The Gilded Serpent presents...
Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival 2004
Day 7: Classes and Free Time
Travel Journal by Shira

Monday, June 28, 2004. This was the first day of classes for the 2004 Ahlan wa Sahlan festival.  Many people were up bright and early to register for classes, having given up on the delays at the previous day's registration table. 

The morning offered four different 3-hour Oriental classes to choose from, taught by Yousry Sherif, Lubna Imam, Magdy el Leithy, and Ghada.  The price for each of these classes was $60 U.S. dollars.  Ghada's class was intended especially for beginners.  I had really wanted to take Lubna's class because I had much enjoyed her raqs al assaya (cane) class in 2003, but I just couldn't bear the thought of rolling my lazy body out of bed early enough to freshen up, eat breakfast, deal with the unknown perils of registration, and then clear my head in time to dance.  So I slept in.  I'm still not convinced I made the right decision, though.  The members of our group who did take Lubna's class spoke very highly of it. 

The folkloric midday classes included Nubian taught by Hamada Hossam, Oriental shaabi taught by Ihab Gad Allah, and Hagalla taught by Afaf from Reda Troupe.  These were shorter than the morning Oriental classes, only 2 hours in length, and the price for each of these was $30 U.S. dollars.  I was tempted by the one taught by Hamada Hossam because I had enjoyed his Oriental class in 2003, but laziness won out and I didn't do it.

The early evening master classes began at 4:00 p.m. and ran through 7:00.  For Monday, these included Dr. Mo Geddawi, Faten Salama, and Khareya Maazin of the Banat Maazin.  Due to my passion for folkloric dance, I opted for Khareya's class.

A Saidi band with a mizmar player, some rebabas, and drummers accompanied the class with live music.  Khareyya herself wore a black dress with fringe of red beads and paillettes.  Karam, her assistant instructor, was a cousin, also of the Maazin clan. Karam's dress was black with orange fringe.  When class started at 4:00 p.m., the band started to play.  Khareya and Karam both started to dance, leading the class in the "follow the bouncing butt" style that is typical of Egyptian dance classes.

After about half an hour, people who knew I'd taken both of Khareya's classes last year sidled up to me and whispered, "Is the whole class going to be like this?"  I replied that yes, this was consistent with how last year's classes had been, and I explained that Khareya doesn't speak much English so she isn't really in a position to offer the types of breakdowns and explanations that we're accustomed to in American classes.

After the while, the band reached the end of a set of songs and needed to regroup and decide what to play next.  Khareya and Karam paused a moment, then resumed dancing. This occurred several times.  More than once, we caught them looking at the clock, then looking at each other.  When the halfway point was reached after 90 minutes of almost continuous Ghawazee dancing, we took the customary break.  Class members were eager to enjoy a few minutes of rest after all that shimmying.

Saqra from our group noticed that both instructors and class members were wondering how they would survive three hours of non-stop motion.  She spoke to the worker who was handling admissions at the door, with a suggestion that perhaps a translator could be brought in to help Khareya do a question-and-answer session.  The suggestion was well-received, and efforts were put into motion to find a suitable translator.  We started dancing again after the break. Once the translator arrived, everyone gratefully sat down for the Q&A.  The group asked many interesting questions, and Khareya and Karam obliged with responses.  It was a pleasant interlude that gave people a needed break while still offering useful education in the Ghawazee dance tradition.

That evening after supper, the festival featured its first nightly "summer party".  These are nightly dance shows featuring the people from around the world who have come to the festival as attendees.  We were exempt from the ban on foreign dancers and allowed to dance due to our status as "students".  I decided to skip the summer party and relax in my hotel room, but those who did attend it told me later that at one point Dandash got up and danced with one of the performers, a young man. 

More coming!

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more from Shira-
6-28+ -04 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival 2004-Intro Travel Journal by Shira
Middle Eastern dance artists and students from throughout the world attend this event to immerse themselves in instruction by leading Egyptian instructors, shop for costumes and other supplies offered by Egyptian vendors, and enjoy the gala shows featuring top Egyptian dancers. Check back for regular updates!
First Two Days
Day 3: First Look at Egyptian History
Day 4: More Egyptian Monuments and First Dance Show
Day 5: Shop-portunities and Whirling Dervishes POSTED 7-9-04
Day 6: The Festival Begins POSTED 7-17-04
Day 7: Classes and Free Time POSTED 7-17-04
Day 8: Side Trips, Part 1: Gayer Anderson Museum POSTED 7-25-04
Day 8: Side Trips, Part 2: The Parisiana 7-26-04

Day 9: The Evening Show posted 11-12-04
Day 10: Classes and the Sphinx Speaks posted 11-22-04
Day 11: Camels, Class, & Competitions posted 12-15-04

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