MED Conference-May 2001

Review: International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance
May 2001

by Sherezzah Bint al-Waha

The 2nd International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance had a lot to offer: movies, classes, academic papers, award presentations, two concerts, and top Egyptian dance stars, including Nagwa Fouad (right). It was held in Orange county, California, over Memorial Day weekend 2001.

Films

The event started on Friday afternoon with some film showings. There were a choice of 4 films going on in 2 locations: Egyptian popular films, Reda's "Love at the Temple of Karnak", and "1001 Kisses" with Nagwa Fouad; and documentaries, "Silences of the Palace" and "Umm Kulthoum: A Voice like Egypt." My schedule, plus a screwup with the directions, got me in a little late and I missed the beginning. I had already seen the Reda movie and the Umm Kulthoum movie (at Oasis Dance Camp), so my only option left was "1001 Kisses", which had a pretty goofy plot, but the dancing was kinda fun.

Friday Presentations

Friday evening there were multimedia presentations honoring Mahmoud Reda (right) and Farida Fahmy; and also Mohammed Khalil and Nagwa Fouad (left). The presentation included dancers performing their choreographies, film clips, as well as awards of recognition and speeches.

Papers and Symposia

Saturday and Sunday mornings were devoted to academic-type presentations. Some of them had intriguing titles such as "I was Expecting 'I Dream of Jeannie'" and "They Said She Could Dance on a Single Tile." Overall I found these very stimulating and was highly impressed with the quality and ability of the presenters.

Classes

Saturday's class was with Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda. I'd taken several classes with Mahmoud before, and so got the quality level I expected. And I expected Farida would be similar, and she was.

Sunday's class was with Mohammed Khalil and Nagwa Fouad. I had concerns about Nagwa's teaching ability, but as it turned out Mohammed did most of the teaching, and had Nagwa demonstrate the sections of the choreography that were more improvisational, a methodology that worked well. Mohammed could teach pretty well (I guess that would be expected from a choreographer). This class seemed a bit disorganized, though, especially getting restarted after breaks.

Shows

The shows, both Saturday and Sunday, were just awesome. Every single performer was top-quality. I don't think I have ever seen so many excellent performers in a single event. Left, Sharazad at the opening of "Rainbow Tara" (no doubt the most impressive entrance of the weekend :-) Below right, Ghazal doing "Hollywood Shamadan."

Nagwa Fouad performed Saturday evening. She started out to live music, doing her famous shimmies to 3 guys doing percussion (here). Then she performed with a group of "chorus dancers" in typical Nagwa style (here). The chorus dancers were California dancers who had learned her choreography, and it was fun to see them light up as she came out and danced with each one in turn. You could almost see them saying to themselves, "Wow! I'm dancing with Nagwa Fouad!" Here's another pic of Nagwa.

The Sunday evening program also honored Morocco and Aisha Ali for their lifetime achievements and contributions to the dance.

More pictures: