Randa Kamel is the real deal. Not only is she a performer of legendary proportions but she is a patient, competent, and generous teacher. I came to Egypt to take classes with her and others but hers are this week and they are really great. Here is how she does it:

With music. she has a DJ in the room running sound for her. She also has her live drummer and singer in every class whom she uses during the breaking down of sections.

With sweet broken English. I expected to have to follow the bouncing ball but Randa’s come a long way now and communicates in English very, very well. She’ll occasionally defer to the DJ for translating her thoughts but it’s mostly when she’s gotten tired.

With patience. Randa breaks everything down. She repeats phrases a lot. She said one day if we have to do it a hundred times we will. She is very, very sincere about wanting to see us do the move correctly -even down to the facial expression. For someone of her stature to be that kind and patient is really amazing.

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Me and Diva Randa on break from sweaty Modern Egyptian class today

With Generosity.  Up on a platform, teaching 50 women of all skill levels every day until she is sweating just like we are while also performing in the same week and being involved in overseeing the entire week long course requires a lot of giving out. You can tell she is tired sometimes but she pushes through it and the music picks her and us up.

Also, her generosity shows when we get a passage correct and she yells  “Humdullah!!!”    “Aiwa”    “Yeeeeees” and      “You should see yourselves, your faces”!  She is so happy when we get it.

AND, on the topic of her generosity, Randa is giving away many of the moves and concepts I’ve seen her do in film and hoped to learn. I am so happy about this. I wondered if she’d keep her good stuff to herself like some do. No, she is giving it out (like any of us could do it justice anywaysLOL).

On the second day, I think, we were not understanding her definition or Moell vs Horr (these are both when the singer riffs in Arabic). Randa said, “I just want you to know that I am here for you. Ask me questions. My room is BLANK. Come by. Festivals lost their soul. That is why I put this festival together. I want us to be together, everyone happy” her heart is very big.

With humanity. Randa does seem to get frustrated if people leave the room. She takes it personally it seems bc she has put so much into this course. She does get a little irritated if the drummer, sound guy, or singer are in the wrong place. She will show that she gets tired, cold, and frustrated for a moment if we are not getting a step. But, she does not let herself get out of control. She makes a joke about it or holds her tongue back. Today, she was really kind to a student who was a very impolite and abrasive. Many a diva would have eaten the student’s lunch and kicked her butt out of the room.  I watched and was amazed that Randa held a  nice smile and was very polite.

With a great team: Every morning for 2 days, we’ve done folklore for warm up with a sweet guy. I forget his name but he’s well known here and he is showing us famous dances from upper egypt, etc. His english is really rough and he’s not a master teacher as Randa is but he’s got some really cool historic dances locked in his body. The best part is not what we learn (I don’t really love dancing that stuff) it’s watching him demonstrate how it should go. The fast footwork, hops, playing of spoons and the stories of the towns that make the dances is all so endearing and enriching. And, we had ballet the first day as a warm up. But, the guy was… terrible. So, it seems like, she gave us the folklore guy for warm up instead. We do debke with him next which I cannot wait for!

Our folkloric dance teacher

Our folkloric dance teacher

Randa has Sara Farouk in charge. Sara used to run the Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival of Raqia Hassan for many years. Sara is AMAZING at keeping 50 women of all nations on top of all the details, changes, offerings and issues. She is patient taking questions and good at sparing herself by saying things like “Do not answer me now about this, see me at 2PM. Do not give me your cd now, I want it tomorrow, etc”. She speaks  to us each morning before class and often at break to make sure we know what is happening. She sets up cab rides for people who want to go out, gets tickets to shows, etc, she makes the hotel turn the heat up, she tells us about etiquette in this country. Most importantly, she builds Randa up with every introduction. And, she saves Randa’s energy by making sure Randa never has to say a single thing about anything other than her teaching material. It’s very a very classy arrangement as it should be.

Randa’s brother Fadi is also on the team, Wasim is on the team (so sweet), Tracy is the photographer who is also really, really nice. And Gezira Travel is on the team for people who want to book a guide at the Pyramids, etc.

All together, I am thrilled with this course. Randa is one of the best teachers I’ve taken from and one of the finest dancers I’ve ever seen live. I mourn that I did not come to Egypt sooner and learn more about this newer Egyptian stuff earlier. But, perhaps it was meant to be this way. If I came a long time ago, I’d have missed Randa who only just began this weeklong festival.

Next week, I will try to take some dance classes at the Nile Group Festival including the amazing Tito Seif. I cannot wait for that.

better get some sleep, it’s revolution anniversary day. We’ll see what happens.

With love for all the kind notes of support. As much fun and amazing as it all is, I do have an inability to go to bed at night. It’s jet lag, excitement or being unsettled bc I feel far away from home. xo

Aurel