Have you ever had one of those all-encompassing experiences where the outside hustle and bustle of the world is suspended while you are immersed in what’s going on inside? For me, that is exactly how my experience in Cairo is going. Amidst the cars, donkeys, camels, traffic jams and chaos that is part and parcel of Egypt’s capital, there is a ballroom on Pyramids street where fifty dancers move their bodies in unison under the careful and lovely instruction of a world-wide admired and cherished Randa Kamel.
Yesterday was Day 2 of the course. Our warm up and folklore instruction was conducted by a new instructor, Bedra from Kalmaya Folklore Group. (Oh – by the way, it is very likely that I will butcher some names and phrases, it is not done with any malice; it’s just that my Arabic is very, very limited and I do the best I can).
Bedra presented two different styles of technique and choreography for us. The first was Gawazzee, and the choreography included stick and zills. It was very fun and sassy. Present day Gawazzee dancers, according to Bedra, are the ones that make their livings dancing in carnivals and on the road. They wear long dresses with tons of jewelry and have the primary goal of entertaining the people.
The second style of choreography was from Alexandria. This choreography told the story of the sailors coming into the dock and the people celebrating the ship coming to shore. The dance had pantomime in it to demonstrate climbing up the ropes and the style is extremely high energy. During this same section of class, Bedra also showed us Simsimaya dancing with spoons. A ton of fun!
After folklore, Randa taught a 90 minute Oriental technique section. We dove head first into five gorgeous patterns and worked through all of the details – from the head position to the movement of the eyes to the footwork to the hip articulations to the overall feeling of the movement. Once we had mastered a pattern, she had us drill it for an entire song. What a great feeling of accomplishment when she gave us two thumbs up because all fifty of us were synchronized and had every detail correct!
Lunch came and then came Saidi choreography. She taught a really fun choreography that she has been dancing with her orchestra. Complete with stick work and her legendary energy, the dance complex, fun and a wonderful challenge.
In all, we worked for seven hours that were chock full of information. Not only did Randa instruct us on choreography and technique, but she also offered insight and wisdom on how to use the stage, project your energy and more.
During the evening, I decided that I needed to stay in and rest up because today is filled with another 7 delicious hours, plus the competition tonight. My friend came to have dinner with me at the hotel and we enjoyed Italian (yes, I know – Italian in Egypt! Why didn’t I eat falalfel or schwarma!) and a beautiful piece of cheesecake.
Today, the agenda calls for more awesome technique and then modern Egyptian belly dance, plus Egyptian style stage make up. I am excited!
Oh – and on Friday, I am so pumped about dancing with Randa’s orchestra to Alf Layla Wa Layla. It is one of my all-time favorite songs and it is such an honor to be dancing with the orchestra and singer in Egypt to this well-loved Om Kalthoum ballad!
Until next time, hugs and shimmies!