Honoring the Dancers and Videographers of Middle Eastern Dance
by Gregory Burke
On Sunday, November 1, 2009, the members of the Giza Club gathered to offer up their choices for the best of dance on video. Now mark this, not the best dancers in the world necessarily, but the best and most effective on video. That’s the rationale by which we work.
Ever since the dark ages of 1997, the Giza Academy of Music and Legends of Dance has honored dancers and videographers who have explored the art of Middle Eastern dance through film and video. Documenting and sharing our dance provides opportunities for preservation, teaching and furthering our art. The following report was created from the notes for that night
The Awards Ceremony Begins
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness, for better or worse, the marriage of Art and Technology.”
This is all about the role and the history of the Giza Awards, which began as a mission of preservation of dance and dancers who were passing without leaving a legacy for the next generation. At this moment we are now at a point of huge flat video screens and sheer make-believe masquerading as reality. Well, we have seen it and judged it, and it’s not all bad. That’s part of our history also.
We have helped worthy dancers achieve the recognition they deserve. It is not just Amina and
myself of which I speak, but of the hard hours put in by a dozen judges and a dozen more members placing their intellectual muscle where others place their public relations. I thank you all very much, each and everyone.
State of the Art
The Middle Eastern Dance world seems to have three major arenas of interest, or if you like, trends: The Egyptian Dance, The Tribal Style, and The Other: including Fusion, Goth, Central Asian and others.
The Giza Club and the Giza Awards tend to recognize most dance themes and dancers who incorporate “The Middle East” in their work. That is, those countries from North Africa, through Egypt, up to about the Republic of Iran (Persia). Although we consider the entire area, including Turkey, Central Asia, and Persia important…we tend to look at the spiral of events originating in Egypt and neighboring countries and our own American dancers first. However, in a world where we may have six thousand Belly Dance Festivals and Competitions yearly, encompassing every city and in every country on earth, (giving a new meaning to the term: region code), clearly the role and identity of the dance needs to be reexamined.
We received entries from the US and Canada, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, France, Germany, England, Norway, Finland, Korea, Australia, and nearly every part of Eastern Europe. The entries arrived on disks of every variety, in every format including Divx. Next year some will be on “memory sticks” or streamed to us.
What has made this possible is the evolution of the simple DVD. The history of the item was first to “archive data and images.” But it turned quickly into an inexpensive tool for transmitting ideas.
The DVD and Technique
In the Belly Dance world, it seems, very few people know how to combine camera, editing and DVD presentation to make it work together as a realistic tool for recording a performance. Remember, we’re not even talking about content yet. There is a popular school of thought that a dance performance should be recorded with a single high-definition camera rather than three older technology cameras. Think of all the mixtures of elements in between and I believe we have the basis for an article on this dicey issue. Note: I said an article you read for free, not a workshop where you pay and learn not a single thing. Oddly enough, this article is just about ready to appear.
Time and Space
It has been several years since we had an awards event and the reason is simple: quantity up and content down. Or as one of our judges said: “Possibly, that years ago the quality of the videos (VHS) was poor, but the quality of the actual dancing experience was greater. Now the quality of the videos range from good to superb, but the quality and profusion of the actual dancing range from fairly good to very bad.”
Technology which has played such a major role in expanding the love of Belly Dance around the world is about to intercede again with the “Online Instruction” implosion. We are not so concerned with the concept of teaching online but with its ramifications concerning the protection of proprietary content.
Waiting on the Window
Basically, the world is waiting for the right window. Watching YouTube is like watching Little Egypt on a Nickelodeon. Yes, there are some “windows” with clear images and few buffering problems, but these innovations must be available widely and at low cost to those who wish to use them. If a dancer wishes to learn a style which differs from that of the content provider, and the provider is willing to present it, where does that visual material come from? Copyright protections in this grey area are virtually nonexistent. But that is a separate discussion for a Giza Club meeting.
The State of the Art as it exists on video has shifted from archiving the important work that influenced us all, to a tool for self-enhancement, like a self-help book that you use to create yourself.
Think of the future. Right now we have experts and instructors who have never danced to a live Arabic band, next we’ll we will have experts and instructors who have never danced to a live audience. That should be called self-evident futurism and could be left alone for now. Let’s get down to the business at hand, talking about who should get an award and why they should.
The Awards given today are presented in a prior scenario, where the judges thought the dancing or information was important and should be preserved. We will give two new awards in a category that was unthinkable ten years ago. There are two people that if you think about it, changed the world of Belly Dance, and touched the real world also. Two people who put a dent in the universe as we used to know it. Two people who continue to have major impact on Middle Eastern Dance.
People who changed our World
- The First Award goes to Lynette Harris and Gilded Serpent Magazine for changing the world with a bit of technology, sheer grit, determination and complete innovation. Many dream it, few do it. Lynette did it.
- The Second Award is presented to Carolena Nericcio and Fat Chance Belly Dance for creating a complete and commanding dance genre that is a dominating presence in the dance world as a whole.
We have a perfect situation of vision and preparation meeting technology at precisely the correct moment. View or read any of the excellent interviews with Carolena. It is clear that personal vision set her apart from other dancers pursuing a tribal style. To accent the points made above concerning Lynette Harris and Carolena Nericcio I’d like to tell you a story. I was having dinner with a group of well-known visual artists. One painter was describing how he came to imagine each part of his recent and successful show. A second artist, equally well-respected kept interrupting him and pointing out: “I did that.” And then, again,”I did that first.” Finally with a smile, the famous painter looked his critic directly and said, “It is not what you do. It is when you do it.”
With these two awards, that is precisely the rationale used to recognize the strength of these two women and their vision. Now before we go on to the next Awards, I’d like to mention that I miss Edwina Nearing who is not here today. She would be sitting in the rear of the room scowling at me and taking notes. Edwina is the original video compiler and source of rare knowledge.
And I’d also like to acknowledge Bert Balladine, who recently passed away and will be missed by all. He once said, “There are no angles in Belly Dance, it’s all round and smooth, like an ocean, like waves.”
The Giza Award for Best Documentary:”Zrareet!!” by Khadijah Chadly.
This American-born filmmaker and her husband Yassir return to his native Morocco for a family wedding. Khadijah begins to uncover the life stories of several women in Yassir’s family. Intimate interviews of the women juxtaposed with vibrant footage of women’s celebration of life’s different passages tells a new story about Muslim women, the hardship and joys of rural Moroccan life, and the power of family ties. Or as the film is called by its popular title:”How To Train A Moroccan Man And Live To Tell About It!” To my knowledge, this wonderful film is not currently available for purchase. We will work with the maker to see if we can remedy that. There are a number of fairly decent clips of the video on YouTube that you can access..
The Giza Award for Lifetime Achievement:”Journey Through Egypt: Performance & Research “Sahra Saeeda" aka Sahra C. Kent.
This is the last and most recent compilation of archive footage of the regional dances and music of Egypt, supplemented with Sahra Kent’s dance troupe “Ya Amar.”This video, following in the footsteps of Edwina Nearing, Aisha Ali and others, seems to tie together the regional music of Egypt with the use of maps and clear explanations of the differences. As much as we admire and respect Sahra’s work, we implore you to finish this “research” and move on, since most of these images are well-documented already. We find this video to be an excellent beginning primer or quick brush-up on the varied styles of dance and music of Egypt. The beginning Nubian piece is particularly good. As the saying goes around here: you just can’t go wrong with Nubian.
The Giza Award for the Best Cultural Documentary:”Journey of Desire: A Foreign Dancer in Cairo” by Yasmina of Cairo.
After taking her first professional contract in 1989, Yasmina danced everywhere in the Middle East before beginning her solo career in Cairo in 1995. As far as cultural immersion is possible, it is complete with her. Yasmina dances in the major venues, she teaches dance, and works as a photo-journalist and writer for Egyptian and European publications. What is additionally interesting about this video is that it is both a performance piece and a true documentary.
The Giza Award for the Best Classical Theatrical Show presented to a live audience is well-earned: “Enchanted Gardens” Oriental Fantasy XIII. Beata & Horacio Cifuentes.
This production which toured two dozen cities: from Europe, to Canada and the US, then Tokyo and Buenos Aires…has only the Bellydance Superstars to compare itself too. These are the only shows that tour on this scale. But there is no real comparison as they appeal to completely different audience groups. We have been asked why the stream of awards to these two dancers? Are they not guilty of a certain lack of innovation? Well, yes and no. Each year they get noticeably better, until they now exist in class of their own, unchallenged. Therefore the Award goes to the show as a whole for Beata and Horacio’s combined talents.
On the International Scene
I’d like to say a few words on the explosion of festivals and competitions around the world and the nature of material that they submit to the Giza Awards. First, from the very organized, as The First World Belly Dance Competition in Seoul, Korea, with 1500 hundred contestants, sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Culture, televised live and held in a sports stadium. They organized around three basic categories, similar to the description I used when we opened this year’s awards: Tribal, Fusion, and Turkish & Egyptian style. The first prize was won by a Russian woman dancing in the Egyptian style. Now, there’s news: a Russian dancing Egyptian style! Natalya Becker.
Then, I must mention the opposite. A four DVD set of approximately 60 finalists in 13 categories, spanning about nine hours viewing time, with little information on the individual dancers. The mostly Eastern European dancers differed greatly in their skill, training and natural abilities. There were several who could easily have earned an award for a “Rising Star.” Unfortunately, none of these women placed high in the competitions. I would like very much for the promoters of such shows to continue to send us material. Please, run a tighter show, exercise camera focus and post some indentifying information on individual dancers.
The Giza Award for the Best Instructional:”Master of Egyptian Choreography, Volume One” Randa Kamel Produced by Natasha Senkovich.
Randa’s fluidity of movement and ease of body communication makes her an easy selection as the most influential dancer of our time. To see is to believe as she glides through teaching with calm and relaxed movements. Randa speaks and Natasha translates and narrates. This is generally considered a “must buy” DVD if you are interested in Randa’s unique style.
The Giza Awards received a submission of a Homage to Mahmoud Reda, entitled “A Life for Dancing”.
In it were a number of different European Reda-influenced Troupes re-enacting regional dances modeled rather exactly on the original versions…In the Folkloric Category, we would like to present an…
Honorable Mention Award to: “A Life For Dancing” Nesma of Spain, Director and Producer.
Performing groups and individuals: Al-Andalus Danza, Spain; Masrah, Finland; Nawal Benhabdallah, France; Rebecca Wildi, Switzerland; Saad Ismael, Italy. The video seemed to the judges as a sincere attempt to replicate a form of Egypto-ballet made politically popular some years ago.The validity of the Reda Troupe is still a subject of rather fierce debate. Along with this clip, we showed a clip of the actual Reda Troupe performing, which we hope will clear up any issues over why the “homage” is receiving an “Honorable Mention” and not a full Award. However, the video is a respectful attempt at reproducing this particular dance form with Nawal Benhabdallah of France doing excellent work. But the judges had concerns of yet another troupe turning to an “homage” video to create their own “homage” video which was one or two generations removed from reality. If you are interested in the Reda Troupe, we urge you to find the early tapes and study them.
The Giza Award for the Best Traditional Nightclub Show, Egyptian Style goes to: “Farha Tour 2006,” Farida. Producer.
Starring Yasmina of Cairo and Randa Kamel, and featuring many other elemental stars of a full and complete nightclub show. The clip we presented is of Randa dancing. Which led easily into our final award….
The Award for the Best Solo Dancer: Randa Kamel, of Egypt – Performance DVD (France)
This came as no surprise to anyone present and anyone who had watched the videos. Randa is very good. Perhaps there is no better dancer in this style.
We have a special feature to conclude the Awards event this year, as we make the transition into the live music mode. From the 2006 opening of Raqia Hassan’s Ahlan Wa Sahlan, Dina taking the stage and dancing as only Dina can. As Bert would have said: “Steps are secondary, we work on expression, your expression. Grab the audience…pull them toward you.”
On behalf of the Giza Awards 2009, thank you.
—Amina Goodyear, Gregory Burke,
and the worldwide members of the Giza Club. 2009.
Tenth Giza Academy Awards 2007
- Best Performance: Little Egypt Presents Randa Kamel -Miami, Florida, May 2006 Randa Kamel
- Best Instructional: Little Egypt Presents Randa Kamel – Miami, Florida, May 2006 – Randa Kamel
- Best Show: Expectaculo De el Cairo a Bagdad – Eva Chacon, Mohamed El Sayed, Khamis Khenkesh
- Most Inspirational: Rhythms
of Oriental Dance- Nesma, Khamis Henkesh and Gustavo Salmeron
- Lifetime Achievement: Edwina
- Best Live Theatrical Performance: Egyptian Love Affair – Horacio and Beata Cifuentes
- Best Documentary: The Belly Dancers of Cairo Natasha
- Historical Documentary of a Troupe: Tribal Travels: a Collage Paulette Rees Denis and Gypsy Caravan
- Best Troupe/Live Performance: Hahbi’Ru Tradition Legendand Folklore John Compton and Hahbi’Ru
- Veil: Instructional: Oriental Fantasy – Veil, Beata Cifuentes
- Lebanese Dance – Instructional: Raqs Sharqi Lubnani Meissoun
- DancersArms – Instructional: Dancers Arms Aruna
- Most Influential Person in Middle Eastern Dance: Raqia Hassan
- Dancerof the Year – The SuperStar: Dina
Eighth Giza Academy Award 2004
- Folkloric: The Algerian National Ballet The Algerian National Ballet (2004 U.S. Tour
- Preservation of the Dance: Hossam Ramzy & Aischa The
Stars of Egypt (7 volume series)
- Dance Legend: Nadia Gamal Nadia
Gamal – The Legend
- Best Inspirational: Instructional: Lulu
Sabongi At Khan al Khalili – Volume 9
- Oriental Dance Choreography: Instructional-Horacio Cifuentes Raks Sharqi (Adv. level)
- Egyptian Saidi Technique: Instructional Cane, Nourhan Sharif Rakset Assaya
- Drum Solo: Instructional: Beata Cifuentes Oriental Fantasy – Drum Solo
- Specialty Dance, Live Performance: Melayya Lef, Sahra Saeeda The 6th Awards of Belly Dance
- Best Troupe: Ya Amar The 6th Awards of Belly Dance
- Best Classical Dance, Live Performance: Beata Cifuentes Highlights of Oriental Fantasy VI, VIII,& IX
Seventh Giza Academy Awards 2003
- Documentary Award: DeAnn’s Dream
- Best Choreography. Performance for a Classical Dance: Sahra Belly Dance
- Solo Dance- Persian Interpretative Style: Louchia -Belly Dance -IAMED
- Instructional – Specialty: Anaheed -Classic Cabaret Floorwork -IAMED
- Instructional: Jillina – Instructional Belly Dance with Jillina
- Traditional Solo Dance to Live Music: – Virginia EAOD-5th Annual Oriental Dance Gala
- Rising Star – Interpretative Style: Sa’Elayssa Rocking the Casbah IAMED
- Solo Dance, Live Perf, American Gypsy Style: Mesmera – Zambra Mesmera, Gypsy Belly Dance
- Best Troupe – Fusion Dance: Jillina’s Troupe Sahlala Rocking the Casbah- IAMED
- Lifetime Achievement: Mimi Spencer
- Best Production: Forbidden Art produced by Shahrzd
- Solo Dance – Turkish Inspired "Cabaret": AmiraMor – Belly Dance your way to your Soul Mate
- Dancer of the Year: Jillina – Instructional Belly dance with Jillina
Sixth Giza Academy Awards 2002
- Documentary: Ray Schmitt & John J. Wayne, Adriana: Shadows on Yellow Silk
- Instructional: Nourhan Sharif, An Introduction to Belly Dance Technique
- Choreographyfor the Camera: Katia, Dance Katia Dance
- LifetimeAchievement: Dahlena
- Troupe: Adam Basma, Middle Eastern Dance Company, Live in Concert
- Rising Star: Randa, Raqia Hassaan Oriental Dance Festival Cairo 2001
- SoloDance (Traditional): Leyla Jouvana IAMED’s 5th Annual Awards of Bellydance
- SoloDance (Interpretative): Mesmera, Hollywood Babylon – IAMED
- Production: Hollywood Babylon, Suzy Evans of IAMED
Fifth Giza Academy Awards 2001
- Documentary: Raimond Koplin & Renate Stegmuller, The Queen of Mohammed Ali Street
- Folkloric: Dr. Robyn Friend, Dances of Iran
- Instructional: Drum Solo with Jillina -IAMED
- Choreography: Sahra, Sahra Saeeda-Performance Volume III
- Lifetime Achievement: Mahmoud Reda
- Troupe: Emerald Dreams, Tamalyn Dallal, Director, Miami, FL, Infinito
- Amina’s Choice- Most Inspirational: Delilah, Absolute Beg Bellydance
- Rising Star: Amir Thaleb, Buenos Aires,Argentina , Infinito
- Solo Dance (Live Music): Fahtiem, Festival on the Nile XX
- Solo Dance (Recorded Music): Zahra Zuhair – IAMED The 4th Annual Awards of Belly Dance
- Production: Tamalyn Dallal, Infinito
- Documentary: Brita Landoff, A Little for My Heart and A Little for My God
- Outstanding Choreography: Shareen el Safy, Weadirt Toghor
- Instructional: Aisha Ali, Tunisian Rhythms and Raqs Shaabi & Dances
of N. Africa
- Troupe: Sahraand Ya Amar Dance Troupe, Al Dunia
- Performance Solo Dance: Fahtiem, Queen of the Nile
- Documentary: Gary Conklin/Mystic Fire, Paul Bowles in Morocco
- Documentary (work in progress): Cara Currie, Egyptian Dance
- Outstanding Choreography: Raqia Hassan (perf. by Katia) Raqia Hassan Volume III
- Instructional: Shahrzad Khorsandi, Classical Persian Dance: Level I
- Traditional Arabic Dance: Cheri Berens, Belly Dance Basics – Beg through IntI
- Troupe: Paulette Rees Denis and Gypsy Caravan, Caravan Trails
- Performance Solo Dance -Interpretative: Delilah -IAMED 2nd Annual Awards of Belly Dance
- BestTraditional Dancer – Raqs Sharqi: Jillina, IAMED 2nd Annual Awards of Belly Dance
- Documentary: Honorable Mention: National Geographic, Cairo Unveiled
- Documentary: Amaya, Amaya’s Gypsv Fire
- Lifetime Achievement: Morocco,for her series of documentary videos
- Instructional: Hadia, Oriental Dance, Raks Esharqui
- Live Performance – Troupe: Paulette Rees – Denis & Gypsy Caravan, Initiation
- Live Performance -Most Promising New Star: Marzue– IAMED 1st Annual Awards of Belly Dance
- Live Performance -Solo Interpretative: Cassandra,(Zar)- IAMED 1st Annual Awards of Belly Dance
- Belly Dance: Delilah, Live and Wild
- Traditional: Lucy, Cairo Unveiled
- Choreography for the Camera:?
- Innovative: Delilah, Sacred Circle in Live and Wild
- BestEntire Video: Paulette Rees-Denis & Gypsy Caravan, Initiation
First Giza Academy Awards 1997
- Documentary: Honorable Mention: Sonja Radvila, Hootchie Kootchi
- Lifetime Achievement: Aisha Ali, Dances of Egypt
- Instructional: Baraka, Dancer’s Toolkit
- Live Dance -Troupe: Paulette Rees – Denis & Gypsy Caravan, The Turning
- Lifetime Achievement: Bert Balladine
- Most Promising New Star: Tahiya, Moon Over Morocco
- Live Dance -Solo -Interpretative: Suzanna del Vecchio, Pearl Moon
- LiveDance -Solo -Traditional: Dahlal, Moon Over Morocco
- Choreography for the Camera: Phaedra Ameerah, Pearl Moon
Ready for more?
- 3-16-06 Giza Awards 2005, A Cultural Odyssey
Can it be that the West has been so involved in learning technique and choreography that the very soul of the dance has been left to those in the Middle East who are desperately struggling to keep their art alive?
- 12-10-05 Articulating the Collective Dream: The Giza Awards, and why the legacy-making process is important to you.
"We embrace change however roughly it appears. With video we feel secure in the knowledge that the legacy of the past will never abandon us."
- 3-3-01 Giza Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance Video 2000
And the winners are…. Photos added on 5-1-01 take another look!
- 1-4-00 The 1999 Giza Video Awards!
This is like … a party!
- 12-99 Second Annual Giza Academy Awards
The judges seldom agree the first time around. So begins a process of arguing the various merits of each video performance as it pertains to the category for which it is being considered, until finally a consensus is reached.
- 11-16-01 Giza Club Lecture, Wacky Woman Traveler- Leyla Lanty
Hard work and familiarity pays off.
- 8-31-01 Make a Giza Club!
…She was to become our first Wacky Woman Traveler…
- 11-16-09 Naked Belly Dance in Ancient Egypt, Part 2: Are They Really Naked?
What does nudity mean in a dance scene like this? And does this nudity reflect an actual practice of naked dancing as banquet entertainment?
- 11-11-09 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival, Page 3: Winners and Closing Gala
for the AWS 2009 competition included Mo Geddawi, Mona El Said, Nabil Mabrouk, and Katia