I know it’s technically Friday…but whatever..today’s #TBT is inspired by my interview with Alia Thabit! Ibrahim, or Bobby, as he was called by his family and friends, was one of Alia’s first teachers and mentors. In fact, he was a mentor to many in NYC and around the world.
So Here’s The Deal:
In 1939, Robert Ibrahim Farrah was born in Western Pennsylvania to Lebanese parents. When he was just a little boy, he would dance and perform at family parties. Cute tidbit, Farrah considered his mother to be his first dance teacher 🙂 Ibrahim carried this love of dance with him into adulthood.
In 1957, Ibrahim attended college at Penn State and earned his bachelor’s in American History. A love of history would play a huge part in Ibrahim’s life, although… not American.
After graduating Farrah took a 6 week trip to Lebanon and then moved to Washington D.C.
It was in D.C. that Ibrahim met dancer Adriana, who encouraged him and became his mentor. Farrah began performing at places like The Syrian Club, he also began teaching and was a drummer + M.C. at Club Suez.
In 1967 he came to NYC and began teaching Middle – Eastern dance at the International Dance School at Carnegie Hall – quite the gig! On top of that, Farrah had his own studio: Ibrahim Farrah School of Near East Dance on 72nd street in Manhattan. His classes drew eager young dancers that were hungry for professional careers, like the well known Phaedra. This led to the addition of professional level classes and the formation of a dance troupe.
Ibrahim’s troupe performed his choreographies inspired by the traditional dances of Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. Inspiration was also drawn from his travels to the Middle-East. Farrah spent a lot of time observing the people he came across on his trips; their movements, expressions, and gestures. To him, these things represented the essence of the people and he translated their behavior into dance, adding more depth to his choreographies. Farrah was also an ethnologist and researcher, those interests brought yet even more complexity to his dances.
Ibrahim Farrah’s troupe made their debut at Town Hall in NYC, after which they performed locally, at places like Carnegie Hall, and nationally.
In 1977 Ibrahim began publishing Arabesque – how cool is that?
At first the magazine, published bi-monthly, was centered around traditional Middle-Eastern dance, it later expanded to include all types of ethnic dance.
Farrah spent his life teaching workshops and classes in the states and around the world, he performed, choreographed, and researched.
Farrah passed away in Feb. of 1998.
WHY I <3 HIM:
Ibrahim was an inspiration. He helped to develop and progress Middle-Eastern dance in the United States. He also earned it respect as an art form that belonged not only in the club, but on a stage. I love that he brought so much depth to his performances through historical research and behavioral observation. I wish that I could have taken a class with Bobby!
Now – I wasn’t able to find any videos of Ibrahim, but I did find several videos of dancers using his choreographies -disclaimer – they’re from youtube, so I would take this as…vague inspiration lol – but inspirational nonetheless!
check it out!