Festival the East Review

Hello there, MED Folks!

Though I’m not a professional writer by any stretch, I just wanted to let everyone who wasn’t able to attend the first-ever Festival of the East in Hempstead, New York, know what a great time it was.  I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but it seemed to me that the guests and organizers both really enjoyed themselves, and the announcement of a Festival #2 to be held next year received many cheers.  I’m really happy for the many volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen, particularly Renate and Stella – it was a very big event, and they did a fabulous job!

My main reason for attending the Festival of the East was the excellent selection of workshop instructors.  Participants could choose a maximum of two three-hour sessions per day for the three days of the Festival. (Now that I know how tired out I can be after going at it that hard for three days, I know I’ll have to pace myself better next time!)

The six workshops I enrolled in were with Morocco, Yousry Sharif,  Hossam Ramzy (his wife Serena was unable to be present to assist him), Dalia Carella, Anahid Sofian and Medea Mahdavi.  Of the six workshops I took, I found I preferred the teaching styles of Morocco, Anahid Sofian and Medea Mahdavi, who I felt were all very good instructors, since now that I’m home, I am able to recall more of what was transmitted in those classes than the others.  Yousry Sharif’s method for presenting a choreography took chunks that were too large for me at one time, though I appreciated the quality of his choreography itself very much.  It was unfortunate that Hossam Ramzy was left without a dancer to help him teach his workshops on Saturday and Sunday.  As he lectured and played music for us, he demonstrated in a humourous manner the movements himself, but it would have been ideal to have someone there performing this function for him.  He did provide the group with insight into the relationship between the dancer and the musicians, and emphasized how important it is for the dancer to have a solid knowledge base in Mid-eastern music, including rhythm patterns and instruments.  Finally, I felt that Dalia Carella presented her Dunyavi gypsy form well, but I was disappointed that the choreography we learned was basically the one on her teaching video, since I was hoping for something new.

The two nights of performances were entertaining and educational in all respects.  Rather than presenting a review of these shows, let me just say that I appreciated how the programs for each night were organized so that a mainly Egyptian theme prevailed the first evening and Turkish the next, the latter being a more mellow night for a now pretty-tired-out bunch of workshop participants.  Still, they managed to get up and go crazy when Hossam Ramzy invited them to dance to a drum “solo” (how can it be a solo with 200 people dancing???).  Both bands were quite good, and it was hard to tear ourselves out of the ballroom at 1 a.m.,  when it was all over…

My only complaint has to do with the facility itself, the Best Western Conference Center. It wasn’t the building, it was the staff, who just didn’t seem very service oriented at all.  Of course, Renate and Stella had no control over this, but I hope the hotel manager heard some feedback about his staff.  They could use a few sessions in a customer service course!  Believe me, I ain’t no complainer, I just happen to train people in that sort of thing, and these poor folks quite often just didn’t know what to do…

Well, that’s all from me – certainly just an overview of the event.

Dancing Off into the Blue,