Contest and folklore – how to (not) do it?

English translation of my previous blog about competiting with folklore, some summary of discussion I had with other dancers that I find important and should be talked about. (I worked with autocorrect, sorry for mistakes :D)
Are you
hearing you should do folklore authentically, correctly, but how it is
correctly? When you get a feedback from jury at the competition, who will
refute what you believed was correct? Truth is that whenever you think you know
more, it raises new questions and boundaries. You can do some things wrong at
your choreographies but the biggest mistake is done by teachers/jury who really
„well“ demotivate dancers/contestants to do folklore. We tell to dancers „do
folklore, it is awesome!“ and later on we critise dancers to do it differently
then we expect it and we believe it should be done. How to find a sweet spot of
understanding each other and to motivate but at the same time give them
knowledge and keys how to work with folklore. I wrote this reflection and some typical
mistakes that are done while doing/competing in folklore dances – on side of
contestants and jury as well.

1. I went to two workshops of Ghawazee (you can enter here any other folklore)
so I know how to do it…
No you don´t, simple fact – folklore cannot be learnt by attendint few
workshops and also, I mention that at my theory classes – it is still an
archeological work! Dance and folklore is not very well preserved and there are
many dancers/ethnologists working on it still. Key is to educate ourselfs – all
the time, not just once or twice to visit workshop and read two articles. It is
historical subject but it does not mean there are no news and findings :) 10 years
ago we danced Saidi because we believed that any song with Saidi rhythm is fine
for a dance – and it is not true at all, but we learnt it this way.You
neccessarily dont have to sit at youtube everyday to checb what is new, there
are plenty of ways to keep yourself updated (check FB of Sahra Saeda, Nissa,
and more who constantly work on research in these subjects).

2. Saidi dance must be danced on music containing Saidi rhythm

No. This is the case when we learned something (long time ago) what was later questioned
and proved to be wrong. Said is a part of South Egypt and Saidi is the name of
the rhythm (or people and so) which may be typicall but not only rhythm used in
that region. Saidi music contains all basic Egypťan rhythm and you can find a
good song to dance to even without Saidi rhythm. When choosing song for Saidi,
important is stylization and musical arrangements, instruments, dialect of
singing. When you „practise“ listening of different kind of music, you will
improve recognition of differencies and you may one day be sure what is that
kind of music you are listening just by listening. From the other side – if any
other song has Saidi rhythm in it, it does not mean it comes from Said part of
Egypt. So Hakim, or Pop songs are inspired by this rhythm but does not need to
be Saidi music.

3. Dance with Melaya is a folklore dance from Alexandria

It is not. To
be honest we have learnt it that way, long time ago and me and many other
dancers were fixed to that so called truth about girls from Alexandria who
dance in harbours and flirt with men.. This was just an image, the base for
Mahmoud Reda choreograhy. Mahmoud Reda wanted to represent Egypt and all its
regions, cities and so. He did not find a specific folklore in Alexandria, he
could use, so the image of a girl walking down the seaside, man from cafeteria giving
attention to her and „flirting“ was taken as a base for specific choreography.
Mahmoud Reda created choreographies based on ethnical folklore, some image of
the region, some exact traditions done Gross the Egypt and so on.It is
important to understand folklore and also charakter dance. Folklore is done at
some region, ethnical group and so on. Character dance is stage creation
inspired by folklore and other things as well. And this is what Mahmoud Reda
did. In that time women in Egypt used to wear normal summer dresses and Melaya
as a scarf/jacket but this was same in Cairo and big cities. So, how to dance
with Melaya?
  • Reda Inspiration – you can dance his
    combinations on his music in your own choreography. That is fine. You
    should study the technic to be correct.
  • Baladi with Melaya – as I wrote above, Melaya was
    typice for women of middle class and was used as clothes accessory. With
    your baladi dance you can present and image of a women coming to a visit,
    covering herself with Melaya and entering the home, starting to dance and
    giving Melaya slowly away, dancing with it – with the respect! Later to
    tie it on the hips and so on.
  • Your fantasy – if Reda got inspired by this
    image, you can to obut unfortunatelly Melaya is not used anymore like before
    so we have to stick to historical images.
    I really recommend to stick to those two versions above, if you
    want give honour to Egyptian culture and dance. At the contests Melaya is
    always part of Folklore category which is fine, because it would be
    difficult to put it elsewhere if you consider there are usually just
    classical, Psion and folklore categories. Folklore categories always
    contain Reda (and other choreographers) character dances and baladi as
    well (even it is not really that folklore by the definition).
Here you can hit the wall :) Some dancers in jury may not know Reda
technic so they may not understand what is your story of that dance or you will
use Melaya as part of Baladi and dancers in jury may not know it can be this way :) Or some Egyptian teachers will only
consider melaya dance as Reda created it, so whatever else you will do it might
not be what they believe in. These things actually happened so that is why I
mention it and this is also the moment where dancers confuse contestants.
Improtant i show you want to present it (any dance), what is the story and so.
Melaya is part of clothes, it is not something to be trown here and there and
the dance itself cannot be vulgar – I recommend you reading article of Farida
Fahmy on this subject. Always RESPECT the culture you want to represent.

4. I studied with Mahmoud Reda company and at Firqa Kawmiya company too, so I
can combine what I learned.  

Well, not exactly. These groups are different in many ways (that is for another
article) and I believe they should not be combined. If you dance at some small
local show, nobody probably will know the differencies but there are and you
would probably not make Mahmoud Reda happy if you use his music, steps from
Firqa Kawmiya and costumes inspired by both – this is not what we should want,
if we want to present some other culture – others work and traditions, we
should be correct about it.

Advices for contestants

  1. Contest in whatever you like to
  2. Be honest and clear about what
    you want to say with thatt performance, be able to introduce it to jury
    and audience
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for an
    advice from more experienced dancers – we are happy to help
  4. Create, share, educate
    (yourself and others)
  5. Be RESPONSIBLE, you work with
    someone else‘s culture

Rady pro porotce
  1. Give valuable Feedback to
  2. Keep your mind opened
  3. Support dancers in what they
    love to do, give them opportunity to learn
  4. Be an example of what you want
    to see
  5. If you have no positive opinion
    on contests or you don’t know about these differencies, do not judge
    folklore category
  6. Have an overview of what
    organizer specified in contest conditions
  7. Be RESPONSIBLE, you work with
    someone else‘s culture
  1. Make understandable conditions
    and inform contestants clearly
  2. Have time to explain jury these
    conditions and the goals of contest
  3. Be RESPONSIBLE, you work with
    someone else‘s culture