Introduction to Randa Kamel
Randa Kamel is extremely famous among practitioners worldwide, because she travels a lot for teaching and also because her very energetic style is very appealing to foreigners.
She is one of the first Egyptian dancers who is more famous abroad than she is in Egypt.
I found all the information I have about Randa’s life and dance views online, in interviews that she has given either for blogs (El Safy, no date b; Sullivan, no date; Zahara and Shahin, 2012) or on videos that are available on YouTube or Vimeo (Beltran, 2010; OrientExpressTV, 2010; Dubinina, 2011; Samir, 2013) or on DVD (Senkovich, 2008).
The reason why she is not so famous in Egypt could be because she has not appeared in any movies or on TV, so the general public does not know her, as much as they know, for example, Dina or Fifi Abdou.
According to Sullivan (no date, para. 29), ‘whereas once dancers could become household names by appearing in movies and on TV, over the past couple of decades those opportunities have dwindled, with oriental dance all but disappeared from cinema and TV screens’.
Background on Randa Kamel
Randa Kamel was born in Mansoura, Egypt, and she started dancing ballet at the age of 12, but two years later she joined the Reda Troupe.
She spent seven years dancing folklore, before becoming a soloist raqs sharqi dancer.
She usually mentions in interviews (Zahara and Shahin, 2012; Samir, 2013) how her family (from El Mansoura, a very conservative city) was against her dancing, but she did not give up because she loved dancing.
She studied psychology at university, has a low key private life and is very passionate and serious about her profession (Samir, 2013).
She has a strong personality and she once said: ‘I never like to accept failure and I don’t know how to give up . . . to be a dancer I struggled a lot, but I persisted and I loved it’ (Senkovich, 2008, sec. Interview).
In 5.7.9, I will analyze how her background and personality might have influenced her dance and the way in which her style contrasts so neatly (as it will be explained further on in this section) with the styles of other dancers.
Laban Analysis of
Randa Kamel Dance Movements
In Table 36 Randa’s style emerges as very different from every other Egyptian dancer analysed so far.
She innovates expressing a type of energy and movement qualities, which are the complete opposite of the traditional raqs sharqi feeling. Randa was inspired by the dancers of the golden age, in particular, Samia Gamal and Naima Akef, as she admitted herself many times.
She always states in interviews that nobody taught her raqs sharqi and she learnt all by herself, but that she has learnt a lot by watching Samia Gamal and Naima Akef on videos (Zahara and Shahin, 2012, para. 6).
Of other dancers, Randa said ‘I loved Suhair Zaki for her amazing hips; Mona Said for her beautiful arms, Fifi Abdou for her commanding presence, and Nagua Fouad for her way of putting a show together’ (Sullivan, no date, para. 11). Randa stated about her style:
I mix it up. You’ll see some ballet, some folklore, you’ll see some of my own moves, you’ll find a move from Soheir Zaki, a move from Samia Gamal. You’ll find moves from all the people I love. (Senkovich, 2008, sec. Interview)(Sullivan, no date)
Those who have seen Randa perform agree that her style is very strong and powerful, for some even aggressive. This is what some of my participants said about Randa’s style:
Randa . . . has a really strong persona. She demands attention on the stage . . . I think that’s inspiring and also the strength in her, actual, physical strength. (Lorna)
I was never sure about Randa, but Randa grew on me, because Randa is very, very powerful. (Ann)
Dina: she has a distinct style of her own. . . . Many try to be like her and none has succeeded. Randa Kamel used to resemble her a lot, but she has diverged to a more energetic (almost aggressively so) style. (Leena)Three comments above fom research participants (Dr Valeria Lo Iacono, 2019)
Randa herself states that hers is a conscious decision to make the dance more powerful
I always like the dancer to have power. To me, the dancer should always be strong . . . she must have energy . . . power, continuous movements. I don’t like soft moves . . . I don’t want anyone in the audience not feeling my moves. Everyone watching must be pulled into my dance.(Senkovich, 2008, sec. Interview)
This very powerful style is very appealing to Western audiences.
As Randa once commented (Sullivan, no date, para. 6) ‘I’ve had many foreigners come to see me . . . and I notice that they sit transfixed, watching every movement’.
Egyptians do not like Randa’s style as much as foreigners do, as it looks too harsh to them. According to Kay Taylor (no date, para. 2), ‘Randa is . . . – a powerhouse – her performance is electric.
Much admired by foreign dancers, she is not as popular amongst Egyptians’.
This could be due to the fact that, in Randa’s style, ‘what you won’t see, perhaps, is much softness’ (Sullivan, no date, para. 15).
Yasmina of Cairo quotes the chief of Randa’s orchestra in Cairo as saying (Sullivan, no date, paras 16, 17): ‘We’re always hoping she’ll be a bit more ‘delaa’. . . . (In other words, soft, teasing and coquettish)’.
One of the reasons for Randa’s focus on strength and power, rather than softness, may be a reaction to society’s common views on women and dance. She once said (Senkovich, 2008, sec. Interview):
In Egypt, here, most people define dancing as the representation of a woman’s beauty, that she seduces men, because dancing attracts men. I totally oppose this, because dancing is an art . . . that’s why I don’t like to dance seductively . . . I like to show people that I am a true dancer, not just a body in a costume.(Senkovich, 2008)
Observations on Randa’s Style
My analysis of Randa’s style from the videos reflects these observations.
In terms of Laban analysis, I have observed that the majority of raqs sharqi dancers’ style is usually, for the most part, indirect.
Whatever their individual styles, the trajectory of their moves is mostly soft, sinuous, indirect. Randa is the complete opposite.
Her style is mainly direct, with straight legs and arms and direct, assertive trajectories while moving in space.
Moreover, most of her movements have a sudden quality and a bound flow, which increase the sense of power and strength.
Even her shimmies are extremely powerful, so much so that ‘her whole body, from the tips of her feet to the top of her forehead, vibrates with high energy’ (Sullivan, no date, para. 14).
Expression of Feelings
Expressing feelings in dance is very important for Randa and she also mimics the songs and uses gestures, like Fifi, Dina and Dandesh.
She often points out the importance of feeling and dancing from the heart. For example, in an interview, she said (Beltran, 2010):
When I am dancing I never do choreography . . . choreography for me, just for teaching . . . but when I dance in Egypt, or anywhere, I dance from my heart.Beltran (2010)
There are many videos of Randa online that can be seen, all live performances where she is dancing in Egypt, on the Nile Maxim boat, or abroad at festivals all over the world.
Videos Analysed of Randa Dancing
As a reference, I selected just two examples, as they show the evolution of her style.
The first one is a performance on Egyptian TV, from the start of Randa’s career, maybe in the 1990s or very early 2000s (WardaElHosny, no date).
In this video, her signature style is already very defined, but there is still a small degree of similarity with Dina.
The second one is from a festival in Switzerland in 2011, where her style is fully developed (EsquisseOrient, 2012).
Next Page >> Camelia from the 2000s, the extremely assertive dancer.