Egypt part 2

After a whole four hours sleep it was time for a dance class – no problem! My husband was excused the lesson and slept in until midday. Most of the rest of the group set out in the minibus to Sahar’s studio (no costumes on show sadly or perhaps fortunately since they would have proved a major distraction) where we met up with Hassan of the Hassan Hassan Folklore Show. For two hours he taught us different folklore styles: bedouin, bamboutiyya, Nubia and saidi. I could happily have spent the whole lesson on any one of those styles, particularly bamboutiyya as Hassan choreographed a tableau for us on the fly. If you get the chance to study with him go for it, he is a great choreographer and full of energy. He also gave us a lot of background information so we could understand and appreciate the different styles of dance. We’re going to see his show on Friday so hopefully it will all make sense to people for whom it was all new.

Once the lesson was over a few of us went off for a costume fitting with Eman while the rest explored the Khan el Khalili. Judging by the number of bags when I rejoined them they all did pretty well! Nibal noticed that we were all fading from hunger and took us to Fishawy where we refueled on felafel and aubergine sandwiches before going to the tannoura show. This show is on once a week and appears to be popular with Egyptians as well as tourists. It’s a great chance to hear traditional instruments like the rebab and mizmar and is of course very different to the bellydance shows we see the rest of the week. Of course if you’re not a tannoura fan it can be hard going, the first guy was spinning for around half an hour! He was followed by an impressive display from three more tannoura. I think everyone was amazed by what they saw. We also loved the sagat player who is a real character :)

The relatively early finish allowed me to have a lie in, but a lot of my students were up early to go to the Egyptian Museum with Nibal (and my husband was up even earlier to go to Alexandria for the day!). They reported that the museum was very busy, which is good news, the museum is right on Tahrir Square and we were worried it might be difficult to go there. Nibal excelled herself again, showing them lots of interesting artifacts and negotiating the way through the crowd. We all met up afterwards to go for a sail in a felucca, which is a wonderfully relaxing way to spend an hour on the river enjoying the sun and a gentle breeze.

Some people had to head off for fittings with Hanan afterwards, and the crazy traffic meant they only just got back in time for out Thursday night entertainment – the Nile Maxim with Randa! As ever the show started with a couple of singers, one of whom was the lovely Ellie of London. Then another tannoura, who is still using the same music as when I first when to the Maxim four years ago. Then – RANDA! As ever she was incredible, full of energy and with so much feeling. Lots of interesting new technique which I look forward to learning at Jewel of Yorkshire…. :) she got us all up to dance baladi with her at the end, and met us afterwards so we could have our photo taken.

It’s now 11:30pm but the night is not over – we’re going out to see Aziza!

Now the hard work starts…

The second full day of lessons is over and Randa is taking no prisoners! We are learning a choreography to her magency (that’s the first dance a dancer does in her show to introduce herself to the audience and show off her strengths) which is amazing to watch but so hard to dance. To help us get through it all we started this morning and continued through the afternoon and I think we’ve covered 5 and a half minutes which is pretty good work. I sat out the last run through so I could take a video and was really impressed by how well everyone was remembering it (my brain is full!) especially people who I know only had five hours sleep!

Yes, so 8 of us went out to see Soraya last night at the Marriott, which ended up being a late night (back at 3am). I’ve been to the Marriott before to see Randa in the nightclub (we’ll just skip over why Soraya is there instead!) but last night we were up on the roof in the open air. It was like a little ampitheatre with booths for the audience, there was a stage set up for the dancer and her musicians could sit around it. We got a good long show with three sets and lots of lovely songs, finishing with Soraya’s showpiece – her drum solo. Her shimmies are incredible! And she does it all in massive high heels which I’m sure I couldn’t even walk in never mind dancing. She’s a very sweet dancer, really engaging to watch. After all the excitement of the opening night it was nice to sit back and relax. We all got up and did a little dancing until it was time for our taxis to take us back to the hotel – we’ve been advised to let the course organisers arrange our transport rather then do it ourselves. It’s a bit of a shame because jumping into random taxis is always an eventful experience but it’s best to be safe.

Photos! Because everyone likes to see the costumes:

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The green dress is my favourite, but I’m not in the market for costumes on this trip so I’m staying well away from the temptation of the costume stalls.

First day of the course

As I may have mentioned, once or twice, I’m in Egypt again doing Randa Kamel’s week long course. I arrived late on Tuesday night (well,technically it was early on Wednesday morning) then had a relaxing morning getting to meet some of the new girls and catching up with returning students. I’m not the only one who thinks the course is worth doing again, in fact I think most people here have done it once (or even twice!) before. Randa has that sort of effect on you :) it’s a fantastic atmosphere, it’s like being at a family reunion. We all live so far away but dance has brought us together.

Last night was the opening show at the Nile Maxim. We were met off the coach by a group of saidi dancers. Wow, mizmars are loud! They played and danced and sang for us, of course we danced as well, especially when the pantomime horse came out! I do love a pantomime horse. They were followed by a tannoura set and then finally we were allowed on the boat itself.

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I’m going to have to apologise to you because I took almost no photos of the show! I don’t like watching from behind a camera and I know that out official photographer Tracey Gibbs will have some spectacular pictures so I decided not to bother. It was a FANTASTIC show. Randa danced oriental, saidi, Alexandrian, shaabi and baladi. She is incredible and I think the love and cheers and clapping from all around the room lifted her even higher. Some of us may have had a few tears in our eyes :) when I watch Randa I just think “YES. THIS is what it’s about, this is why I dance!”

I will share one photo, and this one I took especially for Candi to show that all the best people stand on chairs!

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We also had some bamboutiyya and saidi from Bedru, who is teaching our warm ups and folklore this time. I think he was at a bit of a disadvantage coming on after Randa and her band. As a special treat we also had the singer Rico and his band, who had us all up dancing, and finally a fashion show with a rather incongruous soundtrack of 80s cheese! I think some of the Egyptians were slightly baffled by our YMCA conga but they joined in anyway :)

It was a brilliant was to start the week but there were some tired faces at breakfast this morning. Randa went easy on us with some gentle technique, looking at ways to get on stage with different rhythms. I learned some new rhythms, which was good, and new ways for thinking about an entrance. We continued this afternoon by thinking about choreography but everything descended into chaos when two delicious cakes arrived for two birthday girls. You can’t keep dancers away from cake for too long.

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One last photo for you:  this is the new poster in the ballroom to inspire us as we dance. Imagine my delight when I realised that not only were there lovely pictures of Randa, but also the silhouette of that dancer! You’ll have to look quite carefully but I promise you that she’s there.

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