Reda, Mahmoud (1930--) By Shay, Anthony
Mahmoud Reda, a pioneer in the modern staging of traditional and folk dance in the Arab world, began his movement career in gymnastics and other sports. He was a member of the Egyptian gymnastic team in the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He toured Europe with Astaria, an Argentinian dance company, before returning to Egypt to found his own company, the Reda Troupe. In the choreophobic atmosphere of Egypt in the 1950s in which dance was equated with prostitution, and with a little funding from friends and family, he managed to give a highly successful concert that attracted critical acclaim and eventual government support. In order to succeed with the Egyptian public of the time, he offered dances that sanitized belly dance, eliminating the overtly sexual sharp vibrations associated with that genre and introducing instead soft undulating movements for the women and highly athletic movements for the men. With this newly invented tradition of Egyptian dance, he added narrative elements in his dances that created a nostalgic world of Egyptian villages in which youths and damsels wore highly stylized costumes that only vaguely resembled actual rural clothing styles.