Sunday, August 2, 2009

Costumes and Alexandria

I ran away to the beach again this week, which I'm sure is hardly a big surprise by now. I don't think I've managed to stay in Cairo for more than about 2 weeks solid here, but this time was great! I spent the days on the beaches, the nights in cafes, and lots of time just hanging out with my friend who dragged me along. It was a lovely little vacation!

The beaches were a little crowded and it was definitely boiling out during the day, but the sea was perfect and at night it was great to just walk along the shore when things were more quiet. Apparently this time of year is popular with Egyptians looking to go on vacation somewhere nice. It IS nice too, the beaches have lovely white sand and the water is perfect if a bit choppy. If you like seafood, I also hear the best thing is to kick back on the beach with some Alexandrian fish...but for me I was sticking to chicken as I'm "just not a fish person," as I had to explain over and over to different people.

The train back was a good idea too, I definitely recommend it! Air conditioned, kinda quiet, and I was actually able to nap even. This is a major point to note as normally anything that moves over like 10 miles an hour renders me sleepless! When we were at the station it looked like there were trains going back to cairo every hour give or take, so even if you miss one you can hit up a cafe across the street for a little bit while you wait.

Of course when I got back to Cairo I was definitely getting antsy to get some stuff done!

Finally I have been not too sick and not too lazy to go visit one of my favorite designers: Mamdouh Salama!

I made friends with one of the designers that works with Mamdouh at Nile Group, which was forever ago, and had been kicking around the idea of trying to go find their workshop for awhile. I had the address (12 Ahmed El-Melehy St. in Dokki) and Hathem's phone # but had just somehow gotten too tied up with traveling and getting into a new relationship to get off my lazy butt and go visit them. Out of the blue Hathem texted me to see if I was still interested in coming by, which was enough to make me jump up the next day and head over to Dokki!

Just to forewarn everyone, the place is freaking hard for taxis to find. I jumped in a cab and got Hathem to give directions, but the poor cabbie still got lost along the way and then I got a bit lost trying to find the building. Definitely call ahead to get directions (Hathem speaks some English and is super helpful) before you go!

The shop is really nice, and definitely has more of a showroom feel than places like Eman Zaki's that feel like more like a factory. Hathem got us drinks and we hung out in the living room (most costumers take over an entire flat, so you end up with all the ammenities of a house) and chatted about their new collection and getting me a dance contract. Yes, I am starting to search now, but that's for a post all of itself I think! I viewed their current line that they were showing at Nile Group and AWS, but I had told Hathem before that I really don't like wearing costumes that other people own copies of. I have to be in love with a costume to buy it and I want it to feel unique and special. It's part of my very limited funds that I can't just throw around money buying costumes that don't feel completely right. So I showed him some of my own designs and he said I should just design something myeslf and they would make it happen! Since then I've been pawing through their collection online and the designs up on Belly Dance Store trying to figure out exactly what I want and get an idea of how I can get the most out of their style.

In an interesting coincidence, when I got home I saw that Ozma of Japan had posted on her blog saying she had traded a costume to Amber (a dancer I'm pretty sure I've met before in Seattle, but that's another story) in exchange for a Mamdouh. I don't think the post is public, but she is saying that while she likes some things about the Mamdouh she has now, the workmanship leaves something to be desired, and that Mamdouh produces the type of costumes that are fun to wear a few times but don't hold up over time. I can't say myself per say since I haven't owned a Mamdouh before, but it raised an interesting dialogue in my head about costuming in general.

I am so, so sick and tired of classically beautiful "princessy" costumes right now. Maybe it's just the phase I'm at in life and in dancing but I want something really kind of sassy and ghetto at the moment--maybe I'm missing oakland! I've always been a little more flash over function I guess, but Ozma's comment made me think about what I'm looking for in costumes lately. Which is great as I'm probably going to buy more costumes in my time in Egypt than I have since I started dancing, so I want to know what I want. Yes, I am a working dancer, but I don't find myself caring too much how long a costume is going to last as much as how larger-than-life I feel in it when I'm doing a performance. For crying out loud I made a costume out of stark WHITE lyra with gold and white FEATHERS sticking out of it...clearly it's not durability and longevity I'm looking for in my costumes! Why am I willing to sacrifice durability for looks? Because costumes are obviously an essential part of making ourselves into a dancer, but also because if you want to be a larger-than-life dancer you have to look the part and chances are you don't want people to see you in that same over-the-top costume more than a couple times anyway. Plus, sometimes durability and longevity ARE mutually exclusive if you really want something unique--not always, and it's great when they coincide, but still. Not only that, but I know that I personally use costumes to support myself in creating a performance...without a unique, crazy costume I don't quite feel the part. It's a crutch for me still in my dance life, because I'll admit that sometimes I still feel like someone pretending to be a pro dancer even though I've been doing this for several years now. Again, what's going on in my head about dance could probably take up an entire extra post, so I'll stop there.

In Egypt I have seen the most ghetto-fabulous-off-the-hook-out-there costumes ever! These girls are NOT wearing bellas, let me tell you! That's something I love about the dancers here, their costumes are unusual, just check out the ones I saw at Nile Goup. fresh, unique, and almost a little too crazy is just how I like my costumes! Get a load of the 3 foot fringe on that black costume of Asmahan's...I mean come on!

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