BWW Review: From The Horse's Mouth Educates and Inspires
Created by Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, From The Horse's Mouth is a dance-theatre series that revolves around the lived experiences of dancers from around the globe. Its 20th Anniversary, at the 14th Street Y Theater, was a celebration of the dances of Egypt with a program honoring former prima ballerina of the Cairo Ballet Company, Dr. Magda Saleh.
I attended one of several show dates on March 17th, which happened to feature the excellent documentary, Egypt Dances (1977), narrated by Dr. Saleh, at 3pm and a live dance performance, interspersed with commentary from several dancers about their experiences, at 8pm.
The 1977 time capsule, Egypt Dances, introduces its audience to a wide variety of indigenous African and Arab dance traditions that are found throughout the North Eastern tip of Africa from the oasis of Siwa to the borders of Sudan to the tip of the Suez Canal and along the Nile. Some dances were acrobatic, martial and death-defying; others were sensual and undulating; still more were spiritual and therapeutic. Some were a mix of these elements.
The live performance came later that evening, during which we got to hear from Dr. Saleh and her peers. Some focused on the life and legacy of Dr. Saleh while others shared stories about their personal artistic journeys. As they spoke, an impressive 20+ total dancers improvised on the stage, usually three at a time, though some soloists were featured and the occasional parade of dancers moved across the stage throughout the show.
Live music accompanied Egyptian dances such as tanoura, tahtib, raqs shamadan, raqs assaya and raqs sharqui as well as dances from the Western standard such as modern/contemporary, ballet and Westernized Afro-Latin traditions such as tango. Even Indian classical dance graced the stage.
My only disappointment was that some exceptional dancers were not featured as soloists. (I would've loved more featured dance performances sans talking in general.) Although names were listed in the program, it often wasn't apparent who was performing on stage.
Still, From The Horse's Mouth must be applauded for the ambitious, educational and diverse nature of its programming. Any lover of dance, particularly its history and inner workings, would be privileged to attend these events.