Sa’idi Tahtib and Mahmoud Reda
Sa’idi Tahtib and Sa’idi raqs assaya were two of Mahmoud Reda’s favorite folkloric “dances” to be brought to the stage. Many times he has told me that both were styles that were already interesting, he was easily inspired by them, and did not have to change anything to make it appropriate for the audience. He loved the graceful masculinity of the contest and of the dance.¹
Between 1965 to 1967 Mahmoud Reda and his team of dancers and music documentors did many “field trips to research and document the dance events and characteristic movement found in the provinces of Egypt”² He has confided in me that in many areas he would go to in order to do research would not give him much movement to work with, little to inspire him towards choreography for the theater. But Sa’idi Tahtib and assaya were singularly special.
Not only were Mahmoud’s choreography and staging artistic and sophisticated, but his strong, graceful dance was also appealing to most all tastes. There were also two other aspects that sold the Sa’idi audience on his abilities to represent their movement.
1) Sa’idi men could recognize that he knew what he was doing and could recognize which city his movements were from.
2) His strength and balance (in a now signature move) while he kneeled on the floor with one leg extended then arose with the still extended.³Men knew how difficult that was. In this case Mahmoud had an advantage, as he had been an Olympic Gymnast with medals in “Floor Exercise”.
Mahmoud often told the story of how he learned from a Tahtib master; as he learned the swings and near hits in the martial arts contest, the master would constantly tell Mahmoud that he was never to actually make contact. Lessons lasted for hours a day, for many days.
At the end of the last day of classes, the master soundly hit Mahmoud on the head! Mahmoud said it really hurt and asked him “why? You have told me never to hit and make contact!” The master said “someday you will become famous and everyone will know you, this way you will not forget who taught you!”4
¹ Many personal conversations between 1984-2013 in California (1984-1987) and Cairo, Egypt (1989-2013).
² Farida Fahmy in “Dancing is My Life” Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda. Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt.
³ Private conversations with many Egyptians, including Sa’idi, explaining to me who Mahmoud Reda is to the people of Egypt.
4 International Bellydance Conference of Canada, Toronto 2012; Mahmoud Reda’s lecture/presentation