© Peppina Lindfors 2006
Artikkeli julkaistu Belly Divas 2006 -julkaisussa
It was the summer of 2002 and Mahmoud Reda was visiting Finland for the Yalla! International Oriental Dance Festival. Incidentally that year marked also the 50th anniversary of his first visit to Finland. In 1952 he participated in the Helsinki Olympic Games as a gymnast in the Egyptian team!
Since then his visits to our country have been numerous and he has taught Finnish dancers a great deal about his technique. Masrah Dance Company has had many of his choreographies in its repertoire and Mr Reda himself considers Masrah one of the leading oriental dance companies in the world.
Back to 2002, Mahmoud Reda suggested to Tuija Rinne, the artistic director of Masrah and Reda's most important co-operator outside of Egypt, what fun it would be to combine two different dance groups: he would bring the boys of Mahmoud Reda Troupe to dance together with the girls of Masrah Dance Company in the next festival. What fun indeed!
Due to his busy schedule Mr Reda later needed to be reminded of his brilliant idea but then the preparations began. Mr Reda and Mrs Rinne drafted the programme, which was to include group dances featuring the both groups as well as solo dances. The foundation of the famous Hafla Masreya show was now laid. The programme included folkloric dances from the Mahmoud Reda Troupe repertoire, so the dances were already known to the boys, but the Masrah dancers needed to learn all the dances from scratch. Mrs Rinne learned the choreographies from videos and the Masrah dancers started their rehearsals in the early 2003. Seventeen girls and six boys were to dance together in the show.
The ideas were flying and it became evident, that live music was needed for this performance. We had had an Egyptian group in Finland playing with Finnish dancers. The group, led by Safaa Farid, played in Cairo with such dancers as Yasmina and Leila. For their visit they were named the El Nugum and they were invited to be the Hafla Masreya band.
In the summer of 2003 the dancers of Masrah Dance Company travelled to Cairo to perform at the Ahlan wa Sahlan festival. Once the festivities were over the work began. Two of the three participating groups dancers finally met for two whole days of rehearsals at the Reda studios. How different and exciting it was to see how the choreographies came to life. We no longer had to imagine the partners but they were actually there. This meant of course a few adjustments here and there… Needless to say that every one was very excited about this co-operation.
Most of Masrah Dance Company dancers are professionals of oriental dance as teachers but the group is a hobby for all of us. Getting to rehearse and eventually dance and perform with a professional dance group was a wonderful experience for all of us. The boys were very polite and friendly and we felt welcome right away.
Farida Fahmy, the original leading lady for the Reda Troupe and their costume designer, outlined the plan for the show's costumes. We were able to borrow dresses for two dances from the Egyptians, one set of short dresses and milayas needed made for the Kob Kab and Bafta Hindi, girls dancing with shawls. Some costumes came from the dancers themselves.
Once back in Helsinki we got back to work. Endless hours of practising and watching our Cairo rehearsal videos. The joined rehearsals gave our own practising quite a boost, everyone wanted to be in every dance!
Tuija Rinne spent her Christmas holiday in Cairo going through the music with the band who then kept rehearsing on their own. During the spring Mahmoud Reda held a few sessions with them to see that their interpretation would match perfectly to his choreographies.
"The boys and the band" as we called them were to arrive on the Monday of the festival week except for the band, who had missed the plane in Paris. Starting Tuesday morning everyone involved was at the same location and we had two full days of rehearsals in front of us. Excitement was tangible. To add to the excitement, Mr Reda had forgotten to tell the boys that they were going to do a stick dance, hence no sticks. But like the true professionals that they are they quickly perfected their old Samah in-nouba and passable sticks were found for them.
Surprisingly considering the fact that we hadn't danced together in a year and never accompanied by the band everything started to fall into place. It didn't seem like Mr Reda and Mrs Rinne were in too much pain watching and listening to us. Neither were the over a thousand friends of oriental dance who came to see the Hafla Masreya presented as the high point of Yalla! International Oriental Dance Festival 2004.
What a great experience that was for all the participants! I know I haven't recovered yet.
P.S. Dont' forget to check www.masrah.fi for the 2007 events!
The writer is a dancer and teacher of oriental dance. She participated in tha Hafla Masreya production as a dancer of the Masrah Dance Company.
© Peppina Lindfors 2006–2022 sivujen toteutus © Inka Vilén 2006–2022 All rights reserved.