Dr. Mohamed Geddawi
Cairo Nights, August 4, 2007, Dallas, Texas
you love an art you want to know everything about it. It
is not enough just to do it."
than half a century of dancing under his belt, Dr.
Mohamed Geddawi is still inspiring myriads of women
to dance. I had heard of him over the years as he has been
in the United States many times, but somehow I had never managed
to get myself to one of his workshops. My first introduction
Dr. Mo's teaching methods came just two years ago at the first Ahlan
Cairo Nights in Dallas, sponsored by Little Egypt in
2005. When I finally worked up the courage to interview
Dr. Mo, I was certainly glad that I did. Although I
haven't been too interested in studying with male teachers
in recent years for many reasons, I found that I really
liked the workshops that I took with Dr. Mo. His
choreographies are fun, never boring, and as they are solidly
built, they allow a dancer to progress quickly in learning.
Mo is attentive to the workshop participants, giving a breakdown
on each combination, and provides individual attention when
someone has a difficulty. His no-nonsense style of teaching
is informative, making you think about why you dance, how
to dance, how to be a better dancer, and making you laugh.
Mo turned out to be very easy to talk to, and was more than
generous answering my questions, even if some were the "usual" stuff
of interviews. He helped to make it easier for me by
presenting me with some basic background information in a packet
that included a portrait of Dr. Mo plus the article that he
wrote, "The Foundation of the Reda Troupe.” After
reading about his numerous dance accomplishments over the years,
I am surprised that Dr. Mo has had any time for his medical
career. He has been a very busy person in the five decades
that he has danced, as his university studies and medical work
have continued at the same time. When he finally
settled in Berlin for his medical work, he managed to build
up a dance studio and a well known dance group, Hathor
Dance Troupe, and has produced a yearly gala of Arabic
dance since 1986. These shows comprise a mixture of Egyptian/Arabic
folkloric dance and Raks Sharki. Dr. Mo is involved
in all levels of the production, including the choreography
of the dance pieces and the music, for which there are many
excellent musicians to choose from in the Berlin area. Lucky
dancers of Berlin, to have such a teacher in their midst for
so many years, to be able to see wonderful dance productions
every year and to hear great Middle Eastern music. Since
1999, Dr Mo has dedicated himself solely to Oriental dance
teaching and choreography, as well as researching his book
on dance history and oriental dance technique.
I asked Dr.
Mo how he ended up in Berlin. He told me that the story has
been written up in Arabesque Magazine, and went on
to explain about the series of coincidences that finally led
him to his
city of residence for so many years. He was living in Lebanon
at the time, teaching tropical medicine at the American University
of Beirut. He had been offered a chance to go for his PhD at
the University of San Francisco Medical Center, but one day,
as he was walking with a colleague to have coffee, his colleague
asked him to go to the German Embassy with him. As this
colleague was going to apply for a fellowship in Germany to
do his PhD in Tropical Medicine, the colleague suggested that
Dr. Mo also fill out the application, so he did. Two weeks
later he got an invitation from the Embassy for an interview
and he got the fellowship, as did his colleague. Off
he went to Germany, where he did his PhD in Tropical Medicine
at the University of Munich. After he finished, another
coincidence: a friend said "Why go to work immediately?
You have been working hard at your studies, so take some time
off.” Dr. Mo said "I don't have any money" and his
friend said "Just apply for something and work for a couple
of months.” He applied for a job in Berlin
at a big pharmaceutical company, and was invited for an interview,
ticket and all expenses paid. Since he didn't really want the
job, he told the interviewer that his German was bad, and he
didn’t have a work permit. He went back to Munich and
a letter arrived offering him the job! Then his friend
said "Ask for more money and they will refuse,” which
he did. But they gave him what he asked for and
he had a job. His friend told him to take it for a few
months, then leave when he had the money he needed for a nice
long vacation. Dr. Mo decided to take the job, and
he ended up staying for 25 years. Now he had his work at this
company and once he had settled in Germany he continued to
Much of his
early dance career is documented in the portrait that he gave
me: "Dr. Mo Geddawi - Master of Raqs Sharki and Folklore.”
In brief, he started dancing at an early age, beginning with
ballet at 10, studying in Cairo and abroad. As one of
the co-founders of The Reda Troupe with Mahmoud
Reda and Farida Fahmy, he was in
the first performance at the Ezbekiya Theater in
Cairo in 1959. Over the years, he has seen The Reda Troupe
become the premiere folkloric dance troupe in Egypt, from which
has come many fine dancers and teachers. Many of
us have studied with these dancers at workshops worldwide and
at dance festivals in Egypt such as Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival and
the Nile Group Festival in Cairo. The Reda Troupe
has had a lasting impact on Egyptian dance that will continue
for many years.
I asked Dr.
Mo about his fondest memory of being with the Reda Troupe,
and he described how exciting the early days of the troupe
were for him. That period before the first performance
when they had been training for almost 2 years had so much
energy, and he way they were received by the audiences was
a fantastic experience. They were the first folkloric
dance troupe in Egypt. This all started to happen during his
second year at the University, when he was about 17 years old. He
loved dancing, and suddenly people were appreciating dance. President
Nasser of Egypt invited them to entertain state visitors,
and he was able to dance in front of many famous people, heads
of state, kings and queens. Anytime someone important was invited
to Egypt, The Reda Troupe performed. As a result of this
exposure, he was able to dance with Samia Gamal, and
to meet Tahia Carioca (with whom he became
good friends) and Naima Akef. He visited Badia
Masabni in Lebanon, which was definitely thrilling
for someone who grew up enamored of the dance stars of the "Golden
Era". He appeared in many films, including those starring
the Reda Troupe.
before, over the years dance and medicine have gone hand in
hand for Dr. Mo. Everywhere that he has gone to study and work,
he has been involved with dance. From Paris to
Beirut to Munich and then to Berlin, he has performed, produced
shows, and choreographed. He toured with "Casino de Paris" across
Europe, danced and choreographed for the weekly show "Beirut
by Night" for four years in Lebanon, and appearied on
German TV. He taught Egyptian folkloric dance at the American
University of Beirut and Beirut College for Women as well as
in Munich before he moved to Berlin, And, of course, he has
choreographed and performed for Egyptian TV and theater many
times over the years.
there arose a demand for his teaching skills in other parts
of the world. He has travelled from Europe to Australia, the
USA, Japan, China, Korea and the Middle East. Dr. Mo first
came to the States in 1973 to teach for his long -time
Baptiste of San Francisco,
Director of the Royal Academy of Belly Dance. He was
a member of the jury for the Mr. and Miss America of Belly
Dance contests for 16 years and worked closely with Ibrahim
Farrah in that context. He taught in Philadelphia under
the sponsorship of Habiba for 7 years. He
has also taught in New York and Gainesville, Florida. He met Dee
Dee and Ahmed Asad (Little Egypt) at Ahlan wa Sahlan
Festival in Cairo, and started to come to Dallas (3 times since
2005 with more planned for 2008
some of the other questions I asked Dr. Mo:
makes a good dancer?
course, she must have talent, but talent alone is never enough.
She should improve dancing through learning; she must live
the dance, love the dance, be possessed by it, make it a part
of her life and do it.
oriental dancer doesn't need to have other dance background
her a good oriental dancer;
however, other dance background could tune the body, teach
the dancer how to control hands and energy, it gives discipline.
It helps, but it is not a must.
is to understand the dance! If the dancer understands
the dance, it will become very easy for her and she
will improve a lot. When a dancer understands, it
makes her happier. She will enjoy dancing more, because
she knows why she is doing it. If you understand,
you will enjoy it more.
does a dancer need to learn to "understand the dance"?
the music, understanding the basic steps and movements and
the correlation between them and where the steps come from…how
to manipulate the step and the movements, how to breathe, and
how to use and control the energy of the body, and where
the energy is located. All has to be done and practiced with
much can dancers learn, as opposed to what comes from within
can learn the different dance techniques from the teacher.
The teacher can teach the dancer breathing technique, distribution
and control of energy, manipulating the movement and steps,
and moods and expressions. A dancer's job as an artist is to
improve her art. A dancer has to improve her musical ability
and her dance technique. She should learn how to costume herself
and how to do the right make-up etc. And If you love an art
you want to know everything about it. It is not enough
just to do it.
have trained a lot of dancers at many levels, from raw talent
to the stars. What have you noticed over this time?
this dance the interesting thing is that the ones who take
it seriously and become professional are very few, maybe less
than 10%...most want to just have fun and enjoy. This is fine,
but if you decide to make a career out of it and dance professionally,
you will have to work very hard, and invest energy, time and
you teach at the festival in Cairo, you see a lot of western
dancers who come to study. How do you see their dancing
differs from an Egyptian dancer… interpretation, learning,
dance is a very individual dance, and that is the beauty of
it. You can't say a dancer is better just because she is Egyptian.
different nationalities come to Cairo and succeed in dancing
and become stars. The art belongs to all human beings.
of course, it is easier for an Egyptian, who is raised
with the music and dancing and has seen her family dancing,
that doesn't mean that a Westerner or Asian cannot master
it, if she loves it, and works hard at understanding the music
and the dance. Over time she can gain more experience
and master the dance. The important thing in any profession
is to learn. Your life time is not enough to
learn everything. Learn as quickly as you can.There
are star dancers, star teachers and star choreographers!
about the different roles a dancer can play, from performer
to teacher to choreographer.
be a dancer/performer, to be a teacher, and to be a choreographer
are three different talents. Many good dancers think
they have to teach, but they are not good teachers; an average
dancer can be a good teacher if she has a teaching talent and
improves it through learning. A good devoted dancer will look
for a good teacher to improve her dance quality and a good
choreographer to improve her performance. What you see
is the dancer! The performer is in the foreground with the
teacher and choreographer standing behind her. To be a good
dancer, you need to work with one teacher for a long time,
for example, coaching. You need a teacher that you
like and have good communication with. You need to invest time,
A good choreographer
is like a tailor. He will tailor a dance that suits you
as an individual, he will know what to do to bring out your
strengths and minimize your weaknesses. A choreographer
is like the director of a movie: besides mastering the choreographic
craft he must know also about lighting, makeup, colors,
costuming etc. It is not just about putting steps together.
about choreography versus improvisation?
people don't understand the word to improvise. To choreograph
is to improvise. Choreography is a planned improvisation; it
has a concept. It is structured to attract the attention of
the audience from the beginning until its end. It should be
entertaining and memorable.
love teaching . . . dance and medicine both. I believe
that it should be simple and understandable. Make
dancers aware about the constituents of the dance and they
say "Dr. Mo, thank you, now I understand what all this
Why should a dancer go to a workshop?
Mo: Why? You
go to support an artist. You go to learn and gain experience. Even
negative experience is a good thing to learn. Dancers
need to think about this and use their brains. They should
ask themselves after each workshop. What have I learned? If
they can define this, the workshop has been beneficial to them.
Why should women dance?
Oriental dance/Belly dance is a natural dance, created for
women. It does wonders for women. This dance helps women
to understand their bodies and live in harmony with the body.
It is not that you have to perform . . . you can
shimmy while cooking. It is a lovely dance and
makes women have better, more comfortable lives. They can show
their femininity through this dance, which improves self awareness
and gives them confidence. They will be happy and consequently
make their surroundings also happy. I advise every woman
in the world to dance. It is fun, good physical exercise for
the body, comfort for the soul. Oriental dance is a good
therapy for many illnesses including depression, drug
addiction and even Alzheimer’s.
are some more reasons to dance?
is a physical exercise with feelings . . . it is natural movement. This
dance is entertainment, so the dancer is not only showing movements,
she is showing feelings, communicating with her dance .
. . the dancer "talks" to the audience through dancing. Oriental
dance is like a language . . . if you dance very clearly then
the audience will understand and appreciate you.
I have to
say that after I finished the nearly hour-long interview with
Dr. Mo, I was feeling really inspired about what I wanted to
pursue with my dancing. Maybe other dancers (of all levels)
would benefit from some of the material that he offers too. After
being in a few workshops that Dr. Mo has taught here in Dallas,
I have an appreciation for what and how he teaches. During
this interview, I started to become more excited about the
possibilities of what Dr. Mo could bring to Dallas in his next
forays to our city. Over the years he has developed his
own methodology for teaching and he is a keen observer of dance
students and performers. What he has learned in
this time helps him to guide dancers to a better understanding
of how to dance and to enjoy their dancing. Dr. Mo thinks that
there is a problem because there are few good teachers,
and many dancers really don't know how to teach and choreograph. He
has developed sessions on how to teach (beginning through
professional level). He has been invited to teach
at the Winter Warmup in Brisbane, Australia several times,
most recently in 2006, and some of the instruction has included
a one-day seminar on how to choreograph, evening lectures on
of dance, the origin of the dance, and technique and choreography.
When I go
back to watch the video of the Winter Warmup
Technique from 2006*, the elements that Dr. Mo emphasizes
are your key to the dance; they carry your weight; they need
to move fast and change weight fast.
- many dancers don't breathe right but it is important to
breathe correctly in order to dance properly.
and control of energy – the focus point of energy moves
with the movements; there is primary and secondary energy
– primary energy in the part of the body which does the main
movement., and secondary energy is in the other parts of
the body which accompany the main movement.
- when to do accents, when to do shimmies, how to use space
only am I looking forward to taking more workshops from Dr.
Mo, but also to the book that he is writing. We, as Oriental
dancers, can definitely benefit from a thoughtful approach
to the history and technique of this art form that we love.
Dr. Mo had one last comment that I loved, because we are always
saying "This dance is harder than it looks!"
technique is very simple and easy! If you can
walk, you can dance. Many people have forgotten how to
Mo's Website- http://www.hathordance.com
title of Dr. Mo's DVD " Introduction to Geddawi Dance
Technique including Practical Exercises with Dr. Mo Geddawi-
Filmed at the 11th Annual Winter Warm Up, 8-15 July 2006."
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
CD, "Al Amoura" Review by Catherine Barros
I think that there is something for everyone on this
CD as it contains some very useable pieces of music for performing.
Queen of Raks Sharqi Competition Ahlan Cairo Nights
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review and report from and observer's point of view!
el Said in Dallas, Part 2 by Catherine E Barros
12-7-04 Mona el Said in Dallas, Part 1,
by Catherine E Barros
by Little Egypt at the Holiday Inn, Dallas Texas September 3
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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 of us.
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
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Night at Wahib's
Roxxanne Shelaby's "Pure Sharqi" video and photos by Lynette
January 19, Gilded Serpent was in Los Angeles for Pure Sharqi,
a special evening of live music and dance, hosted by Roxxanne Shelaby
at Wahib’s in Alhambra. The evening featured the house band, led by Mouhamad
Salem, along with invited dancers Aubre, Alexandra, the Lumina Dance Company,
Debbie Smith, Sahra Saida, and Roxxanne herself, in addition to the regular house
dance company the Sahlala Dancers.
Invitation to Haiku the Bellydance by Najia Marlyz
often does not take itself or its subjects too seriously and
is simply word images and sensory feelings conveyed by means
of three lines only.
from Carnival of Stars 2007- A-Z Page 2- L through
Z photos by Carl Sermon, Duane Stevens, John Kalb,
Murat Bayhan, Christopher Erickson, Lynette Harris
10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial
Hall in Hayward, California
from Carnival of Stars 2007- A-Z Page 1- A through
K photos by Carl Sermon, Duane Stevens, John Kalb,
Murat Bayhan, and Lynette Harris
10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial
Hall in Hayward, California