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July 31st to Aug 3rd, 2008


This weekend, I had the wonderful experience of attending Little Egypt’s “Ahlan Cairo Nights”, a four-day event featuring shopping, intensive workshops and shows with the Middle Eastern Dance stars of Egypt, featuring Randa Kamel, Dina, Dandash, Ahmed Abdel Azim and Dr. Mo Geddawi. Little Egypt also held their annual Queen of Raqs Sharqi Competition. This year’s event winner was SAMEDA member and Mexico’s talented dancer “Maryam”. Congratulations Maryam!! She won a free trip to Egypt!

On the first day of the event, I immediately shopped! One can never avoid the racks of music, silk veils and glitter of rhinestone costumes! After settling in, I took six hours of master group classes with Randa and Dandash. Randa’s true Egyptian style was so inspiring – full of powerful balletic and unique Raks Sharqi moves. Randa shared some of her signature moves, complete with hair tosses, leg lifts and arabesques – a challenge for the experienced dancer! In the afternoon, Dandash taught wonderful beledi choreography with shimmies in every imaginable manner. She is truly a master at layering. That night, the group and solo competitions were held until midnight. The excitement of the competition, talent and dedication exuded from every performer!

On Friday, Randa taught more Raqs Sharqi moves – this time with different combinations. Dr. Mo taught a fun choreography which was simple, yet elegant and refreshing. He is an excellent instructor and teaches in a detailed manner - breaking down moves very well. Dr. Mo also spoke about the ethics of Middle Eastern Dance Artists from the Egyptian perspective. He encouraged us to continue professionalism in the dance by performing at selective, well paid events and to avoid situations which maybe perceived as lowering the image or standard for dancers. Dr. Mo basically said “once a professional, always a professional. Remember that”. Professionalism does not come and go; we have a pertinent responsibility to maintain the integrity of the dance. An excellent point.

That night, there was a show with varied artists, including featured guests, Randa and Dandash. These women danced with such energy and passion, beyond what any words can describe. The audience was deeply moved and in awe. Each celebrity presented their unique expression, personality and artistic form in such a diverse manner. I was on the edge of my chair the entire evening.

On Saturday, Dandash taught a fun, saidi choreography – to be performed with or without cane. Her fluid style was well suited to the class. We learned authentic, folkloric moves which were playfully entertaining. That afternoon, Dina taught a class to 150+ eager students. What else can I say? Dina is Dina. She takes floor patterns to a new level, using directional changes with varied locks, drops and movement changes. Dina’s style is definitely unique, performed with such emotion and grace. The class was for the experienced dancer and remained a challenge from start to finish.

Saturday night, Dina performed. She wore 4 different costumes, each lovely and flattering. The audience was spell bound by her showman ship and dancing. Dina maintains her position as the Empress of Middle Eastern Dance. Although she has paved the way for many new dancers to follow, Dina remains steadfast at the helm of the Raqs Sharqi world of dance.

Sunday, the emersion into Middle Eastern dance began to affect the muscles. I began to really feel the burn – of dancing and learning so much! It was great! Randa taught another three hour class filled with instruction on her powerful, energetic moves. We learned traveling hip drops paired with drops and locks, moving in different floor patterns with turns and arabesques. This took time to grasp. Dandash taught Eskandaria – a melaya was optional. Again, her genuine passion and knowledge of the dance was passed on to each participant. We enjoyed this special class – the last one of the event.

The Ahlan Cairo Nights are held every year, and next August, promises to be another fabulous, exciting event. Many thanks to Dee Dee Asad and her family for their commitment and dedication to the art of Middle Eastern Dance. They treat each participant as a jewel and were there to help everyone at any time. What exceptional, gracious hosts. Thank you “Little Egypt”! Shokran Geda!

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