Samir Mebarak of Oaxaca Mexico is the creator of Ahlan Festival Oaxaca. Many who saw the flyers for Ahlan Festival Oaxaca were attracted by the incredible line up of teachers, performers, live music and competition. Not to mention the chance to work with Denise Marino the famous photographer.
The event attracted dancers from all over including Scottsdale, Arizona dancers Roza and Kandahar of Shahrazad Dance Company, Cycy of California, and Gabriella of San Diego, there with her teacher, Maryam Raks Sharki who taught a workshop on competitions, Nada Kamel there to teach from Japan, Simona Guzman, teacher and festival producer of Greece and Israel, dancers from Columbia, Ecuador, Chile and more, including of course the incredible stars of Egypt, Asmahan, (Egypt/Argentina) Dandash, (Egypt) Nelly Fuad, (Egypt), Osama Emam, Egypt.
Samir made a big entrance into the international scene with winning a competition in France and training and performance in Egypt. A youtube video of him winning that competition in France with the judges being Dina, Raqia Hassan and Dandash helped to establish him as dancer. It was a great performance to the Egyptian Classic, Inta Omri sung by Oum Kalthoum.
Samir had the courage and ability to take on such a huge venture, bringing in Egyptian and Israeli Superstars and putting on an incredible event where one has never gone on before! No small feat, and I'm sure there were many challenges. For example, even though Randa Kamel and Dalilah had made videos saying they would be there, attendees received news of last minute cancellations and some of the faces on the flyer had been changing over the last month, but since they were always replaced with similarly great dancers, the quality was maintained. The recipe for success was to have modern international superstars of Oriental dance, (Asmahan and Dandash), a folkloric Troupe Director that is internationally known and respected, (Osama Emam of Egypt), a 'Golden Age' of Bellydance Star, (Nelly Fuad of Egypt) and new and original rising stars .
It turned out to be an amazing success, not only because of the festival and the dancers but for Oaxaca, Mexico itself. The Hotel Fortin where the festival was held was an incredible location, on the side of a hill, looking over the city, the weather was perfect, hills, trees, beautiful architecture. Photographer Denise Marino wasted no time in taking advantage of it, with a special photo shoot outing for those wanting special photographs to add to the amazing live shoots at the shows.
The competition was a wonderful group of great dancers and very kind people who were very supportive to each other backstage. The level was very high and the winner was lovely and incredibly talented Tatiana Avila, who is, incidentally is married to Fadi Saadi, the smooth Lebanese singer and keyboard player who led our music ensemble for the live music night. Now there is a pair that know how to put on a show, and she performs regularly with him in Mexico City.
There were many events in addition to 9 hours of workshops a day for the 4 days, Opening Gala, Live Music Night, a Competition and a Closing Gala! All of it was gorgeously lit and well attended. Samir, the events founder was always there, friendly and available, and to provide his perspective let's go to the interview.
R. Samir, can you tell me a few things about what it was like to produce such an event? What were some of your challenges and what were the rewards?
S. To produce an event like this the number one thing is to have a great love for the art and to hold the dance as something truly special. You have to have a clear idea of what kind of festival you will present, have teachers lined up, and have a lot of free time to work on it!
All festivals have a lot of challenges, such as organizing teachers, students, location. Many of the problems could present themselves at the last minute and you must be prepared.
The rewards are seeing people happy with your work and enjoying the festival.
R What special qualities did the teachers at this festival bring to the festival?
S. The teachers must have charisma and be excellent teachers, dancers, and persons. I love to work with good people.
R. What special qualities does Oaxaca offer to visitors?
S. Oaxaca, Mexico offers many cultural attractions, traditional parties, hand-made artifacts. Oaxaca is the most beautiful city in Mexico, cool and filled with trees, a magical city that everyone should visit!
R. What special qualities do the invited Dancers bring to the show, the choreographies, and the festival?
S. Asmahan is show woman, she is mega star with 20 years work in Cairo in the 5 stars hotels, like her unique style and show topics! Nelly Fouad: She is a Golden Age star who worked in many films and hotels in Cairo. I like her classic style. Dandash is the mega Egyptian star with a unique style and very funny shabby! I like her charisma. Osama Emam: Kaomeya Troupe Director, I like his modern Folklore style which is different than that of Reda Troupe style, because Reda is classic and Kaomeya is modern. Simona Guzman is an incredible teacher from Israel. She is one of the most famous and biggest stars from Israel. She has unique classic style. Nada Kamel: Japanese star and many years Randa Kamel student, she has a lot of power and energy. Maryam: Soft and delicate style, mixed with the modern Egyptian dance, I like her dance and feeling.
R. What are your goals for the future?
S. My goals for the future are to travel to more places and for everyone to know my love for Oriental Dance. I'll be working with an orchestra in Cairo to create my new music for next year, InshAllah. I have many projects in the works that you will know about soon!