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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Origins of Reda Troupe Dances:
Part 3: Costuming

 

by Shira

 

 

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Table of Contents

 

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About the Interview

On July 31, 2006, Mahmoud Reda agreed to an interview to discuss the origins of the dances used in Reda Troupe. The purpose of this interview was to clarify which aspects of Reda Troupe's work were drawn from actual folk sources, versus which arose from other inspiration.

My objective for the interview was to document Mr. Reda's process and experiences that shaped the work he created. I wanted to provide a primary source that others could reference when performing their own research into Reda Troupe and its place in Egyptian theatrical history. For purposes of these articles, it is not in my scope to critique his work or provide my personal analysis.

Mr. Reda expressed a preference that I not record the interview. He said he would speak more freely if I didn't capture it on tape. For that reason, I opted to take written notes by hand instead of recording. To ensure I had accurately captured the conversation, I gave him the opportunity to review the articles I wrote describing what he said in the interview and correct any errors I had made. This final version has been approved by him as accurately representing what he told me.

Mahmoud Reda

 

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Costuming

Mahmoud Reda did not personally become very involved in the costuming decisions for Reda Troupe. The costumes for his very first show were designed by Nadida, who was Reda's wife and Farida Fahmy's older sister.

For subsequent shows, Reda engaged professional costume designers whom he met through his brother, Ali Reda. Ali worked as an assistant director in the Egyptian movie industry, and knew many people in show business with the needed skills in costume design, music composition, lighting, and other theater craft.

Farida Fahmy oversaw the work of these costume designers and made the final decisions to ensure that the final products were usable for dance and suitable for Reda Troupe's image. In fact, Fahmy herself did the costume designs for the show Muwasha'at.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Farida Fahmy performs wearing a fellahin style of dress that has been adapted for stage. This photo was included on a CD of photos that Reda gave me for the purpose of illustrating the articles. Click on the image to see more detail.

Taking Tradition to Stage

In the process of researching folk traditions, Reda and Fahmy collected examples of local garments, then took them back to the costume designers in Cairo.

It was sometimes necessary to modify the original designs to make them suitable for dance. For example, the fellahin (farmer) women wore long, ruffled dresses called gargar, which means "something that sweeps behind on the ground like a train". In their original form, these dresses didn't work so well for dance because they interfered with footwork. Adapting the style to make them slightly shorter in the front made them more suitable for dance movement.

Farida Fahmy

The Color Black

In the course of his research, Reda noted that black was the color that most people wore when they were out in public, but then he detected that they were wearing bright colors underneath. When he investigated this, he learned that black was being worn as a color of mourning. It was customary to wear black when out in public for a full year after a close family member had died, even though color could be worn inside the home. Often, by the time a year had ended, someone else had died and a new mourning period had begun. Children were allowed to wear colors, even in public.

For theatrical purposes, black is too flat to be effective on stage, particularly on large numbers of people. For that reason, Reda Troupe used sheer or lacy black garments layered over bright colors to represent the mourning outerwear. This captured the spirit of how real people dressed, while allowing a more colorful presentation on stage.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This photo of a scene from the Reda Troupe motion picture Gharam fi al-Karnak illustrates the use of lacy overgarments. In this scene, Farida Fahmy's dress represents Nubian, and the women around her represent Saidi with the lace overdresses representing outerwear. Click on the image to see more detail.

Gharam fil Karnak

 

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Related Articles

Shira has written additional articles based on the interview. Some have not yet been posted online. This section will be updated once they are available.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Mahmoud Reda for making himself available for the interview on which this article is based. He was most patient in answering my many questions and clarifying points for me when necessary.

I would like to thank Maleeha and Kahraman Near East Dance Ensemble for their important role in making this interview possible.

The material in this article originally appeared in print in Zaghareet Magazine, in 2007.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: I took this photo of Mahmoud Reda in July, 2006, the day of the interview.

Mahmoud Reda in 2006

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