Interviews with the legendary Oriental Dance Choreographer Dr. Mo Geddawi

Dr. Mo Geddawi in Argentina

by Isis Zahara

“If you have the talent to dance and perform you are a lucky person
If you have in addition the talent of teaching you are a very lucky person
If you have the above two talents in addition to the talent of choreography you are blessed”

Dr Mo Geddawi

I had the great pleasure to interview one of the best Egyptian choreographers: Dr. Mo Geddawi.
He is a very important legend in the Belly Dance History:  was co-founder of the legendary REDA DANCE TROUPE as well as one of the company`s lead male dancer. His choreographies have a polished  and flaire way that is called: Egyptian Style. 

Dr. Mo Geddawi has performed and choreographed in movies and for Television Shows as the weekly TV Show “BEIRUT BY NIGHT” in Lebanon. During that period he taught Egyptian folklore dances at the American University of Beirut and at Beirut Collage for Women. Choreographed and performed in the musical “THE BOY FRIEND” for the American Repertory Theatre, and in “FAUST” for the Lebanese Modern Theatre.

In 1984 Dr. Mo Geddawi received the recognition award of art from the Egyptian ministry of culture for his contributions to development and improvement of the Egyptian dance, and the achievement award in 1986 from the Royal Academy of Belly Dance in San Francisco. He is also an Honouree of the Hall of Fame (A.A.M.E.D.), and member of the International Dance Council-CID-UNESCO.

He has produced many Oriental and folklore dance shows in Berlin theaters and other European cities as a master teacher, performer and founder of the "Hathor Dance Troupe" in 1986, Berlin, Germany.  Mo has been teaching at Ahlan Wasahlan Festival organized by Raqia Hassan in Cairo regularly and in many other international festivals around the world. 

Dr. Mo also had been a personal friend of the legendary Divas: Taheya Carioca and Samia Gamal. In the addition to his very active dance career Dr. Mo holds degrees in pharmacology and Medicine.

For more information:

IZ- You are a legend of Oriental Dance history. When did you start dancing and Who or What inspired you to become a choreographer?  
Dr.Mo Geddawi - First I started dancing at very early age when my family discovered my dance talent and sent me to Ballet school in Cairo.
I was then 8 years old. To become a choreographer is a long process, which started by being a dance performer. During learning dancing and through my observations, I discovered that I also enjoy teaching and choreographing. I indicated this to my teacher Mr. Mahmoud Reda and asked him for his guidance. 
Mr. Reda encouraged me to learn choreographic crafts, which is the understanding of how to organize movement into a dance following the discovery of such movements through improvisation and to acquire knowledge about the stage mechanical movements, music, lighting, costuming, Makeup, etc..
After learning with Mr. Reda and other teachers like Fernando Rego in Paris, Ms Georgette Jabara in Beirut; and reading many books on choreography I started to choreograph.

The creativity involved in designing choreographies has fascinated and inspired me. I was also inspired by Mr. Mahmoud Reda, whom I consider an excellent and fascinating choreographer. 

IZ – In the past you had to choice between a medicine or dance career. Thinking now about the health benefits of dancing, can you say that the dance is a kind of Medicine? 
Dr.Mo Geddawi - In fact I am glad that I did not make that choice, since studying medicine helped me understanding the anatomy of human body specially the bone and muscular structures involved in movements.
I can say that medicine is also an art. Oriental dance is a good therapy and has been recognized by medical profession and even some medical insurances for treatment of depression, drug addiction, Alzheimer and very helpful to improve abilities of retarded children. 

IZ - Why so many women in the world are in love with Oriental dance?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - The oriental dance became very popular worldwide because women discovered its many benefits for them. The first is that through practicing oriental dance women learn to appreciate their body and live in harmony with it. This will make women happy persons and consequently they will make their surrounding happy. The oriental dance improves the personality of the woman and reduces her inhibitions. And finally it is a good sport to keep the body healthy and in good shape.

Dr. Mo dancing Said

IZ - During the Mohamed Shahin’s interview you answered a question about western influences in the Oriental Dance.  Do you think we could pay more attention on what the ancient Egyptians have influenced in our current culture, including the dance?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - There is a western influence on the oriental dance in making it more theatrical, which is positive. The American created new related dances like tribal and fusions, etc.. The Egyptian culture, however, has influenced the western culture in many aspects like science, philosophy, religions, math, art including dance. In fact the Greek and Roman culture are concidered an extension of the Egyptian culture.

Dr. Mo dancing Nubian

IZ – Can we say that the Oriental Dance brings elements from the Ancient time?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - Yes you can. You just need to look at the dance illustrations documented in the temples of ancient Egypt to find out that many dance elements are the same or very similar to how we dance today. See the book of Irena Lexova on Ancient Egyptian dance published by Dover publication, New York.

IZ- You had a chance to know the legendary Divas of the Golden Age, as Samia Gamal, Taheya Carioca. As a choreographer, what is unique or interesting to you about Samia Gamal and Taheya Carioca styles?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - Each of them has a characteristic style. Taheya Carioca, is the symbol of  Raqs Sharki. She moved with subtlety and delicacy. She brought a refinement and sophistication to traditional, indigenous gestures. What makes her dance different from any other is precisely those elements that Taheya capitalized on – containment, minimal space, internalised emotion, compressed movement, restrained, hidden intensity – giving the feeling that something incredible was locked inside ready to explode… when the time was right. There was more to see, more to anticipate. As an Arab "elitist” explained: “Ms. Carioca dances with poesie”. She deserved the title of the queen of Raqs Sharki.

Taheya Carioca, 1958

Samia Gamal  presentation of  Raqs Sharki was consciously tempered by her earlier training in the art of classical ballet; organized, precise and theatrically uncluttered by extraneous gestures. Samia knew how to manipulate space. Her entrances on the stage were fascinating and were accomplished with a superb dramatic effect as she was invariably cocooned in a voluptuous veil; this veil was far more than a mere prop. It became an instrument for communication with her audience. At one moment, it suddenly wafted heavenwards, becoming a cloud; at another, it became a canopy over her head protecting her from the more tumultuous elements. 

Samia Gamal 1958

Taheya and Samia were multi talented stars, They were star dancers and star actresses. Taheya`s career as a stage actress is as prominent as her screen career, if not more influential, as was politically oriented. The 15 Carioca Troupe productions over a nine year period were often daring and outspoken critique of the political system.

Taheya Carioca with Dr. Mo Geddawi in 1995

IZ – What is your favorite Taheya’s dance?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - all her dances were unique, one of my favorite dances was on the music Aziza, which was the first music specially composed specially for Taheya Carioca by the late legendary Egyptian composer Mohamed Abdel Wehab.

IZ- Taheya Carioca -interviewed by Mona Gaabri in 1974 - said something simple but full of knowledge about the Art of Oriental Dance - “ Just let them dance. Dance well even if they (refers if the musicians just hum the tune) just hum on the air. Just dance!” - Wondering about the meaning of this sentence. Is “Just dance!” a greater significance related to the expressivity in the dance?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - I believe she meant that the dance is in the foreground no matter how music is played. The dancer should deliver always a great performance and not use excuses for not dancing well. 

Dr. Mo Geddawi dancing with Samia Gamal, 1960

IZ – The Reda Troupe represents an important advent of the Oriental Dance in the Egyptian History.   What were the particular challenges involved in dancing for creates a legendary repertoire? As you know, some choreographies became, the face of the Egyptian folklore.  
Dr.Mo Geddawi - The Reda Troupe created the modern Egyptian folklore dances based on documentation of all aspects related to Egyptian folkloric dances, music, costumes, ethnicity of legends and rituals collected from different areas in Egypt and modified to suite performing on the stage without loosing its Egyptian authenticity. This was the real challenge. The repertoire of the troupe covered Egyptian dances, Egyptian characters and Egyptian fairy-tails. The glory of the Reda troupe is that all their dances reflected the real Egyptian behavior, Character and atmosphere. Audience acknowledged that and identified themselves with the Reda Troupe. Many of these dances became the standard and the face of Egyptian folklore.

IZ - What was (is) fascinating with Mahmoud Reda? 
Dr.Mo Geddawi - His devotion to establish a dance group to present the Egyptian folkloric dances. This was accomplished in 1959. He became the pioneer of Egyptian folkloric dances. He produced a legendary repertoire and has introduced and established a Reda dance style.  He is an incredible choreographer.

Dr. Mo with Mahmoud Reda - The 50th year anniversary of Reda Troupe, 2009

 IZ – What has been the best part about the Hathor Dance Troupe?
Dr.Mo Geddawi - The goals of the Hathor Dance Troupe are internationalization of the Egyptian and oriental dances, teach and train Germans and persons of other nationalities living in Germany, who are interested in the Egyptian and Oriental culture, to perform Egyptian and oriental dances in order to show the European public the beauty of these colourful dances, and also to show Egyptians and Arabs living abroad a piece of their own culture.
These goals have been successfully accomplished since 1986 through the many successful performances during cultural events and festivals.

Dr. Mo with Hathor Troupe in Berlin, 2009

IZ - What advice would you give to dancers or new choreographers who are looking to take their craft to a high level? 
Dr.Mo Geddawi - Learn to understand the dance basics and their techniques, practice as much as you can to keep your body tuned, plan your performance very carefully to make sure that you get the full attention of the audience from the beginning to the end. 
As for choreographers I would say: Developing your choreographic abilities takes time and occurs in developmental stages. It is a trial and error process of seeing, experiencing, and learning. Viewing good choreographies in performance is one way to heighten your sensitivity and gain a better understanding of how to mould and give form to your work.

In the following video, Gabi Beege from The Hathor Dance Troupe dances Milaya, choreography by Mo Geddawi:


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