"I would like to learn as much as possible about this dance - its history, cultural status, appropriate music and 'authentic' (hush my mouth) costuming - well, everything really. Could you recommend any books, teaching/performance videos or people to contact, about Hagallah. Nobody here in Sydney knows what I'm talking about. In fact, the principal of one of the largest ME dance schools here said 'Hagallah! Who's she?' --Aziza
"Since this is the 3rd or 4th time I'm going thru this re the Hagallah, I'm also going to post it to the list. If you don't mind. If any of you guys want to keep it, download it so I don't have to keep typing the same stuff over & over (I'm a lousy typist & it takes me forever & strange as it may seem, I do have other things to do too - tho' I'd much rather do this than clean the catbox, any day......)

"Came back to mail piled THIS high + e-mail, etc., so this'll be very short: (like I ever do anything short....)

"First the bad news: there are NO books, teaching videos, films etc. of Hagallah. In '77 Edwina Nearing & myself saw a fabulous, silent b/w film clip of a REAL Hagallah at the Markay li F'nun Shabiyya (Center for Folk Arts) in Cairo. It was filmed in the mid-late '40s & was exactly as I will describe below. At the time we saw the film, the sprockets were already beginning to break & Edwina & I offered to have it copied & repaired at our expense, in return for being able to make a copy for ourselves, so that it wouldn't be lost. They said it wasn't possible to let it go without a great deal of gov't bureaucratic hassle. When we went back the next year & asked for it to be shown to our group, we were told it was 'lost' & have never seen it again. Some people even tried to deny it ever existed.

"I was also lucky enough to talk a couple of old women into doing it for me in Matruh on 2 occasions & what they did was exactly as I'll describe below. I've never had the opportunity of seeing it in Libya, though I've talked a few older Libyan women into demonstrating a bit in Tunisia, thanks to the idiocy of male-dominated patriarchal b.s. politics. (Stash the soapbox, Rocky)

"This is versus the very Moscow-on-the-Nile version by the Firqua Kawmiyya (Nat'l 'Folk' Troupe of Egypt) & the somewhat less-so, but still nowhere near authentic version by wonderful Mahmoud Reda, who at least admits that its his own inspiration! These are the versions most repeated (if an Egyptian does it, it MUST be real....). Repetition of a theater fantasy does not "authentic" make......

"The Hagallah is from Libya (you know, where that wacko Moammar Kaddafi is...) & used to be also found in Mersa Matruh in Egypt. In Libya, it was a sort of celebration of coming-of-age for the 'Hagallah', a young girl, wherein she would dance solo, with her head & face fully covered with a scarf, in front of a line of men, called "kefafeen", who would do NOTHING but stand in a line & clap & chant in unison (not do a Ukrainian Hopak, a la Moiseyev/Beryozka - like the men in the Kawmiyya, or a gymnastic exhibition of acrobatic skills - like the men in the Reda Troupe), while she does a steady, unwavering side/side-up2/up2 shimmy up & down in a line in front of them, taking very small steps. She has either a small stick or a handkerchief in her hands. If it is a stick, it is just held, not twirled or manipulated in any way resembling Raks al Assaya!

"They chant about how she is growing up & will soon be a beautiful woman: look, she is growing hips & breasts & soon will be able to get married & make somebody very happy & have children. Beautiful. She might stop in front of one young man & hand him the other end of the scarf or stick, while she dances around it. He might offer her a bracelet as a sort of 'proposal', altho' neither of these 'mights' is a given & the young man she stops in front of might be her brother.

"Occasionally, a professional is hired as a performance, in which case, she picks the leader of the Kefafeen, who is usually the one who hired her, hands him the cane or stick & after she dances around it a bit, she kneels & mimes taking off her bracelets (or really does), one at a time. He mimes giving her an additional bracelet or 2 (or really does) & she mimes putting all the bracelets back on (o.r.d.).

"The postcard I have of a woman doing Hagallah in Matruh shows her in a simple long dress with long sleeves, with a wide, muffler-like heavy fabric wrapped around her hips: no fringe, bow, etc. In Libya, there'd be a peplum skirt, with a buffer under the top part of the peplum, so that it would move more visibly or a scarf around the hips. Not the modern net see-through confections with 2 rows of ruffles & a band of long beaded fringe. But, hey: theater is theater & you have to be seen to be appreciated, right?

"Hasn't been done in Matruh since those horrible pseudo-fundos moved in with their total misinterpretation of Islam. Whoopee! (This soapbox I'm not stashing!)

"Wanna learn it? Come here or bring me there. I'm dying to pet a koala."

Karsilama kisses & kitty licks,

Last Modified: 15 Jun 1997
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