Who would believe that the star attraction at a fashion event was a 27-year-old male dancer? Incredulous as it sounds, hold a public poll amongst the attendees at the recently concluded Bridal Couture Week (BCW) on what wowed them most, and the answer, without an iota of doubt, would be the tanoura dance by Mohammad Mahmood alSaeed, popularly known as Hamada.
A merry marriage of the traditional Turkish whirling dervish dance with Egyptian folk dancing elements, the tanoura made for a stunning performance of balance, precision and stunts that was spellbinding in its manic energy.
“The Turkish stayed in Egypt for 200 years,” informs Hamada in a full-blown throaty Arab accent. “We take it and put in it colours and make it special with lights and umbrellas,” says Hamada in broken English, quite visibly, and rather endearingly trying to mentally translate Arabic to get his point across.
Hamada was spotted by the organisers of BCW at Dubai’s famed Desert Safari where he has been performing for the last nine years. “This is not the same,” says Hamada explaining that innovations and improvisations such as the umbrellas and the circular baskets that he used during the dance as props were his own additions. It’s a real challenge to be able to twirl for 20 minutes non-stop and not only balance the props on his face but also use them to create a pattern like a pyramid mid-air. Add to it the splendour of a mosaic circular skirt that spins delightfully like a Ferris wheel and then lights up to look like a fire cracker in motion.
“My father taught me this dance and how to put all these accessories in place. He taught me to practice concentrating on one point so that you keep on spinning without getting a headache or falling down,” says Hamada.
The Guinness Book of World Records also approached him asking him to dance for 13 hours. “Currently, I can only do it for six hours. I haven’t really pushed myself hard enough to know how far I can go,” he admits. “But if performing for 13 hours, one needs constant hydration or else he will fall down. But I would like to try it someday.” This dream, however, is not to win a world record but to be able to perform at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, reveals Hamada as his eyes shine brilliantly at the prospect.
Thus far he’s travelled to Nigeria and Qatar before coming to Pakistan. “I was scared of the situation in Pakistan,” he says. “I still can’t believe a fashion show like BCW could take place in Pakistan. But it was amazing! I really liked it.” And given the star treatment and love that has been showered upon him (he was asked to perform twice at the finale to ensure that all the guests managed to catch a glimpse of the man in action) one wouldn’t be surprised if Hamada becomes a regular at events in Pakistan and beyond.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2011.