Take Me Back to Toronto!

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Our raqs archivist returned to Toronto to reconnect with family and the raqs sharqi and Arabic music and dance community there. This trip was quite an investment on all parts of those who travelled and we’re grateful that they used their time there to assist us in connecting with those who appreciate the culture we come from and hold dear no matter where we live in the world.
The highlights of the night were Hany Morgan, Dr. George Sawa, the Arabesque Drummers, a Debke duo, Yasmina Ramzy, the Righteous Rogues of Raqs and Arabesque Dance Company. Enjoy!

Hany Morgan is a genius from Egypt whose skill in music is mind blowing. In addition to teaching and leading several classes over the past two months (and will continue to do so throughout 2018), Mr. Morgan performed multiple times in the show as a tabla player, drummer, zillist and overall support for several sets. He and the Righteous Rogues of Raqs are one of the main reasons we came and they both made it worthwhile. I’m thoroughly inspired to go the extra mile with my sagats courses. I’ve always wanted at least a 1/4th the skill he possesses.

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Again, Mr. Morgan’s skill with the zills was incredible to say the least. It’s been about 3 weeks since I returned from the show and I still can’t find the words to describe his outstanding performance. He’s an artist you must see in person to understand why I would be willing to invest in recordings of his work the way that one might pay 1M Euros to get the copy of anything Mozart’s hands touched. The man is just delightful to the point I wanted to cry. It hurts that we have to travel so far to be in the presence of talent like that. Perhaps I’m jealous? It’s just so hard to hear and see that and then go back to the states where we’re not fostering an environment for good music on that level. I feel we’re so focused on the glamour of the costume and competitions, dance technique and performance. I say to the producers stateside, without music, what are we? Kudos to Tribal Con, Essence of Bellydance and other conferences on the west coast who have music tracks featuring drummers and zillists.

The great Dr. Sawa was also there with his oud, giving us his genius as always. I could have listen to him at least six or seven more times that night. He was one of my favourite memories from 2008 and I’m so glad he is front and center as support and a key part of Arabesque’s history. Check out his books here.

Aside from his writing and commentary, I simply enjoy his presence and listening to what he has to say on a variety of topics. Tonight was another wonderful memory to be stashed away in my memories of Toronto treasure box. I swear, if ever there was a city I wish was closer it’s Toronto. I guess the 2-hour plane ride is close enough and I need to be grateful for it.

The Arabesque Drummers were spectacular! I believe there were more at one time, I could swear Yasmina had an orchestra. This was a smaller number of people and some looked new to the group. Together and with the help of Hany Morgan they did a great job and made the night memorable and worth the trip up.

The Righteous Rogues of Raqs performed earlier in the evening and were exceptional! Valizan and Tim have an electric energy that made me wish I had sat a lot closer to the stage as in years past. Please enjoy this video and understand why they were such a hit!

I first saw them back in 2008 at the IBCC. I loved them then and I love them now. Again, they are such good dancers, they also make me ache for Toronto to be closer. One doesn’t simply watch The Righteous Rogues of Raqs, one is hypnotised by them. There was more than one squeal of “More! More!” after their performance.

Yasmina and Arabesque were also enjoyable and their colourful costumes were a highlight of their sets. While this group looks very different from those I saw in 2008, the grace and enthusiasm is still very present. I look forward to seeing how this new team will grow, leave us spellbound and grateful to be a part of the international dance community.

Here are some hightlights…

The strong parts of the show were definitely the musicians, the supportive icons such as Dr. Sawa, Valizan, Tim and the closing number by Arabesque as a troupe. For those things, I would gladly return and I pray I can. Yasmina and team’s work from many years ago produced life changing moments for many of us who continue to travel to Toronto for inspiration and authenticity. There’s nothing like seeing this dance performed by those who are truly dedicated to the art and in some cases have a direct tie to the culture(s) from which it originates. Yasmina is continuously in Egypt and stays close to the root and its continuous development there on the soil and the diaspora. This is important. I trust her new students will follow suit and absorb the dance from teachers there as well as cherish their time with Hany Morgan.

For over a decade I have praised Arabesque, certain that there are few that compare, they were the standard. I want their legacy to continue in that same light and I feel Yasmina’s dedication to bringing Egypt to Toronto and vise versa is the solution to ensuring a successful future…I want to be there for Arabesque 60 and all the good things inbetween!

Thanks for reading!

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