Festival-October 1999

Review: Festival on the Nile XVIII
October 1999

by Sherezzah Bint al-Waha

Above left, featured instructor and performer Mésmera, from California; above right, special guest performer Amir Thaleb, from Argentina.

Hurricane Irene caused some delays and other annoyances for this fall's Festival. For example, they closed the hot tubs at the hotel :-( Nevertheless, they had a good-size group attending (perhaps 50-60 people?). I attended with my friend and troupemate Akasha.

Friday Night Hafla

Usually I enjoy this show a great deal: the use of taped music generally allows a lot of variety and interest. Alas, this time I didn't feel it was as good as usual. Most of the dancers were pretty mediocre and similar in style. There were a couple of so-called cane numbers, but they were done in cabaret outfits and did very little in the way of "cane" styling.

However, there were a few notable performances, including

I also performed, doing a veil dance. I won't review my number since I'm obviously not impartial about it; however, I did get a lot of compliments on it over the course of the weekend.

I have a couple more photos of Troupe Zahara here and here.

Workshop: Saturday and Sunday

I've studied with Mésmera a couple of times previously, and was excited to be able to study with her again. And again, I was totally pleased. She is a skilled, compassionate, giving teacher, with very creative ideas. She puts together interesting combinations and is able to break them down well.

Saturday she taught a drum solo choreography. The morning was dedicated to technique and learning all the combinations that would be used in the choreography, while the afternoon was for putting it together. The only remotely negative thing I could say about Mésmera's teaching of choreography is that I would tend to prefer putting steps to the actual music sooner. She tends to go thru the entire thing before putting on the music. While I suppose this avoids the know-the-beginning-of-the-dance-better-than-the-end syndrome, I think that hearing the music often makes the steps easier to learn, especially if they are syncopated to go with specific music, as some of hers were this day. Some things just make more sense when you hear the music. For me, anyway.

Sunday was assorted stuff: some "Afro-Belly"; some work with finger cymbals, merging into some exercises on moving from the center; some discussion and exercises on motivation and imagery and how critical they are to performance; and a bit more technique. It's a shame that a lot of people don't come on Sunday, because some of the stuff we discussed was the kind of thing that would really enhance your performance, more than any technique or choreography ever would.

Saturday Night Show

There was a new band, the Kamil Antoury Ensemble. While I liked their sound--the keyboards provided a rich sound, and there were 2 drummers, one occasionally on riqq--I got the impression they'd never played for dancers before, except possibly in a disco. Mainly, they seemed to have a lot of trouble with the concept of "slow". Some dancers who were planning to do veilwork and/or floorwork just gave up on the attempt. The poor dancers who went ahead and tried it anyway tended to end up with almost laughable results.

Fortunately, they did well for the two stars, Mésmera and Amir Thaleb, from Argentina, both of whom put on great shows. I had not seen Amir before (although he was down in Miami at Tamalyn Dallal's show in July), and I was impressed. We got a bonus because Mésmera danced twice; once early in the show, to taped music, and at the end of the show to the band. (She explained later that she did the taped number just for a little variety.)

In addition to many of the usual performers at the show, there were also a couple of dancers I had not seen previously. I was impressed with Leslie, who was lovely and graceful.

Here are some photos: