Ragaey in Hagallah costume with Debbie
and Nasreen's daughter
The Reda Troupe
by Debbie Smith
note: this is not intended as a review, just a few notes on
what I saw and some casual photographs from backstage and the
rehearsal hall. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take any
photographs or video during the shows.]
On my most recent visit to Egypt, I was fortunate enough to see six performances
by Egypt’s world-famous Reda Troupe, all at the Balloon Theater in Cairo’s
Agouza district, where the Troupe’s rehearsal hall and offices are located.
This was a dream come true, after having seen the Reda Troupe on videotape
so many times (mostly from the era when Mahmoud Reda and Farida
still active). I am familiar with the Reda style from years of study with former
and current Reda Troupe dancers and trainers, but seeing the dances in a professional
theatrical setting brought them to life for me.
was dazzled by the precision and clarity of the dancer’s movements,
the beauty and elegance of the costuming,
and especially by the masterful way that the choreographies have been staged
for theatrical presentation in a way that makes use of a variety of lines,
patterns, and groupings of dancers to make the dances very dynamic.
the company in performance six times was truly a wonderful experience,
because each time I saw some new detail or subtlety in the
movements, the costuming,
the structure of the dances, and in individual performer’s presences on
a guest in the home of Atef Farag and Magda
Ibrahim, who are
the head trainers of the Reda Troupe, I had many opportunities
to spend time with the dancers before and after the shows.
I was very impressed by their professionalism and level of
skill. Several changes were made in the show order and lineup
due to illness or injury while I was there, and the dancers
were able to change parts on a moment’s notice because they
are all trained to do every part in a dance. On stage, they
are fully present and committed.
for the "dance-off"
The first two nights I saw their full evening concert, which included 12 pieces
and was just over two hours long. It included repertory mainstays such
as the Haggalah, Iskandarani (Alexandrian dance with the melaya), two Saidi
pieces, an Oriental veil piece just called Sharqi, a Shamadan (candelabra)
piece, a Fellahin dance and more, closing with a Nubian suite. I counted
about 25 performers altogether, about 15 men and 10 women. Depending on
the piece, there were as many as 20 or as few as three dancers on stage.
There were 8-10 who seemed to be core performers who did the solos and
more complicated parts, these were the more experienced dancers who have
been with the Reda Troupe for longer. Some newer dancers only performed
in one or two pieces. The troupe has its own orchestra, with what looked
like at least twenty musicians and singers, and several pieces had a vocalist
joining the group for part of the time onstage.
a day off for the Eid el-Adha, there were four more nights
of performance, but the program was different. The show was
split, between the Reda Troupe and the National Folkloric Troupe
(both groups are in residence at the Balloon Theater, and are
both government-funded under the Ministry of Culture). Each
troupe performed for over an hour, and alternated over the
four days who went first and who closed the show. Members of
the audience were given a ballot at the beginning of each evening
so they could vote on who was the best, and these were collected
at the end of the night. Apparently this is a new idea, tested
during last year’s Ramadan performance season, and maybe it
is an effort to attract audiences to the shows.
any case, one of the dancers told me “the troupe that closes
on a given night always wins, because they are fresh in the
minds of the audience.” That turned out to be the case while
I was there, with each group winning two out of four nights.
Reda Troupe is now in its fourth decade of existence, and this
historic ensemble forms a very special cultural inheritance
of movement and music. The repertory is kept alive through
the efforts of successive generations of dancers, trainers,
administrators, costumers, musicians and more. It is a beautiful
cultural legacy that I encourage every dancer to try and see
when in Egypt.
of the Reda Troupe
Nasreen, Riham, Hadir (with son Ziad),
Ahmed dancing with the assaya
Antar, Doaa, Atef Farag, Magda Ibrahim and daughter Shereen
Rehearsing the one of the Saidi pieces.
Dancers in front:
Mona Farouk and Sayyed Antar
the Hagallah: l-r
Sayyed Antar, Ragaey, Mohamed Salah, Nasreen, Ibrahim el Suez, Mansy
son Ahmad dances with Mohamed and Mahmoud in
the rehearsal hall
This is where they rehearse and have company class.
musicians and singers in the orchestra pit
Faramawy adjusts his headpiece for the Fellahin
dancer and Tareq in Noba costume
Kids of the Reda Troupe
dancer Mohamed and assistant Karam:
l-r: Ziad, Sama, Farah
son of Mohamed and Hadir Salah,
Dancers waiting onstage for a television interview
click for larger photo
Farouk backstage dressed for the Fellahin dance
a comment? Send us a
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people and Alex personally did not understand their basic nature.