Shadows in the dark move slowly on the floor, perhaps the dancers are stretching?
The small intimate theater of the Artistic Creativity Center of the Cairo Opera House lit up this week with an impressive performance from the students of the Modern Dance School.
At the beginning of the show, the music was almost disturbing. The dancers moved around the stage, looking distressed. But then the intensity is broken as the music mellowed out into a soft Arabic tune, and one of the dancers, Howayda Abdel Wahab, elegantly belly-danced across the stage.
The show, entitled “Nos Sa’a: Kabl El ‘Ard (Half an Hour: Before the Performance) is the first part of a trilogy choreographed and produced by Tamer Fathy, a resident teacher at the school. The concept, as the name implies, revolves around the dancers warming up before the show begins, practicing different sequences for the play, set to take place in part two.
Five women and two men adorn the stage, at first fully dressed in casual winter clothes and boots as they arrive for practice. Soon, they change into more comfortable dancing outfits; the girls looking notably funky in leg warmers, leggings with hot shorts and solid colored t-shirts.
Next, the dancers each hold a paper, read it as they prepare for the big showdown, crumple it to make music and use it at as a weapon, throwing it at each other. On a screen behind them, the paper gets written on, then burns and gets stained with blood. Then it rewinds to the beginning again, going back to the original paper.
“The screen is what is going through their heads, Fathy explains to Daily News Egypt.
By then they start to loosen up and the show gets more exciting. The dancers then go to a corner to make space for Sarah Helmy, the most impressive performer of the bunch, to do her solo dance.
The screen at the back shows Helmy dancing around a chair, reminiscent of “Flashdance, as her stage performance echoes her moves on the screen.
She gracefully moves with the poise of a ballerina and the funk of a street dancer.
Helmy was not always in sync with the background though, maybe a little more practice would perfect the image – nevertheless, it was remarkable.
“It’s the hardest thing … the music has to be in sync with the video and I have to be in sync with the video and the music, third year student Helmy explained.
Next was another solo sequence from another third year student Mariam Abdel Nour. Her cornrow hair style contributed greatly to her edgy contemporary look and urban attitude. The screen showed her running in the City of the Dead, as if someone is chasing after her. Heavy breathing was blasting from the speakers as Abdel Nour moved dramatically on the floor, as if in pain.
On the sidelines during Abdel Nour’s dance, one of the male dancers interrupted her performance with a sudden sequence. Amr Patrick, a second year student, leads Helmy in a flawless dance.
The soothing moment is broken as the chaotic Ataba district is showed on the screen. All dancers reunited once again, and stood on one side of the stage. Without dancing, the effect of the pounding percussion was displayed through the rambling clapping or banging on a part of the wall.
Percussions are one of seven subjects these dancers study over a period of three years. Others include solfège (a singing exercise especially using sol-fa syllables), modern dance, classical ballet, theater, open class (workshop featuring Egyptian and foreign instructors), the master class and Martha Graham technique( one of the 20th century’s most influential creators of modern dance famous for her “contraction and release style).
The choreographer then takes centerstage as the students go backstage to change. Fathy grabs the audience with his professional skills as he dances with a wooden stick.
Fathy became interested in dancing at the age of seven when he trained to become a ballet dancer. After over a decade of studying dance, he moved to London to study performing arts for three years at the London Irving Academy.
The rest of the cast joined him shortly; all dressed in black and ready for the performance to begin. The chapter ends at this point, paving the way for the second part of the trilogy. Fathy states that part two entitled “Badry Kol Yom: Asnaa El ‘Ard (Early Everyday: During the Performance) is not going to be a dance routine, but, instead, a drama using actors instead of dancers.
“Han’eesh Aktar: Ba’ad El ‘Ard (We Will Live Longer: After the Performance) is the final part, promised to be a more artistic modern dance performance.
Although this show was a project for second and third year students, one of the students broke her leg and was unable to participate. Fathy chose two of the exceptional freshman dancers, Rana Abdel Latif and Reem Kadry, to double-cast the girl’s role.
Despite the fact they’ve enrolled in the school only a few months earlier, they pulled off the job flawlessly. “They have less experience but they are good and in a very short time they did well, says Fathy approvingly, “They joined in later so they only had a month of practice.
This school is the only one in Cairo where people can learn how to dance at what the industry labels an older age . Abdel Latif, 25, feels like the school is highly professional but needs real dedication. After her day job in finance, she spends her evenings at the school dancing up to five hours a day, five days a week.
Nos Sa’a is showing today twice at 7 and 9 pm at the Cairo Opera House’s Artistic Creativity Centre. For more information, check the culture agenda.