Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Flying Fingers and Twirling Feet

Wekalet El-Ghouri

Our friends living here in Cairo always take any of their guests from Canada to see the El-Tanoura Troupe, so they have probably seen it at least 10 times, but when they took us, they still tried to fill their camera memory card with pictures. Yes that is how good this show is.

Commonly called a “Whirling Dervish” show, it is actually a mixed dance and music performance. Housed in the formally open courtyard of a beautiful old school, you are surrounded with ancient Egyptian architecture while you wait for the show.

However, getting into the show is a big part of the adventure. Situated on a back street, you first have to navigate through street vendors, taxies, motorcycles and pedestrians all vying for spots on the very narrow street. The entrance to buy tickets (No pre-sales for the limited seats) is down slippery ancient stone steps crowded with a mix of tourists and locals. I quickly found that the usual “Canadian” attitude of “Oh, I'm sorry, were you ahead of me?” had to be replaced with an adoption of the local aggressive use of elbows and attitude to force your way to the front. Otherwise we would have been left out on the steps. We also had the advantage of our friends cane wielding mother who managed to find a nice seat up front and then convinced them to allow her companions to sit with her.

The duel . . .
The show started with a brilliant drum and Egyptian instrument band, including an entertaining duel between a drummer and a castanet player. Then the first dancer came out. These Whirling Dervishes are dressed in bright colours and wear long heavy multi-level “Skirts” which when the begin to spin flair out around them. What is amazing about these dancers is that they twirl in one direction for up to 30 minutes without stopping, constantly spinning their skirts out around them in brilliant patterns, up, down, sideways and over their heads. The outfits feature multiple layers and during the show, they detach one layer and spin it over their heads creating a double layer of skirt. This first dancer spun for a full 25 minutes (we were told to time him). And some patrons actually thought the show was over and left to avoid the crush getting out.

They should have stayed; the next act featured three dancers in even more elaborate outfits, spinning any twirling around the stage among the drummers who were also spinning and dancing. It really was an amazing performance and I took over 100 photos, so here are a few. Also, you might want to check out a YouTube video of the performance El-Tanoura Troupe, WekaletEl-Ghouri.

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