RANDA KAMAL - AN EYE OPENER

 

 

I was so, so excited! Why? I was in Egypt on my way to see none other than Randa Kamal. In the back of the taxi with my dance teacher Terri and a fellow dancer Shelly, I waited eagerly, wishing for the busy streets of Cairo to magically disappear. My cousin Ahmed was sitting in the front; chatting away to the driver as though it was just a drive to the local supermarket. Being a drummer he had often played for dancers, in clubs and at weddings, but none as renowned as Randa.  However, that meant nothing to him because most people in Egypt don't realise how big Belly Dance is in the Western World and that people here will pay £££ to see dancers like Randa.

 

After the agonising troll through the Cairo traffic we finally arrived at the Hilton Hotel. We went down stairs to the basement of the hotel. I expected a massive stage high up and our tables to be surrounding it. I assumed the place to be packed and to be fighting for a chair.

 

We walked in and Terri explained that the show usually starts with a singer, Hakim, Nancy or a new up and coming artist. My hopes where set to high. There on stage was a pair of annoying twins that I had seen a few times on TV music channels during my stay in Egypt. They where screeching out their début single on the microphones - to me torturous!   They were bad enough on the TV but at least there I could change the channel!

 

The place was very empty.  The twins were performing for one table of people and now us as well. The stage was on the same level as the tables!!  The room was very dark. It was quite big and could seat over 100. With the awful singing I could kind of understand why there was no one in the place .. but didn't they know Randa was coming on???

 

Our table was right next to the stage. We ordered our food ... which was more expensive than most meals in England, I was shocked: a meal in Egypt usually costs under a pound. I suppose it was ok as there was actually no entrance fee.

 

After what felt like for ever the twins stopped singing. I looked around.  The basement had started to fill up. It was full of very very rich Saudi, Quati business men ordering lots of alcohol and food. I wondered where their wives were!?

 

 The time had come.  The orchestra was setting up. I was finally going to see Randa dance!

 

She entered the room,  and suddenly the place was bursting with energy. The dark, dingy room was lifted by her magnificent  entrance. She floated effortlessly across the room , perfectly capturing every beat with a sexy accent of the hip, whether it be a hip drop or a hit. The melody surged through her body. The music was so energetic, and there was a singer too.

 

It was different from anything I had seen and all my previous ideas of belly dance. At that time I had only been dancing a short while, my experiences of dance were limited to what I had seen from my aunties in Egypt at home, Terri's dance, a bit of Fifi and a few American dancers here and there. This was my first experience of the new modern Egyptian style of the dance and Randa is one of those on the front line creating it. Her style is original and individual, she's putting her stamp onto the dance and creating another chapter in the story of the dance.

 

Why was it so different and how? There were a lot of turns and steps moving around the stage in a fluid elegant way with her toes immaculately pointed and graceful light arms. Is that new and different? Samia Gamal was a master of that in the 30's? It was far from just Randa floating and turning around the sage she had very sharp precise hits, marvellous shimmies, sexy curvy movements and loads of new innovative moves I have never seen before; lifting with the toes, travelling shimmies  and the very new and modern shimmy; the Choo-Choo Shimmy (shimmying up on the toes and lifting them up and down off of the floor, very American style). Yet even when she did a move I knew like a hip drop it felt different, it was a Randa Kamal hip drop!

 

The reason Randa's dance was so different was because it was so refined, so perfect and immaculate it was faultless. There was no raw element to it. No hand or foot was out of place. The best ballet dancers in the world could learn from her. Randa's dancing is pristine!

 

Did I like this dance?  Did I like this new chapter? It felt alien. I wasn't used to it, and due to human nature, because it was alien and new: I didn't like it - at first. I wanted to shut it out, but I couldn't... Randa's amazing smile, enjoyment and energy kept pulling me in. When Randa dances you can do nothing but watch. Though perfect and elegant she wasn't snobby.  She interacted with the audience by dancing right next to the tables, smiling  and making eye contact.  This was key to her entrance and the rest of the show. Was I being close minded and traditional: here? I was only 17 at the time: a young dancer and not embracing change! I was ashamed and upset with myself!

 

She finished the first dance. While we were all  clapping she took the microphone  and welcomed everyone and made a few jokes. As she was looking round the room and talking to everyone. She spotted Terri sitting at our table. "Ahh Terri!" she shouted.  "Hello how are you?"  I felt so honoured to be sitting at the table that Randa was talking to!  

 

As the show continued she went on dancing till the end without slacking or losing her flawless style! A true professional!  I began to settle down and started to enjoy it more.  There was a break at the end of the first half.  Though my first impressions were mixed, Randa had definitely touched the dancer inside me.  I wanted to dance.  I had to.....it was her amazing energy which she had shared....I kicked off my shoes .....grabbed my cousin, Ahmed, and started dancing............on the stage.......

 

The second half started and I was ready to appreciate her style. I sat back and relaxed.  Randa entered - wearing a silver bra and mini skirt!!!  I was shocked!!  Once again alienated!! A mini skirt? I didn't like it.

 

I had never seen anything like this before.  Now, I realise that it is quite usual for modern dancers to perform in costumes like this.  Think of Dina etc.

 

Following behind Randa were a Felahin drummer and mizmar player who came and joined the orchestra.  Ahmed started nudging me.  Telling me excitedly that the mizmar player was his mate with whom he sometimes worked. I couldn't have cared less as I was still in shock from Randa's costume! Terri, Shelly and Ahmed were completely unfazed by her costume.  How naive was I?? Randa started dancing.

 

After I got over my shock of the mini skirt,  I watched Randa's Saidi and Felahin dances.  Randa captured the earthiness and grounded energy  feel of the style yet continuing to keep her own elegant precise style. How does she do it and so well?

 

I had never seen anyone dance like this before and I have never seen anyone dance like her since. Randa has taken the dance and progressed it, she done something different. She is giving back to the dance, that has brought her so much, by giving it a new lease of life and energy.

 

A flawless dancer, who has a fantastic passion for it. She has naturally, what most dancers spend years striving for and that is the the ability to share the emotion and feeling of the dance with the audience. Randa is a true dancer, any dancer or critic of any area not just belly dance, would be able to see that and respect it. 

 

I have never seen a live performance by any TYPE of dancer that has brought up such emotion in me; excitement, fear, alienation, amazement, relaxed, tense, scared, even hate but most of all enjoyment. Very strong emotions you can see! Her performance made me question myself; my views, ideas and perceptions of the dance. It made me question my own dance, when I watch Randa till this day I still question my own dance. 

 

All I can really say is you have to go watch her live, watch her when she's on the floor right in front of you within centimetres of your table, then you'll feel what I felt :WHAM the energy, emotions and power will hit you and all the time Randa will be there smiling... dancing..

 

When watching her for the first time I warn you,  be careful it's going to be a roller-coaster of a ride.  But like with all roller-coasters you're going to want to jump right back on and have another go when it's finished.

 

Yaha!  A picture of me dancing (with my cousin)  on the very spot  just vacated by Randa Kamal!  ... Hee Hee - Probably the closest I'll get to belly dance fame :o(

 

Thank you to Shelly and Terri for the Photos ©Serafina Dance

 

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