Thursday, November 29, 2007

Workshop with Ahmet Refaat. 22/11/07

This workshop just intrigued me. I had no idea who the teacher was, turns out he has been a celebrated folklorique dancer all over the world and most recently performed with the Reda troupe. Anyway- I was taken with the idea of 2 hour workshop which would cover 3 different styles, saaidi with cane, Eskandarani with melaya laf and Bambuti with spoons. It was as fast paced and frantic as I thought it might be!!!! 3 hours were defiantly needed to give each style the time they deserved. Ahmet is a fabulous choreographer and I loved the routines he did in each of the styles…. But I felt I had time to grasp the steps only and not enough time to get into the feel of each one. The stick dance was great, lots of nice touches, turns, ideas and very fast! Very balletic, and elegant although without much heavy earthy stuff. But lots of usable ideas! A dance I really wish I had videoed! The melaya (my favourite of the 3) was very swooshy- and oh my god did my arms and shoulders ache by the end with all the throwing the melaya up onto my arms then spreading it out again………. Ouch! Not much wrapping yourself up in the melaya – more using it a bit more like a veil- but some lovely turns. Bambuti I knew NOTHING about before the workshop and I would have loved a bit of a story behind it all… but basically we had spoons where the handles where joined together to they looked a bit like castanets, which you had to tap out the rhythms by hitting various parts of your anatomy in time with the music. The music was great- often with empty pauses in it to give the dancer time to fill the gap with the spoon sound, and it all reminded me a bit of Morris dancing to be honest.


Since then I have done a little research on the Bambuti and found that they are the most famous type of Pygmies and come from the ituri forest in Africa. According to the Encyclopedia Britannia ' Their music, complex in rhythm and harmony, is often accompanied by dance or mime'

The knowledge about the existence of the Pygmies dates back to 2150 B.C. They were present in the court of the Egyptian King Pepi II Neferkare and were depicted on Egyptian pottery. The Bambuti were used as the court jesters and entertainers in pharonic times. Hence an entertaining dance form evolved which involves spoons and fun and acrobatics and clowning around.

In Egyptian culture now, people see Bambuti as the fishermen from the Delta region in the north of Egypt.

When I did a search on 'spoon dance' I came up with this! 'There are representations (in Ancient Greek texts) of men and women dancing with spoon-like objects. These objects and the way the dancers hold them remind very much of the spoons, in the spoon dance people from the area of Capadoccia (Asia Minor) still do today. Also Spoons are used as rhythm instruments in Turkey and Greece and there are several versions of spoon dances there.

So it seems.... although I am open to learning more should anyone out there know more! I am only guessing since I can't seem to find the information anywhere......, that

The Egyptian Bambuti Spoon dance is a mongrel- a mix of all these difference influences over the centuries. A fun dance, reminisce of the old pygmy court jesters, done by fishermen from the Delta who had been influenced by the culture of spoon music and dance from Greece and Turkey and of course represented and brought to the modern stage by folklorique troupes such as the Reda troupe.

2 comments:

Vanessa said...

How funny! I used to be in Christmas shows in California and there was always a lady that would perform with two spoons held like you describe. I always thought it was a sort of odd California thing! It does sound like a fun workshop to try.

Lorna (aka BellyLorna!) said...

Hmmmm- read my blog today about bambuti !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its gets even weirder!!