Gilded Serpent presents...

Egyptian Stars Shine in Los Angeles

Stars of Spring, March 9 – 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA
Featuring Aida Nour, Khaled Mahmoud and Camelia

Camelia by Catherine Barros

Text and Photos by Catherine Barros
posted May 14, 2012

When I decided to attend Stars of Spring, it wasn’t just to support my friend, Dee Dee Asad. I know this will appear to make me a bit biased in some people’s eyes if I am writing a review of a friend’s event. How can a person be a good reviewer if they are viewed as giving a slanted review in support of a friend? That’s why I debate with myself regarding whether I should ever review any event, CD, DVD, etc as I usually want to write about what I have enjoyed about the said item.

I actually had decided not to write reviews anymore for this reason, but I guess I just can’t stop writing as I need to share my experiences and passion in some form.

For me, going to Los Angeles in March was about seeing old friends (Aida Nour: with whom I have taken workshops since 2003), new friends (Khaled Mahmoud: who was a new discovery for me in 2010) and getting my first chance to take a class with Camelia (seen performing for the first time at Ahlan Wa Sahlan in 2004 then again in 2010 on the Grand Hyatt dinner cruise in Cairo). Not to mention all the old and new friends who were coming to take the workshops from California and across the country.

For many dancers who attended Stars of Spring, Aida Nour was probably the biggest draw as she has been on the scene for so many years. Even though she doesn’t come to the United States that often, videos of her nightclub performances and from various events are readily available on YouTube. Dancers worldwide have learned more about her as she is one of the organizers of the Nile Group Festival and teaches regularly during the Festival. I always feel that Aida gives so much of herself when she teaches a class. She wants everyone to learn the choreography and watches closely to see what everyone is doing.

At the end, she selects a few dancers to perform the choreography they just learned so that we can see it performed and sometimes she will allow us to video for our own use.

For this weekend, Aida’s workshops were the most well attended due to her greater reputation but that is not meant to slight the other 2 dancers who were there. Although I have taken workshops from him in Dallas during 2 different events, Khaled Mahmoud was teaching in the Los Angeles area for the first time. I knew that whoever took his workshops would probably enjoy them, so I wasn’t surprised when everyone was singing his praises after they had finished one of his workshops. Khaled was very generous in giving us more information to help us to understand the dance and how to portray it. At one point, as there were a few men who had come to take the workshops.

He spoke about how a man’s portrayal of a dance should be different than a woman’s.

He even demonstrated how a man shouldn’t dance by performing to a song from his just released CD ("Before Today") and presenting a more feminine aspect. Although, I think his point was lost on most of the attendees as we just relished being able to watch him perform.

Khaled Mahmoud

Camelia was probably the biggest unknown to many of the dancers here in the States. She has been teaching at the Nile Group Festival and other workshops abroad. This was the second time she has been in the States but I hadn’t heard anything about her teaching ability. Naturally I was very curious. I had seen her perform twice before in Cairo, so I knew that we could expect a good show but teaching is quite different from performing. As far as I could tell, Camelia didn’t disappoint anyone. She felt her skills with English were not the best so she asked someone to help translate but I think she did well regardless. The first workshop started a bit slow because everyone was unsure what to expect. Once we settled in to it, everyone gathered the energy that Camelia was sending out and we ended up enjoying her workshops.

What was funny is that she kept saying "Wake-up!", which I felt was to get us to perform with more energy. But it became sort of a watch word for everyone so when Camelia shouted it out to us from the stage Saturday night everyone started to laugh.

The Saturday night show was mostly Khaled and Camelia alternating with costume changes and different styles of music. Camelia is a high energy dancer and I’ve always found her performances quite enjoyable. She didn’t disappoint me and I think the rest of the audience would agree. Khaled didn’t disappoint either. His style of presentation is, of course, different from Camelia’s but he gives so much of himself when he performs. He also took the opportunity to delight the audience on a more personal level by going out through the tables to dance with various members and even getting up on a table at one point.

My feelings about Aida Nour’s performance are rather bitter sweet as I’ve seen her dance so many times before and loved her dancing so much. She has always inspired me with her love for dancing and I’ve learned so much from her over the years. Last year she told me that she was no longer performing but danced at Ahlan Cairo Nights in August 2011 as a favor to Dee Dee and it was the same in Los Angeles.

I enjoyed her performance on Saturday evening but still had a sad feeling because I feel her heart isn’t in performing anymore. I am very thankful that she did not stint us in anyway in her workshops. She gave us so much during her workshops that I don’t feel that in any way was I cheated because she didn’t perform for a long time with multiple costume changes.

Overall, I have to say this was one of the best 3-day weekends of dance I’ve had in a very long time. Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had a few good dance weekends during the past 10 years as there have been many of those, and they have been weekends filled with making friends with dancers from around the country and the world. What I found great about this weekend was that workshops were well taught by all 3 of the dancers and enjoyed by everyone that attended. Personally, I had fun with all the choreographies from the saidi with cane that Aida taught to start out the weekend on Friday morning, Khaled’s cheeky balady, Camelia’s Oriental then balady through to Aida’s last workshop on Sunday afternoon (which I actually sat out but observed from my side-line vantage point ). I have to admit at one point I got confused over which topic we were covering because the shaabi/balady elements seemed to be everywhere. This whole weekend was more enjoyable since all the dancers’ styles were so accessible.

Camelia by Catherine Barros


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