Gilded Serpent presents...
Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy in Dallas
Report on Workshops and Both Shows
by Catherine Barros
photos by Ram

Aida Nour
Originally from Alexandria, Egypt, Aida started her dance career as a young dancer in the Alexandria Troupe. She performed Egyptian Folkore dances and solos for many years with the troupe until moving to Cairo. There she became a member of the famous Reda Troupe. She began to perform as a solo dancer and gained huge success. Aida performed in many of Cairo's famous five-star hotels and nightclubs for many years and became a very loved and popular artist. Aida now gives guest performances and workshops throughout the world and designs costumes for performers.

Magdy El-Leisy
It all started with a hobby: sports. This led him to his true calling: dance. Magdy began his training at age nine. By age eleven, he was already participating in performances at the Cairo Opera. Out of 2600 candidates, Magdy was one of six boys and eleven girls to be accepted to the
Academy of Music and Theatre (ballet department). Magdy El-Leisy has danced Egyptian folklore with many well-known artists in theatre, film and television productions, including Nagwa Fouad and Kamal Naim.
*My goal is to bring the western audience closer to the oriental dance. I have therefore developed my own method of teaching Egyptian style. In this way, I hope that my message will reach the audience and benefit those wishing to learn the art of oriental dance."

When I first heard that Little Egypt (Dee Dee and Ahmad Asad) was sponsoring a workshop in January, I thought they must be crazy!  They are risking quite a bit getting people to go anywhere and spend more money right after the major holiday seasons in the United States.  Plus, North Texas in January can present some challenges of its own weather-wise, as we denizens of the greater Dallas area (i.e. DFW, the Metroplex) have been iced in due to Canadian or Artic blasts meeting the warmer Gulf Coast rain showers on more than one occasion at this time of year (ask me later about my "adventures on ice").  Ice storms are nice events when you want to stay home, sit in front of a warm fire, drinking hot chocolate instead of skating on the highway!  When you want to go to a workshop, you like clear skies and a dry highway to get you there and back from where ever you are . .  whether across town or  across state.  

For the 2nd weekend in January, we had a different kind of blast blow into town and it had a definite Egyptian flavor that warmed up our weekend perfectly.

Three days of dance workshops with Aida Nour and Magdy el-Leisy with some additional rhythm workshops from Osama el-Gohary provided much incentive to dust off the dancing shoes and put on the hip scarves for an Egyptian adventure in dance.  Making a decision to go to this workshop might have been tough for a lot of people because these 2 are almost unknowns in this part of the country. Some of us are more familiar with Aida Nour but it is only name recognition for me since I've not seen her dance or teach before.  I know Yousry Sharif had her in NYC a few years ago and he usually does bring in top level Egyptian dancers/instructors for his week long.  Of course, I was interested in Aida, but I had not heard Magdy's name before he was mentioned as coming for the workshop.  Some Dallas area dancers who had taken from him at Raqia's festival last summer really liked him, so that made me feel a bit better. 

The Workshops 

Well, hold onto your hats, because Magdy takes you on a dance adventure that almost blows you away with his energy.  Also, he's a bit of a comedian and clown along with all his acrobatics.  He even pokes fun at himself when he says that he's "the Egyptian Mr. Bean". I could see that! . 

Like all choices, you sometimes have to pick one over the other.

  • Aida Nour's offerings were: Eskandari (Malaya Laff), Ghawazee, Raks el Shamaadan, Oriental Style, Cane, and a Master Class.
  • Magdy el-Leisy's offerings were: Nubian, Debke-Lebanese, Hagala, Flamenco, Malaya Laff, Drum Solo, Modern Egyptian Baladi, Debke (Club), Cane and Raks Sharqi. 
  • In addition to these dance classes, Osama El-Gohary (Houston) taught the rhythm classes on Saturday:  Egyptian Rhythm Appreciation and Rhythm & Relation to Belly Dance.  

All the classes were offered separately ("a la carte" menu options) and to make it even more difficult, some lasted one hour and some lasted two hours ("Choose a two hour class from Column A at 10:00am or two one-hour classes from Column B at 10:00am and 11:00am").  Or you could get the all encompassing 3-day pass!   So you could choose as many as you had time or just one class. As I spoke with other participants during breaks, I heard so many good comments about the classes everyone was taking.   It sounds to me like I missed a lot while I was doing a lot myself!  I worked hard in each class that I took and feel like I came home with such a good feeling about my dancing.  I got so much from both of these wonderful dancers. 

Aida impressed me with her style while being much more serious in her presentation.

Her dancing took a much more classical approach (Tamra Henna for one) . She also worked with more contemporary music selections (using a Warda song). She made us work hard and gave us some good insight into working with the music and movements (in the master class she talked about that quite a bit).   She seems shy at times and no nonsense, this was partly due to her feeling that her English wasn't very good.

Magdy's classes were just whirlwinds of energy.

Every dance he taught had much bouncing around but he was the only one doing the leaping about the room along with a good dose of acrobatics.  Magdy would go around the room and watch individuals in a non-critical way, correcting sometimes or providing positive reinforcement about what they were doing.    When he made us do some movements across the room, he'd be following along with people encouraging them to keep on going.   He really made us work hard while he made us laugh hard at his antics.  One time some one asked him to go over a movement combination "slower" and he did it in slow motion!!

It was definitely a study in contrasts stylistically between these two dancers, everything they taught seemed to be so complementary that I'm extremely glad that I didn't pass up this workshop   I did more than I thought I would be able to do (all that hard work on food and exercise really helped) and I'm so glad that I had the energy and strength to take as much as I did. 

Shows, both Friday and Saturday
 No dance workshop will be complete without a big show or two!   Friday night appeared to be comprised of mostly Texas dancers with a mix of troupes and soloists with the final performer being the guest performer from Egypt, Wafaa Badr.  So, along with yours truly (the author, Catherine Barros), the performers were Bella Donna (Farida, Tamara, Victoria, Xylona), Karina Rasheed and Company, Anisa, Sanjni Tara, Nadirah, Tamra Henna (Texas), Cara Bowen, Karavan (Karen Barbee's troupe), Victoria, Tamara, Cheryl Bushey, Urban Gypsy (Sahira, Zymirrah Ali, Julie), Xylona, Sarrab, Naima, Ferida Meguid and Sa'adiyya.   Friday night shows sometimes are more relaxed and less stressful than the really BIG show on Saturday night with performances by the featured instructors.  

We weren't let off the hook at all.   Up front and center at the middle table were Aida, Magdy and Wafaa along with the organizers, Dee Dee and Ahmad.   I know I was a bit worried because I wanted to do well and be a good representative for Middle Eastern style dancing in America (no pressure there, right).

   For my performance as for others, the audience was very supportive.   I know it gave me a big boost to see Magdy enjoying my music choices (El Hob and Walla Mara by Khaled Agag).   His ebullient nature helped to keep audience response high for everyone.   I think we had a very good show on Friday, which ended with our first glimpse of Wafaa in performance. 

For those of us not familiar with Wafaa, she currently is dancing in Alexandria at one of the big hotels.   She has attended each Ahlan wa Sahlam Festival and danced in the closing at the 2003 Festival.  It might be of interest to note that she studies with Aida Nour.

I wonder if Aida also designs her dance costumes, of which she brought several nice ones for changes during her performances on Friday and Saturday.  It appears that a minimalist approach to costuming is the style in Egypt (note: Dina's costumes are very minimalist), while we still favor more elaborate confections with lots of beads.  Anyway, it is nice to get to see an Egyptian dancer who is au courant in the scene, so we were very happy that Wafaa was brought to Dallas to dance for us.  I happen to know that Wafaa took back a special souvenir from Dallas . . . a belt with her name spelled out on it!   She says her new belt will be the latest style in Egypt.

Saturday night, we had a dinner show with a buffet setup for serving at intermission.  Most of the dancers, other than our 3 Egyptian dancers, were from Texas.   With notable exceptions being the lovely Shoshanna from California (a beautiful veil to start with) and a last minute substitute of Charli, for the unfortunate ailing Melissa-Amira.   The daughter of Shanna, she hails from Arkansas and being just little thing (7or 8?), she brought down the house!   The rest of the line-up included Trup Oryantal (Rita Benner's troupe), Miabella, Tatika, Bahaia, Neenah & Al Bustan, and Karen Barbee

Magdy el-Leisy danced 4 times during the evening starting off the evening with a Saidi. He also did a very funny Fallahy (great opportunity to let his comedic side show) and a very athletic Debke.

OK, I have to mention something else funny about Magdy's performance.  It occurred during his Fallahy.  Remember I mentioned earlier, that he did a combination in slow-motion when someone requested that he do it slower.   Well, for the Fallahy, Magdy has the sound guy record his music at a faster tempo, then an extremely fast tempo, then a very slow tempo.  

He repeated sections of his dance to these different tempos with such hilarious results.

It was too funny!  And with that, now I'll bet you can see the "Egyptian Mr. Bean" side of Magdy.  Ok, now on with the rest of this review.

Winding up to Magdy's final Debke of the evening, were Wafaa Badr and Aida Nour.   Wafaa danced to several more songs with accompanying costume changes, which we all enjoyed.  Then we knew that Aida was going to be coming soon as Dee Dee started to go through the audience asking people to move their chairs to clear the way for Aida's entrance with the Shamadaan. 

In her introduction, Aida had Nora (our wonderful MC and the organizers' daughter) mention that she was sorry that she had gained weight.   Like we were going to think the worst of her?  Not a chance! 

As Aida made her way towards the stage with the Shamadaan carried proudly on her head, she had a radiant smile on her face.  A dancer, who loves to perform for an appreciative audience, had replaced the no-nonsense dance instructor.   Aida's performance included several of the dances that she was teaching during the 3 days (including the Shamadaan and a Warda song she taught during the Master Class) and it was great to be able to see these wonderful choreographies performed in costume.  We were feeling very satisfied with the evening's dance performances when Magdy came back for his final appearance.   This time he insisted that participants in his Debke classes come up to the stage to help him out.   It took a bit of work, but he finally ended  up with 5 or 6 volunteers including Karen Barbee.  They all threw themselves into a very energetic Debke following Magdy's lead. It got me all energized just watching them have so much fun.  What a fabulous end to a great evening!.

For all of the dancers who were able to come for this dynamic workshop, we took so much away from the 3-day exhausting but exhilarating weekend.  It ended up being a great post-holiday boost plus a good start on a New Year's resolution to get more inspired and dance more in 2004!   To be fair, I have to mention one complaint that I heard!   One participant mentioned that she wished she could have taken all the classes that were offered from both dancers!   So, I think that both Magdy and Aida need to come back to Texas again!

Thanks once again to Dee Dee and Ahmad (aka Little Egypt) for bringing these 2 wondrful dancers to Texas!

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Ready for more?
3-11-04 Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy in Dallas, Texas, January 9-11, 2004, sponsored by Little Egypt

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