Natasha’s Video Package-
Masters of Egyptian Choreography
by Hana Ali
posted October 15, 2009
Randa was in prime physical condition and taught in a glittery, black lycra cat suit with a strategic cutout that neatly separated her upper and lower torso, distinctly showing off her hips, midriff and legs. Her choice of teaching attire allowed for unambiguous movement visibility.
The video angle encompassed the dancer as well as her image in the mirror. Randa chose to conduct much of the instruction facing her audience at close range, with her backside visible in the mirror.
She spoke in Arabic, with an English voice-over by Natasha – a rather agreeable combination. Randa’s voice, her inflections and stresses can be heard and the English translation makes everything comprehensible to a non-Arabic speaker.
In fact, if you opt to pay closer attention, you might well learn a little Arabic as part of the bargain – at least how to count to eight. Her use of English words was limited to technical terms such as position, stomach, shimmy, and French ballet terms such as plie and pirouette.
Randa was accompanied by her tabla player on this DVD, his seated image visible in the wall mirror throughout the instruction. The live drum accents, apart from being an elemental component of Randa’s style of dancing, also served to lend an added measure of vitality to the studio setting. The tabla player remained in the background for the most part, only moving up directly into the frame for the sections Tabla Technique and Tabla Rhythms Demonstrated.
Technique exercises began the DVD.
Exercises – 6 chapters – 4 – beginner 2 – intermediate
Randa’s teaching is at once exhaustive and concise, precise without being soulless. From her carriage and explanations, it is very evident that she is a well-trained classic dancer, her mind and body well versed in balletic movements and terminology. The consummate artiste, there is nothing accidental about her dancing. Every nuance has a purpose.
Chapters 1-4 – beginner
Without much ado, Randa launched into technique instruction, explaining and demonstrating the subtleties of difference between Folkloric and Oriental styling. As a way of providing some insight into the origins of her dance steps, she said that these were beginning Folkloric steps that then evolved into distinctly Oriental movements. In the first four technique chapters, Randa proceeded slowly, stressing posture, energy, focus and how the dance encompasses the entire body and mind. Employing ample repetition and meticulous descriptions, she explained each movement and which part of the body to initiate it from. She emphasized the importance of an erect posture, every component of the body working, lifted, stretched and proud, eyes, eyebrows, hands and even fingers talking.
Chapters 5-6 – intermediate
In the two intermediate chapters, Randa introduced a couple of movement combinations that she used in her choreographies. She clarified that these combinations were intended for the intermediate dancer and accordingly taught at a quicker pace.
With the tabla player now next to her and squarely in frame, Randa discussed that most fundamental of Oriental rhythms – the maqsoum. At this point, she started to teach in the follow-the-bouncing-butt style. She ceased to break down the movements, but instead focused on demonstrating each combination repeatedly and unvaryingly, including every last nuance.
This consistent exactness made it possible to learn her drum and dance combinations with some practice, but indicated that the choreography would not be for the beginner dancer requiring mathematical break-down of each move. As before, Randa paid attention to detail – posture, expression, face, neck, arms, fingers, legs, feet.
Tabla Rhythms Demonstrated
In this section, Randa’s tabla player introduced and demonstrated the six rhythms relevant to Randa’s choreography – karachi, maqsoum, jerk, samba, rhumba and masmudi.
Choreography Instruction – 8 Sections
Randa’s powerful choreography to the song El Touba (originally for Abdul Halim Hafiz) was divided into 8 sections or DVD chapters. Each section was thoroughly explained and demonstrated. Randa omitted nothing, covering every moment from the beginning (when and how to enter) to the end (how to end and take the bow). Successive chapters build upon previous ones, such that by the time you reach the last combination, you should certainly be well-acquainted with the first few at the very least, thanks to the numerous iterations.
Though this choreography is for the advanced dancer, Randa explained everything in meticulous detail, including attitude.
Therefore, it is possible for a beginner dancer to learn the skeletal version of the dance and subsequently learn to master all the nuances through painstaking practice. However, the apparent simplicity of this choreography is rather deceptive, with a tremendous amount of information packed into these 4 1/2 minutes. Yes, there is much repetition, but there are just as many quick changes and ‘change your mind’ movements that keep this dance from looking ‘square’ or predictable. So while all levels of dancers may be able to quickly learn the basic choreography, it is a tad more difficult to exercise the entire dance correctly with feeling and all the intricate details. Having prior dance training in ballet is a definite asset when it comes to learning Randa’s style of dancing and would be an aid in executing the movements as accurately & powerfully as she does.
Performance of Choreography (4 1/2 minutes)
Randa performs the entire choreography to El Touba, bedecked in a gorgeous lavender costume designed by Eman Zaki.
Natasha interviewed Randa and queried her about her background and dance philosophy. Randa talked about her love of dancing since childhood, her subsequent training in ballet and her passion for Oriental dance. She credits watching and admiring other dancers such as Samia Gamal, but claims that her style is ultimately her own. No arguments there, though I do think it carries some unmistakable traces of Raqia Hassan and Dina. She talks about her preference for a strong, powerful dance style that forces people to acknowledge her as an artiste, eschewing the ‘softer, sensual’ styles that appear to reinforce societal and male fantasies of femininity. She admits to being a driven, determined, hard-worker with a very strong personality and claims she is happiest when she feels that she is managing her life well – dancing, creating, practicing and home-making.
This section showed live coverage of Randa’s performances at two Cairo locations, the Cairo Marriott (30 minutes) and the Nile Maxim (24 minutes).
This was a perfect opportunity to observe the choreography combinations executed in a live setting to completely different music. Randa’s dancing and her interaction with the audience can be described as powerful, strong, proud, energetic and infinitely engaging.
I must add though, that wonderful as Randa’s dancing is, her chest and choice of costuming (yes, those bondage-type bras) is just far too distracting. It is not an easy visual distraction to overlook and I find the whole thing a little ironic given her stated reasons for her opposition to ‘sensual’ styles of dancing!
She did a Folkloric section in each of her shows – Randa style. Her Folkloric costumes were modern, semi-two-piece garments, with the lower sections being bell-bottomed pants. Befittingly, her dance style was also Modern-Folkloric. The posture, as always, was erect, strong, uplifted but also grounded. She used many of the same combinations that she used in her Oriental dance pieces, but the mood and flavor was distinctly Folkloric, sans any hint of Oriental.
- ads for other Natasha produced DVDs
- Eman Zaki – ad for costumes. (Designer for the stars including Randa, Diana and Leila)
- Charity – Women for Women International – video clip
Zill Rating: 4 Zills
Ready for more?
- 8-16-08 Randa Kamal
"Then the film roles that I’ve been offered have unfortunately been frivolous, or portrayed the dancer in the stereotypical way they always do. The cinema has done enough to spoil the reputation of dancers, without me adding to it by taking such a role."
- 12-13-07 A Report on the First International Bellydance Conference of Canada Part 2 – Sunday Club Party
Live orchestra, Randa, Amir, a packed house and very festive mood. How could it be any better?
- 10-17-07 A Report on the First International Bellydance Conference of Canada Part 2 – Saturday Gala Performance Held at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto Canada on April 21, 2007. Featuring international stars including Amir Thaleb and Randa Kamal
- 4-14-07 Randa Kamal in Cairo
I was fortunate to travel to Cairo on business in April ’06, and managed to take some time to see a few sights and, at least, one dance performance: Randa Kamal at the Marriot Zamelek’s Empress Nightclub
- 12-18-06 My Moment with Nagwa
While dancing I kept eye contact with the judges and guests of honor. I still remember their mannerisms and what I perceived to be their glares. Randa and Dr. Mo were conversing and smiling contently, Faten and Zahra were clapping. Also, there sat Nagwa Fouad, “Queen of Cairo!”