ad 4

ad 4 Artemis


Author with Dr Mo

Gilded Serpent presents...
A Conversation with
Dr. Mohamed Geddawi
Ahlan Cairo Nights, August 4, 2007, Dallas, Texas
by Catherine Barros

"If you love an art you want to know everything about it.  It is not enough just to do it."  

With more 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 to 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. 

Dr. 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.

 Dr. 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 teach dancing.

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.

As mentioned 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. 

Inevitably, 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 friend, Magana 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

Here are some of the other questions I asked Dr. Mo:

CB: What makes a good dancer?
Dr. Mo:  Of 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.

An oriental dancer doesn't need to have other dance background to make 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. 

Most important 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.

CB: What does a dancer need to learn to "understand the dance"?
Dr. Mo:  Knowing 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 full awareness. 

CB: How much can dancers learn, as opposed to what comes from within them?
Dr. Mo:  She 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.  

CB: You have trained a lot of dancers at many levels, from raw talent to the stars.  What have you noticed over this time?
Dr. Mo:  In 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 money.

CB: When 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, etc?
Dr. Mo:  This 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.  

Many different nationalities come to Cairo and succeed in dancing and become stars. The art belongs to all human beings.

Yes, of course, it is easier for an Egyptian, who is raised with the music and dancing and has seen her family dancing, etc.  But 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! 

CB: Talk about the different roles a dancer can play, from performer to teacher to choreographer.
Dr. Mo:  To 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, effort, energy and money. 

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.

CB: What about choreography versus improvisation?
Dr. Mo:   Improvisation…many 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.

CB: On teaching...
Dr. Mo:  I 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 is about.”

 CB: Why should a dancer go to a workshop?
Dr. 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.

CB: Why should women dance?
Dr. Mo:  The 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. 

CB: What are some more reasons to dance?
Dr. Mo:  This 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 history 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 reinforced:

  1. Feet are your key to the dance; they carry your weight; they need to move fast and change weight fast.
  2. Breathing - many dancers don't breathe right but it is important to breathe correctly in order to dance properly.
  3. Distribution 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.
  4. Tactics - when to do accents, when to do shimmies, how to use space and directions.

Not 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!"

“Oriental technique is very simple and easy!   If you can walk, you can dance.  Many people have forgotten how to walk naturally.”

Dr Mo's Website-

*The 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."

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
6-27-07 Outi's 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.

11-17-05 The Queen of Raks Sharqi Competition Ahlan Cairo Nights
Dallas, Texas August 4, 2005 by Catherine Barros
A review and report from and observer's point of view!

12-8-04 Mona el Said in Dallas, Part 2 by Catherine E Barros
12-7-04 Mona el Said in Dallas, Part 1, by Catherine E Barros
Sponsored by Little Egypt at the Holiday Inn, Dallas Texas September 3 - 5, 2004.
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.

8-24-04 Dina in LA, report and photos by Catherine Barros
On 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.

2-18-08 A Night at Wahib's Roxxanne Shelaby's "Pure Sharqi" video and photos by Lynette
On January 19, Gilded Serpent was in Los Angeles for Pure Sharqi, a special evening of live music and dance, hosted by Roxxanne Shelaby (Hypzotica Productions), 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.

2-16-08 An Invitation to Haiku the Bellydance by Najia Marlyz
Haiku 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.

2-14-08 Photos 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
Novemenber 10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial Hall in Hayward, California

2-11-08 Photos 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
Novemenber 10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial Hall in Hayward, California

ad 4 oasis dance company

ad 4 Fahtiem


 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines