Teaching with Mahmoud Reda

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Legendary dancer Samia Gamal and a puppy

Working with Mahmoud Reda – yes, The Mahmoud Reda, the Father of Egyptian Folklore and co-founder of the legendary “Reda Troupe” – was great but not as great as being his friend.

I´m lucky to have worked – and learnt – with him and luckier to call him my dear friend. The gifts of this relationship are too varied, intimate and wide for this post – I´ll keep them in my heart, for now. But there´s one thing that keeps coming back to me, the memory of a workshop we taught in England. I was assisting him in the workshop, showing the choreography he had prepared to the students, helping them figure out the steps, answering support requests. He was sitting, guiding the students, cracking jokes. As usual. (I love the man!).

While I was repeating the choreography and being followed by dozens of students, I noticed they were getting the steps but not the dance. When we made a break, I asked Mahmoud:

-Are you happy with the workshop?

-Yes, I am. They´re following you perfectly.

-They´re following me but they´re not dancing. There´s no understanding of the music, no emotion, no story line, no life. Their movements are empty – just a perfect copy of what I´m doing. Have you noticed?

I´ll keep Mahmoud´s answer in the privacy of the context where it was given. But I´ll tell you this: as a dancer, a choreographer and a teacher who deals with Oriental Dance communities from all over the world, I miss that magical spark, the same I asked Mahmoud about. It´s REALLY not enough to repeat the movements your teachers give you – that´s not dance, it´s what it is: a repetition of movements.

I feel almost tired from requesting the same thing: give me DANCE, not a movement cathalog. Some get my point but the majority is stuck on the repetition/mechanical mode, something teachers seem to feed for no good reason other than laziness and having clones doing (free) marketing for them.

Every time I watch a dancer trying to show me all her moves with disregard for THE DANCE I go back to that workshop with Mahmoud Reda and I remember his answer to my dissatisfaction. Some times, just some times, it seems like a lost battle. But, then again, who said I don´t like battles?

Ah!

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Courage, dear friends, courage!

 

 

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