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The Nile Group Festival, Part 2

by Maria Aya

Thurdsay April 20th, 2006

Freiz - 40's Oriental workshop
Ok, this is my day, the first workshop in the style that I adore and I have been waiting for it. What can I say about Freiz? She was the hot mama of the festival. The whole time she was teasing us, joking with us, having a hug and a kiss for everyone.

Her lesson is great. We warm-up and start to listen to the song, feeling the music. She taught the combinations first and after we fit them to the music. Even with no video or notes it's in my head and body after the way she taught us. She gave extra attention to the interpretation of the song than to the exact movements. It was a more than great workshop.

Farida Fahmy - Oriental workshop
A Lady! She started by giving us the principals for basic Oriental movements, the mechanics and the feelings to them. How the body responds and what the pure essence of Oriental dance is. She cleared up many misunderstandings for us that we had from the western way we had learned things. This was a workshop to treasure.

That night I went to Cairo to meet our own OrientalDancer.net forum member Outi. She is from Finland and has worked in Cairo under the name Dunya since last summer. Such a sweet girl, we had coffee and spoke about how it is to be a dancer in Egypt. We met at the metro Giza and I was soooo surprised that there are special wagons for women only!

I took Rhea and Lakis back to the hotel. It was the open dance night. Who ever wished to dance with a CD or live band was welcome. Turned out to be more than 20 dancing with CD and only 6 or 7 with the live band, what a pity. (I didn't dance, couldn't handle the pressure, maybe next time).

On the same night Magdy el Leisy performed, such a fun guy. At the end he played music with spoons. Khaled Mahmoud, who actually made me cry with his dance, entered with zills and danced. My heart was beating, I also saw other ladies with tears in their eyes. He was magic.

As for the other dancers... well... hmm... can I only mention the ones I liked? The Spanish girl that did a melaya leyf, the Argentinean one, and the Czech girl. These ladies had something in their dance even if they didn't have the technique. The duet with the Australian girls had such fun and joy dancing . They had SOUL ! they were feeling the music. They loved what they were doing first for themselves and second for the audience and it showed!

Back to bed lessons again tomorrow!

Friday April 21st, 2006

Mahmoud Reda - Egyptian folklore workshop
The class is packed, but as in the Farida Fahmy workshop there are Nesren and Kazafy in the class helping us. Ok the man is a legend, what more can I say? A true master teacher. Techniques, combinations and choreography. Have the feeling that I'm being taught and corrected (yes he was correcting each one of us) by a living history of Oriental dance.

Dalia - Oum Kalthum workshop
Dalia is a great dancer and teacher but in my opinion, I would have preferred a more mature teacher for an Oum Kalthum song. But that's just me, the rest of the class loved her lesson.

Dr. Samir Gaber - lecture
I'm so disappointed. We are having a lecture and video night about Egyptian dance and from all the people in the festival only 15 signed up for this? Tsk tsk tsk. All the teachers were there. Leila Hadad was present and I had the opportunity to have a small chat with her about Oriental dance.

The lecture and video were exciting, I took more than 10 pages of notes. And I really felt that it helped me understand more about dance in general and Oriental dance in particular.

Speaking with my Turkish and American friends in the lobby (they were also in the lecture) having tea and off to bed. But then Levana from Israel comes to me and asks "Hey girl, I booked a table to see Lucy, are you interested?" Well, my eyes rolled thinking Lucy, Lucy, Lucy. The time was 11.30 and we were to leave at 2 am for the Parisiana Night Club where Lucy performed. So I least had time for a nap.

2 am came around and we took a cab. In 5 short minutes we were at the club. Just to find that we were the only 2 women among 100 men. But having done the reservation through the hotel was the key to feeling relaxed and we had no problems. The waiter came and dragged us backstage where Lucy came to introduce herself, she was really sweet to us, and also knew some Greek!

Back at our table having a great dinner and listening to the cutest singer ever (now why didn't I took a photo of him?) At 3 am Lucy appeared in her stunning costume. She came to our table and asked me "ola kala agapi mou" (in Greek it means "everything ok love?")

Lucy kept changing costumes every 30 minutes and also did different styles of dance. For the Nubian songs she brought me up on stage and said "do what I do" so we danced together! It seems that in Cairo everything can happen.

Leaving, I wondered how to say goodnight in Arabic, until the door opened and I saw that it was DAY! So, Sabah el heir! At 7 in the morning we had breakfast, feeling happy. Though I have a lesson at 1 pm.

Saturday April 22nd 2006

Faruk Mustafa - Ghawazee workshop
Loved, loved, loved his lesson. It was the most relaxed lesson of the entire week and I really needed it. He even told me I have a ghawazee soul (maybe the truth, because when I was kid my grandma told me that they took me from the gypsies). We all had great fun in his class. A very special teacher to me. He gave techniques bit by bit, forming it into a choreography, but mostly he spoke to us about the Ghawazee and how to have the feeling of the dance.

Dandash - Khaligee workshop
I can't be objective about Dandash. I have spent so many hours over the years watching her videos that I feel I am her student. I told her so and during class we would have eye contact and laugh, because when you have watched a dancer so many times you know her style and her next move.

The first hour we did classic Oriental, a great piece that Dandash sung. I absolutely loved it. Afterwards we did Khaligee. Dandash turned out to be the funnest teacher. She taught us the techniques then we formed a huge circle with her in the middle. She would come near each of us and check form, we were following along to what she was doing. For a while I had a bit of a reggae feeling, and really enjoyed it, I could tell from watching the other ladies that they felt the same.

Sunday April 23rd, 2006

The morning starts with Aida Nour and we all just love her. She was so fun while teaching. Though almost all of the teachers in class cheered, laughed and watched us. Even Mr. Reda is here and we all try our best! We feel like we are at school and the director of the school is paying a visit to our class. Aida was with us almost the entire week, laughing and joking with all of us. A really warm presence.

Later on Liza Laziza makes our bodies really work, giving us a fantastic workshop for Saidi, with and without Assaya. Clearing up technique, giving ideas, and because we didn't all have assaya's she went and bought them for us all to have and practice with! Liza is very systematic in her teaching method and with her excellent English she explains everything.

These were all the workshops I took in the week, but I heard great praise about Zeina's finger cymbals class, Kazafy's crazy assaya class, and Tito's class. Have to catch those next time.

We all have a sad feeling, it's our last day at the Nile Group Festival. We all pack, trying to fit costumes and other goodies in our suitcases, not always with success! Later on we have the closing Gala, with Fatima dancing first and Raghda after. Both performed with a large band, and Raghda had male dancers on scene as well.

We are all saying goodbye to the friends we met in the week and the teachers, feeling that we want to come back soon. All week we felt cared for, as people and as dancers or teachers, and not only for our money. They really did their best to give true knowledge of Oriental dance. In addition to the well organized festival, I would like to add one small detail, because sometimes the details make the difference. In Egypt dinner is served after midnight. 4 people were leaving for the flight to Athens (me) and for Istanbul (Amelia, Amir, Jesea) and had to leave the hotel at 11.30. So at 10, while we were at the closing Gala, the organizers came and brought us dinner! Small detail, big difference.

The flight back home was great, and now I'm wondering why it took me so long to go to Egypt. But in November I'm going to go back with a group of 5 Greek bellynuts!

The Nile Group Festival turned out to be Oriental Dance Heaven!

Maria Aya for OrientalDancer.net