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Photos of author by Andre Elbing
the dreaded mu-mu
Along the Nile
Part Two: Raqs
Reprinted with permission, from Bennu, Issue Vol.6
Serpent is proud to announce that we will be reprinting a multi-section
article, "Dances Along the Nile," from the publication
Bennu, courtesy of New York's Gamila El Masri. Formerly a
publication, Bennu was a labor of love that is now available
in pdf format on CD. This publication is a
we are pleased
to be able to offer our readers this sample and to
add this content to our archives. Our thanks to Gamila Al
for the republishing rights. For more imformation about ordering
Bennu on CD, please contact Gamila through the linked
Ah, the poor balas (water jug). This is one of the most underestimated and
ignored of the dances along the Nile. An absolute must in any Egyptian folk
repertoire, you can usually find it in troupe work, but it does not seem to
be utilized much by solo artists. Most renditions feature fellaheen of Lower
Egypt styling in both music and costuming. The costuming for this type of balas
is usually the deterrent; the dreaded mu-mu's. The galabiya fellahi (fellahi
dresses) are like granny gowns, shirred at the yoke and full bodied. For performance
costuming, the body of the dress is cut in A-line sections so it is not as
bulky in the bodice and can be a full circle at the bottom. The movement of
the dresses is actually an important part of the dance; held by the hem in
one hand (while the other supports the balas on the shoulder) the dress is
used in a swooshing movement in front of the body and away again following
footwork usually incorporating a grapevine step variation with turns, directional
twists and back stepping.
the Reda Troupe and similar Egyptian folkloric company presentations,
it is usually a tableau of village girls going to get water
from the Nile.
encounter a group of local lads who, in an attempt to charm
them, steal the balas and toss it about
amongst the boys -- with the girls forever trying to regain
possession. Sort of a fellahi co-ed touch football. It is
a perfect opportunity to utilize the rather long head veil
to the floor) for the coy veiling and unveiling of the face.
The veil is pulled forward in front of the body to cover
all but one eye, then the entire body turns -- holding this
-- towards the male and back again (the head veil is conveniently
released while frolicking). Unfortunately, you don't always
have a full complement of dancers (especially males), but
the dance can also be performed as a male-female duet, or an
female group of any size. This variation when done as a solo
can be a bit ... dull?
there are also fellaheen in Upper Egypt; that makes them saidi
fellaheen, who also need to get water from the Nile and carry
it home in a jug. That means you can use Metkal Kenawi music,
and there just happens to be a Metkal Kenawi song (Etfaraj
Al Halawa ) that includes references to the balas, how sweet
you are (helwa), and all sorts of goodies that you can incorporate
into the choreography. Get a translation! Since we're talking
saidi music, we're talkin' saidi costuming; as in saidi coin
dresses or net bead/paillette dresses or, heaven love me, assuit
(tulle bi telli) or your favorite beledi dress. Lots of
coins on your headpieces and definitely kohl kali (ankle bracelets)
... especially for this piece of music because there is a direct
reference to them in the song lyrics.
time I performed balas to this music it was as a male-female
duet with another (Egyptian) choreographer from the Egyptian
American Folkloric Group.
When he returned
to Egypt, I went on to perform it as a solo and played to the
I would have interacted with him.
a section in the song about his asking for a drink from the
balas and the
responses that was perfect for the audience interplay.
What makes the balas interesting as a prop is that there
movements using it, such as moving the balas in a figure
eight to indicate the water of the Nile. So you are not just
it around with you while you dance, you tell a story
a few different styles of balas varying mostly in height, although
the version I use has a smaller radius than the usual. There's
the amphora shape with little “ear”handles, another
with a tall neck and long handles, and the smaller type I use,
for example. Some are terra cotta in color and some are gaily
painted with flowers or geometric designs. When first performing
the number I actually had to use a ceramic balas that weighed
a ton, but it was what I was provided with. By the third performance
I had made a paper mache replica ... there was a bruise on
my head from where I carried the original one.
benefit to performing a saidi balas to the above mentioned
song is that many Egyptian musicians already know and love
it, and it is possible to work it into your cabaret act, just
as you do your cane. The beladi (country rhythm) section of
your cabaret show can be converted into a little folkloric
presentation that will impress the heck out of your Egyptian
audience, your fellow performers, your teachers and generally
anyone who can't do/doesn't know what you do.
working with live musicians, save yourself much grief and
your choreography to fit their version, It's what you'll
night of the performance no matter how many “rehearsals”you
have. Just gotta love those guys.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
along the Nile, Part 1: Raks Al Asaya by Gamila El Masri,
Reprinted with permission, from Bennu, Issue Vol.6 #3
is strength in the cane twirl but not aggression, extreme rapid
twirling should be held as an additional sensational feat, less
is more. Have your body of twirling be moderate so that you can
vary from slow to climatic; always reflecting the music, it's
mood and tempo. Get down without getting crazy.
Breathing for Better Dance Performance by Taaj
also hold our breath when we concentrate or get nervous. This brings
tension into our bodies. The more tension we have, the more shallow
we breathe. It can become a vicious circle!
a DanceDivas’Life! Interview with Jane Yee Shan
Chung by Lisa Chen
I saw the Suhaila technique workshop announced on her website
and I just signed up without knowing exactly what her format
is. I am the only person who did not learn Suhaila format before
at that workshop. I was so naïve, I simply wanted to give
it a try.
to ? From Toronto,
Ontario, Canada The International Bellydance Conference
of Canada Video reports by Gilded Serpent Staff
Masouma Rose, Shira, Lynette Harris and many others. Reports
are presented in video format inbedded all on the same page.
Wednesday Evening show- "Remix 2007", Daytime activities
on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Main Stage Shows from Thursday
and Friday Night. Yet to come-- Saturday Night Gala performance
at the Ryerson Theatre, Sunday Daytime acitivities and Sunday
Night at the Nightclub "Myth"
Relations Comic by Pepper Alexandria
Remember me? I'm your long lost cousin!
with the Legends - honoring the musicians who shaped
our dance world... Eddie Kochak, the Sheik, the Man by
Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, & Christy Guenther
found that the melodies from Aleppo still spoke to him as an
adult. He continues, “I thought I could take some of these
melodies, put my feelings to them, and create what we now call
the Amer-Aba sound. We created simple routines for the teacher
to teach and the student to learn.
Karioka, Queen of Oriental Cabaret Dance by Sausan
the 1980’s, the spread of Islam and its fundamental militancy
proved to be a big blow for Egypt’s belly dance industry.
As a result, several dancers publicly renounced their pasts and
donned the Islamic veil.
Loved the Old Days at the Bagdad! by Habiba Nawal
think I was making about fifteen or twenty dollars a night plus
tips. It was all about the tips! The girls from New York made twenty-five,
if I remember right. Bert sometimes got me shows for about thirty
or seventy-five dollars for what he called “The Furry Animal
Clubs”, like the Lions, the Elk and the Kiwanis.