Published in the June 2006 SAMEDA Papyrus
"A Weekend of Dance - "Cairo Style" in Los Angeles"
Workshop review of Aida Nour and Magdy El Leisy - February 2006
On February 25 and 26th, I had the delightful pleasure of attending a weekend of Egyptian Style dance featuring shows and workshops with Aida Nour and Magdy El Leisy in Los Angeles. What an education in authentic Egyptian cabaret and folkloric dance! Aida and Magdy are exemplary, legendary performers from Egypt, each with their own distinct style, yet share a common passion - the love of dance and music.
The well-attended events were sponsored by Little Egypt, a family owned company from Texas, founded by Dee Dee and Ahmed Asad. For several years, Little Egypt has delivered extraordinary Middle Eastern performers to the United States including Mona Said, Lucy, Dina, Lubnam Emam, Raqia Hassan, Dandesh, Leila, Aida Nour and Magdy El Leisy, Wafaa Badr and more. The events are held in Texas, Florida and Los Angeles, and are increasing in frequency. This was my third annual weekend of dance - I have never been disappointed. For anyone who desires to improve their Egypt style dance by learning from the masters, these seminars are "a must."
On Saturday morning, Aida taught some Beledy and Saidi technique, then taught two choreographies in four hours. Needless to say, this was challenging. However, Aida's choreography really fit the music; the transitions flowed smoothly and were fun to perform. Aida's moves were inspirational and "felt right." She selected the powerful and passionate "The Light" song and the "Al Saidi" song, an upbeat pop song from the Aida Nour Workshop 2006 CD. Her choices were great because we learned different styles of dance and music to be performed with or without a cane. On Sunday, Aida taught oriental technique and some choreography to Naw'em (Sharqi I) and Sharqi II from her CD. Through Aida's instruction, we were taught to really listen, feel and see the music. Let your eyes, hands and soul reflect the music - in dance, less is more. So often we try to do too much with frantic results. Instead, she advocated let the peacefulness and grace of slow transitions develop. Use expressions and sassy moves to accent but not to distract...basically, be selective with movement and enjoy yourself. As I looked around the room, faces of concentration, happiness and enlightenment were amongst the students. When we watched Aida perform, it all made sense. Her balletic, graceful and passionate style was beautiful. You could see the music in her eyes and hands.
On Saturday, I took a Folkloric workshop with Magdy El Leisy. His energy and sense of humor is infectious! Magdy is known for delivering powerful dance with such expression and joy. His charming personality draws you in and his masterful technique retains your interest. Magdy taught us a variety of techniques featuring styles of Ghawazee, Saadi, Nubian, Felahi, Hagalla and more. We learned folkloric "spoon dance" choreography to be performed in pairs - it was fun and upbeat. He also taught a Saadi choreography which was interesting and challenging. Magdy's workshop also emphasized precision - even when the music is fast. He made it look effortless to perform clear, clean movements to fast paced music. This is a skill which takes years and years to develop. Magdy's workshop was physically demanding which was a good reminder that to perform well, we need to build endurance and muscle strength. Without a strong core, your gracefulness will suffer. To attain power in dance, you must train and develop your muscles with exercise other than dance. Time to hit the yoga classes and gym!
That evening, Little Egypt presented a show with Magdy, Leila and Aida Nour. What a treat! Leila has studied extensively with Egyptian masters including Aida Nour, Magdy and Raqia Hassan. She is one of Egypt's hottest performers and in high demand as a performer and actress. I understand why. Leila's style is reminiscent of Dina - lots of technical precision with undulations and "internal" moves mixed with great hip accents and a flirty style. She was lovely to watch. When Aida performed, we were mesmerized with her authentic style, gestures and energy. Magdy performed a variety of folkloric dances included an exhilarating stick dance, Debke and comical Felahi. He bounded across the stage with such passion and joy - we could see and feel the music through his moves and eyes. That weekend of dance was a treasured memory and enriching experience. I really look forward to Little Egypt's next weekend of dance.