Dance-life adventure

Farida Fahmy, Monday 29 Apr 2024

To mark the 65th anniversary of the Reda Troupe, Al-Ahram Weekly publishes an exclusive extract from the upcoming memoir of the dancer and choreographer Farida Fahmy, the troupe’s renowned cofounder

Dance-life adventure
Farida Fahmy

 

I was asked many a time why I didn’t write a book about my life. I never ventured to do so, possibly because I knew that re-living what I choose to call “my fulfilling dance-life adventure” would only bring forth melancholy and arouse nostalgia for the time, now passed, with my loved ones. For a while, I remained in a state of calm resignation. However, when recently interviewed by young journalists, I was disappointed to realize that they knew practically nothing about the history of the Reda Troupe.

Their questions were naïve and irrelevant. No matter how much I tried to explain exactly what we did, and how our innovative dances were interwoven with the fabric of Egyptian society at the time, I saw blank and uncomprehending expressions on their faces.

More recently, there have been some self-appointed “experts,” individuals who, although lacking the necessary credentials, ventured into writing and producing so-called “documentaries” about the Reda Troupe. These haphazard presentations are filled with misinformation, including distorted and confused historical data that do not acknowledge artistically important people who devoted their lives to our journey.

There are massive gaps where they fail to mention those who were extremely important to both the creation and the advancement of the troupe.

This year, 2024, marks the 65th anniversary of the Reda Troupe’s first performance, which took place in Cairo on August 6, 1959. Why did I decide to write a book about my own experiences from the earliest days through my 25 years on stage as a principal dancer? I felt it was my duty to document the true history of the troupe and correct any misconceptions. Even before passing this milestone anniversary, I pondered for a long time about the content of such a book.

As I am the last living co-founder of the Reda Troupe, I would like people to know the passion, pain, love, and dedication behind its success; I care profoundly about how the original troupe and its history will be remembered. Should it be a technical book about the powerful, artistic impact the Reda Troupe had, not only on dance in Egypt, but on other art forms as well? Our legacy influenced music, songs, visual arts, theatre, and culture in Egypt, and continues to do so. Or should it be written from a more personal perspective? I believe a simple yet intimate approach will offer a deeper insight into my world, a perspective that celebrates my dance journey and the people who supported, shaped, and shared it.

Visual documentation of our performances, which should have been archived by Egyptian television-controlling media for years, was misused, neglected, and discarded. This has deprived successive generations of Egyptians of seeing a rich part of their own artistic and cultural dance heritage. Thank goodness I still have photos from my own private collection, acquired throughout the years — photos which are near and dear to me.


MY CHILDHOOD AND THE DANCE

I was born on a very hot 29th of June in 1940, in a little house with a small garden in Heliopolis, a suburb east of Cairo. Heliopolis, at that time, was well planned, built in a unique architectural blend of Belgian and Moorish styles. It was self-contained, cosmopolitan, and homogeneous in nature and, above all, safe to live in and raise a family.
We were a family of four: my father, mother, sister — six years older than me — and yours truly (Melda). Our names were not familiar to the Egyptians, as they came from the Turkish side of my father’s family.

My father, Hassan Hussein Fahmy, or simply “Daddy” to his family, had filled our garden with trees, shrubs, and all kinds of flowers, many of which I do not see anymore. The best thing, however, was the doll’s house which he had built for my sister, Nadeeda, to play in, and where I played with my friends for hours on end while growing up.