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Things could have ended very badly in 2003.
Having an advertised teacher or performer pull out after bookings have already opened is any event organiser's nightmare. We had to deal with it twice in 2003! First, Nayima from Adelaide, always one of the most popular festival teachers and performers, had to cancel due to illness. And then, at the very last minute, we got word that Tanyeli had been delayed in Turkey and would not be able to make it either. Fortunately, out of the blue, the universe sent us Modi.
How do we begin to describe Modi?? Hopefully, you saw him in action for yourself. Let's just say that at every turn during the Festival people were whispering his name, typically accompanying it with some sort of choking gasp signifying a mix of amazement, adulation, excitement, and good old schoolgirl crush.
Not only can that man really move his backside - he can also make you move yours in a big way. A small fortune could have been made had a manchester company sold towels outside his workshop ... alas, another missed sponsorship opportunity.
Above from left (click to enlarge): Modi, Hathor Dance Theatre and Collective.
After gallantly stepping in and taking over Nayima's Modern Egyptian workshop, Modi proved such a hit that we ran a second session the next day. There were as many people crowded around outside trying to get a look as there were inside, sweating it out with Modi's high-energy choreography. Our long-suffering volunteer door people gave up trying to enforce the "no-observer" rule, and who can blame them. They would have been crushed by a clamour of cabaret queens had they not gracefully bowed out.
The Egypt on Stage concert received unanimous acclaim. It opened with a vast and sumptuous work choreographed by Jrisi and performed by her Hathor Dance Theatre and the specially-formed Hathor Dance Collective. It brought a theatricality and stage craft missing from performances in recent years.
Modi's performance was one that will long be remembered by all who were there. The screams from the audience will probably also long be remembered by the residents of the surrounding streets.
Other performers included soloists Lorelle from Queensland and Dounia from Sydney, Paivi's Raks Kahramana in a Nubian number, Terezka's Academy of Danse Orientale, Vera Myronenko's Amaranth, Leonie's Turkish Delights, the Gypsy Flames, the Veils of Baghdad, Desert Flames and the Kushites who have more recently evolved into Kush Cabaret.
Above from left (click to enlarge): Paivi in Nubian mode, Lorelle, two images from the Academy of Danse Orientale's performance, Amaranth, the Kushites. At the dinner dance - Shiva.
The Cairo Cabaret dinner venue was perfectly suited to the theme - as long as you weren't expecting Cairo 5-star hotel cabaret. If you were expecting 2-3 star Cairo nightclub, you were right on the money. There were plenty of stars on the dancefloor so no-one was complaining about the entertainment. Sounds of the Sahara played up a storm and we were treated to one fantastic performance after another - Melissa Cristina, Jrisi, Janna, Georgette, Elenie, Rose and Shiva (left).
Among many highlights was the duel on the dancefloor between drummer Ghassan and the wonderful Elenie of the Gold Coast (another Festival favourite). Witnessing the interplay - dare we say, the battle of wills - between these two master performers was pure joy.
And goodness knows, every dancer who bears scars from going up against Ghassan's at times unpredictable brilliance, was cheering Elenie on with one voice. And how we bathed in her victory. (We should note that Ghassan does not, to this day, admit defeat.)
And in a climax unforeseen by anyone, (perhaps least of all by Elenie and Ghassan), their efforts to bend each to the other's will culminated in the two of them in the centre of the dancefloor, foreheads touching, literally going head-to-head (right). A magic Festival moment.
Despite the potential disasters, attendance in 2003 surpassed all previous records for every event. The Enmore Theatre concert was overflowing, the dinner dance sold out a month in advance, and workshop participation numbers were the highest yet. The TP situation was pretty much under control (see 2002).
© Leonie Sükan
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