Saturday, 17 May 2008

Coffee with Raqia Hassan

by Layla Taj

Almost behind every successful Egyptian Style Dancer is the name "Raqia Hassan".

I had the opportunity to meet and take a class with Raqia when I was invited to perform in a Gala show in Stockholm Sweden Belly Dance Festival ..June 2000. She made a great impression on me. I want to share with you a question/answer article I wrote for a Middle Eastern Publication.

Layla: Raqia where were you born?

Raqia: I was born in Cairo and my father was born in Alexandria.

Layla: When you were a young girl in school , what type of student were you?

Raqia: I was a very good student, very quiet and honest.No one needed to push or beg me to do my homework. I wanted to do things right.

Layla: When did you begin dancing?

Raqia: When I was 4 years old, I started to move to the music. I rememember when I was young and sick in bed and suddenly I would hear the music ..and I would move to the music, even in bed while I was sleeping" she laughs.

Layla: Did you know as a little girl that you would become a professional dancer?

Raqia: Yes , many times and I'm sure others feel the same. If you love dance, the dance is always with you. It's in your blood. All Egyptians have dancing in their blood but some know their fate will be a life of dance.

Layla: Who inspired you the most as a young girl?

Raqia: When I was a young girl, I always wanted to go to the movies, the cinema. I always liked to watch the dancers. Samia Gamal , Tahia Carioca, etc. There were many good dancers during this time.

Layla: Who was your favorite?

Raqia: Nemat Moktar. Her movements were fantastic, it was as if she were singing.

Layla: Were there any obstacles which you encountered with your dancing career? For example government, boyfriends , your parents etc..?

Raqia: No, No. Nothing stopped me! I had a free life. I started dancing in a small group when I was 14 years old. Everyone around me knew how much I loved dance and no one tried to stop me.

Layla: What was it like dancing for the famous Reda dance troupe?

Raqia: It was a great experience for me! All this experience really helped me with what am doing now.I learned ballet, folkloric and gained alot of experience being on stage! I learned much from Reda, as he dealt with us as dancers. This is where I also learned my vocabulary! I learned a lot.

Layla: You were also a solo dancer for the Reda Troupe. What was the difference between dancing as a solo artist as opposed to dancing with a troupe?

Raqia: At 17 years old , I started to be a solo dancer with the Reda Troupe. But it is not for everybody. At this time I was very gifted with moving my hips and so he used me. I was the first one.

Layla: In your opinion what are the elements that make up a good choreography?

When a dancer has good form with her arms, good posture in general, a good smile and personality.. it executes the choreography well. But before everything else, a dancer must have a good ear for the music. Too many dancers don't have "the ear' and this is not good. When a dancer has a good ear for the music, the choreography will come automatically.

Layla: What is your opinion concerning choreography verses improvisation?

Raqia: I prefer choreography when it doesn't look like choreography.

Choreography should flow from the dancer and look natural. It should be a secret of the dancer that her music is choreographed. No one should notice. As a master teacher I have an eye for great detail, and my eyes cannot help capture the mistakes that a dances makes during her performance. And sometimes this makes me very tired. But when a performance is good it is as though I am in a dream.

Layla: What should dancers never do in front of an Egyptian audience.?

Raqia: A dancer should never sit, lie down or roll around on the floor. This is Turkish style but not Egyptian. I feel a dancer is a queen and a queen never sits on the floor! She should always stand up with a majestic posture. This is the Egyptian way.

Layla: Some dancers remark, "I dance for myself when I perform". What is your opinion about this remark?

Raqia: Never should a dancer dance only for herself. She can dance for herself at home in front of a mirror. When you are on stage you can dance some from your own feeling but mostly for the people. Some people really go out of their way to see you. How can you dance just for yourself? Can you just forget your audience? Never!

Raqia is a generous teacher giving of herself completely. I remember fondly during a class in Stockholm Sweden, she boldly walked over to me and put her foot on my foot to keep it down during a combination. She said "okay, now move the other foot" I did so. She replied "There, you've got it!" That's Raqia ..hands down simply the best!

Source: Layla Taj

No comments:

Post a Comment