Mohamed Shahin was what I needed after my week. In case you were wondering about me attending the workshops I had planned on going to, I still am because I prepaid. I most likely can’t get a refund and I don’t know if I’d be allowed to sell my spot. But back to the original story.

The workshop was hosted by a dancer named Alexandria. I had only know of her loosely; she dances at quite a few restaurants around Chicago, and I think she may teach somewhere in the city. Pineapple Dance studio was the location, which was fairly easy to get to from Chicago, taking a little over an hour from train where I live (North Side). Forest Park, IL is pretty cute in an old-time town way. I was relieved, since I’ll make my trek out there again in a few weeks for the Hadia workshops.

The beginning of the workshop is genuinely the only bad thing I can say about it. People showed up late, about 20 minutes late. Alexandria is a really nice person, so she chose to delay the workshop. The other workshops I had attended in the city ran like clockwork. If you were late, you missed part of the workshop. The lateness cut into our break, which I had desperately needed. To be fair, there were maybe 20 people max there, so a good portion of the attendees were missing.

The workshop began with someone else leading us through warmup and stretches; I’m not quite sure why Mohamed Shahin did not. When Shahin began teaching, he was rather serious. Not mean, but he had a mission to teach us. He was concerned about whether we understood what we were doing with the saidi. He would dance a combo with us a few times, then step out to observe whether we had it. If we didn’t, he would explain very clearly what we were doing wrong. I was lucky to have had Najmat in Boston, because her teaching is very similar to Shahin’s. Neither of them used names for words; instead, a sound like “tock” would mean something and there’d be a bit of a demo. You wouldn’t get a name like “maya.” I think, even if I hadn’t been used to that kind of instruction, he was able to articulate what he meant and break things down a bit.

The first half of the workshop was saidi. As I said yesterday, it wasn’t too easy or too hard. Again, thanks to Najmat, I was fairly prepared to handle cane (we had done many months of it when I was her student). I felt somewhat challenged, but I didn’t think it was impossible. I liked seeing how his combos worked and learning the finishing touches. Quite a few people leave out the importance of your face when learning; Shahin would tell us where we should look at points during the choreography. Probably my favorite part of this half was he took time to answer questions. Shahin is not only an excellent dancer and movement teacher, but he is also an excellent history teacher. He talked about how beladi cane is different from Saidi and the development of Saidi cane dances as we know it today.

The second part of the workshop was supposed to be classic raqs sharqi, but they decided to do shaabi. I didn’t mind, because I am interested in shaabi, but I imagine it may have been a surprise for others. The shaabi portion was a little difficult for me, because I really threw myself into the saidi. Pineapple dance studio was also a bit warm and stuffy (the weather in Chicago was a bit humid), so it was harder to concentrate. Shahin really helped me understand shaabi. I liked how explained the gestures and the music.

I’d recommend taking a workshop with Mohamed Shahin in a heartbeat (and I plan on going to any of his I can attend). He is an excellent instructor and about business. What more can I say :)? I’m definitely a fan now.

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