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Photos © M. Shahin
Graphic design: Konstanze Winkler
What made you specialize in Tanoura and Egyptian Saidi?

When I became a professional dance teacher/choreographer and I started to travel to teach workshops - I taught some of Mahmoud Reda‘s folkloric technique. Afterwards, I continued to develop and refine my personal dance style - which is also diverse because I have studied ballet and modern dance. Even though my dance style has transformed over the years, Mahmoud Reda’s influence on me was and still is the great foundation of my dance. It’s also nice that we have the same birthday.

Well … since the beginning of his career, Mahmoud Reda  not only continues to influence me, but has and is influencing generations of dancers throughout Egypt and around the world. Without Mahmoud Reda, the history of Egyptian dance and it’s future would have been completely different.

After 2 years of studying cultural dances with the National Troupe, I was happily surprised when I received an invitation to dance as part of the biggest private dance troupe in Egypt at that time, with super star singer, actor, and TV show presenter Samir Sabry. From then on, I was recognized as a professional dancer. During this time I was working as a dancer and also studying to become a mechanical engineer. When I completed my studies at the Engineering Institute, instead of going to work as a mechanical engineer, I decided to continue working as a dancer! And I am very, very, very happy with my decision. I love dancing and I am so grateful to be able to present my culture to others while making friends and meeting beautiful people around the world.
What gave you - at the young age of 15 - the distinct kick to become an artist of Egyptian dance?

From a very young age, when I would hear music playing especially at my birthday parties and at family events, I couldn’t stop dancing and jumping around. Somehow, at the age of 15 - just like that – I decided to go to watch a few amateur dance groups rehearse in hopes that I could join them. I went to this certain Sports Club in Cairo near to my neighbourhood where people engage in activities such as tennis, football, swimming, playing music, and making art. There was a particular dance troupe at the Sports club that I loved watching during their rehearsals. All the troupe members, male and female alike, were having so much fun dancing together and joking around, even when the choreographer was correcting all of them. I loved the atmosphere there and the troupe’s energy. After seeing them dance I became even more excited to join them … So, I went up to the choreographer and I asked him if I could join the group. He asked me if I had any dance training. I answered, “NO”.  He said “Well then, how do you expect to dance with us?” I said “I love dancing and I will learn fast … I promise.” So finally after begging, he said I could come the next day to the rehearsal. So I started to rehearse with the troupe and the troupe members were very helpful and nice to me. They taught me everything I needed to learn at that time.

After 3 years of dancing with the troupe at the Sports club, at 18 years of age I decided to start studying dance professionally and so I moved to the prestigious Ballon Theater, where the biggest folkloric dance troupes, orchestras, and theater companies rehearse and perform, such as The Reda Troupe and The National Troupe. So I began to study dance in preparation to perform with the National Troupe.
Please tell us about the influence Mahmoud Reda had and still has on your dance enthusiasm and your dancing style.
He has influenced me greatly; as a dancer, as a teacher, and as a performer representing my country. Before I started studying Egyptian Folkloric Dance, I used to watch Mahmoud Reda and his troupe on film. I used to wait for his films to be presented on the local Egyptian television networks because I so much wished I could dance like him. When I had just begun dancing, I would go to the Ballon Theater in Giza, Cairo to watch The Reda Troupe perform live. After I became a professional dancer, I was invited to become part of Mahmoud Reda’s private troupe. Allthough it was a limited engagement, the experience was unforgettable.
The Saidi dance is one of my top favourite dances in Egyptian folklore. I love the movements and the style of this dance. I also love the fact that this dance is earthy and very masculine. I get many requests to teach Saidi workshops throughout my travels. When I teach Saidi dances, I am very happy to see everyone having a great time learning the Saidi style, technique and choreographies.

Because I love the Saidi dance very much, my Saidi dance is indeed the specialty that I excel in and that is also why people consider this dance my specialty.

I can’t say that my specialty is the Tanoura dance. It is a known fact that Egypt produces and is full of the best Tanoura dancers in the world - and so many Tanoura dancers amaze me with their incredible strength, talent, and creativity. Egyptians are very passionate about the Tanoura dance - and so am I.  That is why I love to dance with the Tanoura! The Tanoura dance is one of my favourite dances and is the most requested dance I receive from my Sponsors around the world. I love to watch great dancers perform this dance … and moreover I love performing it!

When I perform my Tanoura dance, I am so happy when I hear the audience clapping and screaming during and after the performance. I love their reactions so much. They go crazy with excitement for this dance and ask me so many questions about it after each show, which makes me feel wonderful!!

Interview with Mohamed Shahin

by Marcel Bieger

One of the most important contemporary classical belly dancers is Egypt’s Mohamed Shahin. This year he will be in Germany for the first time, and we are as exited to see him as he is exited to see us. In the following interview he tells us, how he became a dancer, where he has specialised in his dance and how the recent riots in Egypt have influenced the dance community.