Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy
Report on Workshops
and Friday Show
by Candace Bordelon,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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