I am sure the meteorlogical forecast this past September 6, 2003 could have read: hot, hot, HOT. And it was. .. in Dallas, Texas, at the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom where Cairo’s reigning belly dancer made her first U.S. appearance. In a nutshell: if you weren’t there, you missed an historical moment in our dance world.
I arrived into Dallas to perform at the Friday night show. I was amused to see Ahmad Asad, one of the partner team of Egypt World, feverishly changing out the stage at the elegant Sheraton Hotel. Dina doesn’t dance on carpeting! So at the last minute, a wood floor and stage was assembled, sanded and varnished in time for the Friday night show. I was picked up at the airport by the warm and friendly Miabella, right-hand assistant to the sponsors. She introduced me to Ahmed and DeeDee Asad’s 19 year old daughter, Nora, a truly delightful person, gorgeous, and the “other” right hand assistant. Nora had the job that night of keeping us all organized, calmed down and introducing us to the audience.
Sahra Saeeda opened the star-studded Friday night show. Directly in front of the stage were seated Dina and her entourage. Her face was open, curious and gracious as she watched these American dancers. One couldn’t help but wonder what she really was thinking. . . Raffa of Salt Lake City, Shadia Dahlal of Oklahoma City, Shakira of Ohio, Rania of California and Jihan Jamal filled out the first half of the evening show. The second half began with yours truly, followed by Virginia of Miami, Margo Abdo O’Dell of Minnesota, Fahtiem of California, Cassandra of Minnesota and Hadia of Canada. The audience must be given credit for being such a warm, enthusiastic crowd. All the dancers seemed to perform their very, very best! From Jihan’s campy melaya leff, to my techno number in “Elvis” pants, to Virginia’s effervescent dance, there were too many highlights to mention. Missing was in the Friday nightline up were Shareen el Safy, who called in ill, and Morocco of New York, who had had a very public disagreement with the sponsors over her show terms.
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a very challenging dance class the next morning. About 70 students were in attendance. Dina is a tiny, curvy person. I guess she is about 5’ 3” and maybe in her mid 30s. Even though Dina is not fluent in English, she communicated easily what she needed to say. No choreography was taught, but steps and combinations were her main emphasis for the two days of teaching. Her music during the class was a synthesized drum machine. It was actually quite a handy tool. Her musician could bring up a masmoudi in whatever speed we needed. Plus he could add embellishments like a tambourine flourish to emphasize a shoulder shimmy.
She seems to emphasize a lot of glut work (she does have a very nice behind), and for want of a better description, internal snap accents…some big, some small. She tightens her pelvic or hip muscles to cause tiny, tiny little contractions in her dance. “I saw one defect in last night’s show,” she said. She proceeded to demonstrate her upper shimmy as a “brrrrreast shimmy” not a “shoulder shimmy.” “This is the Egyptian way,” she said. We all looked at each other sort of quizzically. She really wanted us to shake our tops loosely. This turned out to be nearly impossible for me, since I was wearing a tight bra and snug leotard. There is no way to move “the ladies” with them being held so firmly down by all that lycra.
That evening we were treated to a show of shows, “Cairo at Night”. Very European in concept, the dinner show began at 9 pm! Amr Kamal of the Pyramids Club sang with a live music ensemble that had all of us twitching in our chairs. He has great energy! Amr started bringing people out of the audience onto the stage to dance. Soon the stage was full of mostly women -- beautiful women! A troupe named RAKSZ performed with Amr. They did a fine Saudi dance as well as other folkloric dances.
Finally, at 11:30 pm, the moment we had all been waiting for: Dina! My front row seat allowed me to scrutinize not only her dance, but also her costumes! She has a great curvy figure, well proportioned, and her stamina was amazing. She danced for 50 minutes without a break other than the 2-3 minutes it took her to make four costume changes. By far the most controversial costume was the last one. It was barely there. A bit a fabric here and there -- camouflage in color, short as in like short shorts.
I know that I was so happy to be there! It was unfortunate for many dancers and Dina fans that the word did not get out to everyone that she was in town. Since it was a pricey weekend, more lead time for the dancers around the country to save money and arrange their schedules to attend would have made this event even more successful. The price, the short lead time, and also the conflicts with other well–known events happening within the same time frame made for many unhappy dancers that could just not swing the trip to Dallas.
I have a new appreciation of this gifted Egyptian dancer. Dina is a darling!Have a comment? Send us a letter!
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