Amina and the Aswan Dancers did it again! The sold out show at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts was another stellar example of the kinds of show their fans have grown to expect and they have not yet been disappointed.
I really had to restrain myself from immediately reviewing this show. It would have been too gushy, too emotional, too biased. Driving home from the event, listening at top volume to Susu’s new CD “Nostalgia”, I was feeling a little, well a lot, nostalgic! I realized it was over 30 years ago, that I first saw one of Amina’s productions. That evening show was held at the now closed Pasha Restaurant in San Francisco. I was a baby dancer, performing with the legendary Deann and Dream Dancers at a gala show for Mahmoud Reda and Amina and the Aswan Dancers were the featured group. While the stars of the show were upstairs changing, I along with other troupe members, were allotted the public bathroom to the right of the performing area. I remember fondly, every time the restroom door opened, catching a glimpse of Amina and her group performing!
It was with a smile on my face and music blasting that I drove home, reminiscing about that night many years ago, other past shows and recalling the gems of this one. It’s been several days, my wistful nostalgia for times past has lifted but my enthusiasm for the show has not waned.
Amina and the Aswan Dancers and their accompanying musicians have been a part of the landscape of dance in the SF Bay Area since 1976!
The venues for their performances have ranged from the small cabaret setting, lounges with no real stage to large-scale productions on a proscenium stage like this one last Saturday night. In each of those instances, the audience is always treated to a glimpse of Egyptian culture, accompanied by great music, and the ever-present humor of the Aswan Dancers.
The “Pasha Band” is comprised of band captain and director Hussan Resan on oud, violin and vocals. He also displays his talent in composition in this show as one of his songs, Leili Ya Leil, was featured in the program and which I think deserves a formal recording!
Jalal Takesh on kanun brings an obvious love and virtuosity to his playing that was obvious as I was not the only audience member who was feeling the music as was evidenced by the head swaying, toe tapping response in the seated audience. Younes al Makboul on violin, oud and vocals, rounded out the string section with heartfelt violin solos and a mawal that added an authentic dimension to the show.
Hana in Ya Hawanem.
TerriAnne Gutierrez on deff and riq displays her musical skills that match her dance expertise while playing the back beat to star drummer Susu Pampanin. Susu a well-known drummer locally has proven her skill in the bigger arena of percussionists with a following through multiple music genres and with a simultaneous release of her newest recording “Nostalgia” it made the event for me celebratory and a bit epic.
Amina Goodyear is the artistic director of the Aswan Dancers and the brainchild behind the evening’s show, completed the trio of percussionists. All of the strong and accomplished musicians, joined their talent and artistry to form an elaborate tapestry for a backdrop to the Aswan Dancers performances.
In the first dance, performed to an original gramophone version of the song, El
Gheira Ya Nar El Gheira sung by Badia Masabni, dancers Hana, Irina, Kerima, Lylia, Maya, Susan and Aswan Dancer veteran Shara brought each of their own dance personality and trademark Aswan Dancers playfulness to the recorded piece. With the Latin inspired costumes they immediately invoked Taheya Cariaco for which the piece was dedicated and transported the audience to the Badia Masabni’s Cabaret.
The Reda inspired Andalusian vignette danced to well-known Lamma Bada Yetathana, sometimes called “The Aziza of Samais”, brought to the stage an important historical element to the show which Irina, Maya and Shara danced beautifully.
In Ma Biyesalalsh Aaleya, all of the dancers had it! Though I thought Hana nailed it in her subtle, but unmistakable upper torso carriage reminiscent of “Golden Age” dancers as Kerima, Lyla and Susan sang in response to Younes’ mawal and oud playing.
Part two of the show opened with Ya Hawanem, also known as “The Ladies Dance”(which also is a cut on Susu’s CD Nostalgia). From the program: “Egyptians enjoy fantasy and although they may enjoy looking European, they never lose their Egyptian goofiness and sense of humor” is apt.
This piece is the kind of dance I adore watching the Aswan Dancers do. In character, fun costumes, with their own personas thrown into the mix, bringing fused Egyptian dance to the stage. It was cute, it was silly, it was dahlal, it was the Aswan Dancers! This piece was one of my favorites in the program.
Other memorable mentions include Shara playing the “lady” accompanied by Ayman Kozman waltzing across the stage as singer, Rana Mroue, treated us to her vocals in Albi Dalili.
Shara, Ayman, Rana
Shara, Ayman, and Rana singing
Ya Msafer Wahedek sung by Husain Resan and danced beautifully by Dannhae as well as
Amal Hayati were two pieces that I enjoyed as both songs and dances really showcased how Egyptian composers and dancers of the past fused other traditions into their art. Singers Rana and Ayman (members of the San Francisco based Aswat) also joined us again in the 2nd half singing Farid al Atrache‘s Zeina ya Zeina with a stage full of beautiful dancing to bring a beautiful visual to the music.
The program for the event included the show’s set with descriptions, and bios of the full cast, but also was actually a beautifully paper bound booklet that included a fotonovela written and produced by Amina and Hana Ali. Along with my reminiscing, the book is a tangible reminder for me of a lovely evening of music and dance!