ad 4 Dhy & Karen

Mr Madgy does a Fellahin dance for the Saturday evening show.
Gilded Serpent presents...
Interview with
Magdy el Leisy
by Lynette

After 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.

My athletic 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.

The 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.

It can be very hard to get out from this style even with your own choreography.

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. 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 style.

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.

It 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.

I left for Germany when Iran went through the revolution. Everything was shut down, no ballet, no life!

You could 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.

I was the first person to have a troupe in Germany. I am there 27 years now.
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.

This year 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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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.



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