of Fifi Abdo Workshop and Show
Sponsored by Little Egypt
Holiday Inn Select, Dallas, Texas
May 18-20, 2007
photos by Monica Berini
Except where indicated
A condensed version
of this article has been previously published by
the Papyrus Newsletter
first time I saw Fifi Abdo on video, I liked
what I saw. My first video purchase of Fifi is the one where
she is lowered onto the stage at a big concert in Al Ismailia,
Egypt. In fact, I bought this video at a long-ago version of the
Little Egypt shop in Vikon Village, which was so small that if
two people were in there that you would practically have to squeeze
by each other. I was amazed at how Fifi would run across the
stage to jump into the splits then a cross- legged position and
execute some of her shoulder/chest shaking movements. She had
a megawatt smile, masses of long black hair, a bold sassiness
to her movements, and such an easy and relaxed style of performing.
I knew that I should watch a lot of her, in hopes that some of
Fifi would rub off on me.
I did learn from watching Fifi is that "less is more".
Her repertoire of movements might not have been a long exhaustive
list, but her ability to execute them was what drew me in to
watch them over and over.
I would stand
for hours it seems (and still do) trying to get that loose ease
in my hips that she has when she shimmies. I have also been fortunate
to study with Vashti (Dallas) for many years
and her fascination with Fifi meant that we spent a lot of time
working on some of the great Fifi moves. I purchased videos of
other concerts and parties at which she performed over the years
because I wanted more of Fifi. I was able to see her "shisha"
routine along with getting to see her many unique costumes as
she goes through multiple costume changes at each show. I never
imagined that I would have the opportunity to see her “up close
and personal,” and thought that I would have to be satisfied with
many years to 2007, to the workshop and show presented by Little
Egypt the weekend of May 18-20 in Dallas. Fifi has been retired
from dancing for three years and has been very busy pursuing a
career in films and theater. She finally decided to accept Little
Egypt's offer to come to the States after Dee
Dee and Ahmed visited her many times
and she found time in her schedule when she could come. All that
video-watching doesn't compare to experiencing her real personality.
I might have learned a lot through my years of study, but it didn't
tell all I needed know about dancing “a la Fifi” and Fifi as a
person. The best reason to have gone to the workshops was to experience
the full-blown, 3-dimensional version of Fifi - "Fifi RE-LOADED".
Fifi doesn't teach choreography. You learn from watching her
in the rapidly disappearing "follow the bouncing butt"
method and you prepare yourself for the class by doing your
own warm ups.
several times that she didn't learn by "1-2-3-4" and
she doesn't like to dance that way at all. She didn't really
spend time breaking down the movements, but would ask "Again?"
whenever the song finished. When people would ask questions about
specific movements she would go over the movement for them. Of
course, sometimes this required the person to come up on the stage
with her. Then there were the people that she saw doing things
that she wanted to help them to do "correctly". This
had some hilarious results such as when she was showing Drakon
how to do shoulder shimmies. She had to point out that he couldn't
do "breast" shimmies as he didn't have them, but a well
executed shoulder shimmy looked just fine on him. This was emphasized
by comments such as "You this way, Fifi this way".
Another one of her oft-repeated comments was to make it different
every time - "The same, but different". And we must
always remember to SMILE and show our personality!
we started off with "Tamra Henna" but spent most of
the 3 hours of the workshop following along with her to many repetitions
of a song by Saad El Soghayar, "El Hantour
(The Carriage)", dancing in the Shaabi style. She had us
prancing like horses as the song starts off with the sound of
horse hooves. She used a lot of hand movements (did anyone else
think "itsy-bitsy spider" when she did the flipping
hand movements where she touched her thumbs?), touching herself
at times (more than we are used to as many times we have had our
dance teachers tell us to never touch ourselves while dancing),
hugging herself, putting her finger in her mouth as she gave a
coy look at us, playing with her hair and flipping it around.
She was very much a flirt as she danced. She did mention that
this playful style was fine for her balady and shaabi, but never
when dancing to Om
I have to say that it was so crowded on Saturday that when we
were rotated, I found it quite difficult to see.
tried to follow along as best I could, relying on my knowledge of
her typical movements. As the repetitions of the dance changed each
time (remember "Same, but different"?), I felt that was
OK. I was there more to absorb the essence of Fifi, have some fun
and get some sorely needed Author?? and Fifi inspiration for my
own dancing as my personal physical woes (banged up knee from accident)
had me feeling a bit discouraged with dance. I did get a tad grumpy
when I could only see the top of her head. One time during the
day, when we took a break for Fifi to chat about various things,
somehow the topic of large breasts came up. I was standing up in
the back of the room while others were sitting, so I think I was
a bit oblivious as I didn't realize she was talking to me until
she said "Orange". I was wearing an orange t-shirt (and
Fifi had on a long orange tunic-type t-shirt with Egyptians motifs)
so I guess I stood out a bit and this attracted Fifi's attention.
I didn't catch the words of her follow-up comment about me, but
caught the drift when she started to repeat some of the sam things
to Miasia (who had prodigious "pillows"
as Fifi called them at some point). Miasia was a good sport and
went up on the stage where Fifi laid her head on Miasia's "pillows".
This was funny and entertaining but got repeated a bit too much
on both Saturday and Sunday. I think Miasia liked the attention,
but I was a bit shy myself to be jumping up on the stage like Miasia.
On Sunday during one of our few photo ops, I did get a rather blurry
photo of me with Fifi where she laid her head on my "pillows".
Saturday night show with Fifi started off with the buffet dinner
that we have come to enjoy on our big night out at the Little
Egypt events. It didn't take us long to demolish the buffet as
we were all hungry by the time we formed lines to load up our
plates. To get the evening started a group of male debke dancers
presented the fun, show-off style of debke that you see when the
men start to strut their stuff. After they raised the energy
level of the room several notches, we were treated to some live
music with Husam Abdullah as the singer. This
went on for awhile with Husam walking through the crowd to find
women to invite up on the stage to dance. At some point, it
seemed like most of the room was up on the stage. After we had
all managed to work off most of our dinners, we were more than
ready for Fifi to come out!!
knows how to make an entrance. She doesn't need any fancy costume
either, as the audience roared their approval when she made
her appearance wearing a simple white gallabeya and with zills
OK, I stole
the "zills a-blazing" comment from someone else, as
it was so apropos for the moment. Everyone was clapping and yelling
from excitement during most of the show. I think I almost went
deaf myself from all the yelling over the loud music. Fifi had
the audience eating out of her hand, and didn't disappoint anyone.
Along with dancing to "Ana Fi Intizarak" and performing
some cool cane moves, she treated us to a rendition of her Shisha
"dance". This means she basically wandered through
the audience, with Mark
Balahadia submissively following her around as her "shisha
boy", and blowing smoke out her nose (I think she was alternating
her nostrils). This took up quite a bit of time, but I think
that Fifi was probably tired from the workshop so this was probably
a good way to conserve her energy. For most people, this was
a good opportunity to get to see her close-up as she really did
try to visit with every table in the room. In addition to all
of that, she had to get the whole room up to dance to "Al
Hantour" as we had that music so burned into our brains after
working on it most of the afternoon that we couldn't help but
want to dance along with her.
Even though the show was a little "short" on Fifi,
I think most people were happy with the evening so we went home
still excited and ready to get started again on Sunday afternoon.
a bit of a slow start but the class opened with some more high
energy dancing. We started out the day with some cane technique
while dancing to "Mdallah Ya Hilou" (Fatme Serhan from
"Best of Saidi"). Fifi demonstrated her twirling technique
(she swings it back instead of forward) along with how to balance
the cane on our heads, but mostly she was trying to get us to
balance it on the breasts. She also showed us a cute way of
tossing the cane to the floor in front of us, then bending over
slowly to pick it up. When we started to really work with the
music, it got a little bit hazardous with all those swinging canes.
The "security" crew tried to manage the room by having
part of us dance, then move to the back, so the remaining people
could move up to dance.
Author's photo of Desdemona's signed butt!
have given us enough room, while we took turns dancing, but some
people didn't appear to understand what was going on. We all
made the best effort we could to dance and not get whacked. Thankfully,
we all seemed to be in agreement that we would move to another
dance after lunch. Once again, we got treated to a song from
Saad el Soghayar. This time it was a cheeky little number about
lots of fruit! Yes, "El Einab" - "Grapes".
I first heard this song on a video that I saw where Dina
was dancing with Saad. This was such a fun song that I decided
to get the music, so I had been listening to it a lot since March
(and "El Hantour" too). I felt like the remainder
of the afternoon just breezed by as we were dancing to such fun
music. We got another taste of Fifi's signature moves and her
fun-loving personality, while we did several run throughs of this
So the weekend
ended on an exhausted but high note. There was a last minute
crowding into the shopping areas for many of the workshop participants
trying to make up their minds on final purchases and, after Fifi
sat through her last photo session and signed posters (and butt,
in the case of Desdemona), she followed along
after them to check out what was being sold. Everyone left with
a lot to think about in regards to what they learned and what
they would do with all the information.
went a bit longer, as I volunteered my services to take Shaynaz
(SF) to the airport by way of downtown Dallas. She wanted to
go up the tower at the Hyatt Regency, so that's where we went.
I got some nice photos from the cocktail lounge while Shaynaz
bought a souvenir penny in one of those "engraving"
machines. While we were driving back and forth from the hotel,
to downtown, to Richardson, then on to the airport, we talked
the whole time about the "Fifi" experience. I know
many of the other workshop participants were probably doing the
same thing that night during the post-workshop festivities arranged
by Tamra Henna at Al Amir. The excitement
spilled over into various on-line forums the next week or so as
people discussed different aspects of steps that Fifi does (jewel,
foot tap on steps), the music she used, the Saturday night show,
how much charisma she has, her sense of humor and her larger than
life personality with that mega-watt SMILE! I know that I have
pulled out some of my videos so I have been watching Fifi being
lowered onto the stage again and dancing with the shisha one more
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Outi's CD, "Al Amoura"
Review by Catherine Barros
think that there is something for everyone on this CD as it contains
some very useable pieces of music for performing.
Dina in LA, report and
photos by Catherine Barros
May 14-16 of 2004, Nora, Dee Dee & Ahmad Asad of Little Egypt
presented Dina of Cairo in a teaching workshop and show at the
Radisson Hotel at the Los Angeles Airport.
Mona el Said in Dallas, Part
1, by Catherine E Barros
by Little Egypt at the Holiday Inn, Dallas Texas September 3 -
It’s always nice when you find that someone, whom you’ve put up
on a big pedestal, is down to earth, just “folks” like the rest
Our Plans for 2006 by Miles Copeland, 2005 Photos by Monica Berini
is nothing like consistency and constant pressure to deliver at
your best each night to weld a group or troupe together.
Keti Sharif’s A
to Z Advanced Stage Instructional DVD and booklet review by
It is rare that an instructional video marketed to advanced
dancers follows through to actually challenge experienced students
or performers. This one does.
Easter in Cairo by Peppina
is so strong and powerful and beautiful and intense. Even the
not-so-stylish costumes she used to wear didn't take anything
away from her.
Belly Dance:Time for Personal Assessment
or How old are your Shoes? by
do you personally want from the dance? In order to answer this
honestly, you must make a personal assessment of your goals and
include your achievements.
"Veiled Visions" How Belly Dance
Music was First Brought to the United States by Ray Rashid,
intro by Amina
time he told me about a blind accordion player who sat and made
lots of jokes while they rehearsed, that musician turned out to
be Ammar el Sharie.