
house to ask if I could join in the training. I asked the director,
Ali bel Faruk, if I could train with him. It
was a big troupe with 50 dancers. Many of them were foreign including
Americans, English Swiss along with Iranian dancers. Then I started
class every day with them. He always came and looked at me and
then he called me into his office and asked me to join their group.
He says you are very well trained and told me of the opportunity
he could offer me.
was very difficult for me to decide. I liked traveling with the
troupe which also had my brother. If I did this I would have to
train for a year with their troupe and stay in one place.
Magdy loves ice cream.
(so give it to him!)
But to be
in this big ballet and opera was very good for my career. I asked
Kamal first to get his advice and he is my friend. He told me
it would be good for your future but we don't want to lose you.
Even though I had a contract with him, he let me out of it for
the good of my career. He was a very good man. For 3 months I
worked with both companies. It was very difficult. I stayed in
Iran when the troupe left. I was 20 or 21 at the time. I was there
2 or 2 1/2 years. This was classical ballet, including Swan lake,
Romeo and Juliet. They had full orchestra. They also did modern
works such as Carmina Burana.
left for Germany when Iran went through the revolution. Everything
was shut down, no ballet, no life!
not even take your car to the neighboring country. It was winter
and cold. No oil for heating, no shops. everything closed. After
a couple of months, I managed to get out. The borders were closed
– no car, bus, train, plane. The first day the border was open
I took a plane to Germany. It was an interesting experience. I
had friends from ballet in Germany. They contacted me and invited
me there. They had dance opportunities for me. Three of us, all
Egyptians in ballet, left Iran and went to Germany. I started
to work in Karlsruhe, Munich, and then Essen where I live now.
I was a solo dancer in the opera house. Then I went back to folklore.
The Egyptian embassy asked me to do a folklore dance in a show
for them. In German at that time nobody did folklore dance. Just
one or two were starting to teach. I taught them folklore and
Oriental in other studios in the beginning. It has become more
and more. I made my own company. I was performing ballet in the
theatre and folklore in own group. Then I stopped the ballet and
did only Oriental and folklore.
was the first person to have a troupe in Germany. I am there 27
I am now teaching
all over the world. I was in 5 continents in 4 months last year.
How many languages do I speak? Arabic, German, some English, and
some Russian and Iranian. I met my wife in Essan in Germany. She
was a member in the ballet company. I took a few dancers from
ballet to make this show for the Egyptian embassy. I taught the
group of ballet dancers to dance Oriental. One of these dancers
became my wife. Her name is Azza. We have been
married for more than 15 years. Yes, we have done shows together
but now she has a job that keeps her in Germany while I travel
much of the year around the world.
I go to Singapore and next month, Paris, Egypt a few times. Moscow
in October. And then tour locally in Germany. I will also go to
Vienna, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Dance is my
life. That is no joke. I am happy that my hobby is my job and
my fun. When I travel to all these countries I see I can give
to all these girls and that they are happy with me. I can give
them fun and energy. You can learn better when its fun. People
call me the Egyptian Mr. Bean.
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible 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.”
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,
Nour & Magdy El-Leisy in
Dallas, Texas, January
9-11, 2004, sponsored
by Little Egypt
The Bellydance Superstars
Show In Perspective by Miles Copeland
are many factors to balance, and ANY show can be improved. The
point is to also know the limitations that one faces in doing
all the things one would like to do.
Cairo '05, How to Eat,
Drink, Sleep, and Breathe Raqs Sharqi, Part 3 of 4-Current
by Andrea, You
could say that Aleya and I are burning the candle at both ends
and enjoying every moment! Our priorities are three: take lessons,
buy costumes, and watch shows.