"The grande finale was Egyptain dancer Wafaa Badr, who I later learned was dancing to recorded music for the first time."
The Gilded Serpent presents...
Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy
in Dallas
Report on Workshops
and Friday Show
by Candace Bordelon,
(Karina Rasheed)
photos by Ram

Unlike New York and Los Angeles, in past years dancers in the Dallas area have not often had the opportunity to study with teachers from the Middle East. 
And since the American belly dance scene has so many well-known popular stars of its own, many American dancers do not even know who these Egyptians are.

Dee Dee and Ahmad Asad, owners of a huge bellydance emporium that also sells Egyptain-motif home décor items, are trying to change that.  In April 2003 they sponsored Raqia Hassan for the first time in Texas, in September 2003 they brought Dina to Dallas, and in January 2004 they sponsored Aida Nour and Magdy El-Leisy for a three-day event of classes, shows, and incredible shopping at the Sheraton Dallas Brookhollow Hotel.

As embarrassed as I am to admit this, I was only vaguely familiar with the name Aida Nour.  I knew she had danced with the Reda Troupe for many years and then performed as soloist.  That was where my knowledge ended.  But, I also knew that at one time Yousry Sharif in New York had brought Aida to teach, and I know that Yousry only brings top-notch people.  I had never heard of Magdy, but once when I was shopping at Little Egypt the Asads were showing a video of Magdy-not performing, but actually teaching. 

Having been a dance instructor for fifteen years, I watched this video for quite some time with an eagle eye and was very impressed by his communication skills and teaching style.

The structure of this seminar was very different from anything that had been done in the Dallas area before.  Rather than one class per day that lasted 4-5 hours, the day was divided into several classes that lasted 1-2 hours each and were focused on one particular aspect of dance.  The ballroom was divided into two parts by a folding wall and both teachers taught simultaneously.   Examples of classes taught were Malaya Luff, Nubian, Cane, Debke, Ghawazee, Hagala, Flamenco, Drum Solo, Raks el Shamaadan, and Modern Egyptian Raks Sharki.   Because of the variety of classes offered, there was something for everyone.  Dancers more interested in the tribal style or folkloric dance could take classes in the areas that suited them, and if a dancer had work or family conflicts they could register for classes around their personal schedule.  It also made the weekend flexible financially-one could spend as little or as much as one could.  In hindsight, I really like this arrangement as it allowed me to pick and choose what I wanted to learn.  In addition, having two classes going on at he same time made for fewer people and more individual attention.

On Friday I did not take any classes.  However, I was working for one of the vendors and observed the dancers coming out of each class with smiles on their faces. 

We all know the look on a dancer's face that says, "Wow, that class was awesome."  I saw that look over and over again and just couldn't wait to get in there myself.

On Saturday morning, I participated in a class taught by Magdy that focused on Malaya Luff.  This was a two-hour class and we learned an entire choreography in that time. 

Magdy is a ball of energy--always smiling, cracking jokes, and laughing.  In class I can be so serious and focused that I forget to enjoy myself; not so with Magdy.

He speaks very good English and has a strong ballet background (his career was ballet-focused until 1994 when he switched his concentration to purely Oriental dance) which adds clarity to his movements and teaching skills.  I left that class with a choreography I plan on performing in the future.  This is not always my goal, but in this case it seems a shame not to use what I learned from Magdy.

I had a different, but equally positive experience in my class with Aida on Sunday. 

Again, I opted to take a two-hour class, and this one was designed to assist the teacher.  I have been teaching Raks Sharki for about two years now, and a class that was designed to help me improve my teaching was an idea that I embraced.

  Aida's English was not as good as Magdy's, but an interpreter, Nora Asad, assisted her.  Aida taught a choreography that was not intended to be a performance piece but used as an exercise in a classroom setting.  The choreography was composed of several basic steps and concepts that beginning and intermediate level dancers should be learning and working on all the time.  And even though the choreography was a classroom exercise, it still emphasized the feeling and emotion so important in this dance.  The music used was rich and layered, allowing for a more advanced student to add shimmies or other small nuances appropriate to her skill level.  The highlight of the class (at least for me!) was when Aida chose three dancers from the class to perform the choreography with her on the stage.   She chose Shoshanna from California, Farida Meguid from Houston, and yours truly.  It was a moment I will not soon forget. 

The Friday Night Show
A seminar is never complete without fantastic performances, and there were shows both on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Friday night featured a variety of dancers and troupes from Texas-an incredible display of the fresh, up-and-coming talent in this state.

The grande finale was Egyptain dancer Wafaa Badr, who I later learned was dancing to recorded music for the first time. 

Even though I missed the Saturday night show, I was able to see Aida Nor perform when she taught in class.  On Sunday, Aida gave my class a treat by performing for us, and one thing that impressed me was her absolutely beautiful arm movements.  With my ballet-trained Western eye, sometimes I feel that Egyptian dancers' arms have little shape or energy.  Aida's arms had strength and delicacy at the same time and were as fluid as serpents.  As I sat mesmerized by this woman, once again I realized how very simple this dance is.  As Americans we always try to "pile more stuff" on top.  We can't enjoy a scoop of vanilla ice cream-we have to dump hot fudge, nuts, whipped cream, sprinkles, and cherries on top. 

As raks sharki dancers we have to learn to savor the simplicity of this dance.   We need to relish in the taste of the vanilla-the purity and subtlety of its flavor without the toppings.

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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

2-29-04 You've Got Mail! Comic Strip by Alexandria
Female Clones from Zayda III are being killed and robbed of their family jewelry!

2-25-04 Live Music and Me: The Third Sunday at El Morocco, Photos and story provided by Faridha, Written by Najia Marlyz
Live musicians, whether hot or just luke warm, alway confront the dancer with a set of variables.

2-16-04 Turkish Shop 'til you Drop by Justine Merrill
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is the Mother of all shopping malls and covers over fifteen acres.

2-12-04 Hamam 5 by Kayla Summers
"Take me to a hamam," I begged. She took me to the Besiktas Hamam.








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