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Mahmoud Reda: Egypt's answer to Fred Astaire

By James Montague for CNN
  • Egyptian legend Mahmoud Reda celebrating 50 years of his dance troupe.
  • Reda's universal appeal is often compared with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly
  • The 79-year-old has helped spread the popularity of Arabic dance across the world.
  • Modern Dance
  • Egypt
  • Middle East
  • North Africa

London, England (CNN) -- When it comes to theatrical dance in the Arab world, all roads lead to Mahmoud Reda.

During a glittering career, the 79-year-old Egyptian dancer and choreographer has performed on the world's most prestigious stages, including New York's Carnegie Hall and Congress Hall in Berlin.

His universal appeal, likened to U.S. dance legends Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, has allowed Reda to export his particular mix of theatrical and traditional dance around the globe.

This year, the Arab dance ambassador celebrates the 50th anniversary of his influential folk dance group, the Reda Dance Troupe.

Reda's style draws from techniques of jazz, ballet, Hindu dance and Russian folkloric dance.

It has had influenced and shaped the dance form known as "Raks Sharki" (Oriental dance), more commonly known as "belly dancing" outside the Middle East.

"I was inspired by folklore and putting my own technique with some blend of classical ballet to improve, you know, the movements," Reda told CNN.