Monday, January 10, 2011

Never Too Old

I recently had the honor of studying with Mahmoud Reda. If you don't know who Mahmoud Reda is, and probably about 99.9% of Americans do not, he is the Godfather of dance in Egypt. Comparable to Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire, or Ballachine, he has been a pioneer of dance in Egypt and across the globe.

In 1959, Mahmoud Reda founded the world renowned Reda Troupe, and by the mid 60s, the troupe had over 150 members, including dancers, musicians and technicians. He has choreographed over 300 dances, and has starred in a number of musicals and movies. Together with his troupe, he has traveled to more than 60 countries, performing in prestigous theaters such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, The Olympia in Paris, and Carnegie Hall in New York. CNN has a short editorial and some great pictures of Mr. Reda, including my favorite one of him leaping across the Karnak Temple in a 1965 Egyptian movie.

Given that 2009, marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of his troupe, one dancer asked Mr. Reda during the workshop how he can remember all of the choreographies he's created. To answer, this icon of dance reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPhone, loaded with videoclips of his routines. So yes, there's an app for that!

Soft-spoken and moving with a slight shuffle, Mahmoud Reda is now 80 years old. And while his physical ability has declined, the effect of being in his presence has not. There is something awe-inspiring about being near him, a sentiment echoed by all the participants in the weekend workshop. While Mr. Reda is hardly able to do a hip lift, a day spent under his tutelage is priceless. After drilling traveling steps, we learned his Khan Il Khalili choreography, a dance depicting the hustle and bustle of Cairo's oldest market. And despite my completely botching his choreography, I was transported back across time and space, to a golden era of dance, filled with the smells of exotic spices, the cries of Arabic merchants, the twinkling of fluttering silks, punctuated by the low-braying of camels, and highlighted with the silhouette of the pyramids in the background. And I am forever changed as a dancer.

Which made me think, if at 80 years old, Mr. Reda can still travel the world and inspire dancers across continents, you are really never too old - never too old to have that adventure, pursue your passion, or follow your calling. If you were to let go of that excuse that you are too old, too poor, too married, too mortaged, too tired, too fat, too untalented, too insert-your-adjective here, what could you accomplish? I challenge you, find one thing you can do this week, this day, this very minute to start living your dream. You are never too old.

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