WAMEDA (the Washington Area Mid-East Dance Association) Pays Tribute to Gerson Kuhr, Long-time WAMEDA Board Member, Master of Ceremonies, and Fitness Trainer
Gerson Kuhr, aka The Fitness Pharaoh, has been an active member and supporter of the WAMEDA community for more than two dozen years. The July/August 2012 edition of the WAMEDA Journal will highlight his contributions to the WAMEDA community. This blogpost presents additional material about Mr. Kuhr, focusing on his role in supporting dancers through physical fitness coaching.
As the area’s reigning “Fitness Pharaoh,” he’s coached some of our best performers, and developed and produced a fitness DVD specifically for belly dancers – starring some of the area’s finest! He’s been Master of Ceremonies in more shows than any of us can recall. He’s even performed a cameo role in several of these. (One or two such roles were even as a “personae” within a dance.) Who else can this be but Gerson Kuhr?
In addition to the many ways in which he has enriched and ennobled our dance community for many years, he has played a particularly active and significant role within the Washington Area Mid-East Dance Association (WAMEDA) itself: He’s been a Board member (several times), and for many years, together with his wife Cindy, he was Co-Editor of the WAMEDA Newsletter. In addition, he has attended nearly all of our shows, whether or not he was called upon (as he usually has been) in his time-honored role as Master of Ceremonies.
Gerson Kuhr as Master of Ceremonies in Alay’nya’s Diamonds, the Casablanca Restaurant, 2003. Mr. Kuhr played the role of the Jeweler, viewing the various “jewels” in his collection.
In the following, Alay’nya interviews Mr. Kuhr about his role in the dance community.
Alay’nya: How did you come to be interested in Mid-Eastern dance?
Gerson: Even in my youth, I was dedicated to physical fitness, and became top-ranked within my school’s Presidential Physical Fitness program. At that time, my only exposure to Mid-Eastern dance was through small glimpses in the movies. Later, when I had a chance to see my first professional Mid-Eastern dancer perform, I was completely impressed with the precision and completeness of her physical control; the isolations and undulations. I recognized that Mid-Eastern dance, as an art form, blended sensuality with very demanding physical mastery.
Alay’nya: You’ve played many roles in the WAMEDA community, both literally and figuratively. How did you get involved with WAMEDA?
Gerson: My wife, Cindy, was studying with (the renowned Silver Spring-based dance performer and teacher) Artemis. Artemis gave Cindy a copy of the WAMEDA journal. (It just happened that this was a journal where the cover featured Artemis!) Cindy and I went to the next meeting, and from there, our involvement with the WAMEDA community grew. Cindy and I were co-editors of the WAMEDA Newsletter between 1998 and 2006. All in all, we published 48 editions.
Alay’nya: Your fame as a fitness trainer and coach for Mid-Eastern dancers began to spread then. How did that happen?
Gerson: Donna Gregory (formerly Editor of the WAMEDA Journal), asked me to write a fitness article for the WAMEDA Journal. This led to more articles, and she dubbed me “WAMEDA’s Personal Trainer.”
Alay’nya: After your role in fitness coaching became known throughout the WAMEDA community, others asked for your inputs. How did this happen?
Gerson: Bob Winn and his wife Shalimar Serene, co-publishers of The Caravan Magazine (a belly dance magazine publishing up through the late 2000’s) requested an article series. I wound up doing 40 articles under the tile “Caravan’s Personal Trainer” for The Caravan, between 2002 and 2005.
Alay’nya: How did this lead to your DVD, Core Training for Belly Dancers?
Gerson: It was actually Janet Quinn who immediately understood the significance and power of core training for belly dancers. She brought up the notion of doing a DVD, saying “Your exercises are so good, you ought to put them on a DVD.” She believed in what I was doing, and was the inspirational force behind my developing Core Training for Belly Dancers, which featured Aliya, Amustela, and Nimeera demonstrating the movements, and was produced by Yasmin, who has an excellent production studio and who has produced several notable DVDs. We launched in September 2006, and sales have been steady ever since.
Alay’nya: My book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey, mentions your fitness training DVD:
“One very excellent resource is Core Training for Belly Dancers, a DVD produced by Gerson Kuhr, aka ‘The Fitness Pharaoh.”
Though designed to meet the needs of dancers, almost all women can benefit by following either of the two routines demonstrated on this DVD.” Why did you choose leading area belly dancers to star in your fitness routines, instead of going with the industry-recommended “fitness models”?
Gerson: I had been coaching leading area dancers for some time, and felt that the three ladies that I chose – Aliya, Amustela, and Nimeera – not only represented different age groups and performance styles, but that dancers who knew them as performers would rapidly understand the connection between their physical conditioning and their superb performance skills.
Mr. Kuhr produced the highly-ranked and well-received Core Training for Belly Dancers fitness DVD.
Alay’nya: Jerry Thompson, Co-Founder of Dancer: The Unusual Store, has said about you:
“Although Gerson and Cindy may be best known for their work on the newsletter we should also remember their other contributions as members of the board and contributions to WAMEDA shows.”
You’ve not only been one of the area’s most-desired Master of Ceremonies (MCs) for WAMEDA and other shows, but you’ve actually been featured in some. How did this come about?
Gerson: It started when Laurel Victoria Gray asked me to play a minor role in her magnificent work, Egypta (premiering at the Kennedy Center in 2003). Later, when she needed a new male lead to perform as “Pharaoh,” she asked me to take on that role. This is when I began to be known as “The Fitness Pharaoh,” and the picture taken of my from the Egypta performance is the one on my DVD.
Gerson Kuhr in his role as Pharaoh in Laural Victoria Gray’s Egypta, 2003.
Alay’nya: This led to other cameo roles, didn’t it?
Gerson: Yes, I was the Jeweler as well as the MC for your show, Diamonds, held at the Casablanca Restaurant in 2003. Also, I helped Amustela reprise a classic Samya Gamal movie role, acting the part of the “interested gentleman” around whom Samya (and later Amustela) flirtatiously danced. (Author’s note: The referenced movie clip came from The Stars of Egypt collection produced by Hossam Ramzy, where Vol. 3, Part 1 focuses exclusively on Samya Gamal.)
Alay’nya: Amustela notes that you were the first to recognize the similarity between her evolving (and always creative) dance style and the elegant and beautiful Samya Gamal. She says:
“The thing about Gerson that always endears him to me was after the very first time he saw me perform (at a WAMEDA Hafla in 2000), he said how I reminded him of Samya Gamal – what he did not know is that Samya Gamal had been an inspiration and idol of mine for years – it touched me deeply that he saw that in me. To this day anytime he MC’s an event he always introduces me with that reference to Samya, and I love him for it every time!”
Gerson: Amustela has always been very dear to the entire WAMEDA community, and is one of the most creative performers that we have right now. It was great to recognize that she was an emerging talent in the great tradition of some of the world’s leading performers.
Alay’nya: Thank you, Gerson! We appreciate your time for this interview. The entire WAMEDA community is enormously grateful to you for your support and encouragement over many years.