A celebrity, an icon, bigger than life. I grew up watching him on TV. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would meet him in person, let alone have him as my mentor, inspiration and friend. The day he told me “براڤو عليكى يا هاله!” (Well done, Hala) after seeing my performances, I told my students, I was ready to die. Not out of depression, on the contrary, I felt there was nothing more to achieve in this life.
I was very green at the time. Still had a day job in the corporate world and teaching dance in the evenings. I saw a random note on a virtual dance bulletin board asking for cosponsors for Mr. Mahmoud Reda. Apparently one of the sponsors had to back down and they needed someone to replace her. Before I even thought it through, my enthusiastic response was already sent. It was a spontaneous intuitive move that forever changed my life. I had no idea what sponsoring entailed, how to put on an event, what, where, how and a mountain of other questions had to be answered in 2 months before the event. It was the year 2002. The California economy was tanking. My boss said “We’re closing the CA office. If you want to keep your job, you’ll have to move to Colorado”. A Goddess sent gift! I got laid off and was free to dedicate my time to Mr Reda’s event, without the distractions of a full time job. That marked the end of my corporate life and launched my dance career!
On the day of his arrival, July 22, 2002, I was such a nervous mess that I went to the wrong airport terminal. Mr Reda was very down to earth, funny, relaxed, engaging and very flexible. When he realized I don’t cook, he cooked for us and taught me other household tricks like how to clean calcium deposits with vinegar. We would talk for hours like old friends and I drank every word and every joke, especially the dirty ones.
A friend complained to him that other dancers were mimicking her, copying her moves, music and even costumes. He smiled and said: “If you’re a glass of water, and someone took half a glass worth of water from you, then you’ll be half a glass. But if you’re the River Nile, and someone took half a glass of water from you, you’re still the River Nile. Which one do you want to be?”
I feel super fortunate to have started my dance career with such a giant. I learnt so much from him, so much, beyond dance, which is already beyond amazing.
Mr Reda will always live in our hearts, dance and minds. Despite his physical departure from this reality, he will continue to inspire thousands of people around the globe! Rest in peace Master!
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